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West 8 complete hilly transformation of New York's Governors Island

Sculpted topography works in concert with winding pathways and trees to create ‘conceal and reveal’ vistas
– Adriaan Geuze

The transformation of Governors Island in New York into a landscaped tourist destination is complete, with ten acres of new public realm by Dutch architects West 8 opening today (19 July).

The studio have created four hills, rising high above the island to offer a 360-degree panoramic experience of the city’s harbour. Formerly a military base located a short ferry ride from Manhattan and Brooklyn, the site is now an art-filled stretch of public realm featuring winding slides, sculptures and scenic viewpoints, including towards the Statue of Liberty.

“Sculpted topography works in concert with winding pathways and trees to create ‘conceal and reveal’ vistas, choreographing the park experience,” said West 8’s co-founder and design director Adriaan Geuze. “It maximises the sense of anticipation, pulling a visitor through the park or signalling a place to sit and stay just a bit longer. The topography defines the very character of the area.”

Collectively called The Hills, the four mounts are constructed of recycled demolition debris, general fill and lightweight pumice. They are stabilised with geotechnical reinforcement and covered with grassy lawns and more than 860 trees and 41,000 shrubs.

The highest, Outlook Hill, rises 70ft (21m) above the island and can be ascended using reclaimed granite blocks from the Island’s former seawall. Slide Hill and Discovery Hill are both a little under 40ft (12m) and feature, respectively, the longest slide in New York and a site-specific cabin sculpture by British artist Rachel Whiteread. The fourth, Grassy Hill, provides a viewing point at 29ft (8m).

Leslie Koch, president of the Governors Island Trust, said: “The Hills are a triumph of imagination, state-of-the-art engineering and smart design that will ensure access to beautiful green space, the waterfront and incomparable views of the Harbor for years to come.”

The completion of The Hills marks the end of a wider masterplan for the 172-acre Governors Island. The first 30 acres opened to the public in 2014 as a series of parks.

Plans are also in place to add a 72,000sq ft (6,689sq m) European-style hydrotherapy spa, which was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in October 2015.

West 8 have offices in both New York and Rotterdam.

West 8  Governors Island  New York  The Hills  landscape architecture  leisure  design 
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The transformation of Governors Island in New York into a landscaped tourist destination is complete, with ten acres of new public realm by Dutch architects West 8 opening today (19 July). The studio have created four hills, rising high above the island to offer a 360-degree panoramic experience of the city’s harbour. Formerly a military base located a short ferry ride from Manhattan and Brooklyn, the site is now an
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Reclaimed granite blocks from the Island’s former seawall allow visitors to scramble up Outlook Hill / Timothy Schenck
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