OLIN’s Science Playground at Pier 26 invites young New Yorkers to learn while having fun

Go Fish

OLIN’s Science Playground at Pier 26 invites young New Yorkers to learn while having fun

Hudson River Park’s new Science Playground houses two play structures shaped like sturgeons. (Courtesy Hudson River Park)

Adjacent to Manhattan’s Pier 26, two giant metal fish are the centerpiece of a new recreational space that playfully connects New Yorkers with the Hudson River’s wildlife. With stewardship from the Hudson River Park Trust, the Pier 26 Science Playground is the latest addition to the 2.5-acre pier on Tribeca’s waterfront.

“Hudson River Park’s new Science Playground is a place for children and their imaginations and adventures, but it’s also a place for learning about our local habitat,” said Noreen Doyle, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust.

Designed by landscape architecture firm OLIN, the 4,000-square-foot playground houses two custom-fabricated play structures in the shape of larger-than-life sturgeons. Both play structures were detailed and produced by the Danish design and fabrication team at MONSTRUM, a firm that has created similar nature-based designs for playgrounds around the world, notably in the new Tom Lee Park in Memphis. Bringing the sturgeons to life was a coordinated effort between OLIN’s design teams and the Hudson River Park’s River Project team, who provided insights regarding the scientific aspects of the design.

A pink tunnel like vessel with netting and rib structure.
The interior of the sturgeon play structures mimic fish anatomy. (Courtesy Hudson River Park)

The Shortnose Sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon, both endangered species native to the Hudson River, are depicted in bright blue and orange, with hollowed interiors inviting children to come in and explore. The sturgeons house interactive components that simulate fish anatomy, while the outside offers climbable space. The play structures are surrounded by tall green poles resembling aquatic vegetation and mimic a fish in movement, connecting parkgoers with the park’s 400-acre Estuarine Sanctuary. Engraved on the side of the play structures, facts about marine life are on view, emphasizing the educational ethos of the playground. Beyond the sturgeons, the playground also includes climbing nets, safety surfacing, and a perimeter seat wall surrounded by the park’s landscape of native plants and trees.

Children climbing on a playground
The playground features various interactive elements for children to play and learn. (Courtesy Hudson River Park)

The project acquired funding through a private capital campaign led by the Hudson River Park Friends and grants from elected officials. In addition to the recently inaugurated playground, Pier 26 also hosts other recreational spaces including a sports area, a rooftop wine bar, a sunning lawn, and a kayaking boathouse. A future project, the Hudson River Estuarium, is now in its design phase and will house a center for marine science research and river ecology education.

Trevor Lee, Partner at OLIN, said, “We look forward to this playground and its iconic play sculptures enhancing ecological literacy and inspiring future caretakers of the River.”