28+: MOMA PS1 Rockaway Call for Ideas Winning Proposal / Michael Sorkin Studio

Courtesy of

Taking its name from the elevation above which the city is safe from floods, The ’28+’ proposal by Michael Sorkin Studio for the MOMA PS1 Call for Ideas is a habitable levee. Not simply does it allow the protection – and selective replacement – of buildings otherwise at risk, it actually increases the stock of waterfront residences and commercial spaces and improves public transit connections to the rest of the city. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

Hurricane Sandy has been a wake-up call for New York City. Global warming harbingers a future of rising seas and energetic storms against which we have no choice but to protect ourselves. The means will include both soft solutions – swales and wetlands, porous paving, green roofs and oyster beds – and hard – dikes, levees, walls, and flood gates. This proposal for a habitable levee falls on the hard side and – short of massive population displacement – only such a set of rigid barriers can protect many areas of the city from storm surges of Sandy’s magnitude.

Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

We have designed a barrier that connects this contour, beginning from a ridge at the end of the Rockaways, running along the peninsula, crossing the opening of Jamaica Bay with an operable gate, snaking around Coney Island and meeting another gate at the Verrazano Narrows. A smaller gate at Arthur Kill completes the system. There is nothing particularly unorthodox in this alignment.

Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

The project also achieves self-sufficiency in water harvesting and sewage treatment and generates fully half of the energy it requires. Although any such system would require the collaboration of many architects and a variety of expressions harmonized with local conditions, the portion we have illustrated is designed for modular construction and proposes that factory-built components be delivered from the sea side.

Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

Finally, we have calculated that such a project might be fully self-financing. By topping the apparatus of flood protection with what would surely be highly desirable places to live, an income stream could be generated that would cover all costs. More, the extent of the project would allow strategies of mixing that could help redress high levels of residential segregation in the affected areas.

Architects: Michael Sorkin Studio
Location: Rockaway, New York, United States
Team: Michael Sorkin, Makoto Okazaki, Ying Liu, Jie Gu
Collaborator: Michael Parkinson/Terreform
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "28+: MOMA PS1 Rockaway Call for Ideas Winning Proposal / Michael Sorkin Studio" 28 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 05 Mar 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=394608>
  • James MD

    This is the first PS-1 competition winner that could be somewhat useful, except for the fact that the community would never allow it to be built. It would require many hundreds of claims of eminent domain by the government (or more) in a community that’s already very politically skeptical of things like FEMA (unfortunately). It also cuts the remaining residential neighborhoods off from the oceanfront in a way that would outrage people. It’s also just too harsh in its form-making – it’s precisely what the community has said they don’t want in some of the meetings organized by the NY Sandy response committee – boxy architecture. Architects for this project need to find more inventive ways to build highly contemporary, even poetic architecture that can still pass through a community meeting. It’s not easy, but it’s what’s required by us if we’re going to meet this challenge. Sorkin is a great thinker and some of the ideas are exactly right (as usual), but the translation from idea to form isn’t there. I know his past work, he’s capable of making that translation, but here he unfortunately chose a formal language that the community has a bias against. But the concept could be reworked geometrically and possibly become something useful. It may have some of the underlying conceptual ideas it needs.