Will Sandy Finally Convince New York to Re-Design Its Waterfront?

On Avenue C and 14th. Instagram User megetz: “The water came up to my knees when I joined my neighbors on the front stoop.”

Maybe Sandy, the colossal hurricane that has barreled across the East Coast this week, will finally get the message across:  ”We are all from New Orleans Now.”

Thanks to climate change, America’s coastal cities, and particularly New York, have become increasingly vulnerable to nature’s wrath. Over two years ago, MOMA asked five architects to come up with a redesign of lower Manhattan that would prevent damage in the event of major flooding. Barry Bergdoll, the Curator of the “” exhibit, put it to the architects this way: “Your mission is to come up with images that are so compelling they can’t be forgotten and so realistic that they can’t be dismissed.”

Unfortunately, they were. As the many images from traditional news sources and social media users reveal, Sandy’s damage has been extensive – and perhaps, in many ways, preventable.

It often takes tragedy to instigate change. Let’s hope that Sandy will finally get the conversation of New York’s vulnerable urban landscape on to the table.

More images of Sandy’s damage, as well as plans from ’s “Rising Currents” Exhibit, after the break…

Oyster-Tecture and the Gowanus Canal

Zone 4, of SCAPE studio

The Gowanus Canal is one of America’s most polluted waterways, and its location in the New York Harbor made it one of the many places that were effected by flooding as a result of Hurricane Irene. If that isn’t enough to think about, last year the EPA declared the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, “As a result of years of discharges, storm water runoff, sewer outflows and industrial pollutants, the Gowanus Canal has become one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies. Contaminants include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics. The contamination poses a threat to the nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation.”

Rising Currents, an exhibit that was featured at the just last year, was a cohesive showcase of five projects tackling the lingering truth that within a few years, the waterfront of the New York harbor will drastically change. We highlighted Zone 0 earlier this week, comprised of ARO and dlandstudio, they specifically took a look at the lower Manhattan landscape, proposing to develop a new soft and hard infrastructure solution paved with a mesh of cast concrete and engineered soil and salt tolerant plants.

Zone 4, or Oyster-Tecture by Kate Orff, dealt directly with the highly polluted Gowanus Canal. We shared with you Orff’s TEDTalk on Oyster-Tecture back in Februrary, and feel like it is a subject worth revisiting. Eastern oysters being her focus, she shares how the oyster can improve water quality as a natural bio filter. Blending urbanism and ecology she proposes an oyster reef for the Gowanus Canal and Governors Island, an accessible idea that can be implemented immediately.  A further description about Zone 4 Oyster-Tecture following the break.

Taking a second look at MoMA’s Rising Currents Exhibit, Zone 0 by ARO and dlandstudio

Soho Neighborhood, via Daily Mail © Sarah Blakeley

In the wake of Hurricane Irene it only seemed appropriate to take a second look at Rising Current, an exhibit that was featured at the just last year. To give you a refresher, the exhibit was a cohesive showcase of five projects tackling the lingering truth that within a few years, the waterfront of the New York harbor will drastically change.

Team Zero, comprised of ARO and dlandstudio, specifically took a look at the lower Manhattan landscape, proposing to develop a new soft and hard infrastructure solution paved with a mesh of cast concrete and engineered soil and salt tolerant plants.  This would create greenways that act as absorptive sponges for rainwater. The porous green streets address daily tidal flows and storm surges with 3 interrelated high performance systems (network of parks, wetlands and tidal salt marshes). These systems stop sewage overflow, block higher sea levels and mitigate storm surge.

Rising Current provided an emphasis on how to re-think the city, relevant before, and even more pressing now after the flooding from the hurricane.  Let’s hope that the ideas for solutions that were generated from the exhibit can now be considered for implementation.  More about and Team Zero’s solution following the break.

Rising Currents at MoMA

Organized by MoMA and PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Rising Currents exhibit cannot be missed by architects, ecologists, or green enthusiasts…let alone any New Yorker.   The exhibit is a cohesive showcase of five projects which tackle the lingering truth that within a few years, the waterfront of the harbor will drastically change.  Dealing with large scale issues of climate change, the architects delve into a specific scale that we can recognize and relate to.  The projects are not meant to be viewed as a master plan, but rather each individual zone serves as a test site for the team to experiment.   The projects demonstrate the architects’ abilities to look passed the idea of climate change as a problem, and move on to see the opportunities it presents.  Barry Bergdoll, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at ,  explained, “Your mission is to come up with images that are so compelling they can’t be forgotten and so realistic that they can’t be dismissed.”

More about each zone after the break.