David Moon, Critic;

w/ Soraya Ammann

Core IV Studio, Spring 2024

Through our study of the site, we came to realize the marshy riverbanks of Northern Secaucus along the Hackensack River not as precarious tabula rasas, but rather the remains of centuries of large-scale intervention - countless iterations of dredging, damming, land reclamation, berming, and bridge construction created a second system that underpins the landscape of reeds and warehouses that we see today. This history of massive processes creates a paradox - often, it is these watery edge conditions that are the most protected
from flooding, anchored by tens of thousands of pipe pilings and caissons → 

The most notable of these, the 2003 bypass viaduct constructed by NJ Transit for Secaucus Junction, looms over our landscape, cutting off access to the parks and native wetlands there presently. Our project aims to use the 85’ deep underpinnings of that track to anchor our new program, while reactivating the disused train lines cut off by the bypass at Harmon Cove and beyond.

Our proposal is one of partial retreat, recycling the impervious surface of the warehouse parking lot and creating a series of floodways, swales, and protected wetlands using the infrastructural roots of the train line as an anchor and a filter. The proposed landscape strategy will act as a sponge in the event of rising water levels and severe weather. A series of walkways at different heights weave their way through the landscape, converging to create moments of play that leverage the water to create protected natural pools and wetland playscapes. These walkways also act as thresholds, framing views above and underneath. At the heart of the project is a large protected wetland intended as a learning landscape for the students of the school, allowing both play and experimentation.

The enclosed volumes of our proposal utilize the existing pile foundations of the waterfront warehouses, adapting them to create a series of spaces that the residents of this part of Secaucus lack walking or biking access to. Most important of these is a K-12 school to both accommodate the increasing density of the neighborhoods adjacent to our site, as well as the distance to the nearest public school. Additional programming like a grocery store and library serve the expanding adjacent community as well as the proposed housing developments scattered within the proposal. A performance space caps the northern end of the site, drawing emphasis to a mobility hub that both connects Secaucus from through small-scale transport and the greater NY-NJ region through NJ Transit. Through it all, this mixture of walkway and greenway encourages all members of the community to move around by foot and by bike, be it to school, the store, cultural events, or work.

The intersecting mesh walkways perch themselves on the existing landscape of berms, piers, and caissons, allowing for a variety of ways to engage with the water. This creates a series of natural amphitheaters along berms, and allows the 40’ long concrete piers below the viaduct to gain a second life as piers from which patrons engage with the water’s surface.