Governors Island.
Photo: Iwan Baan

West 8

The environmental experts replenished Madrid's riverbanks and are now reimagining Houston Botanic Garden

From revitalizing riverbanks in downtown Madrid to reviving the monumental fountains at Pennsylvania’s historic Longwood Gardens, the environmental experts at West 8 have been drawing attention—and foot traffic—to overlooked landscapes since 1987. After winning the coveted 2006 commission to transform Governors Island in New York, the groundbreaking Dutch firm established its first U.S. outpost in Manhattan. (It also has offices in Rotterdam and Brussels.)

Climate concern: “Governors Island needed to be resilient in the face of rising sea levels,” says Daniel Vasini, creative director for West 8’s New York office. “To solve this problem, we lifted the majority of the island out of the flood zone. Tree species were planted according to their salt tolerance, and topsoil was placed above predicted sea-level rise, thereby protecting their roots and ensuring healthy trees for future generations. Additionally, park amenities able to withstand storm surges and flooding were selected in order to minimize damage and ensure park safety after a storm.”

Miami Beach Soundscape. Photo: Robin Hill

Upcoming projects: “The gardens of One Manhattan Square in New York capture influences from around the world, offering enclaves of closeness and a calm natural environment,” says Vasini. “Our new park at the Essex Crossing development on the Lower East Side opens in 2019. We’re also excited about the first phase of Houston Botanic Garden—Botanic Beginnings—opening in 2020. Houstonians from all walks of life will soon have the opportunity to learn about and enjoy plants from around the world.”

Governors Island. Photo: Timothy Schenck

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.

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