After Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development held a competition called “Rebuild by Design”. The architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group was a winner.

The group’s design to protect lower Manhattan from flooding is very different from current methods. Production Designer Jeremy Siegel describes traditional flood control systems:

Siegel: “They’re these big concrete walls that have nothing to do with human scale, that don’t really provide for anything except that one use: flood protection.”

By contrast, Siegel has a plan that revitalizes the community in the flood zone…

Siegel: “… that enables life and activity along the waterfront, at the same time that it protects the city from increasing flood events.”

The design uses hidden flood barriers and embankments with salt tolerant plants that provide a green space for walking or socializing.

It also includes a waterfront boardwalk with large, decorative panels attached to the bottom of FDR Drive. From the boardwalk, the panels will look like a ceiling mural. But during storms, they’ll flip down to form a protective wall against rising waters.

It’s a holistic design that improves life in the city while providing safety.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Bjarke Ingels Group proposes big U to protect manhattan from storm surges. (Source: RebuildByDesign)

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Rebuild by Design
BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...