Little Island

In 2012, following a design competition, the Hudson River Park Trust and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation appointed Heatherwick Studio to design a new pier on Manhattan’s southwest riverside. The brief asked for a public park and outdoor performance space. Pier 54 had recently been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and the design was inspired by the structural remnants of previous piers and hundreds of old wooden piles poking out of the Hudson River. This idea evolved to take the new concrete piles needed to support a structure in the choppy Hudson River and continue them out of the water, extending skyward to raise up sections of green landscape. The individual piles come together to form the park’s unique topography.


Raising up the pier counteracts this windswept environment and creates a sheltered space acoustically optimised for theatre and performance, with raked seating shaped into the landscape to give the audience better views and better comfort. It also allows sunlight to penetrate below the pier and support the marine ecosystem.


The resulting design developed as a system of repeating piles. Each of them forms a generous planter at their top. every planter then connects in a tessellating pattern at different heights to create a single manipulated piece of landscape resting on 132 pre-cast concrete pots. Construction was sequenced over three years to minimise disturbance to marine life, and more than four hundred different species of indigenous trees and plants suited to the harsh climate of New York have been planted within the new landscape.


As well as creating a new public park for the local community and visitors alike, the 2.4 acre park is a hardworking space that contains an outdoor amphitheatre for 687 people, a smaller performance space for 200, a large plaza, woven through with pathways and viewing platforms. The necessary back-of-house performance facilities are discreetly hidden in the undercroft. The park’s programming includes music, dance, theatre, poetry, comedy and arts workshops. A Community Ticketing Programme partners Little Island with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development and the Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects to distribute free performance tickets to organizations and families throughout the city. This makes sure that that a huge diversity of New Yorkers have access to Little Island’s programming. In its first year, over 40,000 free tickets were distributed and thousands of visitors came to this new civic space.


Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) & Pier 55 Project Fund (P55P)


New York, US




Completed 2021



Group Leader

Mat Cash

Project Leader

Paul Westwood, Neil Hubbard

Studio team

Sofia Amodio, Simona Auteri, Jordan Bailiff, Einar Blixhavn, Mark Burrows, Mat Cash, Darragh Casey, Jorge Xavier Méndez-Cáceres, John Cruwys, Antoine van Erp, Alex Flood, Michal Gryko, Hayley Henry, Ben Holmes, Ben Jacobs, Stepan Martinovsky, Simon Ng, Wojtek Nowak, Hannah Parker, Giovanni Parodi, Luke Plumbley, Jeff Powers, Enrique Pujana, Akari Takebayashi, Ondrej Tichý, Ahira Sanjeet, Charles Wu, Meera Yadave


Arup, Charcoal Blue, Steven Daldry, Scott Rudin, Kate Horton, MNLA, Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, Hunter Roberts Construction Group