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New York After the Seas Rise

The effects of climate change and sea-level rise on coastal cities present a new challenge to urban planners, one that inspires the exhibition, Rising Currents, now at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Working in collaboration with the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, five teams of architects and landscape designers were asked to envision projects for New York City’s future coastline. The plans all create what they call “soft” infrastructures — landscapes that will allow rising sea levels to flow within and around the building sites where power, water, sewer, and gas lines are encased in waterproof vaults beneath the sidewalks. The plans imagine the open spaces surrounding these building sites becoming estuarine habitats that will provide cost-effective storm-water management, as well as revitalize the harbor’s biodiversity. The designers have conceived new oyster habitat as well as archipelagos of constructed islands to dampen the effects of increased storm surges. These new habitats will, in turn, provide new open space in the form of marshland parks — something the city predicts will become more necessary as temperatures rise a predicted 3 to 5 degrees F over the next century. Scientists forecast that sea levels around New York City could easily rise several feet by 2100. The exhibition runs through Oct. 11.

Here is a preview of some projects on display:

(Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio)
In this proposed plan, Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio’s concept, “New Urban Ground,” transforms Lower Manhattan by creating more waterfront access and a network of walkways that allow people to walk among the marsh and tall grass.

nARCHITECTS crafted a vision for the neighborhoods on both sides of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, an area that includes parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The so-called “New Aqueous City” offers a paradigm for a city that can control and absorb rising seas even as it accommodates rising population. This view shows residential buildings hung from shared bridge structures, floating wetlands, and wave-absorbing public piers.

Landscape architect Kate Orff and SCAPE proposed transforming the highly polluted Gowanus Canal area by revitalizing its long-lost natural oyster reef. The proposal calls for building structures in the shallow waters of the Bay Ridge Flats, just south of Reed Hook, Brooklyn, for growing native oysters and cultivating other marine life.

(LTL Architects)
Areas such as Liberty State Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island could become partially submerged as the seas rise. Rather than react with defensive structures like sea walls, LTL Architects proposed extending the coastline by 45 miles, creating a new landscape that connects to the New Jersey shoreline. This drawing includes a concert pier. The vision, they say, is an aqueous landscape more reminiscent of Venice than New York.

(Matthew Baird Architects)
Considering that climate change could open Arctic shipping routes, bringing more traffic to New York Harbor, Matthew Baird Architects proposed new uses for the World War II-era piers and warehouses around Bayonne, New Jersey, and Staten Island, such as sites for new energy production, industrial recycling of glass, and solar plants.

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"power, water, sewer, and gas lines are encased in waterproof vault"

Waterproof vaults? A-ha ha ha ha ha ha aha aha (wiping tears of laughter from eyes)...

Posted by: Ruben on 19 Apr 10

Have any of you ever seen the Atlantic on a bad day? Your dreams will soon become nightmares.

Posted by: John Craig on 22 Apr 10

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