Elation over New York’s Little Island oasis
Thursday, 1 July 2021
little-islandphoto-by-michael-grimm1Island in the stream (photo: Michael Grimm)
USA - An island oasis in the Hudson River west of Manhattan, Little Island @Pier55 is receiving praise as an arts area and green getaway from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Made up of 132 pot-shaped planters suspended above the water, the park’s topography holds a lush landscape of rolling hills, walking paths and open lawns. Nestled among the island’s more than 390 species of flowers, trees and shrubs are performance spaces outfitted with Elation Professional IP-rated automated luminaires.
Designed by Heatherwick Studio and landscape architecture firm MNLA, the 2.4-acre artificial island park, funded by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, is a new public park with performing art as an integrated component. A 687-seat amphitheatre with views across the Hudson, a smaller stage for 200 visitors, and an open plaza, are all designed to host a range of programming.
Early in 2020, just before Covid struck, Josh Weisberg of Navolo Audio-Video brought Herrick Goldman onboard the project to help in designing and specifying the lighting systems. Goldman, founder & principal designer at Evoke Collaborative, was asked to provide a lighting design that met the demands of a client who placed extreme value on aesthetics. “Mr Diller did not want anything to distract from the beauty of the project, so we paid very specific attention to keeping a very clean look,” Goldman says. “My job was to not only navigate that but also provide the tools necessary to anyone performing in the amphitheatre.”
Goldman worked with Little Island production manager Kelsey Martinez and audio & lighting supervisor Patrick Lachance to create both useful and visually pleasing looks with focus points, pre-sets and palettes that incoming designers or park lighting technicians could have at their fingertips. All lighting for Little Island was supplied through WorldStage.
The amphitheatre, nicknamed The Amph, sits at the western end of Little Island. The architects designed six masts into the park around the amphitheatre, which has a thrust stage 35ft. wide by 54ft. deep with audience on three sides and the Hudson River to the west.
“We went through seven or eight different iterations,” Goldman explains, “starting with a more theatrical plot with acting areas. That led to the need for too many lighting fixtures however, which didn’t fit in with the budget or the directive of a clean aesthetic.”
Following discussions with the client about a ‘leaner and cleaner’ plot, a visit to the WorldStage shop in New York ensued in order to demo possible fixtures. There, Goldman auditioned several luminaires in Elation’s Paladin and Proteus series, eventually choosing the Paladin, a hybrid LED wash/strobe/blinder with zoom, and Elation’s 50,000-lumen Proteus Maximus LED moving head.
Hung below the Paladin fixtures on each mast are a pair of Proteus Maximus LED moving heads to form a flexible setup that gives guest performers a host of options. “We can have somebody performing centre stage and hit them with four Proteus to cover all the angles and still have eight Proteus to decorate the stage with,” Goldman states. “We can put a gobo in and zoom out to cover the stage in texture, which really adds to the tonality of the scene. It's really quite beautiful and everyone is very happy.”
With nature and art its symbiotic elements, the island garden offers other smaller areas for even more intimate performances. The Glade on the south side of Little Island is a seating and sloped grass area that can accommodate 200. Here, eight Elation SixPar 200 IP PAR lights and a pair of Paladins provide simple colour-changing illumination for the 16ft wide stage. The Paladins, used for front light from about 60 feet, can zoom in to someone sitting on a stool or zoom wide enough to cover a band.
Little Island opened on 21 May to praise and applause from local New Yorkers and visitors alike. The new park hosts a range of diverse programming, the majority of it free, with a calendar that includes local artists, headliners, and genre-focused weeklong festivals. Pop-up art experiences will be a regular feature as well.

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