On the Boards: New Hills

One of the most dramatic features of the West 8 team’s design competition proposal was a set of new hills on the non-historic South Island constructed from recycled demolition debris and fill.  The hills would radically change the landscape of the pancake-flat South Island and provide 360-degree views of the harbor and surrounding skylines. During the park master plan process, the West 8 team has been developing the hill concept further.  Above is a gallery of photos taken from the top of a tall, non-historic building on the Island that shows (approximately) the view from the new hills. Below, West 8’s project manager, Jamie, describes some of the work they’re doing on the design of these hills .          -EC

I love living in New York City: the sights and activity is a constant rush on the senses. But one of the things I love when I get away from the City is exercising my ‘long-range’ vision muscles and staring into a vast horizon and sky. Better yet, add the sparkling lights of a City and that’s a memory of a lifetime. That feeling is just part of the inspiration for the West 8 design team to make large hills in the Governors Island park design. After all, where else in New York City can you get 360 degree views of the City, the sky, the harbor … NOT from on top of a building?

It’s going to be an extraordinary experience –a totally new way to see the City and escape for a little reflection. And, unlike some observation decks, the view is free. During the park master plan process, we’ve been tackling some of the core design and engineering issues to make this real: how tall are the hills? How do people of all abilities get to the top? What is the engineering needed to construct them? The back and forth process between creating the ‘wow’ experience with the realities of constructability are the really fun parts of this design process.

On the Boards: Design Process

So how does the West 8 team go about designing a park? Just what is this mysterious ‘park master plan’?

Making a park master plan involves a lot of ‘problem solving’ – What can we design that will make people come back again and again? Where will the pathways go? What will the maintenance requirements be? These are really important matters to be sure, and many of the details will get worked through as we continue to get feedback from you and all the other people involved. But the park master plan also involves processes that aren’t as quantifiable. We get our hands dirty (sometimes literally) drawing, doing studies in 3-D on the computer, and visiting the island (we can’t get enough of that, particularly in these glorious winter months!). Our goal? To have a park master plan that is inspired by the Island, you (the future park users) and our team’s imagination.

The park master plan is the first step of a design process that has several phases. Through drawings, plans and diagrams, the master plan lays out the kind of a park this will be and how it will look and feel. Once we settle on the “what” of the park in the master plan phase, we’ll then start the detailed work needed to create more specific designs that can be turned into the construction documents needed to actually build the park.


The design process also invovles going out to the tip of Governors Island on a freezing cold day in early February, according to Rachel Laszlo Tait, a designer with West 8.


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