With all of its natural islands, one might ask why New York needs another one --- especially a man-made one? But the recently opened Little Island, located at Pier 55 Hudson River Park at 13th Street, is not only a work of visual art but a magnificent array of peaceful landscaping, community spirit and artistic inspiration.
This $260 million project is a gift from wealthy businessman Barry Diller. It covers 2.4 acres packed with enough trees to keep a dendrophile happy.
"What was in my mind was to build something for the people of New York and for anyone who visits—a space that on first sight was dazzling, and upon use made people happy," Diller said.
Little Island was born from an idea that the hurricane Sandy damaged Pier 54 could be repurposed as a public space that would contain a combination of art and nature. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took on the seemingly impossible task of designing the park using Mother Nature as his inspiration. There is a whopping 114 trees growing on the man-made structure with hundreds of other fragrant shrubs and floral species.
This was all the brainchild of MNLA's Signe Nielson who envisioned an immersive experience from the start. "The pier’s landscape will be a sensory delight in all seasons and times of day.”
She adds: “The lifted corners of the pier create distinct microclimates that reveal themselves through color, texture, light and shadow."
Before Neilson could realize her vision atop the structure, there had to be something to work with. That duty fell to UK-based Heatherwick Studio. Thomas Heatherwick says he didn't want to remove the damaged piles from the antiquated pier that had survived years of abuse.
"We wondered if the identity of our new park and performance space could emerge from the water, just like these structural piles, but without needing to add any slab on top," Heatherwick explains. "This idea evolved to take the new concrete piles that would be needed to connect to the granite at the base of the river, and to then continue them out of the water, extending skyward to raise sections of a generous green landscape with rich horticulture. Fusing at they meet, these 280 individual piles come together to form the undulating topography of the park, angled perfectly for performance and theatre spaces. Once complete and open to the public in 2021 the result should be a unique and thrilling landscape over the water for everyone to enjoy.”
Aside from the glorious landscaping and artistic visual essence, Little Island is also a performance venue with a diverse catalog of upcoming celebrations. From performance art to music festivals, most events are free to the public but some require a reservation.
For its inaugural year, Little Island has created its own dance festival which runs from September 15 through September 19, 2021. This huge event will have exhibitions throughout the island with performances at theatrical on-site venues, The Amph, The Glade, and The Play Ground.
On Sept. 15, The House of Xtravaganza will give a free performance at 10:15 pm.
Food is also a big part of the visitor's experience. Items are sourced from local vendors and range from small bites to casual meals.
As for maintenance, that will fall onto the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation for the next two decades so New Yorkers won't have to worry about cost.
Little Island is now a part of the New York experience and it looks to be a worthy addition. One can always find natural and man-made beauty in the city's architecture and scenic landmarks, but now it can be experienced on the ocean with an immersive concept that transports guests to a slower, more accepting world.
For more information on Little Island including reservations for special events click HERE.
Header Photo Credit: Michael Grimm