December 3, 2012  |  Learning and Engagement
Rising Currents Revisited

Thanksgiving is reportedly the biggest travel week of the year, and from what I experienced this year, I would have to agree. The night before Thanksgiving Penn Station was shut down due to switch problems, forcing many to travel on Thanksgiving Day. I managed to get a seat as they quickly filled up around me.

Once everyone began to settle in, I noticed the woman seated next to me was wearing a T-shirt that read, “I Survived Hurricane Sandy.” She said she felt strange wearing the T-shirt in public, but in fact it was designed and produced as a fundraising effort for the neighborhood where she lived. She began to share her experiences once she realized she was in a space where all could and would empathize. Reminiscent of the days after September 11, everyone in our section was listening and taking part. And, although I was one of those affected by Hurricane Sandy—having spent a week without power, heat, or hot water—hearing this woman’s experience underscored for me how greatly people’s lives were affected by the storm.

In the days that have passed since Sandy, I’ve been left with many questions. I decided to revisit MoMA’s Rising Currents: Projects For New York’s Waterfront exhibition for possible answers.

Rising Currents Homepage

Rising Currents Homepage

Rising Currents emerged from a 2009–10 architects-in-residence program at MoMA PS1. Curator Barry Bergdoll gathered interdisciplinary design teams to address the critical issue of sea-level rise due to climate change, with each team addressing a specific zone/area of coastline around New York City and New Jersey.

Architect Teams and Zone Locations for the Rising Currents project

Architect Teams and Zone Locations for the Rising Currents project

The results of their research and proposed design solutions were captured via the Rising Currents blog, and the results were compiled into an exhibition, a publication, and a series of public programs.

Two year later, this project has become more relevant, as it sits at the center of the dialogue cited widely among news and architecture sources.

I’m still left with more questions than answers, but Rising Currents has me hopeful that through the power of collaboration and design thinking, some of these solutions could be implemented. For those of us who work with students and young people, I think it is important to reflect, ask ourselves what we can learn from this event, and allow for a forum to let students share their own personal experiences. I’m not sure what the next steps will be, but I hope that this research can be a part of the conversation.

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