November 24, 2009  |  Rising Currents
Rising Currents: Meet ARO

In addition to the four teams working at P.S.1, MoMA has invited Adam Yarinsky and Architecture Research Office (ARO) to contribute to the Rising Currents project. ARO’s existing research will offer valuable contextual material for the exhibition, and a proposed solution for a site that encompasses Lower Manhattan. Here ARO gives an overview of their background as well as some initial design concepts and questions. You’ll hear more from all the teams next week.

Architecture Research Office is excited to join the teams of exceptional designers invited by MoMA to participate in Rising Currents. We come to this project after two years of research into the changing climate’s impact on New York City. Funded through the American Institute of Architects’ Latrobe Research Fellowship and conducted with structural engineer Guy Nordenson and landscape architect Catherine Seavitt, this study forms the basis of the Rising Currents workshop and exhibition. Our team studied everything we could about the Upper Bay—from its ecology to its history to its fluid-dynamic character. We learned that an era of elevated sea levels will produce more frequent and more severe storms, a challenge that necessitates a new relationship between the city and the water.

Low-lying and densely inhabited, Lower Manhattan sits in the path of any approaching storm surge. To secure the city, some manner of intervention is required, but very little space is available upon which to create it. Hard engineering solutions like New Orleans’s levees would wall off the city from the water. Instead, we thought about ways to establish a buffer landscape, a resilient network of defenses extending out into the water.

ARO_Lower Manhattan

Computer-generated image of lower Manhattan. ARO Architects

We conceived of an archipelago of constructed islands and a re-contoured Manhattan shoreline. Islands, reefs, and berms formed from dredged material serve to widen the tidal zone, blunting the force of storm surges and blocking the advance of water onto land. Our work proposed arrays of such islands that enable a temporal process, a naturally occurring flow of water and sediment, to reinforce this buffer over time.

For Rising Currents, Architecture Research Office’s team, including landscape architects dlandstudio, will examine ways to further develop this continuum between land and water. What are the programmatic and formal relationships that might strengthen this buffer landscape’s relationship to the city? For example, can it serve to filter storm water while also meeting a specific programmatic role? What edge conditions and island design systems might respond to specific requirements associated with different ecosystems? How might we expose new program possibilities in the water to augment recreational uses such as fishing and boating?