Designed by Heatherwick Studio, together with landscape architecture firm MNLA, the Little Island project is New York’s newest major public space, showcasing a richly-planted piece of topography above the Hudson River. The design featuring a public park and performance venues reinvents the pier typology into an undulating artificial landscape. After surpassing many hurdles, the eight years in the making project is now open to the public, and the bold design is set to become an icon in New York.
The project reimagines the pier as an experience and designs a structure that would foster a vibrant art, education and community space, creating a distinct performance venue. The offshore structure connected to the shoreline through two doc-like pathways features three outdoor performance spaces: an acoustically-optimized 700-seat amphitheater, a 200-seat spoken word stage, and a flexible venue with a capacity for 3,500 at the center. The project creates a diverse landscape with numerous pathways, viewing platforms and destinations, fostering numerous activities.
The structural columns are a key identity element of the design, which comprises some 132 tulip-like concrete piles that double as planters. Describing the structure, Thomas Heatherwick says, “we were inspired by these piles and the civil engineering required to build structures that can withstand extreme river conditions. Could we make these the heroes of our project, rather than hiding them? The vision that’s been built is based on taking these piles and turning their tops into dramatic planters that fuse together to make a richly-planted undulating landscape.” The project’s engineering consultant Arup used parametric modelling and advanced prefabrication techniques to deliver the complex precast geometry of the “pots”, which were fabricated locally and delivered on-site.
The architecture studio worked with New York-based landscape architecture studio MNLA to design the park, which is home to nearly 400 species of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials. The landscape creates opportunities for different views and creates numerous paths within the park while also fostering biodiversity.
Heatherwick’s Little Island is Taking Shape off New York’s Shoreline
Photos by Timothy Schenck