03 Jun 2021 • Institutions
In NYC, Heatherwick Studio rethinks the pier as a biodiverse community space
Barry Diller, Hudson River Park Trust
A public park encompassing three performance venues, Little Island proposes a new way for utilizing the water-bound structures.
132 precast concrete pots support a dramatic arched entrance into the 2.4-acre park, which was realized in partnership with landscape architecture firm MNLA and Arup’s engineering consultants. Knowing that pier supports are important habitats for marine life and considering the wooden remnant piles still in the water from existing piers, the design team envisioned this raised solution. But the tessellated structures are not static: they are filled with more than 100 different species of indigenous trees and plants, forming a unique topography with the city. An acoustically optimized 700-seat amphitheatre with natural stone seating, 200-seat spoken word stage and flexible venue for larger events are contained within the designed ecosystem. ‘As well as making multiple spaces for different activities and performances,’ says Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick, ‘this new public space could also take advantage of the water to create a more meaningful threshold that allows visitors to feel they’re having a break from the hecticness of the city.’
What was originally a brief for a pavilion for a new pier became an exciting activation that benefits two local groups: people and wildlife. Heatherwick Studio’s design is a meaningful contribution to the city and it encourages innovation in public spaces, something needed more than ever post-COVID. The landscaping, too, is incredibly thoughtful: ‘each corner of the island represents a different microclimate depending on the topography, sun exposure and wind patterns,’ as explain the architects. One thing’s certain from this project: every city deserves a space as hyper-responsive to communities as Little Island is to NYC's.