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Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects I Partners Designing Hurricane Sandy Memorial in New Jersey

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New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA) was recently selected to design a memorial in New Jersey marking the community’s ongoing recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. They join a team of design and construction professionals providing pro bono services for this cause.

The project, constructed entirely out of site-cast tilt-up concrete, will be located along the shore in Highlands, N.J. overlooking Sandy Hook, an area severely impacted by the devastating storm. The memorial will be a pavilion that provides shelter and a place to gather. “We wanted to make something that can serve a purpose beyond a monument that can only be viewed,” said Tod Williams. “Three conical oculi in the roof canopy will join to reflect the coming together of the community, both residents of Highlands, N.J. and all those affected by Sandy, to help to rebuild.”

The Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA), a nonprofit international organization dedicated to the advancement of the tilt-up concrete construction industry, is spearheading the project as a continuation of the TCA Community Project Program. Developed in 2010 by the TCA, the program encourages collaboration between its diverse network of member companies and provides a vehicle by which these companies can give back to their communities. Projects are considered by a local committee in conjunction with the TCA’s International Convention held each year.

“The TCA is honored to have such a respected and influential firm involved in this project,” said Mitch Bloomquist, executive director for the TCA. “TWBTA’s focus on public work, their exploratory approach and masterful application of material and texture were just three of the many reasons we approached them to lead this project.” Over the past thirty years, the firm has garnered local, national, and international acclaim and press. Most recently, Williams and Tsien were awarded an honorary international fellowship to the Royal Institute of British Architects, the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama and the Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects.

“When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012 it was an indelible demonstration of the power of nature and the fortitude of community. We are honored to have the opportunity to celebrate the strength of people helping one another to remake their homes, their businesses and their lives,” explained Billie Tsien. “In our architecture we have consistently used concrete – because of its ability to last as well as its potential for underlying beauty. The pavilion will be cast in concrete using the sands and shells of the Highlands beach, forming a communal place of gathering that symbolizes the grounding of home, while also connecting to an aspiration of unity.”

In March 2015, TWBTA began working with a team of experts in tilt-up design and construction to explore the method’s architectural potential, as one aspect of the program is to bring awareness to the versatility, applicability and beauty of tilt-up.

“Most tilt-up building projects involve vertical wall panel surfaces orthogonally arranged to best capture the economic efficiencies associated with the method. This does not have to be the case,” said David Tomasula, managing principal with LJB Inc. “It is exciting to see the creativity the entire design team has brought to this project, especially the combination of surfaces (flat bottom, sloped top, and the varying surface of the oculi) that comprise the site-cast tilt-up roof panel. With the durability that building owners recognize in tilt-up concrete, this memorial will be a permanent reminder of the perseverance following Sandy.”

According to Bloomquist, while the exploration of tilt-up is a theme of the program as a whole, it is, of course, a subordinate component of the project.

“As this year’s convention is being held in New Jersey, the local committee wanted to do something to acknowledge the impact and response to Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest weather disaster in American history,” said Kim Corwin, CEO of A.H. Harris and chairperson of the TCA’s local host committee. “Many of our employees, customers and friends were severely impacted by the storm and we are proud to commemorate their resilience.”

“First and foremost, this program is about giving back,” said Bloomquist. “The TCA and its members are providing material, products, professional services and labor at absolutely no cost to the community.”

Bob Murray, general manager for Alston Construction Company explained that while this project is complex and will require an extraordinary effort to complete in just three months, it’s well worth it. “We are proud to be leading the construction team for such an important project,” said Murray. “This is the community we live in and work in. We could not pass up this opportunity to give back.”

“It is not only and honor but a privilege to have this project built in our community,” said Rebecca Kane, Highlands Borough Council President. “Our small town, that has endured so much over the last three years, has really grown to encompass all that this project represents. This pavilion will be strong and steady and will give the community a sense of togetherness in these post-Sandy times.”

A public dedication of the project is being planned for October 1, 2015.

Project Team

Owner – Highlands, N.J.
Design Architect – Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners
Architect of Record – Ware Malcomb
General Contractor – Alston Construction Company
Concrete Contractor – Lithko Contracting, Inc.
Engineer of Record – LJB Inc.
Lifting and Bracing Design and Hardware – Meadow Burke
Digital Fabrication – TIMBUR, LLC.
Steel Reinforcement – A.H. Harris & Sons
Expanded Polystyrene Foam – Shelter Enterprises


Tod Williams and Billie Tsien founded Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in 1986. Their studio, located in New York City, focuses on work for institutions – museums, schools and non-profits; organizations that value issues of aspiration and meaning, timelessness and beauty. Their buildings are carefully made and useful in ways that speak to both efficiency and the spirit. A sense of rootedness, light, texture, detail, and most of all experience are at the heart of what they build. Parallel to their practice, Williams and Tsien maintain active teaching careers and lecture worldwide.

Notable projects include the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, the Asia Society Center in Hong Kong, the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, a recreational and skating facility in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and the new US Embassy Complex in Mexico City.

3 Responses to “Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects I Partners Designing Hurricane Sandy Memorial in New Jersey”
  1. Robby Wheeler says:

    I have to admit there is much I don’t understand about this monument but I look forward to seeing it finished.

    We are Highlands Strong and Jersey Strong!

  2. Bill Iler says:

    I have seen this in person and it is wonderful. A beautiful space, an enhancement to the beach, and the most positive project in this town in awhile. It is an ulifting experience when sitting inside.

    I am embarrassed and dismayed the recent complaints by a vocal group- who do not reflect everyone’s opinion- that this art was somehow forced on them and they should have been able to vote on it- and now they want it ‘removed’. Seems very punitive and reactoionary when only good intentions seem to have been the motivation in having it come to our town.

    Civic projects especially when it comes to cutting edge architecture, often start with controversy, even the Chrysler building got complaints when it was built. Hopefully calmer minds will prevail and this will become the restful, serene place it is intended to be. Thank you for providing it to us, the design is great.

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