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.

  • Drago Štefanec

    Nice – an opportunity well taken.

  • Bassel

    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!

  • Concerned Citizen

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