Architecture

Heatherwick Studio's Little Island mixes park and pier on the Hudson

Heatherwick Studio's Little Is...
Little Island's design is inspired by a former dilapidated pier that existed on the site and many of its wooden supports have been retained
Little Island's design is inspired by a former dilapidated pier that existed on the site and many of its wooden supports have been retained
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The planting of Little Island's trees, shrubs, and grasses took place from March to December, 2020
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The planting of Little Island's trees, shrubs, and grasses took place from March to December, 2020
Little Island is reached from the New York City shore by two bridges
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Little Island is reached from the New York City shore by two bridges
In addition to its greenery, Little Island contains three performance spaces: an acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a smaller 200-seat spoken word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity for 3,500
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In addition to its greenery, Little Island contains three performance spaces: an acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a smaller 200-seat spoken word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity for 3,500
Little Island is now open to the public and is free of charge to visit
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Little Island is now open to the public and is free of charge to visit
Heatherwick Studio was originally commissioned to create a simple pavilion for a new waterfront extension, but the firm decided on something more radical instead
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Heatherwick Studio was originally commissioned to create a simple pavilion for a new waterfront extension, but the firm decided on something more radical instead
Little Island's concrete piles are driven up to 200 ft (60 m) into the rock bed below to ensure stability
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Little Island's concrete piles are driven up to 200 ft (60 m) into the rock bed below to ensure stability
Little Island's design is inspired by a former dilapidated pier that existed on the site and many of its wooden supports have been retained
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Little Island's design is inspired by a former dilapidated pier that existed on the site and many of its wooden supports have been retained
Little Island's 280 concrete piles support a total of 132 concrete "Tulips," which make up the undulating structure of the park
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Little Island's 280 concrete piles support a total of 132 concrete "Tulips," which make up the undulating structure of the park
Little Island's "Tulips" were fabricated in sections in upstate New York, assembled into complete pots at the port of Albany, and shipped by barge down the Hudson River where they were erected on to the driven precast piles
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Little Island's "Tulips" were fabricated in sections in upstate New York, assembled into complete pots at the port of Albany, and shipped by barge down the Hudson River where they were erected on to the driven precast piles
Little Island's concrete sections were craned into position on the Hudson River
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Little Island's concrete sections were craned into position on the Hudson River
View gallery - 10 images

Heatherwick Studio's highly anticipated Little Island has finally opened in the Big Apple. The project is an interesting blend of a pier and public park that's raised above the Hudson River on concrete piles and includes trees and shrubs, winding pathways, and performance spaces.

Little Island, which also involved Signe Nielsen of MNLA on landscaping duties and Arup handling engineering, was largely privately funded by the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation and is part of the Hudson River Park. Heatherwick Studio was commissioned to create a simple pavilion for a new waterfront extension, but the designer drew inspiration from existing wooden piles on the site from an old dilapidated pier and decided on something more radical instead.

"Rather than creating another flat jetty, the pier could become a new piece of topography, rising and falling to shape a variety of spaces and functions – even performance spaces," explains the firm. "The idea of raising the park on its foundations came from the existing wooden piles in the water. The piles have become an important habitat for marine life and are a protected breeding ground for fish. The height of the piles varies to create the contours of the new landscape. 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 amphitheater for performances. In this way, the pier and its supporting structure are one."

The planting of Little Island's trees, shrubs, and grasses took place from March to December, 2020
The planting of Little Island's trees, shrubs, and grasses took place from March to December, 2020

Little Island measures 11,000 sq m (118,000 sq ft) and consists of 280 concrete piles that are installed next to the many leftover wooden piles of the previous pier structure. The concrete piles are driven down to a maximum of 200 ft (60 m) into the rock bed below to ensure stable support of 132 concrete "Tulips." These in turn make up the structure of the park and support soil, gravel and geofoam (polystyrene blocks used in construction). Between March and December, 2020, over 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees were planted, some of which will grow to a height of 60 ft (18 m).

Access is gained by two bridges from the shore and the new space hosts winding paths and grassy areas for visitors to sit and enjoy the view. It also contains three performance spaces: an acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a smaller 200-seat spoken-word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity of 3,500 at the center. It's now open and is free to visit. The organizers promise that most performances held there will be free or at least very low cost and upcoming events include a ballet and an orchestra performance, as well as artist workshops and more.

In addition to its greenery, Little Island contains three performance spaces: an acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a smaller 200-seat spoken word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity for 3,500
In addition to its greenery, Little Island contains three performance spaces: an acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a smaller 200-seat spoken word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity for 3,500

Heatherwick Studio has been on superb form lately and also completed another eye-catching project nearby named the Vessel.

Sources: Heatherwick Studio, Little Island

View gallery - 10 images
4 comments
4 comments
BlueOak
If a very nice park is built on the water and nobody remains in NYC to enjoy it after all of its businesses have been driven away by insanely out of control state and local government bureaucracies, does the park actually exist?
guzmanchinky
That is so cool, can't wait to check it out next time I'm in New York!
Nelson Hyde Chick
BlueOak, let me guess, you are MAGA?
BlueOak
@Chick, your demagoguery (look the word up) aside - I have several friends who live or recently lived in NYC and they claim the city is dying.