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The Hudson's Bonkers $170M Park Is Inspired By Rotting Piles

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Last week, commenters went nuts—in the good way and the bad way—over the Hudson River Park's $170 million plan for Pier55, a bonkers new park offshore suspended atop 300 concrete pylons that's curvaceous and verdant and home to an 800-seat amphitheater. Power donor couple Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg are ponying up $130M to make it happen, with the city and state footing the rest of the bill. The team tapped British architect Thomas Heatherwick, who has some experience with leafy, out-of-the-box designs, to lead the project, and he spoke to FastCo.Design about his plans. Here now, the six best quotes:

6) Inspiration from drives down a desolate, underdeveloped West Side Highway: "I remember seeing these fields of the diffused, dark mysterious piles that emerged from the water. When this competition came up, and we were thinking about how we might make a piece of park above the water, those river piles seemed the particular, idiosyncratic, memorable thing."

5) On why he's elevating the park on new columns and letting rotting old pilings from the existing Pier 54 surround the planned amoeba-like structure: "[C]ould we let these tough river piles come upwards and actually be the heroes of the project, rather than be hidden, and let each one grow into a planter at its head that could hold a piece of horticulture. The collection—I think there's more than 250 of them—all come together to make a new kind of public space."

4) Piers are long and skinny and rectangular, but Pier55 will be curved and hilly. Why? "A long thin pier doesn't create a social dynamic because it by definition spreads people out. ... So this square plan that we developed was very much about bringing people together, so that you could have not only the immersion in nature, but also by lifting up the corners, you also have an interesting dynamic: by making it almost like a bowl, the visitors to the park can all see each other, and there's some kind of chemistry with each other."

3) This park, though, isn't parallel to the shoreline, but to the street grid: "The act of just that slight twisting to go with the grid of the whole of Manhattan would give more dynamism for the people both on the new pier and arriving to it on the link bridges that connect you."

2) What about this giant amphitheater? "The topography of the park that we've designed is deliberately conceived to allow performances to take place and give sight lines. That was a duel benefit of making the garden more three-dimensional."

1) The landscape is meant to be decidedly rugged, without interruption: "[O]ur role is to try to hold up that nature, and then get out of the way. So there aren't columns and cables sticking up above the trees and bushes and plants. All the structure is done from below."
· How Decrepit Piers Inspired Thomas Heatherwick's Vision For A Floating Park [FastCo]
· $130 Million 'Pier55' Park Looks Like Something Out of Avatar [Curbed]
· Thomas Heatherwick coverage [Curbed National]