Olafur Eliasson: New York City Waterfalls: Brooklyn Bridge, Governors Island, Pier 35, Brooklyn Piers

June 26 - October 13, 2008
Installation Views
Press release

Public Art Fund, in collaboration with the City of New York, presents The New York City Waterfalls, a major new work of public art by internationally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson (b.1967, Copenhagen, Denmark). The exhibition of four man-made waterfalls of monumental scale is on view until October 13 at four sites on the shores of the New York waterfront: one on the Brooklyn anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge; one on the Brooklyn Piers, between Piers 4 and 5 near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; one in Lower Manhattan at Pier 35, north of the Manhattan Bridge; and one on the north shore of Governors Island. The 90-to 120-foot-tall Waterfalls that have been erected on the shoreline operate from 5:30 to 9pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and from 12:30 to 9pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. They are lit after sunset.  


“Large-scale public art is a part of what makes New York City the cultural center of the world. It excites New Yorkers and encourages visitors from around the world to experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The Waterfalls exhibition is the next chapter in the City’s great cultural legacy – and we are exceptionally thrilled that internationally renowned artist Olafur Eliasson has chosen New York City as his latest canvas.”


The New York City Waterfalls, sited in the historic New York Harbor, a gateway to America for nearly four centuries, will showcase New York’s natural environment alongside the City’s industrial and commercial landscape.  “In developing The New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” said Eliasson. “The Waterfalls appear in the midst of the dense social, environmental, and political tissue that makes up the heart of New York City. They will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationships to these spectacular surroundings, and I hope they will evoke individual experiences and enhance a sense of collectivity.”


Public Art Fund, working in partnership with Tishman Construction Corporation, engaged a team of almost 200 design, engineering and construction professionals to build the Waterfalls, which are constructed with building elements that are ubiquitous throughout New York. Actual construction scaffolding forms the backbone of the Waterfalls, and pumps will cycle water from the East River to the top of each structure before it falls back into the river. Following the completion of The New York City Waterfalls in October, all scaffolding will be re-used in subsequent construction projects.  


“Eliasson’s Waterfalls emerge from his consideration of the historic and architectural conditions of the physical environments surrounding them. He has found a way to integrate the spectacular beauty of nature into the urban landscape on a dramatic scale,” said Rochelle Steiner, Director of the Public Art Fund and curator of The New York City Waterfalls.


Public Art Fund joined with government agencies and environmental organizations to develop resources for young people and adults to enjoy the Waterfalls. Partners include the City’s Department of Education, Department of Environmental Protection and the US National Park Service, and environmental groups including Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA), New York Restoration Project (NYRP), as well as Urban Assembly’s New York Harbor School, a public school that engages students through the study of the marine culture, history, and environment of New York City and its surrounding waters. Printed materials include guides for enjoying and learning about the Waterfalls and New York City’s riverfront, as well as classroom lessons for students and activities for summer camp groups. These materials will examine the waterfront through the topics of art, history, environmental responsibility, aquatic life, ecology, water conservation, and other related subjects, and can be downloaded from www.nycwaterfalls.org.

The Waterfalls have been designed to be sensitive to the environment, protecting fish and aquatic life by filtering the water through intake pools suspended in the river beneath each structure. The Waterfalls will also run on “green power”– electricity generated from renewable resources – and will be lit with LED lights. “The Waterfalls will help a new generation of New Yorkers discover our great waterfront and encourage us all to become stewards for its continued revitalization and lasting protection,” said Riverkeeper President Alex Matthiessen. “The project itself is a model of green design and, importantly, is protective of key aquatic habitat.” The Waterfalls will be temporarily turned off in the event of extreme winds or storms, or if there is a power shortage due to hot weather.