Case Studies in Coastal Vulnerability: Boston, Seoul, Hamburg, Bangladesh & New York

This article originally appeared in the latest issue of ArchitectureBoston as “Troubled Waters.“ 

The challenges of sea-level rise cross boundaries of all sorts: geographic, political, social, economic. Proposed mitigation strategies will also necessarily shift and overlap. Here, we present five case studies from across the globe that offer intriguing ways—some operational, some philosophical—to address the threats associated with climate change. Drawing on a research initiative focused on vulnerabilities in Boston, a team at Sasaki Associates developed these additional design-strategy icons to illustrate the layered approaches. They are adaptable, the better to meet the unique demands of each coastal community.

Boston: Beware nostalgia

by Steven G. Cecil AIA ASLA

The anticipated onslaught of rising seas and severe storm surges has grabbed media attention, spawning dramatic narratives about the urban disasters ahead. The science-based predictions are grim, raising specters of an additional 4 feet of storm-driven seawater coastal cities by the end of the century.

In the recent past, we have formed urban-design and regulatory models around nostalgic visions of waterfronts as bustling civic and maritime edges, where an unspoiled environment meets the architecture of the city. But these approaches can become barriers to necessary innovation in the face of climate change.

Key state and federal regulations limit alterations of shorelines and piers, as though they were ideal configurations. We use the scale of 19th-century waterfront buildings as the standard of measure. We set aside some areas for waterborne commerce that has practically vanished. We reward development of high-value uses that draw people along the water’s edge in areas of high risk.

Many current policy discussions call for barrier strategies to save the city waterfront so that the future looks like this imagined past. But we need some historic perspective and design-based optimism before we take this defensive view too far. Urban waterfronts — Boston’s harbor is a prime case in point — have been remarkably successful over the centuries precisely because of bold design and engineering. We have redesigned and rebuilt urban harborfronts time and again to adapt to changes in economic, transportation, and civic priorities.

Pull out any of those great books with maps and drawings showing Boston Harbor’s evolution, such as Mapping Boston (Krieger, Cobb, Turner) or Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston (Seasholes). They illustrate astonishing time-lapse leaps of urban change.

Look at the earliest views of the harbor. Boston was not, in fact, a great deepwater port at the start; mudflats dominated the water’s edge, and large ships sat on their hulls in the muck at low tide. The pattern of deepwater docks and finger piers around the harbor emerged only by knocking down hills and filling those flats. East Boston’s edge bloomed with clipper-ship construction during an era of sail that lasted scarcely two decades. The shipyards vanished, replaced by gigantic new piers hosting the Cunard Line, a gateway for immigration. Hundreds of acres of mudflats were transformed into the South Boston industrial waterfront, with its Fan Piers fed by rail spurs.

By midcentury, the shipping was nearly gone, piers rotted, and most marine-dependent businesses disappeared. Highways and parking lots filled in the deteriorating gaps. Those were the bad old days.

Since then, we have shifted course entirely. But we must realize that we did not “rediscover” a waterfront that was long lost. Rather, we scrubbed up the mess with unprecedented environmental standards and then recolonized the waterfront with uses corresponding to the strengths of our economy. We now have residences, offices, hotels, restaurants, and parks perhaps unimaginable to our predecessors.

A few years back, the South Boston waterfront was branded as our Seaport District. Revised branding is underway — the Seaport is now Boston’s Innovation District, successfully attracting science-based enterprises. We should think of all of our urban waterfronts as innovation districts, but from an even broader perspective: We need to reinvent the harbor and its borders through imaginative planning, architecture, and engineering based on emerging science and geared to the future.

Steven G. Cecil AIA ASLA has planned and designed waterfronts, ferry terminals, and harbor parks in Boston and throughout the country.

Seoul: Flood the zone

by Chris Reed ASLA

Water needs more space in the city. For many centuries, rivers, floodplains, and protective wetlands have been filled in or moved to make room for urban growth. This work was done with a mindset that once the water is taken away — often engineered out of sight — it would not come back.

But we know better now. Superstorm Sandy’s impacts on the metropolitan coast, Hurricane Irene’s severe flooding of inland rivers in Vermont, and the 1996 storm that pushed Boston’s Muddy River into the Green Line tunnels (flooding Kenmore Station to 20 feet) all testify to this fact. Unfortunately, the engineering strategies used to control the water only aggravated the impact of these storms.

In giving back space to water, I don’t mean to fully displace urban and social uses. In fact, reintroducing natural systems can and must bring new life and richness into the public realm. Fish parks, bobbing buildings, water plazas, canal streets: all can be designed to recognize both civic and hydrologic functions, while giving a nod to their watery origins. We can transform vacant land into new wetlands — whether within the city or at the edge. Stormwater detention basins, small-scale rain gardens, and seawalls can now be rethought and expanded into large-scale ecological parks that bring value to adjacent neighborhoods.

