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Designed by landscape architect Adriaan Geuze and his team from West 8, The Hills on New York’s Governors Island are the culmination of the award-winning Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan completed in 2010. Rising 25 to 70 feet above the Island, the Hills offer an extraordinary 360-degree panoramic experience of the New York Harbor. The opening of the Hills marks a major milestone in the transformation of Governors Island from an abandoned military base into an iconic destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike.

The Hills of Governors Island technical information

Transformation of Governors Island through topography is the central animating principle of design throughout the entire 40-acre park, and is exemplified by the Hills. The Hills, rising 25 to 70 feet above the island, embody all that makes Governors Island unique, a celebration of art, play, nature, relaxation and dramatic context.

– West 8 Architects

The Hills of Governors Island Photographs

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The Hills of Governors Island description by West 8

The Hills are the latest addition to the park and public spaces of Governors Island. The first 30 acres opened to the public in 2014 include: Liggett Terrace, a six-acre plaza with seasonal plantings, seating, food concessions and a hedge maze; Hammock Grove, a sunny ten-acre space that is home to 1,500 new trees, play areas and 50 hammocks; and the Play Lawn, 14 acres for play and relaxation that includes two natural turf ball fields sized for adult softball and Little League baseball. In addition, new welcome areas have been added at the Island’s ferry landings, as have key visitor amenities, such as lighting, seating and signage by Pentagram throughout the Historic District.

Now that the Hills are open to the public, visitors are now able to walk or bike around the island’s entire 2.2-mile promenade and enjoy the popular Picnic Point. The southern portions of the promenade and Picnic Point had been closed since 2012.

Transformation of Governors Island through topography is the central animating principle of design throughout the entire 40-acre park, and is exemplified by the Hills. The Hills, rising 25 to 70 feet above the island, embody all that makes Governors Island unique, a celebration of art, play, nature, relaxation and dramatic context.

The design of the Hills evolved throughout the master planning process. Hill locations were shifted and the team worked out the accessibility of pathways. Each hill was shaped and re-shaped to make it an enjoyable place to be, frame views, and to maximize views from the top.

FEATURES

  • 360˚ panoramic views of the New York Harbor, including incomparable views of the Statue of Liberty, Jersey City, Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. This is the closest place on land in NY that one can see the face of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Grassy Hill, a 26-foot high gentle, grassy slope overlooking the Island’s new and historic landscapes and the Manhattan skyline.
  •  Slide Hill, at 36 feet high, is the home of four slides, including the longest slide in New York City.
  • Discovery Hill, at 39 feet high, features a site-specific sculpture curated by Tom Eccles of ArtCommissions GI. Cabin, by the internationally recognized British artist Rachel Whiteread, is her first major permanent public commission in the U.S. The piece is a concrete cast of the interior of a wooden, New England-style shed. (more info on Cabin below).
  • Outlook Hill provides a universally accessible path and the Scramble, constructed out of reclaimed granite blocks from the Island’s seawall, to reach the 70-foot high Outlook.
  • “Conceal and reveal” pathways, dramatic vistas designed by carefully situating and sculpting the Hills.
  • Raised elevation that protects the new trees and shrubs from brackish groundwater, ensuring seasonal foliage and durable erosion control, for years to come, and creates a micro-biotope that improves ecological diversity and attracts local fauna.
  • Innovative Urban Star street lamps were designed by West 8 in collaboration with Phillips, and won a 2012 Red Dot Design Award.

MATERIALS

  • The Hills are constructed from recycled demolition debris, general fill and lightweight pumice. The materials are stabilized with geotechnical reinforcement. The recycled debris is from old residential buildings and parking lots that were demolished on the site.
  • The central issue that drove the engineering of the Hills was global stability- if the Hills were too heavy their weight could cause not only failure of the seawall but also of the underlying fill of the Island itself. The use of pumice stone inside Outlook Hill lightens the weight of the hill at the southern portion of the Island, which was also created from of fill material excavated from the Lexington Avenue subway construction in the early 1900s.
  • After covering the Hills in high-quality topsoil, a diverse selection of more than 860 new trees, 41,000 new shrubs, and grasses were planted.
  • Edging throughout the Hills is made of precast concrete and embossed with a pattern that references the marine life of the harbor. A look down from the hilltops reveals striking patterns, distinct “petals” of green parkland outlined by the bright white concrete edging.
  • Reclaimed granite blocks from the Island’s former seawall were used to create the Scramble, a feature that offers visitors an opportunity to climb to the top of the Outlook Hill. There are also universally accessible paths up Outlook Hill and to Slide Hill.

The Hills of Governors Island Plans

The Hills of Governors Island Gallery

Historical Photographs

Cite this article: "The Hills of Governors Island / West 8," in ArchEyes, August 10, 2016, http://archeyes.com/the-hills-of-governors-island-west-8/.