Mill River Park Carousel Pavilion

Stamford, CT

Through an open ideas competition we were awarded the commission to design a threshold between the restored riparian wetland of the Mill River and the city that surrounds it. Working within the strict parameters of a park master plan developed by Olin Partnership, the program called for two distinct elements: a pavilion to house a large wooden carousel at the entry to the park and an urban “porch” that would serve as a marker and shading canopy along the river’s edge.  For both buildings, we explored applications of structural engineered timber to find unexpected and playful forms and spaces for the park’s visitors. The Carousel Pavilion is the first to be completed.


This translucent polycarbonate and timber shed will house a large wooden merry-go-round donated to the city by Mill River Park benefactors. Standing at the park’s northwest entrance at the corner of Mill River and Broad Streets, the pavilion’s deep entry porch offers visitors a celebratory view of the carousel.  The interior space of the pavilion is lined by a series of canted structural timber columns whose geometry gives the building both its architectural character and its structural rigidity. Large bifold awning doors open to the south to views of the park, its legacy cherry grove, and the river beyond. In addition to the carousel, the interior provides enough space and seating for riders’ respite and more organized events served by a small kitchen that doubles as a casual snack bar and a caterers’ work area for weddings and parties.

Above the whirling carousel, we designed an enormous sculptural dome and cupola, carved from the deep timber roof plane as an inverted topography from layers of cross laminated timber. The complex geometries of the skylight rectify the triangular plan of the building, the circular footprint of the merry-go-round, and the radial motion of its riders. For any who choose to look up, the open canopy of the carousel will reveal to its riders a constantly changing surface of timber, sculpted by sunlight and brought to life by their own movement.

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