It’s not a bridge, it’s not a building, it’s not a conventional park, it’s not a vegetable cruise… It’s Little Island! A garden on an artificial island in the Big Apple!
Doesn’t it happen to you that sometimes you feel the urgent need to be surrounded by nature? And, on other occasions, that need is oriented towards contact, at least visually, with a large body of water? This feeling has a name: Biophilia. It is about the materialization of our most primitive sense of survival, the one that reminds us that the connection with the natural environment is what keeps us alive.
Obviously, this connection is not the same for everyone, but it is another link. For this reason, in large cities, this connection becomes an urgent physical need. In 2014, artist Thomas Heatherwick envisioned a unique park that would float on New York’s Hudson River. A park on huge stilts that they named Pier 55, a name that they would later change to Little Island.
New York’s Little Island/Floating Park
This May, what is perhaps the most unique park in the Big Apple has been inaugurated. It is a space that connects us with our natural self in a different way than we are used to. This spectacular island has cost 260 million dollars, 213 million euros, although at first it had been calculated that the cost would reach 130 million dollars. Anyway, logistics stuff.
The construction of the park was financed, for the most part, by the owner of Pier 54 and Pier 56, where this marvel stands, businessman Barry Diller. He is credited with a fortune of 3,700 million dollars, so, we assume, this work has not been a problem for him. Work on the park began in 2016, and although it was intended to be finished in 2019, problems with the North American administrations delayed the inauguration until 2021.
New York’s Little Island stands on 267 concrete piles
The park in total covers about 10,000 square meters, and can be accessed by two bridges at the ends. The author of this work, the designer Heatherwick, affirms that reaching the island via these bridges is a way of leaving New York behind and entering an oasis. The island is supported by some 267 concrete piles, driven into the seabed up to 61 meters deep, which are prepared to support up to 350 tons each.
Of them, 132 stilts protrude supporting a huge petal-shaped planter, at different heights, which allows the park to obtain a varied topography, modifying the original idea of the promoters and adding an unexpected value to the whole. Of course, the park is divided into several zones. They include three spaces for different cultural shows, one of them an amphitheater with 700 wooden seats.
A huge green space and areas for cultural performances
On the other hand, the rest of the park has more than 540 meters of trails that cross the garden, showing us viewpoints and other places to rest our senses. In addition, the promoters have already applied for a license to be able to sell alcohol, with the hope of becoming a nightclub.
The end result of New York’s Little Island is also thanks to MNLA, the specialized landscape design company responsible for what your eyes see. They tell us on their website that the elevated corners of the pier create different microclimates, in which they have planted 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, and 290 varieties of grasses, perennials, vines, and bulbs. The choice of these species has been based not only on the microclimates, but also on their power of attraction for birds and pollinators.
The flower pots of Little Island, an engineering work on New York
On the other hand, the company specialized in engineering Arup participated in the entire development of the project and its execution, with a key contribution. And it is that Arup engineers devised a state-of-the-art 3D design that helped in the prefabrication of many parts of the construction, such as the concrete planters, which were manufactured by the Fort Miller Company, and brought to the site by boat.
The planters, some up to six meters wide, offered a special complication as they were executed with 39 different forms of formwork. To do this, the Fort Miller company enlisted the help of steel fabricator FAB3 and foam form maker Scott System. You know, unity is strength. The result is a concrete and steel structure that connects all the planters, uniting the whole.
Great cultural offer and without danger of falling into the sea
If after viewing the images you wonder if there is a danger of falling into the sea, obviously the answer is yes, there is always danger, especially if the intention is to look for it. The promoters, aware of this fact, have taken some precautions in this regard. They have spent about six million dollars, almost five euros, on a perimeter security system, in addition to having 24-hour security in the park.
If you feel like going, you should know that the entrance to the island is free, although you have to book in advance, to avoid crowds and maintain exquisite control in the face of the pandemic that we are still suffering. As neighbors, the construction has nothing more and nothing less than the Whitney Museum, and the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, completing a cultural and leisure offer that, without a doubt, will delight users, merchants and neighbors.
Photographs by Timothy Schenck.