Little Island, USA
Joe Solway, Acoustic Consultant
Michael Parrella, Theatre Consultant
Vincent Lee, Global Water Skill Leader
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Celebrating arts and culture with an incomparable park and performance space for the people.
Cairo pentagon pattern
Organic by design
A gift to New York
“It’s like nothing people have ever seen before. It’s amazing to walk through," says Vincent Lee, a New York local and our Global Water Skill Leader. Funded in large part by the foundation – whose $260m donation is said to be the largest to a public park in the city’s history – Little Island rises up from the remains of Pier 54 but couldn’t be more different from it.
Invisible infrastructure, incredible views
Little Island feels alive even when there are no programmed events. Our theatre venue consultants had to find ways to accommodate the infrastructure required to support a range of events, from one-person shows to theatrical performances, large rock concerts and park-wide art installations, all within a 2.4 acre site. When the infrastructure – including audio and visual equipment – isn’t in use, it’s largely hidden from sight to preserve the beauty of the space.
Another challenge was posed by stormwater. We knew that erecting such a unique structure on the river would demand inventive solutions to handle it and this is why the whole of Little Island is designed to act like a sponge, returning filtered water back to the river.
Nurturing nature above and below
Heatherwick Studio and landscape architecture firm MNLA designed Little Island to include three performance spaces surrounded by hundreds of species of flowers, trees and shrubs. Our design engineers collaborated closely with their architectural partners, constantly sharing advanced 3D modelling and encouraging creativity at every stage.
A critical part of the project was the design of 132 sculpted precast concrete structures that rise up from the river to create the park’s undulating surface. In-water construction work paused for months to avoid disturbing annual fish migration and the final design ensures sunlight reaches the marine life below. It’s a restorative, immersive space where everyone can enjoy fresh air and nature in the heart of the city, whatever the season.
Accessible to all
Little Island is free to visit and open to everyone. Specialists carefully considered wheelchair access for the unorthodox site. Ingeniously hidden utilities help to allow everyone to experience this sanctuary over the water.
The park’s programming, education and community relations teams are committed to programming an inclusive range of events, which includes American Sign Language and audio-described offerings. We used our Soundlab technology to ensure performances at Little Island sound as good as possible, simulating soundscapes for pre-construction analysis and making design interventions to minimise noise from Manhattan’s traffic.
Setting the stage for the future
At a time when green space and open-air venues in crowded cities have never been more important for public health and wellbeing, Little Island demonstrates what is possible. As Vincent Lee says, when it comes to challenging convention and doing the seemingly impossible in engineering, this is a new high-water mark that future projects will be aiming for.