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  • Urban Floating Oasis

    A New Recreational Island in New York

    Architect: Thomas Heatherwick
    Text: György Szegő
    Photos: Michael Grimm, Thomas Schenck – Little Island

    Three of New York’s frequented rusty zones are former quays. Two of them are actually the banks of Manhattan East River and Hudson River. The former has been modernized by constructing a clearway, whilst the latter has been developed for citydwellers. Along New York Pier 55 a floating recreational park was opened to the public designed by Thomas Heatherwick, a London-based star architect. Some 60% of the park’s area has been landscaped by planting vegetation to create a sort of ancient hanging gardens. The hilly landscape garden slants towards the city, and there is a hill shaped by serpentined groves and garden terraces towards the river. Of the „tulips” several stand out from the terrain to function as look-outs and sun-decks. Flowers are not only quotes phrased in concrete here, as the architect cooperated with French-born landscape designer Signe Nielsen to design the plateau so that the “chalices” make room for planting 1,000 large trees here. The elysian vegetation is also a framework for an open-air amphitheatre overlooking the waters. The river itself serves as the background for performances staged here. Awaiting its audience with programmes all the year round, the auditorium has a seating capacity for 700 people. Although the cultural references are far from being complete, the digital background of the designs is genuinely 21st-century, and the construction is a technical bravado. The result is visually fascinating, whilst it is also a spectacular and iconic achievement of a trend in urbanism ambitioning to return waterfronts used for purposes of warfare, commerce and logistics to the civil population.

    Architecture: Heatherwick Studio
    Design: Thomas Heatherwock
    Structure: Arup
    Landcape: MNLA
    Mechanical engineering: Arup
    Amphitheatre, restrooms: Standard Architects
    Lighting design: FMS
    Irrigation design: ICI