Thomas Heatherwick’s Iconic Pier 55 Park Begins to Rise Above the Hudson River in Chelsea

Pier 55 designed by Thomas Heatherwick

A part of Chelsea Piers that saw historic ocean liners RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania sail out of New York, as well as the arrival of The Titanic’s survivors aboard The Carpathia in 1912, is finally ready to begin its new life. Cunard’s former Pier 54 is now being transformed into an iconic floating park above the Hudson River called Pier 55, designed by Thomas Heatherwick.

The current site for Pier 55 looking southwest, photo by Michael Young

It is set to revitalize a section of the waterfront that has been left abandoned for decades. Now, construction and installation of the 425 piles has commenced with vigor. Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) will manage the new park. The landscaping will be done by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, P.C.

The old Cunard structure of what was once Pier 54, photo by Michael Young

Since its inception, the 2.7 acre project has been met with a stir of controversy due to a number of reasons. Funding from the state of New York has been problematic, construction delays and engineering challenges with the US Army Corps of Engineering have added to the drama, as have claims that work overlooked effects on marine wildlife, as alleged by the City Club of New York. The cost has ballooned from $35 million when first announced to $250 million today.

Pier 55 was nearly scrapped last September, but was revived a month later thanks to a deal between Governor Cuomo and media mogul and philanthropist Barry Diller, the founder of The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, who already donated $113 million towards the project. The rescue came within the scope of agreeing to completion of Hudson River Park from Battery Park City to 59th Street.

There will be two accessible path that go over the water and connect the park, which sits 186 feet beyond the edge of Manhattan. The hollow arched steel structure of the Cunard building, which is still standing, will be preserved as the gateway of one of the leading paths to Pier 55. The piles vary in height above the water and will sit below the bowl-shaped pier car that creates the projects signature design, similar to Heatherwick’s “1000 Trees” project in Shanghai, China.

The northern entrance to Pier 55, photo by Michael Young

The southern entrance to Pier 55, looking through Cunard’s Pier 54 steel arch remnant which will be preserved and restored, photo by Michael Young

A worker walks along the southern entrance passing the white piers of Pier 55, the pier caps will follow afterwards, photo by Michael Young

The varying heights of the pier caps create a series of landscaped hills, and slopes that form seating for an amphitheater facing west towards New Jersey and afternoon light. The hills will be wrapped with winding paths and two open patches of grass that will sit atop each apex. Construction will temporarily halt during the cold winter months and resume in the spring. The project will sit directly across from the Standard Hotel and 40 Tenth Avenue, aka the Solar Carve Tower currently under construction.

Completion of Pier 55 is expected in 2020.

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11 Comments on "Thomas Heatherwick’s Iconic Pier 55 Park Begins to Rise Above the Hudson River in Chelsea"

  1. Shouldn’t something be built first and around for a while before it gets deemed ‘iconic’ ?

  2. Please pardon me for using your space: Working to pieces on progress, there aren’t enough for completion. (Thanks to Michael Young)

  3. Will this be high enough to survive the next Sandy storm?

  4. An iconic hubristic mess of megalomania. What is unclear is how this boondoggle can move forward without raising concerns for the Hudson’s estuarine environment – how can all this construction work not have a negative effect on the local marine life? After all, it was concerns over the welfare of striped bass that brought the ill-conceived Westway project to its ultimate demise in the mid-80’s.

  5. In a picture dictionary, the rendering would be next to either “over-designed” or “furtive”. I hope the finished product gives a bang to all the bucks that are being spent, but I’m afraid that the money could have been spent more wisely on a more modest project elsewhere.

  6. Might not be the best use of money, but it’s far from the worst. It should be an interesting public space.

  7. Pier 55, although of course, NOT iconic – oh, how I wish someone’s editor would look up the meaning and proper usage of that word – would probably be worth at least a look-see. However, as much as this publication and others have written about it, mentioning that it was used by Cunard, that it will sit across from the Standard Hotel (wherever that is),the Solar Carve Tower (aka: 40 tenth), that it is part of the park – has it’s iconic fabulouness made you all so enthralled, that you can’t remember the best service you could give your readers – the street where this next wonder of the world sits?

  8. They are talking about the pier itself as being ‘Iconic’ in regards to it’s history as a hub widely recognized by the shipping industry. It’s an addition to

  9. Reminds me quite a bit of his project in Shanghai. Hope it is just as nice!

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