Thomas Heatherwick to build $130 million
"treasure island" on New York's Hudson River

| 18 comments

News: first it was a garden bridge to span London's River Thames, now British designer Thomas Heatherwick is proposing a floating island park for the Hudson River in New York (+ slideshow).

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

Replacing the dilapidated Pier 54, the 10,000-square-metre Pier 55 is conceived as an undulating landscape of performance venues and planting, built over a cluster of mushroom-shaped columns 56 metres off the Hudson River shoreline.



Heatherwick Studio is working with landscape architect Mathews Nielsen on the $130 million (£83 million) project, the majority of which will be funded from a donation by media mogul Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

The couple have pledged to contribute $113 million (£72 million) to build the floating park – the largest private donation to a public park in New York history.

The rest will be financed by state and city funding, and the state has also committed to creating an expanded public esplanade along the waterfront.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

Located west of 13th Street, the pier will form part of the four-mile-long Hudson River Park that has been under development since 1998.

Described as a "treasure island", it will include a 700-seat amphitheatre imagined as a performance space for music, dance, theatre and public art.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

"When I was little I used to come to Manhattan to visit my great aunt who lived here and never forgot being driven down the West Side Highway and seeing the fields of disused pile heads sticking out of the river," said Heatherwick, who this year also completed a gin distillery and visitor centre.



"All these years later, my studio and I are honoured to now be growing another set of river piles in the midst of these historic ones to hold up a new phenomenal public park with special spaces for performances," he said.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

Nielsen, who also designed the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park, said Pier 55 will be unlike any other pier along the Hudson. "Unexpected topography and captivating spaces will create physical, visual and cultural experiences found nowhere else in the city, much less on the waterfront."

"The drama and delight of the landscape will make this a magnificent destination that will define a new paradigm of public parks," he added.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

Construction of the pier is scheduled to commence in 2016.

Its erection, operation and cultural programme will all be managed by Pier55 Inc, a new non-profit organisation established by Diller and Von Furstenberg, and including film and theatre producer Scott Rudin.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

"We decided early on that the programming for the park – and the design of the park itself – should be ambitious in every way," said Diller, who is best known as the creator of Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting.

"If the pier when completed is anywhere as much sheer fun, strife, stimulation and joy as it has been conceptualising it, then it will exceed my wildest expectations," he said.

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

"New York has always reminded me of Venice, so I am happy the time has come to properly honour its waterways," added Von Furstenberg.

"What better than a park on the city's western bank to rest, watch a sunset or a performance?"

Hudson River Park by Thomas Heatherwick

The pier is expected to open to the public in late 2019.

Images are by Luxigon.

  • Kalum

    I don’t get what quality the space below that structure is supposed to have.

    Also, it is quite sad to see how the High Line, which made sense as it was taking advantage of an existing infrastructure with a modest but existing biodiversity on it, is spurring expensive and unsustainable fantasies around the world.

    Apparently Heatherwick is specialising into those things that shine by their lack of connection with their context.

    Hello planted bridge over the Thames which starts from nowhere to land nowhere.

    • Jame Jame

      So many whiners like you on Dezeen…

  • TSandwich

    Another mini golf? I think they already have one on Pier 25.

  • T.,T

    At the moment, Thomas Heatherwick is everywhere. I guess he’s in the “right” time at “right” place.

  • Henry

    Where are all the planes going to land now?

  • davvid

    This really is outstanding.

  • et

    If you’re going to spend money on new construction, why not at least integrate it with a coastal protection system, something functional that could protect the city, rather than just expending more resources to leave your stamp on the city?

  • Jeroen van Lith

    Hard to not like this.

  • Heatherwick’s recent proposals for London and New York are eerily anti-urban. I’ve never seen a city park with so little concern to integrating with the city.

    Those parks seem to have their own narratives. It looks like one has to access this park from below via the vault-like base. As for the London bridge park, it is accessible via a traditional set of stair flights.

    A subtly declining ramp to connect the shore with the park may be of convenience. I’m just saying!

  • l’oncleb

    I can see crossing the Thames and being charmed by a garden to pass through or while in, but a carbuncle on stilts with the gimpy lacklustre programme of a treasure island?

    It’s almost the inverse of The High Line where soon the displaced drug dealers will find a new home!

    Really! Shamefully bad and conceptually so leaky as to warrant the administration of a long period wearing a dunce’s hat!

  • GS

    ‘Floating’?

  • Kalum

    You should have a better look at the comments around here.

  • +.,+

    … as a new breed of “gardener”.

  • Jay

    Is it just me, or does that look like a blown-up version of the Olympic cauldron?

  • Where will we all be parking? Where does the performance equipment get loaded and unloaded? Where do we keep the stage furnishings?

    There’s a building in there somewhere, right? Some well distributed and ample voids would be nice to provide daylight to the water surface below.

  • analoguedigital

    Oh look, he took his copper petal idea and just made it into big concrete kit parts – very recyclable.

  • tony

    Heatherwick has the attention of a few “big potatoes” right now. However, when that few realise they have just committed to a non-sustainable disaster they will be deeply sorry.

  • Paul

    Interesting idea but totally unsustainable. The NY summers would fry most plants and the harsh winters will freeze whatever is left.

    It will be a maintenance nightmare. Not to mention the occasional boat or plane issues, or the previous mentioned drug and homeless issues. Seriously, that kind of money for a vanity project? NYC can do better than this.