Heatherwick Studio's Little Island mixes park and pier on the Hudson
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."
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.
Heatherwick Studio has been on superb form lately and also completed another eye-catching project nearby named the Vessel.