NBW's role in the biggest real estate project in America
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects are the designers behind the recently opened Public Square and Gardens at New York City’s Hudson Yards.
Officially opening in March, their five acres of plazas and gardens were created with the goal of creating a beautiful, hospitable environment for the people of New York. Hudson Yards wanted 40 per cent of the site to be open space. We featured the development - the biggest real estate project in the U.S - earlier in the year.
As well as connecting to the architecture of the site at ground level and above, Nelson Byrd Woltz’s design connects to Manhattan’s High Line and Hudson River Boulevard and Park, essentially forming a walkable green corridor in the district.
A central formal plaza can host events and provides both large and small-scale gathering spaces. As well as seasonal horticulture, and a forest of birch and shade trees, the area includes a 200-foot long curved fountain with a natural current. ‘Vessel’, a sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick that cost $150 million and is made from lattice staircases that reach 15 stories into the sky, takes pride of place at the heart of the development.
The “Public Square”, an elevated plaza across the top of the train tracks, will eventually include 1,650 plantings and 200 mature trees, many of which will be wind and shade-resistant such as large-canopied black tupelo trees.
This slab above the tracks is 10-acres and weighs 35,000 tons. It has to be kept cool to ensure the survival of its plants, and therefore Nelson Byrd Woltz, in conjunction with Pine and Swallow Environmental Services, developed an air-conditioning system for the roots from tubes of cooled glycol. They also had to create their own ‘smart soil’, and provide for stormwater retention.
Because the shade, wind and shallow soil conditions of the site made for challenging landscaping, Nelson Byrd Woltz were involved from an early stage of the process (2012). They played a role in the coordination of drainage, stormwater management and structural considerations.
Hudson Yards’ skyscrapers cast a great deal of shade, so Nelson Byrd Woltz took inspiration from the native forest ecology of the Hudson Valley. Many native plants have been used and there will be much seasonal variation, including lilies in the spring and bright red twig dogwood in the winter.
Hudson Yards will be the first ever LEED-certified neighbourhood. Including a microgrid and two cogeneration plants, it will generate its own electricity and hot water, as well as saving 24,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Roofs and plazas will catch all rain and transfer it to 60,000-gallon cisterns to irrigate plant beds, and the landscape will be fertilised by waste from surrounding buildings.
Hudson Yards is an ongoing project, and the role of the landscape architect is not yet finished. Nelson Byrd Woltz will still be planting throughout the New York summer.