Case Study : Elevated Acre or 55 Water Street

The original design was sparse, poorly planned and unused; a blog entry I read called it a “crappy brick plaza.” Goldman Sachs financed the replacement of this plaza in coordination with the Municipal Arts Society in 2005.  It is designed by Ken Smith and Rogers/Marvel.

There is one portal into the space, the same portal out.  (due to a “financial revision” from the original plan which also called for a 100 person elevator on the northeast corner of the space which was not added, right below the “beacon of Progress”.)  The entrance remains a surprise and suspenseful experience, that builds as you enter the space and walk the sloped grade to witness the space, culminating in the grand view of the East River and Brooklyn. Last year it provided a great vantage point to view the entire waterfalls exhibit. Movies are shown on special weeknights as part of the River-to-River Festival in Lower Manhattan. 

The design is brilliantly thought out and executed. The plantings are well maintained and always look in excellent form.


I found the majority of the usage is from business people who spend their lunch time there during the work week, bringing take-out food containers with them.. .. They come in droves up the escalators and stairs and find a spot among the mostly sunny seating.  Impromptu meetings are also held there. A small portion of the seating is shaded. People seems to enjoy sitting in the sun, whether it be on the amphitheatre, lying on the astro-turf lawn, or sitting on benches.  There are tables adjacent to the building and amphitheatre.


After visiting the site a dozen times, I was especially surprised at the respect for the space that visitors have.  Park goers go out of their way to dispose of and/or leave with their garbage when they are done.  If one container is full, they will search out another so that they might dispose of their trash I the receptacle, rather than just throw it on top of an already full one – unusual for New Yorkers, There is a full-time security person on premises, day and night, weekday and weekend...tend to believe this might also be a reason that the visitors respect the site, keep it safe and clean.

A neighbor of mine walks her dog there on the weekends, and claims barely a sole is there at that time. From a dozen visits at various time is seems evident that the park is used predominantly by business people during the day and into the early evening during the week..  It is a destination for the local wall street workers and not necessarily for those residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.