New York’s Dryline

Landscape Interface Studio set up Liverpool_New York in the autumn of 2012 – a design and research collaboration, based at Kingston University, providing a platform to investigate the past and to speculate on the future of distant but connected cities. New York was the location for a research based study visit for post-grad students in early 2013 where the focus was based on post-Sandy outcomes and included the water / city / territory / workshop held at the Van Alen Institute, in New York City. The workshop began with a presentation by David Grahame Shane (Columbia University) and continued with presentations and  discussions between faculty and students from both Kingston University and New York Institute of Technology with a focus on landscape, architecture and urbanism proposals for Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York.


image: Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio

Hurricane Sandy caused $19bn of damage and saw 305,000 homes harmed or destroyed, many of which were in the vulnerable Lower East Side, a low-lying, low-income district of New York.  Following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation the question was whether we could continue to work against the natural environment, or whether we should begin to better appreciate and utilize natural capital in a more sustainable manner.  The Rising Currents exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York asked several teams of designers to consider proposals to address the conditions of rising tides and storm surges. The 2010 ‘Rising Currents’ exhibition presented speculations by five teams of landscape architects, architects and urban designers who engaged with landscape conditions and processes to respond to, mitigate and prevent the possibility of flooding in the New York Harbor area.

By Nov 2012 the New York Economic Development Corporation requested proposals for New York Waterfront Construction – Change the Course Competition – which should consider existing waterfront infrastructure.  Ten schemes were selected to be taken forward from an international competition, addressing everything from new breakwaters along Staten Island’s South Shore, to flood prevention and drainage in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Photograph: BIG – After the High Line park comes the Dryline, an uncompromising seawall cum green space.

If New York needs 10 miles of flood defences to protect it from another Hurricane Sandy, why not conceive the barrier as a leisure amenity – this was the hub of BIG’s (the Bjarke Ingels Group) submission to ‘Change the Course’.  The thick green line running around the island’s tip shows the route of the planned parkway. If New York has to build 10 miles of flood defences to protect the city from another Hurricane Sandy, why not conceive the barrier as a brand new waterfront park? Climate security as leisure amenity.

This animation produced by London studio Squint Opera shows the 10-mile long strategy being unrolled like a magic carpet along the waterfront, leaving safe leisure-loving citizens in its wake.  The shoreline becomes furnished with undulating berms and protective planting, flip-down baffles and defensive kiosks, promenades and bike paths, bringing pedestrian life worthy of Lisbon or Barcelona to the gritty banks of Manhattan.

The Dryline imagines a landscaped buffer stretching all the way from West 57th Street, looping down to the Battery and back up to East 42nd Street, bestowing Manhattan with a protective green cushion. Hurricane Sandy shocked New York into facing up to how vulnerable it is – and opened the city’s eyes to the realities of climate change. It provided violent and tangible evidence, if ever it were needed, that extreme weather is here, sea levels are on the rise and that cities must adapt more urgently than ever before. It also changed locals’ perception of the city’s physical geography overnight.

Some fear the Dryline will give New Yorkers a false sense of protection, leading the city to become blasé behind its new defences. “The city should be proud of the project,” says Klaus Jacob, an esteemed climate scientist at Columbia University, who predicted the impact of a major storm just a year before Sandy arrived. “Except it has a fixed height. As the sea level rises, you need ever smaller storms to overcome it. It’s exactly New Orleans’ problem during Katrina. People think, ‘We have this Big U, we’re safe.’ But you’re building up risk behind the U until it becomes dysfunctional.”

“I’m not saying it will leak during the first 10 years,” he adds, “but the sea-level rise calculated is out to the 2050s. What about the 2080s? 2100? You just postpone the problem for future generations.”

For full text read Oliver Wainwright’s, ‘Bjarke Ingels on the New York Dryline’


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