Architecture Research Office

Architecture Research Office

New York, NY


New Urban Ground: Rising Currents - Projects for New York's Waterfront

The Museum of Modern Art invited Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio to participate in their 2010 Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront exhibition. Based on ARO’s previous research into climate change’s impact on the city (with structural engineer Guy Nordenson’s Latrobe Prize fellowship team), the exhibition presents the work of five teams of design teams who have each reinvented sites throughout New York City in response to rising sea levels. The site assigned to ARO and dlandstudio is Lower Manhattan.

Taking into account rapid polar ice cap melt, scientists predict a six-foot sea level rise by the year 2100. This projection would inundate 21% of Lower Manhattan at high tide as the water passes over the existing sea wall. In addition, a Category 2 Hurricane would create surges 24 feet above the future sea level. This scenario floods up to 61% of Lower Manhattan. Like many cities whose sewage infrastructure was built in the early 20th century, New York City has a combined sewer system that processes both sanitary sewage and storm water runoff.  Present city sewers are frequently overwhelmed by rainstorms: 460 combined sewer outfalls (CSOs) release an average of 500 million gallons of effluent per week directly into the Upper New York Bay.

Our proposal consists of two basic components that form an interconnected system: porous green streets and a graduated edge. ARO’s new conception of what a “street” is will not only provide productive park space within the city, it creates a network of absorptive green surfaces. On the edge of the island,  three interrelated high-performance systems are constructed to block higher sea levels and mitigate storm surge force and flooding: a productive park network, freshwater wetlands, and tidal salt marshes. The above- and below-ground performance of the city can be supported by a newly integrated and mutually beneficial infrastructure.

This continuous layered ecosystem attenuates waves, manages the urban watershed, filters interior surface runoff, enhances biodiversity, and introduces a new system of public green space.


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Status: Unbuilt
Location: New York City