Movie: Bjarke Ingels explains how the $335 million allocated to BIG's scheme to upgrade Manhattan's storm defences will be used to create a flood barrier disguised as a park in our second exclusive video interview with the Danish architect.
As part of an initiative to revive parts of the USA struck by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, BIG and Dutch firm One Architecture co-developed the Big U scheme as a protective system that will extend 10 miles around the tip of Manhattan island, shielding buildings from floods and storm surges.
The key to the project, Ingels says, is that people will not notice the flood barrier is there.
"You won't see it as a flood wall that separates the life of the city from the water," he explains. "When you go there you'll see landscape, you'll see pavilions, but all of this will secretly be the infrastructure that protects Manhattan from flooding."
The idea, Ingels says, was inspired by the success of New York's High Line – the elevated park built on 2.5 kilometres of repurposed railway.
"Instead of waiting for the infrastructure to be decommissioned, what if you could do functioning resilience architecture that also functions as a park?" Ingels asks.
BIG developed the scheme over a nine-month period, which included over 60 public meetings and workshops with the different communities that live in lower Manhattan.
"For the flood protection you need eight miles of continuous water protection, it needs to be a very holistic overall strategy," Ingels says. "But to make it urbanistically successful it needs to happen rooted in a dialogue with the different communities. Over the last six months we have had multiple workshops with different communities."
He continues: "Finally the Housing and Urban Development cabinet decided to fund it with $335 million federal dollars. So it's going to be a really interesting new chapter in looking at a public infrastructure as something that is purely seen as a social or environmental amenity."
This is the second in a series of three exclusive interviews with Bjarke Ingels. Look out for tomorrow's movie, in which the Danish architect discusses his practice's waste-to-energy power plant with a ski slope on the roof.