New York City’s Westside, on the Hudson River waterfront, has been morphing over the past few decades from the gritty industrial roadway ribbons, dilapidated and abandoned warehouses, and transforming into beautiful residential, commercial and recreational landscapes. This latest design for a floating park at the foot of 13th Street in the old Meatpacking District and just north of the new Whitney Museum, illustrates the city’s determination to rebuild precious-but-wasted, unused or abandoned New York into an exquisitely fashioned fantasy beckoning its residents out-of-doors and on the River.
In 2014, prolific British designer Thomas Heatherwick dreamed up plans to turn the crumbling remains of pier 54 into a 2.7-acre park, to be renamed Pier 55. Heatherwick has exercised his design chops in many venues over the past few years with projects as disparate as an urban district for Shanghai, to his Spun chair for furniture icon Herman Miller.
At the time the design was submitted by Heatherwick, the concept seemed a very far reach from reality and hardly within the realm of possibilities. But with the continued financial support from power-couple billionaire IAC Chairman Barry Diller and his wife fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who were also instrumental in launching the concept of the City’s fabulous High Line Park, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just recently issued a permit to build Heatherwick’s design, and has effectively cleared the final hurdle for construction to begin this summer.
The Pier 55 Park will be integrated into Hudson River Park, which links four miles of Manhattan’s Westside waterfront, from downtown to uptown. Pier 55 was designed in collaboration with New York landscape architect Signe Nielsen and will include open lawns, walking paths, and engineered topography in the form of rolling hills, as well as spaces for performances and cultural events.
Pier 55 is designed to be a parallelogram-shaped platform that will sit atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns ranging in height from 70 to 15 feet above the water. Heatherwick likens the columns to the wooden piles – the old infrastructural supports for the piers – that still remain in the water as an intrinsic part of the Hudson River landscape. He decided to make his columns “the heroes of the project,” rather than hiding them underneath. It’s an historic element that salutes the much-lauded Port of New York.
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