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BIG scoops funding for New York hurricane protection

Danish architecture outfit BIG has been awarded $335million to proceed with its plans to protect New York against future floods

The practice’s BIG U design, co-developed with Dutch One Architecture, was one of six successful solutions selected in a year-long competition run by Rebuild By Design, aimed at protecting lower Manhattan from a repeat of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Under the plans, a system of berms and levees masked as parkland and art installations will protect ten continuous miles of Manhattan running from West 57th street south to The Battery and up to East 42nd Street.  

‘The Big U is an example of what we call social infrastructure’, Bjarke Ingels, founding partner, BIG said.

‘The High Line shows how a decommissioned piece of infrastructure – the abandoned elevated railway – can be transformed into a public space and green landscape. We asked ourselves: What if we could envision the resilience infrastructure for Lower Manhattan in a way that wouldn’t be like a wall between the city and the water, but rather a string of pearls of social and environmental amenities tailored to their specific neighborhoods, which also happens to shield their hinterlands from flooding. The Big U will not only make the waterfront more resilient but also more accessible and inviting to the citizens around it.’

Proposed solutions were designed in close consultation with local communities and a number of local, municipal, State and Federal stakeholders.

‘The Big U really shows the power of design in building coalitions’, Matthijs Bouw, founder of co-lead One Architecture added.

‘In an intensive process with the community, the city and the housing authority we discovered how a well-designed flood protection system can have multiple benefits: housing preservation, improved urban spaces, and jobs.’

US housing and urban development secretary Shaun Donovan described the winning proposals as ‘truly transformative’  

‘[They ] serve as blueprints for how we can safeguard the region and make it more environmentally and economically resilient,’ he said. ‘It’s my hope that Rebuild by Design will inspire other public-private partnerships to spur innovation and resilience in other parts of the country and around the world. By investing in these proposals, we are going to ensure that when the next storm comes, the region will be safer and better prepared.’

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