The proposal for Fort Tilden incorporates versatility, adaptability, and diversity into one design, revamping the mood of a site that visually seems deserted. Once used by the United States Army, Fort Tilden is now an area where nature can reclaim victory. The New England Cottontail rabbit was chosen as the new design agent for Fort Tilden due to the need to save its declining population. Native to the New Hampshire area, the rabbit’s population is declining because of increasing human development and aging habitat. Its habitat consists of overgrown fields, and thick vegetation. However, as their habitat matures, the shading of the trees and taller vegetation can kill the plants needed for the rabbits’ survival.
The site is designed around simultaneous human and rabbit occupation. Three primary pedestrian paths form the structure of the site. As the pathways intersect with one another, they form a triangular core, which represents the heart of the site. Three intertwined systems are defined by this core: the human node, rabbit node, and the habitat that links the rabbit nodes. The human nodes are formed by the intersections of the three primary axis. Nodes mark the highest level of occupation. In order to maintain an equal balance between the human and rabbit occupation, areas farthest away from the human nodes mark the locations for the rabbit habitat. With the presence of the field house and recreational fields, the rabbits’ habitat cannot exist in one location, and it is divided into smaller sections throughout the site. Thick vegetation, such as wiregrass, and overgrown fields exist within this system. To encourage the rabbit to move throughout the site, the space in between each habitat is designed around two types of buffers: natural and fixed. Natural buffers, consisting of vegetated mounds, form a border between the recreational fields and the rabbits’ habitat, and span twenty feet in width. This buffer structures the rabbits’ movement throughout the site. In contrast, the walls of the field house and recreational courts form fixed buffers. Since these structures are situated underground, the wall heights extend above ground to create a separation between human and rabbit occupation.
[THE FIELD HOUSE]
Human development increases the rabbits’ risk of extinction. Therefore, the design of the field house was based upon the relationship between the rabbit and its habitat. Since the rabbit is accustomed to overgrown fields, and thick vegetation, it was important to emphasize the habitat over human occupation. The base of the field house is situated twelve feet underground, with mounds surrounding a majority of the walls that rise above grade, further reducing its physical impact on the site. The southwest façade consists of a curtain wall that spans the entire length of the building. A portion of the curtain wall is covered by an organic wire mesh pattern, which shades the interior and mimics the zigzag movement of the rabbit. In addition, the mullions of the curtain wall stagger vertically to reflect similar movement.
The key concept of the field house was to blend in with the nature of the site. Mounds were introduced to hide the physical contact with the site, yet provide a buffer between the agent and the human. The roof over the pool serves as a mixed-use space. Its center form is composed of a glass-paneled structure that provides natural lighting, with adjustable panels depending on the weather or season. The outer form of the roof serves as a berm. Its linear, organic shape is bordered by mounds, which allow the rabbit or the day-to-day pedestrian to transition over the building, and connect to other sections of the site.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Fort Tilden, NY, US