The Irish Hunger Memorial was created in 2002 as a contemplative space to honor the Great Irish Hunger and Migration of 1845-1852, and to highlight the issue of current world hunger. Located in Battery Park City, the monument overlooks the Hudson River. Constructed on a sloped cantilevered roof that rises from sidewalk level to a raised platform 25 feet above. The half-acre site recreates the Irish countryside, and is filled with native Irish plants and stones imported from each of Ireland’s 32 counties, located over a base of glass and polished fossil-bed limestone from County Kilkenny. An authentic Irish Famine-era stone cottage, dismantled from its original location in County Mayo, is included in the landscape. Below the cantilever, lighted text related to the famine and to current hunger issues wrap around the base of the monument, set into limestone panels that enclose an electric room.
Soon after the completion of the original construction, the cantilevered slab began to leak and crack, and water infiltrated the electrical space below. After unsuccessful attempts to correct the issues, the decision was made to completely remove the landscaping and original roofing from the structure, install new waterproofing and roofing, and reinstall the landscaping to match the original desgin. LiRo was construction manager for the project.
“At the start of the renovation, the project team performed a photographic survey of every inch of every element of the Memorial,” said Frank S. Franco, LiRo vice president and senior project manager. “All elements, including every single stone, were numbered and then removed, cataloged and stored in containers on site during the renovation. This ensured that the team put each piece back in its correct place and position.” The soil was removed from the site and saved for reuse while a new roofing system was applied.
Ensuring that the meadow could function as its own living ecosystem while being located on top of a waterproof concrete slab was a significant challenge. The plants, including 18 types of grasses, 19 varieties of annuals and perennials; and 14 varieties of dwarf shrubs, wood plants, and vines, were grown off site and replanted once the construction was complete.
“The Memorial’s irrigation system was designed to address both the site’s slope and the use of fast-draining soils,” said Paul Ersboll, LiRo senior design manager. “It comprises a combination of rotor spray heads that irrigate the upper and middle furrow, and dripperline tubing that irrigates the slope-edge plantings. As the edge planters are on a steep slope, the team added jute netting on top of the drainage layer and wrapped it to contain the soil layers until the new plant material is established.”
“The Irish Hunger Memorial was first dedicated over 15 years ago; it has now re-opened to stand for coming generations as a place of reflection and remembrance,” said the Battery Park City Authority. “And just as America has long welcomed immigrants from Ireland and beyond, we’re pleased to once again welcome Battery Park visitors to experience this poignant tribute to the unbreakable human spirit.”
For more project detail, visit Prism | Sustainability in the Built Environment.