Dramatic Stage Canopy Proposed for Roof of New Pier 17 Mall

Rendering of Pier 17 during a night concert, with proposed covering for the audience. The canopy would be lowered to 26 feet at other times. The design for the audience cover, which is not finalized and is not yet part of the current Landmarks application, would match the proposed 41-foot-high stage covering. Rendering: Howard Hughes Corp. via The Tribeca Trib

Nov. 20, 2017

This stage will be a show of its own.

Atop the Pier 17 mall, set to open next year at the South Street Seaport, developer Howard Hughes Corp. wants to install a unique canopy of weather protection for summer stage performances. The eye-catching covering would rise in an arc up to a height of 41 feet and be made of 77 hexagonal, interlocking glass-and-carbon fiber cells.  A matching canopy for the audience is on the drawing board.

Not wanting a typical outdoor stage, Howard Hughes asked several designers to come up with “something artistic in nature but functional to protect folks playing on the stage,” said George Giaquinto, a Howard Hughes vice president of development. German architect Achim Menges submitted the winner, inspired by his pavilion shelter at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, which in turn was inspired by a beetle, and the sturdy structure that covers its wings.

Unlike conventional outdoor stages, this one would have no sides. “The rain is going to come through and it’s not going to be perfect,” explained Saul Scherl, a Howard Hughes executive vice president, speaking to Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee.

Designs for the stage structure as well as patio coverings for a rooftop restaurant, need the consent of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and earlier this month those plans were reviewed by the CB1 committee for its advisory approval, which it received. (Only one member voted against it, calling the stage covering design “inappropriate” and “weird.”)

The developers are working on a matching cover design, for the audience when there is a concert, and for the public when there’s not. That structure’s design, which has yet to be finalized, calls for an everyday height of 26 feet, to be raised higher for concerts.

It is envisioned that the stairs of the stage will pull out so that during the day, when there is no event, people can walk onto the stage and sit beneath the canopy. The one-and-half acre roof can accomodate up to 4,000 people.  

The restaurant’s patio shading structures, designed by David Rockwell, would be nearly 20 feet high at their tallest point and cover two 3,500-square-foot seating areas, one on the north side of the roof and the other on the south side. The restaurant would have a publicly accessible 10,000-square-foot perimeter, with some seating. (At the committee’s urging, Howard Hughes executives agreed to extend the shade covering to include the public area.)

As first designed, the mall’s canopy covered most of the nearly 57,000-square-foot roof and, unlike this proposal, was permanent. Criticized for blocking views of the Brooklyn Bridge among other objections, the Landmarks Commission rejected the plan in 2015.

A Community Board 1 public meeting on the impact of the mall and its rooftop events on the surrounding neighborhood will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4, in the Southbridge Towers community room, 90 Beekman St.