Running up that hill: a tumulous new park opens on NY’s Governors Island

Running up that hill: a tumulous new park opens on NY’s Governors Island

With its verdant greenery and unparalleled views, stepping onto Governors Island feels like a departure from New York City entirely, making it a destination for locals and tourists alike.

But the 172-acre island and abandoned military base in the heart of New York Harbour has another feature to offer this year: The Hills.

Opening to the public this July, The Hills are part of ten acres of park designed by landscape architect Adriaan Geuze and his Rotterdam- and New York-based studio, West 8, conceived as part of the 2010 Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan.

Made up of four distinct mounds (Grassy Hill, Slide Hill, Discovery Hill and Outlook Hill), The Hills are nested together at the southern tip of the island – home to works of public art, cement detailing and epic slides, as well as highly-engineered knolls. The planting plan was developed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects.

Posed with the challenge of creating architecture that would stand the test of time without compromising the island’s structure (part of its infill is synthetic), Geuze and his team worked to strike a delicate balance by mixing in lightweight pumice alongside recycled demolition debris.

High-quality topsoil was the final touch, making way for a diverse selection of more than 860 new trees, 41,000 new shrubs and grasses. Bright white cast cement edging follows the perimeter of each, embossed with a pattern inspired by the harbour’s marine life.

One of the hills – aptly titled Slide Hill – features a variety of chutes, while Outlook Hill uses reclaimed granite blocks from the island’s former seawall, allowing visitors the opportunity to climb their way to the top, a vantage point for views of the Statue of Liberty, Jersey City, Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. (There are also accessible paths to both hills.)

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