Made in the Shade
Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Pier 5, Brooklyn Bridge Park's first space dedicated to active recreation, has transformed a former shipping and storage area into a multipurpose sports field, complete with versatile, unique and welcoming sporting and spectator areas. It also features plenty of shade, with sail canopies from Shade Systems providing an aesthetic element, as well as sun protection for players and spectators alike.

The development of Brooklyn Bridge Park has reinvented the landscape of Brooklyn's East River shoreline, repurposing the waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge overpass) from industrial shipping and storage areas into the Eden of the East River.

Designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the 85-acre park provides green space for active and passive uses, including playing fields, ball courts, playgrounds, civic lawns, and running and bicycle paths.

Pier 5 is spread across five restored acres. The former shipping pier hosts three multipurpose sports fields covered with artificial turf to accommodate soccer, rugby, lacrosse, cricket and ultimate Frisbee sporting events. In addition to 200,000 square feet of sports fields, the pier is home to playgrounds, a picnic peninsula and fishing area.

The Picnic Peninsula features Hibachi-style grill tops and picnic tables made of salvaged wood, with wind- and weather-resistant umbrellas. Two play areas feature various play elements designed to accommodate both younger and older children. The fishing area, located at the western edge of the pier, is equipped with four bait preparation tables and fish cleaning stations.

The synthetic turf playing fields are supported by a shock pad and feature an organic infill made of sand and coconut fibers. To further reinforce the site's sustainable design, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy engaged structural engineers HNTB Corp. to develop a plan to shade the area to make it more hospitable for sports activity, providing respite from the sun for players and spectators alike. The result was a multifunctional network of lighting structures and canopy systems that will enable night games after dusk while creating comfortably shaded areas during the day.

The innovative canopy design configuration consists of 26 custom-designed fabric shade canopies, 13 lining each of the northern and southern sidelines of the pier. The canopies provide visitors with protection from the sun's dangerous UV rays, as well as cooling, comfortable shade when watching an event or a game.

Ryan Woodward, one of the primary structural engineers of the canopies, cited the importance of Shade Systems' experience with different meshes, tearing strength, general fabric behavior and long-term durability, as well as the company's ability to develop highly customized fabric canopies for unique locations.

"The canopies look good, fit well and provide appropriate tension to retain and support the architectural shape of the fabric," Woodward said.

The custom canopies and connections anchor onto existing lighting infrastructure to create a dual purpose: lighting the field at night, while also providing usability during the hottest days of the year.

"The shades were well received," said Ted Zoli, another of the primary structural engineers on the project. "The canopies enhance the functionality of the environment and make the area more versatile. It feels noticeably different in hot weather when under the canopies."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was exuberant during the Brooklyn Bridge Park groundbreaking. "As huge of a success Brooklyn Bridge Park has been, it's brightest days are still ahead," he announced.

Brooklyn Bridge Park:
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