The Making of Paths to Pier 42: An Interview with Combo Colab

Interview with Combo Colab

Combo Colab (Carolina Cisneros and Mateo Pinto) is one of four commissioned artist groups in 2015 who, in collaboration with the project partners, advisory committee, volunteers and most importantly, local feedback and support, are transforming Pier 42 into a vibrant accessible waterfront park for the community.

Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) had the opportunity to ask Cisneros and Pinto about their experience working on Paths to Pier 42. Building upon their 2014 project, Drumreef, Combo Colab created Drumreef Watercycle: a new installation that explores the idea of topography on Pier 42. Made from multiple re-purposed rain barrels, Drumreef Watercycle provides much needed shade and seating, and incorporates water features including rain water collection and a pedal-powered water pump for cooling and irrigation. Satellite structures in the form of independent rain collectors will be installed at the M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, once the project is deinstalled from Pier 42.

Drumreef Watercycle, 2015.

Drumreef Watercycle, 2015

What was your initial approach to the Paths to Pier 42 project? How is the project connected to past projects and the values that motivate your work?

We start off by looking at the site and materials available to determine how all the elements will interact with each other, and try to establish the role each element has on the design depending on the ideas we are gearing towards. Re-purposing materials and using recycled and pre-fabricated elements play an important role in the design process to create a low cost/high impact outcome.  The connection/relation between materials and concept is reciprocal. Each material links to the project and informs the final design, which at the same time guides the way to find specific materials.

How did the various components of your project (workshops, installation) develop?

This year we were able to establish connections with local gardens like the M’Finda Kalunga Garden in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park where a few rain water collectors will be installed before the end of the season. We also counted on the help of Lenny Librizi from Grow NYC to build the bike powered pump which was a truly valuable contribution. Then the hands-on building phase of our installation was possible with the hefty help of many helpers and volunteers.

Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of the DrumReef 42 installation since 2014? Including the development and addition of the trees?

For DrumReef Watercycle we reconfigured the topography using the same 55 gallon barrels we had used on the previous year, except we wanted to incorporate new elements as mentioned and also revisit certain elements like the shade. In 2014, shade was provided by umbrellas retrofitted into the design, this year the shade was a gift of 15 trees incorporated in the topography. These trees were on site waiting for the final destination and found their way to DrumReef Watercycle.


What inspired the installation of the pedal powered water pump for irrigation that you included on the site? Can you explain how the bike functions and what it represents?

For this year’s edition of DrumReef the initial thought was to re-think the connection of the site to the water. We wanted to re-create the urban reef and bring in the element of water as an interactive component, to speak about the cycle of water and to provide a playful and refreshing feature. So we started looking at examples of interactive water pumping systems and came across bike powered pumps, then we were able to establish contact with Lenny through the connection Dan from the Lower East Side Ecology Center and that just paved the way to make it happen. We really liked the fact that through this interaction people have to pedal for water, as opposed to just opening a faucet like most of us do in our daily lives.


Bike powered water pump and adjacent rain barrel sprinkler

Were there any unexpected functions or reactions to your project that you wanted to explore further?

Since we are exploring the subject of water, its uses and cycle, we had thought about doing a pamphlet or a workshop about water facts that would invite people to think and understand the value and meaning of water. The idea behind it was to incorporate data of facts related to water consumption, waste and recollection and make it easy to visualize.  Unfortunately we did not have a chance to make this part happen but in a way the seed is there.

What issues on Pier 42 and in the surrounding neighborhood most interested you? How do you feel that your project responds to or addresses these issues?

From the beginning, we thought that our project had to explore the idea of topography as an interactive element. The neighborhood and more so the Pier face the water, but do not always embrace this proximity. At the same time they are exposed to this element and its effects under natural adversities. So we tried to create a small scale structure that explored and responded to this relation of a barrier functioning as a program generator to enhance the encounter between the urban fabric and the water’s edge.

Is there anything you’ve learned in the process of this project that you think should inform the long term plans for Pier 42 and the surrounding area?

Yes – that people from the community are not always easy to reach, but they need to be connected to the process to establish true and lasting stewardship of parks and outdoor spaces.

Has participating in the Paths to Pier 42 project changed the way you think about or approach your work?

It has enhanced the ways of our creative process. Working with the partnering organizations as well as the community was key to understanding the place and the role we have in helping shape our public spaces.

What has been your greatest takeaway now that you’ve worked at Paths to Pier 42 for two years? Is there a favorite moment or anecdote from the project you’d like to share?

Seeing the interaction of the people with the piece in each and all of the community events, both in 2014 and 2015 thus far, it’s priceless.


“Making of Paths to Pier 42″ is a series of interviews with the artists and designers behind the creation of the Pier 42 park.