Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Garden Discovery - Irish Hunger Memorial, New York City

Not far from Ground Zero, the Battery Park City neighborhood in lower Manhattan has greatly changed in the years since 9/11. 

Irish Hunger Memorial Battery Park City, Lower Manhattan, NYC

During my May trip to New York, I had planned, and looked forward to a long walk through the acres of new parkland, plazas and coves stretching from the North Esplanade of Battery Park City, south to the tip of Manhattan and the Robert Wagner Jr Parks and Pavilions - adjacent to the magnificent Piet Oudolf landscaped gardens at Historic Battery Park, the subject of an upcoming post.

The Alliance for Downtown New York now provides a free shuttle bus, making it incredibly convenient to enjoy the restaurants, endless activities, and green spaces encompassed within the bustling districts of lower Manhattan. 

I stepped off the shuttle at an unexpected stop, when I caught sight of a poignantly composed green sward. The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed by artist Brian Tolle, with landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird among the project's team, commemorates the famine of the mid-1880s, while raising awareness for all who face hunger in the world today.

An authentic stone cottage from County Mayo is incorporated into the transformative, cantilevered terrain of the 1/2-acre site, where the pathways wind through a landscape planted with native species from Ireland. 
An architectural expanse of Irish limestone and glass reveals layers of text, bringing to light & involving the visitor in its commentary of historical and contemporary issues. 

At the Memorial's high point, the vista frames the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance. 
The garden's effect is luminous yet subdued. 
A potent reminder.


  1. Amazing to think that this little bit of Ireland countryside is so close to the hubbub of Manhattan.

  2. Roof with grass and stones.. Now thats really a novel idea, creative and original. ~ bangchik

  3. Interesting site. It's nice to see the stone walls, though the wall on the cantilevered roof looks wrong to me. Cantilever and dry stack are a strange mix.

  4. Hi Alice~~ I wonder if Bette Midler was involved with this. I've heard that she is a huge proponent of maintaining NY's gardens and parks. I'm sure you already know this. I don't know what made me think of her... I LOVE the stone work; amazing craftsmanship.

  5. There are indeed a great many cottages like that - and in that kind of state - dotted around our landscape here in the west of Ireland. There's a bit about the films and music connected with the famine in the most recent post on my blog. It's a period in Ireland's history which is still raw and still very emotional. At a rugby match I went to a couple of weeks ago they had a minutes silence in memory of the one and a half million who died then and it was observed with total respect and dignity by everyone in the 25,000 crowd.

  6. Twisted willow, I'm deeply connected to Ireland through family, and appreciate your comment, and the historical events you write about on your blog. I'm also familiar with the music of Tommy M & the Clancy Bros. But, I must confess I've never made my way into Finnegan's Wake, despite attempts to do so.

    To all, I thought I'd mention an encounter with an Irish-American gardener on the day I 'discovered' the Hunger Memorial: He mentioned that work had begun on it prior to 9/11, whereas many of the gardens in Battery Park City are quite new.

    And Historic Battery Park, which I'll be writing about, has lovely gardens that memorialize those killed in the World Trade Center attacks, and the countless people who were fleeing the mayhem and ended up at the tip of Manhattan.

  7. Oh, how lovely that we have such a beautiful memorial in New York. I love the fact that the view at the end is of Ellis Island, a sight that must of brought so much relief and joy to many sufferers.

  8. I've seen photos of Battery Park before . . . but find it very difficult to get a sense of what it is like in real life.


  9. Alice:
    I have always wanted to travel to Ireland, and this wonderful memorial is a wonderful way to see it without having to traverse so far. It is absolutely breath-taking.... so many emotions.... despair, heartache, yet infused with a wonderful beauty. Thank you!

  10. What a nice spot to have tucked into the area surrounding a city!