BIG awarded $335 million to improve
Lower Manhattan storm defences


News: Danish studio BIG has been granted $335 million to upgrade Lower Manhattan's storm defences, as one of six winners in the Rebuild by Design initiative to revive parts of the USA struck by Hurricane Sandy (+ slideshow).

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

BIG and Dutch firm One Architecture co-developed the winning Big U scheme as a protective system that would extend ten miles around the tip of Manhattan island, shielding buildings from floods and storm surges.

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

The $335 million (over £200 million) in combined public and private funds will initially be used to implement the first phase of the project along the Lower East Side, creating a raised "bridging berm" barrier to protect the low-lying ground from storm water and rising sea levels.

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

The berm will be planted with a selection of salt-tolerant flora, and will provide public spaces and viewpoints as well as routes into the East River Park. BIG founder Bjarke Ingels has drawn comparisons between Big U and New York's High Line park, which also opened in sections along a disused elevated railway on the west side on Manhattan.

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

"The Big U is an example of what we call social infrastructure," said Ingels in a statement. "The High Line shows how a decommissioned piece of infrastructure – the abandoned elevated railway – can be transformed into a public space and green landscape."

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

The scheme will eventually include three connected sections that will create new public spaces running from West 57th Street, down to The Battery park and up to East 42nd Street. Each is to comprise a physically discrete flood-protection zone, which can be isolated from the others in an emergency.

"We asked ourselves: What if we could envision the resilience infrastructure for Lower Manhattan in a way that wouldn't be like a wall between the city and the water, but rather a string of pearls of social and environmental amenities tailored to their specific neighbourhoods, which also happens to shield their hinterlands from flooding," Ingels said.

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

Rebuild by Design was founded in 2013 in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the eastern seaboard of the USA in October 2012.

The programme called for solutions to improve the resilience of infrastructure in the Sandy-affected area, including the damaged shorelines of New York City and New Jersey.

BIG rebuild by design competition Lower Manhattan

Ten multidisciplinary design teams, which included Rem Koolhaas' OMA and New York studio WXY, were asked to come up with proposals for different sections of the coast – read more about the proposals here.

  • Captian Spanky + the Pancakes

    BIG makes his mark on Manhattan. Not many people/architects can say that. He’s starting to leave a legacy for good or bad. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS. At least it’s for a good cause.

  • FurnFixEquip

    As a girl I once walked all over Manhattan.

  • Drago Štefanec

    Nice – an opportunity well taken.

  • Second image of the slideshow – the boxy spaces with glass curtains extending at sea level, obviously not designed with storm safety in mind. Moreover, it is a sure death trap in a tsunami scenario!

  • Tim

    Dezeen, you just forgot to mention the five other winners.

  • FireUrEngine

    The rest of the city, such as Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, is being cheated from this waterfront project that only enhances real estate property for lower Manhattan. It’s a tourist design.

    I would rather my NYC tax money being spent on an ocean barrier being built out in the mouth of the harbour that would protect the lower areas from high tides!

  • BPC Resident

    I’m a BIG fan (pun intended), but as a resident of Battery Park City I can say that image 6 is disturbing. While the rendering seems pleasant enough, it fails to show the other side – one of the most successful and vibrant urban parks in New York (Rockefeller Park) which would be cut off from the waterfront. The bikers, strollers, dogs and children that continuously use the path would have to descend steep steps to access the promenade, which no longer has the reciprocal view back to the meadows and trees beyond.

    I’m not suggesting that the overall move is wrong (something has to be done), only that it would have to be very carefully designed (sloping surfaces leading to the stair edge on the interior side) and carefully maintained (currently maintained by separate government authority) to approach the quality of design currently enjoyed by BPC residents. Hard to imagine $335M being enough to wrap the southern portion of Manhattan with any grace.

    No matter what the curving barrier suggests, or how many ping-pong tables are set up, this is a wall being built around a city – in a place where deliberate attempts have already been implemented to connect residents to the waterfront.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I have already found some great places for dumping bodies into the harbour.