Preserving the Environment

The Giant Seawall That Will Protect New York City

October 14, 2014
The Giant Seawall That Will Protect New York City
From 148 international applicants, 10 interdisciplinary teams were selected to participate in Rebuild by Design’s year-long process and competition. Andrew Burton/Getty Images
The multi-faceted approach will help the Big Apple defend itself against another superstorm.

Every New Yorker remembers the harrowing pictures of cars floating at the entrance of the Carey Tunnel, the submerged subway stations and the decimation of Breezy Point. To protect New York City from the next big weather event, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) held a Rebuild by Design contest to find the best ideas to protect the vulnerable New York/New Jersey floodplain.

One of the winners (which will receive a federal grant of $335 million)? A concept called “The Big U.”

The Big U is almost exactly what it sounds like: a giant protective infrastructure project that would wrap “around Manhattan from West 54th street south to the Battery and up to East 40th street,” according to the Rebuild by Design website.

The Bjarke Ingels Group, an international design architectural firm that designed the Big U, is thinking big — envisioning more than just a seawall, but an entire system that doubles as a series of park and community areas, each tailored to a coinciding neighborhood.

According to the Verge, the Big U will also includes “a raised stretch of land known as the Bridging Berm acts as a natural dam, but also provides recreational green space for residents in the neighborhood” on the Lower East Side. A seasonal market placed under a raised section of the FDR could be shuttered from rising waters by panels that flip down to create a flood wall.

The White House has already designated another billion dollars for similar disaster relief ideas. In June, President Obama announced the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which invites “communities that have experienced natural disasters to compete for funds to help them rebuild and increase their resilience to future disasters.”