The year is 2011 and a group of young architects has come together to form an ad hoc community of radical visionaries in Manhattan. The community is united not by place, style or training, but by the common recognition that there has been no systemic consideration of one very simple fact: the sea will rise and the storms will surge. Yes this will transform Manhattan’s waterfront[i] and yes, planning for other considerations are necessary[ii], but the nature of this threat is so extreme that it deserves a much deeper reconception of the city[iii], and a more radical plan for its continued development.
In fact, postulates this group, in order to take the necessary steps forward, we must take a radical step backwards. The very notion of New York must be undone, it can no longer be conceived of as a city that is, and that will persist in a state of incremental evolution. Rather, it must be seen as virgin territory as we’ve never known it – a territory where developable land is not what it seems[iv][v], infrastructure must be reinterpreted[vi][vii], transportation must be reconceived[viii], access must be redefined[ix], new and increased populations must be accommodated[x], and public space must be rethought[xi]. This is the city of New New Amsterdam.
True to their subversive leanings, this group of young architects will exploit the known mechanisms for enacting change[xii]. Their 197a will look backwards and forwards to define the city of New New Amsterdam (as it needs to be known) and to propose a synthetic masterplan for its development.
With the sea levels rising, the way people live and use Manhattan will change. How does the city looks when the water levels rise 3 meters, 7 meters and 10 meters? Group 9 focuses on some specific locations, locations where residential building fabrics and public spaces come together. Because the rising of the water will change the way how we live in our houses and public spaces will have to be reinvented and will be used in new ways, so the Group claims. Therefore, they will propose new building structures that are inflatable and mobile, structures that are under water, and structures that move up en down like elevators.
New new Amsterdam
In these uncertain times, New York is at risk: as a global leader and by the very real threat of rising seas. Global socio-economic shifts and climate change are deftly eroding the metropolis, once the apotheosis of the American Dream. Rather than face slow but certain obsolescence, Manhattan takes the imminent threats as an opportunity to execute a radical proposal and reassert its metropolitan might.
Identifying its unique competitive potential, Manhattan (re)turns its focus to its industrial roots, though this time recognizing that it is in fact ideas that will serve the new economy. Manhattan must become an Idea Factory. To continue attracting the best and the brightest from around the world and maintain the image of the most progressive urban environment, and strong and thriving economy of intangible, Manhattan executes a radical proposal that will enable it to endure as a leader in centuries to come.
Manhattan opts to face climate change directly, and eliminate it as a threat. It vaccinates its inhabitants and urban structures against the uncertainties of rising water level, by constructing a series of dams to flood the island. The water level rises for 20 meters and the metropolis makes a quantum leap.
The series of dams on Hudson river keep the level of fresh water constant and initiate the development of several transportation nods. Vertical urbanism is introduced in which housing and office spaces move to higher floors and districts evolve as horizontal strata one on top of another. Designed to stimulate the productivity of the creative class, this new 3-dimensionally densified urban environment acts as a physical exchange for knowledge and ideas rife with spaces for spontaneous meetings and random encounters. Buildings are connected by suspended walkways, roofs are used as meeting points and an array of new public spaces appears at the water level.
Manhattan's landmark buildings as Empire State and Rockefeller Center become the new organs of the city, harvesting energy (covered in the most effective mix of solar panels, wind mils and energy producing algae facades), producing food (and using the subway system for its diffusion), and providing central vertical circulation nodes within the groundless city.
Throughout the phased development of the new urban order, certain zones are identified as essential to the continued productivity of the idea-based metropolis. Epicentres of knowledge, idea-making and nostalgia are identified as critical zones for continuity and posterity. They are sealed within domes - providing new land to the new city, and acting as preemptive archeological sites housing the historic city, accessible for permanent exploration in the centuries to come.
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