Architect: Thomas Heatherwick – Heatherwick Studio
Landscape Design: Signe Nielsen, MNLA
Primarily funder: The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation
Photo credit: Michael Grimm
Sustained by concrete ‘tulips’ rising from the Hudson River, the innovative greenspace promoted by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and envisioned by Heatherwick Studio with landscape designer Signe Nielsen of MNLA is a surprising place. An island on an island, visionary and innovative, immersed in flourishing vegetation, with pathways in nature, hills, panoramic terraces and an unexpected amphitheater for performances. A dialogue between art and nature.
“I wanted to create an aesthetically amazing place for New Yorkers and visitors to the city, a surprising location – says Barry Diller. – A green destination for leisure time, surrounded by nature and culture.”
Literally besieged by curious throngs, along two walkways that connect the new Little Island to Hudson River Park, the innovative park over the river opened its gates on 21 May 2021, and has immediately become a hot spot. A visionary oasis to be gradually discovered, wandering its mazes of steps, immersed in unexpected quietude. Composed of 280 concrete piles and 132 ‘tulips’ at the top, each with a different load-bearing capacity and form to support terraces, trees and open spaces, its morphology reflects the inseparable bond between the city and the water.
“In the Little Island project – says Thomas Heatherwick, founder of the studio that bears his name – we were inspired by the remains of the old piers on the West Side of Manhattan: hundreds of old wooden structural piles that protrude from the river. So we wondered if the identity of the new park and the performance space could emerge from the water without the need to add any surface platform. The idea then evolved, transforming into the concrete supports that reach towards the sky and create a particular landscape. Combined, the 280 supports form an undulated topography for Little Island, perfectly sloped to create theatrical spaces.”
In a constant dialogue between nature, art and architecture, the landscape designed by MNLA features over 350 botanical species, including flowers, trees and shrubs; a central plaza with seating is set aside for food (the Playground). There are also an intimate stage (the Glade) and an amphitheater for 687 seats (the Amph). In its unexpected formulation, the ‘floating’ stage for performances has been conceived as an ancient Greek theater overlooking the river. A thrilling and surprising landscape, which conveys the sensation of being projected elsewhere, wrapped by nature, culture, theater and music, throughout the summer.
“Every time I come to Little Island – says landscape designer Signe Nielsen, Principal at MNLA – I am struck by the sense of wonder. This park is made to be surprising. I wanted New Yorkers to feel joy and emotion in every corner, enveloped in a living, pulsating ecosystem, amidst meadows, hills and unexpected views.”
Pier 55 – 13th Street Hudson River Park