Pier-55-Diller Scofidio Renfro-Hudson River Park-West Side Highway-NYCImage via Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio. Renderings by Luxigon.

Hudson River Park, that wonderful five-mile stretch of greenery, has struggled with funding issues in the past looking before to controversially sell air rights at Pier 40 and storing limestone cow heads to be placed when the remaining 30% of the park is renovated. It turns out the Hudson River Park Trust approached fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg and her husband Barry Diller to help replace Pier 54, an abandoned pier that once welcomed the survivors of the Titanic. The choice is unsurprising for the new project, dubbed Pier55, given that Diller and von Furstenburg are the largest private donors for The High Line.

Pier 54-Hudson River Park-West Side Highway-Abandoned-NYCPier 54

Pier55 park would be funded and maintained through $130 million of Diller and von Furstenburg’s foundation, plus a remaining $39.5 million from the Hudson River Park Trust, city and state funds. Though it still has to go through approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Environmental Protection, The New York Times has reported that the project raises “thorny questions about private control over public spaces, the secretive planning process behind it and the potential competition between it and other new cultural institutions hoping to make their mark on the city.”

Pier-55-Diller Scofidio Renfro-Hudson River Park-West Side Highway-NYC-2Image via Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

The design is by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, chosen after an informal competition. The park is in the shape of a parallelogram, atop 300 “mushroom-shaped” concrete columns, putting the park about the new minimum height required post-Hurricane Sandy. Heatherwick’s previous innovative work include the Olympic cauldron for the 2012 London games, the British pavilion at Expo 2010, the new shape for the London double decker bus,


Pier-55-Diller Scofidio Renfro-Hudson River Park-West Side Highway-NYC-3Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio 

Perhaps recalling the environmental issues from the Westway super highway, the area underneath the park will still allow sunlight below, for the striped bass spawning ground and marine sanctuary the park is located within.

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There will be three performance venues, including an 800-seat amphitheater:

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If Pier55 goes through, which seems likely, it may herald a new model for civic architecture–one that works for the public when the sponsors are design= minded, but may yield less than ideal results in others, particularly when the process lacks public review. You can read more about this project at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Curbed NY.