Re-Envisioning New York to Combat Sea-Level Rise


One team's vision of a "New Aqueous City." Image credit: nArchitects

The New York art institutions MoMA and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center are looking on the bright side of the down economy: "As in past economic recessions, construction has slowed dramatically in New York, and much of the city's remarkable pool of architectural talent is available to focus on innovation." So the two organizations are harnessing some of that talent to dream up ways to use the city's harbor and coastline to address the serious threat of sea-level rise resulting from global climate change, from creating oyster reefs to incorporating porous streets.Earlier this month, the five multidisciplinary teams participating in the "Rising Currents" project presented their fruits of their eight-week architects-in-residence workshop to curious New Yorkers. Though the theoretical nature of the proposals to "re-envision the coastlines of New York and New Jersey around New York Harbor," and the planning jargon sprinkled throughout, makes it hard in some cases to tell exactly what's being proposed, the gist of the fascinating ideas generated seems to go something like this:


Map of project zones. Image credit: Guy Nordenson and Associates, Catherine Seavitt Studio, and Architecture Research Office with Lizzie Hodges, Marianne Koch, James Smith, and Michael Tantala

Zone 0: The City That Flows Two Ways

Blurring the boundary between land and sea is the goal of the team assigned to look at Lower Manhattan and the northern edge of the Upper Bay. Inspired by an early name for the Hudson River, the Muhheakantuck, or "river that flows two ways" -- or, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation puts it, a "tidal estuary, an arm of the sea where salty sea water meets fresh water running off the land" -- members of the Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio proposed using both porous streets that can filter water and extending the lower part of the island to create a new Lower Manhattan that is part "twenty-first-century business district," part "center of regional ecological renewal":

Our proposal consists of two basic components that form an interconnected system: wetland edges and filtering streets. The water's edge is transformed from the present hard sea wall to a gradient composed of three ribbons of open space: a public parkway, fresh water, and salt-water wetlands. Within the city, street infrastructure is rebuilt into a connected series of porous conduits that drain rain water and storm water into the wetlands. These streets continue up to the elevation flooded by a category two storm surge. Water will be the new connective tissue between the city and the harbor.

Zone 1: Utilizing the Dynamic Interplay Between Water and Land

A four-foot rise in sea levels would cover more than 80 percent of the Northwest Palisade Bay/Hudson River area in the New Jersey area, including Liberty Park/Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, with water during high tide. The team led by LTL Architects proposed harnessing that threat for

productive new uses, from agricultural fields to aquacultural zones, and from protected existing biological reserves to tidal research fields. A new series of program anchors, including an aqua-hotel, an open-air concert dock, a regional terminal produce market, and a research station complement and enhance the existing tourist sites of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, amplifying the uses of the area.

This "new engagement between water and ground" would be created by substantially lengthening the coastline and adding variations in ground height and water depth to the mostly flat site to better serve as a buffer against storm surges.

See the rest of the teams' plans for a more resilient New York City on page 2.

Tags: Architects | Cities | Exhibits | Global Warming Effects | New Jersey | New York City | Urban Planning

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