Parsons Design Workshop + NYC Parks Complete Three-Year Project, begin anew

Parsons and Parks celebrate completion of Highbridge Recreation Center in May 5 Opening, Look ahead to The Pavilions at Sunset Park


A detail image of Splash House, from Parsons and Parks. Photo by Michael Moran

Dedication Ceremony:
Highbridge Recreation Center
Amsterdam Ave. and W. 173rd Street
3:30 PM, Monday May 5

On Monday, May 5, Parks and Parsons The New School for Design will announce the completion of work on the Highbridge Recreation Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan. The culmination of three years of constant work as part of a unique collaboration between government agencies, academic institutions, and private businesses, work from Parsons enhances both the usefulness of the facilty to its community and its sustainability. Simultaneously, Parsons and Parks have begun work on a new collaboration centered on the Sunset Park Recreation Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

In the past, upper Manhattan’s WPA-era Highbridge Recreation Center converted its gymnasium space into locker rooms every summer in order to accommodate pool-goers. Thus, for three months out of every year, a neighborhood where over a quarter of the population is under 17 years old did not have access to the Center’s fitness areas or basketball court. The renovations, spearheaded by Parks and Parsons, sought to answer these challenges with sustainable design solutions.

In the summer of 2011, the students completed “Splash House” the changing pavilions that make it possible to keep the gym open in the summer, instead of converting it to locker rooms during pool season. In the summer of 2012, they converted the breezeway into interior space, which will make possible one point of entry control and add community space. This will enable the Center to operate as a year¬ round facility. In summer 2013, they completed the new lobby, the reception area, and adjacent rooms and the computer room. NYC Parks has now completed the new glass enclosure, doors, lighting and interior finishes and equipment.

The completion of work at Highbridge comes at virtually the same time that Design Workshop announces the approval of plans for work on its next project, Sunset Park’s public pool. Students’ work there centers on two locker and changing room pavilions at the landmarked public facility, designed to enhance its utility to the community. The building was declared a New York City Landmark in 2007, but has not received any significant upgrades since the mid-1980s. Roughly the size of 3 Olympic pools, the Sunset Park pool has a maximum capacity of 1,678 people. Last summer, the pool received 78,055 visitors in the three months it operated.

“Projects like Highbridge exemplify Parsons' commitment to design-led civic engagement, by giving students the opportunity to create works that have a lasting impact on urban built environments and the communities they serve” said Parsons Executive Dean Joel Towers. “We have had a long and fruitful educational partnership with Parks at Highbridge, and look forward to completing additional projects with them in the future.”

Parsons The New School for Design raised significant private funding from Dan Tishman for instructors and tools, and obtained a major gift from Douglas Durst, to pay for materials. Students prepared a video and raised funds on Kickstarter as well as in-kind contributions, trade discounts, and other cash gifts. Together with the schools contribution, private funds amounted to almost 1 million dollars.

The Design Workshop provides pro bono architectural and construction services to nonprofit organizations while giving graduate architecture students the rare opportunity to both design and build a community facility. Since its establishment in 1996, Design Workshop has helped meet community-based organizations' needs, ranging from green space to educational and recreational facilities for children. Past projects include Infowash, a laundromat and information center for a Mississippi community devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and Bronxscape, a rooftop garden for a young-adult residence of the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter in the Bronx. The program is currently directed by Alfred Zollinger, an assistant professor at Parsons and co-principal of Matter Practice. For more information, visit

Parsons The New School for Design is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, please visit


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Additional Images

Sunset Park Pool House
A partial design rendering for the Pavilions at Sunset Park


79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Media Contacts:

Chris Chafin
[email protected]

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