Oculus - Spring 2014 - (Page 32)
A Magical Place on the Water
Abandoned and ignored for years, Governors Island is being reborn as a beautiful,
lush park and recreational area
BY C LA IRE WILS O N
bike paths, and walkways, as well as slides, swings, and hammocks for children and adults. Landmarked historic buildings,
although not under the new park umbrella, will be adapted for
educational and arts programs and administration purposes.
The project's lead designer is West 8 Urban Design &
Landscape, which also led in the master planning, working in
association with Rogers Marvel Architects, Diller Scofidio +
Renfro, and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. Robert M.
Rogers, FAIA, principal of Rogers Partners (and formerly with
Rogers Marvel Architects), calls the beginnings of the project "a
tabula rasa" with which they could do just about anything. Its
biggest challenge - adding the hills to the flat topography of the
landfill portion - was also its biggest opportunity and a critical
feature of the design, he says. "The park needed to have physical
and volumetric presence to be a complete experience," Rogers explains, "and mark the transformation of the island from
landfill and military base to a place that imagines a new life for
the next 100 years."
Construction debris from the demolished modern apartment
buildings was used to create the four hills of varying heights,
one of which reaches 80 feet above sea level. Each has different features, including a 48-foot-long slide, paved and unpaved
paths, an art installation, and unparalleled harbor views. Most
of the 51 species of new trees are planted on these hills; some
will be hickory in a nod to the island's original Native American
ou could almost say it was hiding in plain sight.
Abandoned by the Coast Guard and closed down in 1996,
Governors Island was something of a mystery footnote in New
York Harbor. No one really noticed it in recent years, not even
ferry passengers, who were distracted by the sight of Lady
Liberty. The island's majestic historic buildings were hidden
from view, and the boxy, low-rise modern housing you did see
from the water was unremarkable at best.
Beginning this spring a new Governors Island will be hard to
ignore. The 172-acre mass is at the close of the second phase of
an ambitious three-phase conversion that will turn it into a lush,
green park in the middle of the harbor, and it is expected to
attract roughly 450,000 visitors per year. Part natural island and
part landfill, its topography will change to include hills and dales
and vast lawns for lounging. The plan also includes the creation of a forest of native trees, luxurious plantings, fountains,
(left, above) Site plan of the ﬁrst phase of the Governors Island Master Plan.
(left, below) Liggett Terrace is a lively six-acre plaza featuring movable seating,
plantings, and play fountains.
(above) Hammock Grove is a shady 10-acre space with more than 1,500 new trees.
Oculus Spring 2014
Civic Spirit: Civic Visions
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2014
Letter From the President
Letter From the Editor
Center for Architecture
Some Blocks Over
Opener: Open to the Public: Civic Space Now
The Search for the Soul of Cities
A Different Tale of Two Cities
Public Space Reasserts Its Political Role
Gatherings of One
Time to Welcome Woonerfs
Redesigning the Crossroads of the World
A Magical Place on the Water
How to Remember a Plague
Sustainable Models for a Just City
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2014