As the city begins to open up and recover, one new attraction that is sure to draw people to its unique architectural design and green space is Thomas Heatherwick‘s Little Island, which just opened to the public this morning at Pier 55 in Chelsea. The 2.4-acre park sits over the Hudson River and features landscape design by MNLA. Hudson River Park Trust is managing the park, which was inspired by a leaf floating on water and utilizes a total of 132 funnel-shaped concrete “pots”that elegantly undulate to form hills, open lawns, winding paths, and even a spot for an amphitheater. Arup served as the project engineers for Little Island, which is located just off of West 14th Street, a short distance from Renzo Piano’s Whitney Museum and Chelsea Market. The cost of the project is around $250 million.
“Little Island is an urban park like no other, and its opening is a true testament to the power of pushing boundaries and partnership between leading design, engineering, architecture and construction firms,” said David Farnsworth, Arup Principal. “Arup was tasked to bring Little Island’s unique design to life and create an entire park over the Hudson River that was safe, feasible and would bring joy to millions of New Yorkers and tourists. Arup is thrilled to have contributed groundbreaking technical solutions, leveraging digital fabrication and parametric modeling that deliver the project’s ambitious architectural vision and create a truly iconic urban oasis.”
Each pot is made from precast concrete and supported on piles that are driven down by as much as 200 feet below the water and can support 250 to 350 tons. The geometric Cairo pentagon shape come in 39 different formwork shapes. Every pot is roughly 20 feet in diameter and is hollow inside in order to allow them to be assembled from multiple pieces, called “petals,” and allow them to be transported by road in order to widen the bidding pool of potential precast suppliers. Petals were prefabricated in upstate New York and assembled as complete pots at the port of Albany, which were then shipped by barge down the Hudson River and erected on top of the driven precast piles.
Above the pots are nearly 22,000 plants, 26,000 bulbs, 360 shrubs, and 130 trees.
From Hudson River Park, visitors are first greeted by the restored steel frame of Cunard’s former Pier 54, found across from the southern entrance to Little Island.
Along the railings by the entrance are small rectangular glass panels and a plaque titled “The Unsinkable Ship” commemorating the Titanic and the Carpathia, which rescued the 710 survivors and docked at Pier 54 in April 1912. A separate panel is dedicated to the Lusitania, which sailed away for Europe for the last time from the Cunard pier in May 1916.
Little Island has a main central lawn upon entering, and a playground for children. Tucked away on the western edge of the island is a 700-seat amphitheater called The Amph, while a southeastern overlook at the tip of the park provides 180-degree views. There is also a second stage area with a hidden garden called The Glade, and a southwestern overlook perched 63 feet above the water that is accessed by a winding tree-lined pathway. This is the highest point of Little Island and gives onlookers views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and unobstructed sunsets over the Hudson River and Jersey City skyline.
Arup venue experts utilized the Arup SoundLab to aid in the development of sound-scaping, acoustics, sightline and seating strategies that optimized performance quality and user comfort without detracting from the project’s primary objective as a public park.
Both Arup civil engineers and MNLA developed an integrated stormwater management scheme including a network of green infrastructure elements that are artfully integrated into the park’s landscaping, making virtually the entire park a sponge for storm waters.
The nearest subway stop from Little Island is the 14th Street station at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street, with access to the A, C, E, and L trains. From there, people will have to walk west two avenues to reach West Street and Hudson River Park.