Little Island is a new public park that shelters three new performance venues on the Hudson River. Designed as a haven for people and wildlife, it is a green oasis, held above the water by sculptural planters, and located just a short walk across a gangplank from Manhattan’s Lower West Side.
Heatherwick Studio was initially invited by philanthropist Barry Diller and the Hudson River Park Trust to create a pavilion for a new pier off the south-west of Manhattan. Instead of designing a decorative object to sit in the Hudson River Park, the design team saw an opportunity to rethink what a pier could be. The starting point was not the structure, but the experience for visitors: the excitement of being over the water, the feeling of leaving the city behind and being immersed in greenery – inspired by Central Park, where it’s possible to forget that you are in the midst of the most densely populated city in the United States.
Piers were traditionally flat to allow boats to dock, but did they have to be? In contrast to the flat streets of Manhattan, the design team wanted to create a new topography for the city, which could rise up to shape a variety of spaces. The first iteration was a curled leaf form floating on the water, its veins rising like ribs at the edges to shelter the space from the wind. The idea of raising the park on its foundations came from the existing wooden piles in the water, remnants of the many piers that used to extend from the shoreline of Manhattan. Beneath the visible tips of the wood, the piles have become an important habitat for marine life and are a protected breeding ground for fish.
A DYNAMIC PERFORMANCE SPACE FOR NEW YORK
Heatherwick Studio envisaged the pier as a complete experience; a single, cohesive object, rather than unrelated elements stuck together. New piles would be necessary to support any type of pier. Instead of sticks holding up a deck, the piles become the deck – they extend into planters that join together to create the park’s surface. The height of the piles varies to create the park’s contours: the corner of the pier is lifted to allow sunlight to reach the marine habitat, and the edge falls to define hills, viewpoints and to carve out a natural amphitheatre for performances. In this way, the pier and its supporting structure are one.
种植槽或 "花盆 "里装满了一百多种本地树木和植物，它们鼓励生物多样性，并能在纽约的气候中茁壮成长，项目的每个角落都代表了不同的微气候。为了确定花盆的形式，设计团队将目光投向了大自然，以及河水结冰时在木桩周围形成的冰。工作室将其重新诠释为一个方格图案，看起来是有机的，但使用重复的元素，可以标准化地制造。在周边最明显的地方，我们小心翼翼地改变花盆的角度和重复性。为了使混凝土结构具有光滑的触觉质量，Heatherwick Studio与当地的一个制造者密切合作，预制构件由船只运输并在现场组装，最大限度地减少了对城市的干扰。
The planters, or ‘pots’ are filled with more than a hundred different species of indigenous trees and plants, which encourage biodiversity and are able to thrive in New York’s climate – each corner of the island represents a different microclimate. To determine the pots’ form, the design team looked to nature, and the mosaic of ice that forms around the wooden piles when the river freezes. The studio reinterpreted this in a tessellated pattern that appears organic, but uses repeated elements that could be standardised for fabrication. Care was taken to vary the angle and repetition of pots at the perimeter, where they were most visible. To give the structural concrete a smooth, tactile quality, Heatherwick Studio worked closely with a local fabricator. The precast components were transported by boats and assembled on site, minimising disruption to the city.
To emphasise the feeling of escape, Little Island’s footprint sits in the middle of the water between piers 54 and 56. Access is via two accessible ‘gangplanks’, and oriented in a continuation of the street grid. Inside, paths wind through trees and grassy seating areas to hidden, unexpected views. Restoring the entertainment venue that was lost when Pier 54 fell into disrepair, the park integrates three performance spaces. On the furthest edge, sheltered by the hills and surrounding trees, is an acoustically-optimised 700-seat amphitheatre with natural stone seating – its stage is set against the spectacular backdrop of sunset over the Hudson River and views of the Statue of Liberty. To the south is a more intimate, 200-seat spoken word stage. In the centre is a flexible venue with capacity for larger scale events – its hard paving brings to the surface the tessellated pattern of the piles.整个项目大约有400种不同的树木、灌木、草和多年生植物，通过公园至少有100种适合纽约气候的不同树种。岛上的每一个角落都代表着不同的小气候，这取决于地形、阳光照射和风向模式。
There are roughly 400 different species of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials throughout Little Island and at least 100 different species of trees through the park that are suited to the New York climate. Each corner of the island represents a different microclimate depending on the topography, sun exposure and wind patterns.
The theatre needed back-of-house spaces, but the design team didn’t want to interrupt the park with a building. The solution came through the structure: the tallest piles transfer the load to lower piles, allowing a void to be created beneath the deck. In this undercroft, the foundations are revealed and a viewing platform is created above the water, allowing a unique perspective of the pier and river, while concealing the facilities on a discreet deck. Every aspect of the experience has been considered, from the way the greenery unfolds on the approach to the view from each theatre seat. With its unique mix of venues and parkland, Little Island is a pause in the pace of Manhattan; a place where New Yorkers and visitors can cross the river to lie under a tree, watch a performance, catch the sunset and feel connected to the water and natural world.
Project Name: Little Island
Location: New York, USA
Completion date: May 2021
Area: 11,000 sqm
Design Firm: Heatherwick Studio
Design Director: Thomas Heatherwick
Group Leader: Mat Cash
Project Leader: Paul Westwood, Neil Hubbard
Technical Design Leader: Nick Ling
Project team: Sofia Amodio, Simona Auteri, MarkBurrows, Jorge Xavier Méndez-Cáceres, John Cruwys, Antoine van Erp, Alex Flood, Michal Gryko, Ben Holmes, Ben Jacobs, Francis McCloskey, Stepan Martinovsky, Simon Ng, Wojtek Nowak, Giovanni Parodi, Enrique Pujana, Akari Takebayashi, Ondrej Tichý, Ahira Sanjeet, Charles Wu, Meera Yadave
Making team: Jordan Bailiff, Einar Blixhavn, Darragh Casey, Hayley Henry, Hannah Parker, Luke Plumbley, Jeff Powers
Client: Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) & Pier 55 Project Fund (P55P)
Main Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Structural Engineer: Arup
Landscape Design: MNLA
Executive Architects: Standard Architects
Mechanical Engineering: Arup
Marine Engineers: MRCE
Cost Consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Photo Credit: Timothy Schenck, Getty Images, Michael Grimm Photography, Max Guliani