In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild By Design contest sought proposals for flood protection systems. Among the seven finalists was Bjarke Ingels‘ and One Architecture & Urbanism‘s BIG U, a flooding solution for Manhattan that doubles as a social environment. Now after five years, the first phase of the 10-mile barrier system is getting underway. Rebuild By Design and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) have released an RFP for a stewardship partner for the BIG U’s East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), a $335 million reconstruction of the 64-acre, 1.5-mile East River Park. With construction expected to kick off in spring 2019, the partner will “explore stewardship models with funding mechanisms that could enhance the long-term operating budget while addressing issues of equity.”
Rebuild By Design
“Not only is New York City going to build the cheapest, ugliest version of the big dumb wall, there’s a very good possibility that it won’t even be big enough.”
According to a recent Rolling Stone article titled “Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming?” the level of storm protection put in place to protect the city from future superstorms may fall short of the elegant solution that was originally promised. According to the story, the city funded a proposal–Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)’s winning submission in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design contest–that involved a 10-mile barrier system that would protect Lower Manhattan from the ruinous effects of storm surges and sea-level rise. Called the Big U, the $540 million infrastructure project would be designed to contain parks and public spaces. But because of cost issues, the project may not materialize as planned.
Image courtesy of SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE PLLC
We know what you’re thinking: what is oyster-tecture, anyway? Just ask Kate Orff, landscape architect and the founding principal of SCAPE Studio. SCAPE is a landscape architecture and urban design office based in Manhattan and specializing in urban ecology, site design, and strategic planning. Kate is also an associate professor of architecture and urban design at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she founded the Urban Landscape Lab, which is dedicated to affecting positive social and ecological change in the joint built-natural environment.
But the Living Breakwaters project may be the SCAPE team’s most impactful yet. The “Oyster-tecture” concept was developed as part of the MoMA Rising Currents Exhibition in 2010, with the idea of an oyster hatchery/eco-park in the Gowanus interior that would eventually generate a wave-attenuating reef in the Gowanus Bay. Describing the project as, “a process for generating new cultural and environmental narratives,” Kate envisioned a new “reef culture” functioning both as ecological sanctuary and public recreation space.
Over a year after Hurricane Sandy tore through the metro New York area, destroying lives and homes, some areas are still in the process of rebuilding. In an effort to ensure New York City is never caught off guard from a natural disaster like we were in the fall of 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development launched Rebuild By Design, a contest to develop ways to rebuild the city’s most vulnerable areas in such a way that they’ll be better prepared for nature’s unpredictability. 140 proposals were submitted over a year ago, coming from 15 different countries. Last June, 10 finalists were chosen to refine their plans, developing protective strategies for all of the vulnerable areas that were struck, and will likely be struck again. After nearly a year, the Department of Housing and Development has just announced six winners that will receive a piece of the federal government’s $4 billion disaster-recovery fund.