Though we’ve already edged into autumn, it’s not been long since temperatures were sky-high, humidity was off the charts, and a quick dip was the only thing that just might offer a bit of respite from the heat. New York is positively steamy in the summer months—absolutely ideal pool weather and the perfect place for Splash House, an outdoor pavilion recently completed by Parsons in partnership with NYC Parks & Recreation.
The airy and naturally lit new locker areas and changing spaces represent the first phase of a renovation of the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center in Washington Heights, itself a New Deal-era public works project. About 40 students from all disciplines of Parsons’s School of Constructed Environments—lighting, architecture, interior and product design—joined forces under the direction of Alfred Zollinger, assistant professor and co-principal of Matter Practice, for the endeavor. The design phase lasted from January through May 2011, with construction of Splash House starting last summer and finishing up a few months ago, just in time to welcome more than 130,000 bathers during the hottest part of the season.
This past spring semester also saw a new class take on phase two, dubbed In_Flux—this remodel will add almost 2,000 square feet to the rec center for community use year-round. "The entrance will be much more inviting, too," Zollinger adds. Throughout the process, students presented their ideas to NYC Parks for technical, operational, and aesthetic feedback—"most of it constructive," he says. And while it can be challenging to balance both construction and academic schedules, he finds seeing his students get out of the classroom particularly rewarding. "Witnessing how they apply themselves is always inspiring to me," Zollinger tells Co.Design. "I get to engage students in discussion about issues that they understand as having real consequences that aren’t just hypothetical."