Pier 54 Redesigned by Architecture and Design Proteges | New Visions for Public Schools

Pier 54 Redesigned by Architecture and Design Proteges

If one group of NYC teenagers had its way, Manhattan’s Pier 54 would be a city hot spot, decked with an underwater museum, rooftop restaurant, carnival and aquarium.

“The pier was closed after Hurricane Sandy, so we worked together to figure out how we would rebuild it to make it a fun place to go,” said Fahim Uddin, a sophomore from Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy.  

Fahim, along with about 12 other architects and engineers in the making from high schools across the city, worked together over the course of ten months to re-imagine the pier, as part of the ACE mentorship program.

ACE, founded in 1994, is an after-school program that partners students interested in architecture, construction and engineering with mentors currently active in the industries. Throughout the school year, student groups meet bi-weekly with a team of mentors to emulate a design team and work on projects selected by the mentors. The mentors guide students through the process of creating a mock design project, introducing them to roles, responsibilities and vocabulary used in the industry. 

“Our goal at ACE has been to engage, excite and enlighten students to pursue careers in these industries,” said Annika Smith, the executive director for the Greater New York ACE chapter. “The projects the students work on with their mentors mirror real world industry standards and expose them to these careers in a real, tangible way.”

BETA has participated in this program over the past eight years, sending dozens of students like Fahim through the program each year.  The structure of ACE’s mentorship program works hand in hand with BETA’s work-based learning engineering curriculum.

“We want our students to experience what it would be like working with professionals in the real world,” said Jared Jax, BETA’s engineering director. “A lot of them come in and say they want to be an engineer, but have no idea what an engineer does.  So, for them to be able to experience it firsthand with ACE and be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to pursue this in college is invaluable.”

“I’m a lot more interested in architecture now,” said Fahim. “Before ACE, I thought architecture was easy and just about drawing; I thought that architects made a lot of money for nothing.  But working on this project with my ACE mentors showed me that the techniques that architects need to draw and sketch to satisfy their clients are not easy.  I think I’m a better artist now because of all the sketches I’ve done.”

At the end of each school year all groups come together for a week- long culmination event to present their projects to their peers as if they were presenting to potential clients.

Some of this year’s projects presented by the 40 teams across NYC included the redesign of LaGuardia airport and Yankee stadium as well as the rebuilding of Seaside Heights after Hurricane Sandy.

“We couldn’t have done any of this without the mentors,” said Fahim. “They helped us organize our ideas and they taught us how to be professional.  That really helped me because I didn’t know anything about working with clients. We really learned how to deal with clients and take into account what they are looking for.”

The 11 mentors from the Pier 54 team include construction consultants from Navigant Consulting Inc., engineers and architects from Gannett Fleming Inc. and HNTB Architecture and environmental engineers and scientists from Hazen and Sawyer, P.C.

Marshall Harris of Navigant Consulting has been an ACE mentor for six years and led the Pier 54 team this year. “The ACE program provides students with an experience they can’t get from a textbook. For these students the learning goes beyond just finding out about the architecture, construction and engineering industries,” said Marshall. “They learn to think critically like an engineer or an architect would and they learn to work together.  Ultimately, regardless of whether or not ACE influences the course of study that a student chooses in college or the career path that a student pursues after college, it’s wonderful to know that the ACE experience will stick with these students for many years.”