When Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, ravaged New York City, many people began to look at urban disaster relief programs a little differently. Because metropolitan areas are so dense with buildings and people, the damage caused by “superstorms” like Hurricane Sandy can be even more devastating than when sprawling rural areas are struck by natural disasters. Since 2012, engineers, designers, and urban disaster relief innovators have been working to create a better safeguard against unrelenting storms. One such group of design experts is the Bjarke Ingels Group, whose project, “The Big U,” might be coming soon to Manhattan.
After the storm finally subsided, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, organized an initiative called Rebuild by Design. Rebuild by Design is a design competition that was created to promote urban resilience, and to address structural and environmental vulnerabilities that NYC never truly had to consider before Hurricane Sandy hit. The Barke Ingels Group, an architecture firm, recently submitted its proposal for the kind of innovative measures NYC needs to take in order to protect itself from future storms.
The architecture firm is calling its Rebuild by Design submission “The Big U,” for the way it would essentially hug the island of Manhattan. According to the Barke Ingels Group, “The Big U is a protective system that encircles Manhattan, responding to the needs and concerns of the island’s diverse communities. Stretching from West 57th Street south to The Battery and up to East 42nd Street, the Big U protects 10 continuous miles of low lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area.” The project would look like a massive U, and would be made of deployable walls that city officials could release to stop flooding in that most defenseless portion of Manhattan.
In addition to its protective, wall-like presence, The Big U would also provide “social and environmental benefits to the community, and foster an improved public realm,” explains the Bjarke Ingels Group. Members of the Battery Park City Authority like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and local real estate developer Carl Mattone have been working hard to rebuild the parts of Manhattan that were so ravaged by the storm, both structurally, and socially. The implementation of a plan like “The Big U” would not only provide residents with protection and peace of mind, but would also create new urban green spaces and room for parks, entertainment venues, and more.
The Bjarke Ingels Group has proposed bike and footpaths, an archipelago, and a central harbor area that would serve as both a submerged and above ground venue. Not only would “The Big U” protect Manhattan, it would make Battery Park City and the surrounding areas one of the most innovative, sought-after urban green spaces in the world. Head over to “The Big U” project page to learn more.