AAJ Press
Art & Public Space, Art Projects, Commissions, Ecology, Environment, Gardens, Nature, Sculpture

Rachel Whiteread, Cabin. The Hills on Governors Island, New York

Governors Island Park, New York, announces the opening of the Hills, ten newly designed acres of park on Governors Island that include Cabin, a site-specific commissioned artwork on Discovery Hill by Rachel Whiteread. Curated by Tom Eccles of ArtCommissionsGI, Cabin is a concrete cast of a wooden New England-style shed reminiscent of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond.  Over time, the surrounding vegetation on the hillside will grow along the sculpture’s surfaces, giving it a weathered look that blends into its natural surroundings.

Rachel whiteread The Hills Governors Island 1Governors Island is a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbour, adjacent to Brooklyn and only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan. The opening of the Hills is part of the transformation of Governors Island from an abandoned military base into a destination presenting art, play, nature, relaxation, and views for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Rising 25 to 70 feet above the Island the Hills offer a 360-degree panoramic experience of the NY Harbour. Designed by landscape architects West 8 urban design & landscape architecture, the Hills are the culmination of the Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan. 

“Our Hills are the culmination of an eight-year collaboration with West 8 and the many New Yorkers and visitors who contributed ideas to this ambitious project. 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.” Leslie Koch, President of The Trust for Governors Island

The undulating aesthetic of the Hills is augmented by the smooth, curved edging which separates the green sections from the paved paths that wind through the park.  A look down from the hilltops reveals striking patterns, distinct “petals” of green parkland outlined by the bright white concrete edging.  The edging, which ranges from curb to bench height, is ornamented with subtle designs that reference the marine life surrounding the island.

  • Grassy Hill is 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, also 39 feet high, features a site-specific sculpture Cabin by British artist Rachel Whiteread and first major permanent public commission in the U.S.
  • Outlook Hill provides universally accessible paths and the Scramble, constructed out of reclaimed granite seawall blocks, to reach the Outlook, 70 feet above the Island, with views of the New York Harbour, the Statue of Liberty and the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City

governors islandLandscape Architecture of the Hills

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

The Hills are constructed of recycled demolition debris, general fill and lightweight pumice, stabilized with geotechnical reinforcement and covered with shrubs, trees and grassy lawns.  The Hills not only provide vistas and settings for leisure activity, they also improve the island’s resilience in the context of changing weather patterns and rising sea levels. 

The Hills have been planted with more than 860 new trees and 41,000 new shrubs in new high-quality topsoil and protected from brackish groundwater by the new topography.  The planting of each of the four hills is designed according to the micro-climates: varying degrees of slopes, exposure to sun, salty-spray, and prevailing wind and to accentuate key view corridors.  The new lawns, plantings and permeable paving also reduce erosion and storm run-off, while allowing for water collection and irrigation. 

The Hills are open for the season daily from July 19 – September 25, 2016, Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-7pm


Governors Island  http://www.govisland.com

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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