In 1970, Robert Smithson (of Spiral Jetty fame) drew this sketch for a new earthwork concept: a 30x90ft barge landscaped with shrubs and trees native to the New York region. The “floating island” would be pulled by a 48-ft tugboat along the Hudson and East rivers, circumnavigating Manhattan. Unfortunately, Smithson’s dream of bringing his concept to fruition was never realized during his lifetime. He died in 1973, leaving only this sketch, and a host of other successfully actualized projects.
This year, in conjunction with a Smithson retrospective at the Whitney Museum, the Floating Island will finally make its voyage. The Whitney has partnered with Minetta Brook, a New York arts organization, to complete the $150,000 project. “Likely an homage to Frederick Law Olmsted’s design of Central Park, Floating Island offers a displacement of the park ? itself a man-made creation ? from its natural habitat,” says the Whitney press release. “When the barge makes its trip around the island of Manhattan, New Yorkers will have a chance to see a reimagined fragment of their island floating by.” From September 17-25, the island will be visible sailing around Manhattan from 8am to 8pm. Upon completion of the two-week exhibition, the trees from the island will be transplanted in Central Park.
Architectural Record article Whitney Museum Minetta Brook