Muhheakantuck [Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk] is how the Lenape, the indigenous people that lived in Manhattan called the Hudson River. The word means “River that Flows Both Ways.”

First, we should know the fact that the Hudson River is not a river, but a tidal estuary. It is an arm of the sea where salty sea water meets fresh water. The estuary has two high and two low tides in twenty-four hours. Due to the high tide near the south side of Manhattan, there is a phenomenon that part of the river flows backward to the North.

Illustration by Herbert C. and John T. Kraft

The Lenape tribe understood this phenomenon thousands of years ago, recognizing the significance of the river as a source of life, resources, and transportation. Their awareness of the estuary’s unique characteristics led them to name it Muhheakantuck.

However, contemporary New Yorkers commonly refer to the water body by the name of an English pioneer, not noticing its dynamic and rhythmic nature. Boundaries are set along the river, treating it as a mere dead-end in the city.

In the modern context of the city, how can people better appreciate the Hudson River’s rhythmic and dynamic flow?

I started answering this question by observing the movement of the wave surface. Deconstructing the wave surface into points, and extruding it along the Z-axis, supported with a vertical structure. Adding the spherical buoyancy modules near the water aided the extruded points in following the movement.

Concept Statement

Muhheakantuck is a tensile structure that harnesses and translates the movement of waves on the Hudson River into a dynamic, immersive playspace.

Continuing my research on the Lenape tribe, who knew the river better than us, I discovered from archaeological findings that our site, the Chelsea Piers, was known as Sapohanikan. This was a Lenape settlement and a fishing site. I could discern the ancestral wisdom in employing heavy counterweights and buoyancy from dried gourds to hold up the nets for catching fish. Consequently, I am incorporating these characteristics into the manipulation of my tensile structure.

Tensile Structure Sketch Model

Site Observation

I am interested in the urban part of our site where the dynamic movement of people exists. The presence of a skatepark, carousel, and gymnastic center attracts numerous children and their families to the area. Muhheakantuck is set to be positioned at the farthest corner of Piers 62 to maximize exposure to the great amount of river flow.

Looking closely, various aspects defined the direction of the wave at the site. Typically, the wave follows the main flow of the river, moving from north to south and inward towards the piers. The wave’s flow is also influenced by strong winds towards the land and passing boats. Near the corner of the piers, I observed a flock of seagulls joyfully riding the waves together, mirroring the intimate connection with the river that I want people to experience. The existing door in the railing will serve as the starting point and guide for how I will position the piers.

Wave movement at the site, and the flock of seagulls on the wave

Site Intervention

Various sizes of circles were assembled to create the platform, providing a space for individuals engaged with the site to slow down their pace. The intention is for them to take a moment, look around 360 degrees, and observe the wave and tide phenomena of the Hudson River. The utilization of a steel trench grate and the waffle shape of the pier structure allows the buoyancy system and river flow below to be visible to those walking on top of it. The shape of the pier is determined by pulling down the center point of the circle, aligning with the tension language in the design.

Following the platform’s shape, the tensile structure is positioned on top with various sizes of modules. The vertical posts supporting the mesh have legs that diverge as the size of the circle increases, imparting a distinct spatial effect to the platform below. Modules with a straight post divide the circulation, the double-leg module forms an arch for people to enter and pass through, and the triple-leg module creates a vault-like space where people can gather and rest. The circular form ensures an even distribution of tension across the fabric.

Exploded Axonometric


Low Tide Section

High Tide Section


Render View

Model Photos