DC Wharf’s recreational pier highlights sustainable materials, unique landscape architecture, and unconventional carpentry
The Recreational Pier of Washington’s newly redeveloped southwest waterfront, dubbed “The Wharf,” has opened, highlighting a combination of sustainable building materials, unique landscape design and unconventional carpentry.
The Recreational Pier sits at the terminus of 7th Street SW. Together with the adjacent 7th Street Park, the Recreation Pier forms a new civic connection that brings the community to the water’s edge. The curving, elliptical outline of the pier starts in the park as a poured in place concrete walk before transitioning to Kebony wood decking that pushes out onto the pier.
Kebony was chosen due to its hard-wearing properties and ability to hold intense foot traffic. The patented Kebony technology is an environmentally friendly process, which modifies sustainably sourced softwoods by heating the wood with a bio-based liquid.
By polymerising the wood’s cell wall, the softwoods permanently take on the attributes of tropical hardwood including high durability, hardness and dimensional stability. Kebony Clear wood was used for the Pier’s decking, verticals, benches and cladding throughout. In total over 100,000 square feet of Kebony was used at the Wharf, making this the largest installation of Kebony in North America, to date.
The elliptical form is combined with a rolling, wave-like decking surface that descends to the midpoint (the “Saddle”) before ramping back up the pier terminus (the “Belvedere”). The overall effect of curvature and the rolling slope helps to create a sense of movement and flow reminiscent of water waves. To execute Michael Vergason Landscape Architecture’s design, general contractor Cianbro Corp.’s carpenters actually bent the Kebony modified wood, likely the first time this has been done.
The transition decking between the upper and lower levels was bent and twisted to follow the curvature and incline of the pier. These boards were full depth 2”x4”. And to create the fascia, the “nose” of the pier features an elliptical profile that was wrapped with bent 1”x4” boards, which were also kerfed on the backside to achieve the radii.
“Cianbro’s carpenters are very experienced and the bending was a particularly interesting process,” according to Robin Lollar, project manager for MVLA. “They literally used brute force to achieve one of the greater successes of this project. Without bending the wood, it would have been very difficult to get the adjacent decking to lay out correctly.”
The Recreation Pier extends over 400 feet into the Washington Channel, consisting of both a primary, fixed deck and a lower, floating dock. The pier has a deck surface area that measures approximately 21,000 square feet, with the floating dock contributing an additional 2,500 square feet. There are two aluminum gangways that connect the fixed pier to the floating dock below.
Other notable products used in its construction include an expansion joint at the bulkhead by Wabo® FastFloor, a public duress station by Code Blue, removable bollards from mmcité, an access door from Bilco (skinned with Kebony), and truncated stainless steel domes by DW Dots. The Pier is primarily a flexible open space that can accommodate a wide range of activities and programming. Key features include a kayak launch on the floating dock, five oversized swings that accommodate two or more adults, a sculptural steel shade structure at the land’s edge, a small retail kiosk, two dozen Kebony clad benches, floating wetlands, and a 10-foot fire sculpture at the Belvedere.
The Wharf project, in total, includes 14 signature buildings—each designed by a different architect— linked by 10 acres of public space and parks to create an ever-changing and exciting experience along the water. All told, it represents the biggest mixed-use development in DC’s history.
The community comprises 24 acres of land and 50 acres of water. The development team is restoring a 200-year-old fish market and has created 1,400 waterfront residences, relocating a 127-year-old yacht club and set up three unique hotels, designed and built a 6,000-person-capacity concert hall and conference center, and constructed four public piers. They’re all linked by a waterside promenade with more than 75 restaurants and shops extending along a mile of waterfront.
The $2 billion development was spearheaded by PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, who teamed up to form Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, a development partnership that created an eclectic mix of uses and public spaces connecting people to the waterfront. Clark Construction Group built the landside public spaces at The Wharf, with Cianbro Corp. constructing all marine structures, piers, and docks.