The Hills by West 8 on New York’s Governors Island

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Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Rising 70 feet above sea level, a sprawling new park on Governors Island features a collection of four man-made hills designed by Dutch architecture firm West 8 to offer startling views of the New York Harbor while demonstrating the viability of urban adaptation to climate change.

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Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Carried out in multiple phases, West 8 incorporated resiliency measures into their transformation of the parkland by raising it an additional 15 feet above the existing grade to match the estimates for rising sea levels, as well as collaborating with engineers to ensure that the man-made portions of the island would not sink. The project represents the culmination of the Governors Island Park and Public Space Masterplan.

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Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Crafted from nearly 300,000 cubic yards of recycled demolition debris, general fill, and lightweight pumice, the four hills—Outlook, Grassy, Slide, and Discovery Hill— allow for panoramic vistas of Manhattan and Brooklyn from their peaks along with direct views of the Statue of Liberty. Coiled pathways carve through the landscape’s gentle undulations, while the elevation addresses the concerns of rising sea levels by offering an adaptive measure that ensures both quality of life and access to the water’s edge.

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Photograph by Timothy Schenck

The sculpted topography provides a uniquely choreographed experience, while also serving to safeguard the island against the consequences of climate change.

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