West 8 is an award-winning international office for bespoke urban design, landscape architecture and infrastructure projects, founded in 1987 with offices in New York, The Netherlands and Belgium. West 8 has an extensive portfolio of urban master plans and designs, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares and gardens. The firm also develops concepts and visions for large-scale planning issues.
Imagining extraordinary new landscapes in the midst of complex contexts has been a hallmark of West 8’s design philosophy from the very beginning. We have learned that every community, every project, and every potential is different, and that design responses must be crafted for the particulars of place.
Each project is approached in two simultaneous – but characteristically Dutch – ways. Firstly, we take a classic civil engineering approach – a logic based on utility and necessity. Secondly, we believe in identity-led production of landscape – we respect the location, context or envisioned nature of the site. Together, this method envisions a new nature, a ‘second nature’ of constructed landscapes that simultaneously responds to pragmatic demands (water management, population growth, traffic congestion) and, through identity, symbols, and expression, also reinforces the existing culture to which the intervention belongs.
From the day West 8 was founded, sustainability has been at the forefront of the firms work as. We believe that the integration of honest and expressed sustainable measures are paramount to engage users. We use this belief to visually aid the overall design outcome and, ideally to actively create new ecologies. We ask what approaches are relevant to achieve an individual project’s sustainable goals.
West 8 has built up a stellar reputation for respectful and thoughtful engagement processes with the communities we work with as we value collaboration and the mix of ideas. Our culture establishes lasting credibility and trust, where all parties use listening and learning as a common language and design tool. Moreover, we believe in creating outstanding visuals for captivating communication and, because of this, West 8 integrates graphic design at every stage of the project. We produce all graphics in-house by artists who continuously improve their skills in the art of visual storytelling.
Today, the office employs a hundred designers, including architects, urban designers, landscape architects, industrial engineers and artists, from eighteen countries on six continents. The large diversity in age, talents and cultural backgrounds of the team makes the office function as a collective, and has proven to be of inestimable value to remain at the international forefront of design.
Governors Island offers a world apart from New York City, an extraordinary vantage point on the New York Harbor, its icons, treasured historic landscape, and the chance to experience the sounds and smells of a green island surrounded by water. The islands Park and Public Space project transformed the island from an abandoned military base into an iconic destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike. The first phase of was opened to the public in May 2014. Developed from the 2006 international design competition winning entry, and the 2010 Park and Public Spaces Masterplan, Phase 1 created 30 acres of new park and public space throughout the island and added key visitor amenities to the historic North Island. The opening of Phase 2, the Hills, marked a major milestone in the transformation of Governors Island. They are the culmination of the Master Plan. Both pragmatic and romantic, they are a stunning feat of engineering and terraformed landscape. Rising 25 to 70 feet above the Island, they offer an extraordinary 360-degree panoramic experience of the NY Harbor. Every element of the design responds to future challenges; from material selection and sourcing to the planting strategy and precise topographic manipulation: the island is reinforced against extreme climate events such as Hurricane Sandy, which it survived unscathed.
The ambitious plan by Madrid’s mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón to submerge a section of the M30 ring motorway immediately adjacent to the old city centre within a tunnel was realised within a single term of office. The city undertook infrastructure measures over a total length of 43 kilometres, six of them along the banks of the River Manzanares, at a total cost of six billion Euro. West 8 together with a group of renowned architects from Madrid, united under the name MRIO arquitectos led by Ginés Garrido Colomero designed the master plan for Madrid RIO. Their proposal for the design of the reclaimed area above the tunnel was the only submission to resolve the urban situation exclusively by means of landscape architecture. The waterfront now connects previously disjointed districts with various squares, boulevards, parks, and a family of bridges. A total of 47 subprojects with a combined total budget of 280 million Euros have been developed, the most important of which include: the Salón de Pinos, Avenida de Portugal, Huerta de la Partida, Jardines de Puente de Segovia, Jardines de Puente de Toledo, Jardines de la Virgen del Puerto and the Parque de la Arganzuela.
New Holland Island has been transformed from a worn-down and deserted, yet monumental island into an urban park oasis. An essential part of St. Petersburg’s history, the projects main goal was not only to restore the Island, but to reinvent its role in the city. Together with the client (New Holland Development), West 8 envisioned a multi-functional district and the creation of an ambient public realm that is open to everyone. Today, the landmark is the place-to-be in St Petersburg. A constant hub for interaction and creative expression, the island has been host to a variety of concerts, festivals, exhibitions, temporary installations and pop-up events all year round. Included in the design are: the Petr and Pavel ship, a play space built at 80% of the original scale; the Herb Garden, with 30 different species of herbs; the reinforced Quay Walls, to withstand the threat of rising waters and the renovation of the Historic Basin, where in the winter months an ice rink is installed. The design provided an adaptive reuse approach to create a vital green space in the heart of the city that has improved the quality of life for all generations. The project sets an example for the future of liveable and safe cities.
The Noordwaard Depoldering Project, the largest of 39 sub-projects of the Dutch ‘Room for the River Project’, was a massive undertaking. The project facilitates inundation and discharging in periods of high water levels, and involved more than four million cubic meters of earthworks. 50 structures were demolished alongside with 30 kilometers of quays and dykes. For the new, ‘depoldered’ Noorwaard, West 8 (as architects) and IPV Delft designed 33 bridges (24 Creek Bridges, 6 Dike Bridges and 3 Steurgat Bridge) and 12 pumping-stations for the new Noordwaard. These bridges and pumping stations facilitate public access and provide new opportunities for recreation within the long-term sustainable water management strategy. Preserving the understated beauty of the Dutch landscape, each bridge is characterised with sober detailing, extended bird sticks and a gentle curvature just above the horizon.
The Toronto Central Waterfront extends 3.5km along Lake Ontario and is in direct proximity to the downtown business district. It is one of Toronto’s most valuable assets, which, after decades of patchwork development and efforts, was lacking a coherent vision. The fundamental objective of the project, which received its main impetus as an international design competition in 2006, was to create a consistent and legible image for the lakefront. West 8’s priority was to connect the vitality of the city and the lake by means of a continuous, publicly accessible waterfront. The master plan created a cohesive vision to bring sustainability and ecology into the metropolis. The revitalized Queens Quay, one of the larger sub-projects, opened to the public in 2015 and was one of the most complex street reconstruction projects in Toronto’s history. The reconfiguration of Queen’s Quay has reduced traffic to two lanes north of the reconstructed LRT Corridor to give space for a generous pedestrian promenade on the south side of the street. The implementation of the Wavedecks expanded the boulevard further, by creating a floating wooden waterfront that provides boat moorings, seating and play spaces to push the civic realm beyond the quay walls.