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 New York 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 MoMA, 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.
Bergdoll divided the harbour into five regions which differ in their densities, square footages, and so forth. The teams, all New York architects, brought their philosophies to the competition and formed interdisciplinary teams. At the MoMA, each presentation is clearly illustrated graphically and supported by a model crafted in such a way that it creates an “artistic signature” for each team. In a private press release viewing, we were able to talk with each team and learn about the five zones.
Comprised of the lower Manhattan landscape, Zone 0: A New Urban Ground (Adam Yarinsky and Stephen Cassell + Susannah Drake) works to reinvent arguably one of the most well known landscapes. With Bergdoll as their guide, they looked into developing a new soft and hard infrastructure solution. Downtown Manhattan streets are paved with a mesh of cast concrete and engineered soil and salt tolerant plants. This creates 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.
If Zone 1 (Water Proving Ground by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki and David J. Lewis) is left alone, it will be underwater in the future. To prevent the site, which contains Liberty State Park, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, from disappearing, the project creates a landscape defined by water. To change the hard edge of the site into a softer one, the existing landfill is sculpted into four “fingers” that extend into the harbour. An increased coastline (it was a mere 5 miles, now it becomes 45) allows for a variety of possibilities for future uses. The program distributed among the fingers works with land and water to serve a dual purpose. Thus, the project becomes a hybrid land/seascape that ties the land and the water together.
Zone 2: Working Waterline (Matthew Baird) includes the oil tank farm of Bayonne. The project uses the 600 oil tanks to create biofuel from algae fed by wastewater. A sinewy land berm protects certain areas while an elevated path allows pedestrians and vehicles to use the area. Reef-building units are focused around jacks, a modular form made of discarded glass. The project also looks at the project from an economic angle, for as shipping routes are opening in the Arctic, how will that reshape New York’s position in world shipping?
The area covered within Zone 3: New Aqueous City (Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang) is the largest and most varied. An archipelago of man-made islands lines the coast of Staten Island and Brooklyn. These islands not only filter the storm waves, but will be programmed with specific functions to accommodate the expected spike in the population. ”We are trying to create a place that isn’t Manhattan but it will still have a life of its own.” The proposal includes numerous routes for bio-gas powered ferry services that will bring people to piers (almost floating barges) that extend from the coasts. The team developed a new housing idea that flips the house upside down so the floors will be farther away from water. Connecting the islands are a series of inflatable storm barriers that take less than 1 hour to inflate and will only be inflated when needed.
Zone 4: Oyster-Tecture (Kate Orff) contains the controversial zone – the polluted canal. The team proposed to nurture the already active revitalization of a long lost natural oyster reef. ”This is not a technology driven project,” said Ms. Orff. ”It is not based on a budget of millions of dollars. It is supposed to be something that is realistic and something that can work in the very, very near future.” The oyster reed is constructed from nets of woven “fuzzy rope” that supports oyster growth. The reef will clean millions of gallons of harbour water and by attenuating waters, protect the adjacent shore line. Dubbed “Oyster-tecture,” the series of oyster nurseries, combined with the underwater rope scaffolding for reefs, would generate a new public landscape for the New York Harbor and enable a new cleaner water-based Gowanus community to take shape in the inland zone.
Follow the Rising Currents’ website, a blog documenting the development of these projects. The exhibit runs through October 11, 2010.