Architects Worldwide Invent Groundbreaking Waterborne Solutions To Climate Change, Part 6

New York has few flood protections, but that will soon change. In 2012, Lower Manhattan flooded and was left in the dark during Hurricane Sandy, with the greatest extent of inland flooding along the borough’s eastern edge, costing the public billions of dollars. Floodwaters up to three feet deep not only inundated the East River Park esplanade, ball fields and plantings, but they also crossed FDR Drive, enveloping streets and buildings.

It was following the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD)Rebuild by Design Competition in 2013 seeking new ideas for improving coastal resiliency in the Sandy-affected region that a proposal led by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and dubbed “The BIG U” called for separate but coordinated plans for three contiguous sections of the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan called compartments, in close coordination with residents, stakeholders and city officials.

“Recent years have seen increased recorded sea surface temperatures at significantly expanded areas over which hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic,” comments architect Bjarke Ingels. “Additionally, increasingly potent and destructive storms like Hurricane Sandy are likely to become a more constant threat, hitting one of the most densely-populated and economically-productive regions in the country. The BIG U focuses on Manhattan to address the question: how can we create 10 contiguous miles of flood protection without creating a sea wall, separating the life of the city from the water around it?” Winning the 2015 AIA National Honor Award for Regional & Urban Design, the 1,000,000-sqm BIG U is a protective system stretching over low-lying geography from West 54th Street south to The Battery and up to East 40th Street, which comprises multiple but linked design projects based on different scales of time, size and investment, where each local neighborhood customizes its own set of programs, functions and opportunities. More than just a flood barrier, it also provides community-desired amenities.

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