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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    The meandering protective BIG Bench creates unique spaces for socializing.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    How can the mandate of large-scale protective infrastructure with meaningful community engagement be obtained? How can the requirements of a “Robert Moses” hard infrastructure combined with the local community-driven sensitivity of Jane Jacobs be manifest? BIG U contains a protective ribbon: 21 km (13 mi) of flood protection tailored to each neighborhood and the community it serves.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    View of BIG U from The Battery in the financial district. Berms are strategically located to protect the infrastructure below and create a protective upland landscape. The plan envisions a new maritime/environmental education facility. Flood protection in this zone protects USD 1.9 billion in potential damages (NPV), including infrastructure beneath. The system has a benefit-cost ratio greater than 5.0.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    The three components the make up BIG U: BIG Bench, Battery, and Berm.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    BIG Bench flood protection is designed as if it were street furniture: attractive, fun, practical.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    Abandoned underpass becomes public space, activated by a continuous band of flood defense/amenities.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    Flip-down flood gates double as an art installation or enclosure for a winter market.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    Dark parking lots beneath highways become an urban marketplace.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    The Berm increases much-needed park space and connectivity; the highways now hinder pedestrian access.

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    New urban civic amenities add public space and do not fear the elements; they embrace them!

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    Project entry 2014 North America – Rebuild by Design: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, NY, USA

    The international team.

Last updated: March 31, 2014 New York, NY, USA

The BIG U project addresses the vulnerability of the city of New York to coastal flooding, as experienced during the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and proposes a protective ribbon around lower Manhattan. The master plan, to be executed in several phases, uses a raised berm strategically to create a sequence of public spaces along the water’s edge along the raised bank. The infrastructural barrier incorporates a range of neighborhood functions and as a result offers multiple design opportunities, fostering local commercial, recreational, and cultural activities.

Superstorm Sandy overwhelmed New York City and surrounding regions in 2012 and caused USD 65 billion in damages in the USA. The federal government issued Rebuild by Design, an unprecedented call to action to not only repair but to enhance preventative measures and encourage collaboration across agencies. BIG U mediates between perceived opposing forces (growing cities and exposure to extreme weather) so they can work together. Neighborhoods in the floodplain can strategically grow to provide coastal protection while improving commercial, recreational, and cultural resources. The project proposes a protective ribbon around Manhattan: the Westside down to The Battery and up the Lower East Side (LES). BIG U bundles infrastructure with localized civic needs, improving at-risk waterfront communities for well-balanced living. It consists of multiple design opportunities; each on unique scales of time, size and investment; each neighborhood tailoring its own set of programs. In the initial phase, the focus is placed upon LES and the Battery.

BIG U consists of three components: BIG Bench; Battery; and Berm. BIG Bench is a continuous protective element adapted to local context that mediates new and existing infrastructure. It is designed like street furniture: practical yet playful. The Battery features protective landscape anchored by an iconic museum. The Berm rises 4 meters by the highways allowing a park-scape to connect coast and community with harbor paths and greenways. Ultimately, The Berm will cap the highway.

Progress: From Bangkok to Venice, coastal cities are at risk. BIG U’s various segments become a catalog of adaptive strategies and replicable prototypes.

People: An intensive public process including team, residents, and 25+ disaster preparedness groups. Residents designed their own waterfronts through drawings and interactive models.

Planet: BIG U is community-focused, offers more smart growth for cost, and uses land more efficiently. Community micro-grids and water management plans create redundancies to decrease storm risks and allow incremental climate change adaptation. BIG U could also bundle renewable energy systems to further increase reliability.

Prosperity: Segmented, BIG U is able to incorporate various financing models. Leveraging local and government investment engages neighbors in developing protective measures that create tremendous economies of scale.

Place: BIG U embraces social infrastructure and balances stringent regulations for safety, operation and durability with communal amenities.