Location New York City
Completed 2013
Scope 15 beach sites, 35 structures
Program Comfort stations, lifeguard stations, and offices for New York City parks and maintenance staff 


Architect Garrison Architects
Client New York Department of Parks and Recreation, New York Department of Design and Construction
Landscape Architect Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architect
MEP Engineer Plus Group
Modular Structure Anastos Engineering
Structural Engineer McLaren Engineering
Construction Manager Jacobs Project Management
General Contractor Triton Structural Concrete


Certification Not applicable
Structures Galvanized steel frames designed to endure 500-year flood level, modular design and construction
Materials Rain-screen cladding systems, double-skin ventilated roof cavities for longevity and reduction of solar heat transmission
Energy Net-metered PV arrays, daylighting via clerestory windows

Busy at his drafting desk on Christmas Day of 2012, James Garrison had his hands full. He had an upcoming meeting with the New York City Design Commission January 7, 2013, to share concept drawings for 35 new comfort stations, lifeguard stations, and park offices to be built along the coastline of Rockaway Beach, Brooklyn’s Coney Island, and Staten Island’s Midland Beach, Cedar Grove Beach, and Wolfe’s Pond Park—the same stretch of shoreline where Hurricane Sandy’s 13-foot-high storm surge wrenched boardwalks from their supports, destroyed summer residences and other buildings, and left tens of thousands homeless and without power just two months earlier.

The good news: The design firm, Garrison Architects, had made it through the bidding process and been awarded the design contract for a high-profile $106 million construction project to rebuild structures on the devastated shoreline. It had its marching orders from David Burney, commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction, who desired an ecologically sustainable system of permanent structures resilient to future climate-change disasters and minimally disruptive to the surrounding communities.

The bad news: The team had six weeks to finish the design, and construction was to be completed by Memorial Day 2013, when tens of thousands of New Yorkers would descend on the beaches for the first day of swimming.

Garrison’s solution: Three sleek, utilitarian, modular building types that could be constructed off-site in a component approach similar to the construction of a modern automobile. Designed to meet FEMA’s 500-year flood standard, the sandblasted, galvanized steel structures were built on a tight production schedule in Berwick, Pennsylvania. The modular chassis and their component parts, weighing 120,000 pounds each, were loaded onto flatbed trucks, hauled to the Port of Newark, off-loaded onto barges, and chartered across the Upper Bay to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach, where they were quickly installed.

The buildings are raised eight to seventeen feet off the ground, naturally lit, ventilated with continuous clerestories and skylights, and connected to gangplanks with trussed handrails that descend to the beach and boardwalks. To offset energy use, sunlight is absorbed by net-metered photovoltaic roof arrays connected to New York City’s electrical grid. “All the things we use try to maximize the sun’s light and heat to create energy and reduce the mechanical means of achieving these,” Garrison says.

What will happen to the structures if there’s another Sandy? “Not much,” he says, laughing wisely. “The water will go right underneath them.”