Collecting Spaces

Today, Castle Williams is a impenetrable object crouched on the island’s northwest tip. To reconfigure it for public use, a cut aligned with the main approach (i.e. from the island’s ferry docks) converts the imposing mass into a pair of parentheses. This frame creates a dramatic visual connection between the island’s interior and its edge.

With a nod to the island’s artificial topography, the downward slope of this main approach is leveled, reducing the apparent (and imposing) height of the castle’s walls. This topographic shift effectively puts each of the building’s two stories at “ground level,” depending on whether the building is approached from the island’s interior or its perimeter. This doubling is dramatically revealed in the (now publicly accessible) courtyard, whose split-level condition redirects circulation through the visitor center.

The upper half of the courtyard extends through the parentheses, bridges the island’s promenade, “wraps” down to the promenade level, and finally slopes to provide access to the water. This pier kinks to avoid blocking the view either through the cut or from the courtyard, and acts as a public plaza-cum-boardwalk with views back toward the Manhattan skyline.

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