Billion Oyster Pavilion

Babak  Bryan, AIA; Henry Grosman; Suzie Betts

The Billion Oyster Pavilion, conceived and built for a summer arts festival in collaboration with an environmental organization, was recycled to catalyze oyster habitat in New York Harbor.

The Billion Oyster Pavilion is a temporary structure built for the Figment Arts festival in New York City. After decommissioning it was recycled to create new oyster habitat in New York's waterways. Working with both the festival and the New York Harbor School, BanG designed and constructed the pavilion of materials that would work both on land as a centerpiece for the summer-long festival and in the water to catalyze the development of new reefs. It was also an effective mechanism for educating the public about the on-going oyster habitat rehabilitation project on the island.

Throughout the summer, visitors enjoyed various events including performances, lectures, and concerts under the filigree shade of the canopy. Even when there were no scheduled events, the curved geometry of the structure invited visitors in to linger in the grass. At the end of the season, all of the materials used to construct the Billion Oyster pavilion were re-used directly on Governor's Island by the Harbor school's Billion Oyster Project, an on-going multi-year effort to introduce on billion oysters in New York's waters by 2030.

The base of the pavilion was formed by stacking custom-cast concrete blocks to create a dappled and undulating ring. The blocks were cast in a 3D-printed formwork and were designed to be submerged underwater at the end of the season as the substrate for a new reef. Oyster larvae, grown on the island by Harbor School students were spread on the blocks before deployment. The large surface area to volume ratio provides ample space and the open geometry allows for water to flow easily through the reef. The canopy atop the structure is formed by an aggregating a standardized module made from steel rebar and marine line. A flexible, but well-defined set of rules determines produces a highly redundant structural dome that provides shelter for up to 50 people within.

At the end of the summer, the canopy was disassembled. The steel triangles was reused by Harbor School students to create "oyster condos," steel cages filled with recycled oyster shells, another technology for catalyzing new reefs. The miles of marine line weaving through the canopy was used (among other things) to deploy the condos in the water. Every piece of the Billion Oyster Pavilion was designed to be re-used on Governor's Island eliminating the need to transport materials a second time and completely eliminating waste.

In addition to meaningfully contributing to habitat restoration the Billion Oyster Pavilion brought publicity and awareness to the Billion Oyster Project. It challenged visitors to learn more about this important work, and it invited them to participate in the process in a fun and beautiful setting.

Image credits


Babak Bryan, AIA; Henry Grosman; Suzie Betts