Perhaps we can go further, integrating water into the fabric of the city itself. Public plazas, waterways, and boulevards can be designed as floodable green infrastructures, creating new open-space connections that could also work as elevated escape routes in the event of an emergency. My core landscape studio at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design takes these issues head-on, asking landscape architecture students to develop fully fledged urban strategies for a vulnerable coastal site that are finely tuned to the ecological and hydrologic dynamics in play, including the effects of storm surge and sea-level rise.

The Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea, is a great example of this change in approach. Once covered by layers of roadway and highway, the Cheonggyecheon was uncovered beginning in 2003 and renovated as a new central riverfront in downtown Seoul. It is set below street level, in order to carry intense floodwaters during the rainy season. But it was designed primarily as a public space, with water plazas, riverwalks, and civic rooms all along it. It has become the heart of life in the downtown area, and it has catalyzed redevelopment of adjacent properties along its length, thereby further enhancing the urban fabric.

The project cleverly uses water constantly being pumped out from the city’s subway tunnels, and it is set up to accept the treated effluent from a nearby sewage plant to maintain water flow throughout the year. City folks have flocked to it, but it is also great new habitat for all sorts of invertebrates and birds and fish — including carp up to 2 feet in length!

These are examples of how existing cities can be renovated to better live with water, while creating vibrant public spaces. Importantly, these strategies require a shift in thinking: We need to adopt an amphibious mindset. And they point to new coordinated, interdisciplinary, and collaborative roles that our public agencies can play in remaking the city.

Chris Reed ASLA is principal of Stoss Landscape Urbanism and associate professor in practice of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His work focuses on water-based planning strategies and design projects from Milwaukee to Shanghai.

Hamburg: Raise the city

by Donna Denio

We’ve all heard that Germany is light-years ahead of the United States in responding to climate change. Is it true, and, if it is, are there practices that can inspire our own choices?

I recently joined a delegation of 13 women leaders on a trade mission to Hamburg to find ideas and insights that can help Boston become more climate-resilient. Seven in our delegation knew one another through the organization New England Women in Real Estate, and we included four architects, an engineer, several planners, and two who craft or influence policy. We chose Hamburg because this harbor city has a raised environmental consciousness, and for good reason: The North Sea flood of 1962 destroyed 60,000 homes and took 315 lives.

The newest neighborhood in Hamburg — and currently the largest urban-planning project in Europe — is HafenCity, a 385-acre development with 6,000 residential units along with retail, tourism, and business uses that will replace a declining neighborhood along the Elbe River. Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, CEO of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, the master developer, described his team’s priorities. “Each public tender has focused on social innovation and creative ground-floor uses because, in Hamburg, the social obligation of ownership is a foundational idea of society. If all you have to offer is a pot of money, go home and sleep.”

In the early 1990s, with the harbor’s prominence in decline, civic leaders began reimagining the sparsely populated urban dock area a half-mile from city hall. A visionary masterplan by a Dutch-German team, led by Kees Christiaanse/ASTOC, set the stage. The plan mandated that the entire area have the same level of flood protection as areas of Hamburg next to the dike, between 24 and 28 feet above mean sea level, depending on distance from the water’s edge.

So HafenCity is tiered with a 30-foot difference in elevation. The lowest levels, closest to the water’s edge, are designed to flood and are for pedestrians and bikes. The next level is for sealed storage space and underground parking, and the highest level — 28 feet above mean sea level — is for buildings and major roadways for cars and emergency vehicles.

During seasonal peak-water conditions, plazas fill with water and become reflecting pools. Changes in paving material mark crosswalks and paths designated for pedestrians and bicycles. Benches and community spaces are cast into the backs and sides of ramps and steps, permanent structures that will not wash away.

The liveliness of the area is enhanced by the planning mandate that the ground floor of every building be community space. The parks adjacent to the waterfront are designed to attract people 24/7. People walk, bike, sit, spoon, read, feed the fish, and soak their feet in the water. This is no fortified city where the river acts as a moat.

Now about 50 percent complete, HafenCity has been nominated for the 2013 Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence. New York City is already embracing the HafenCity model. As reported in the December 2012 Architectural Record, planning guidelines for flood-prone Willets Point, in Queens, call for raising the entire site 14 feet above mean sea level, incorporating terraced public space at the water’s edge.

Which waterfront areas in Boston could benefit from a tiered planning approach? Or will it take a flood?

Donna Denio is a communication specialist and team-builder who believes the collective power of design leadership, especially by women, will change the world for the better.

Bangladesh: Honor simplicity

by Jennifer Leaning MD

As sea levels rise a predicted 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century, coastal and island populations in low-lying areas will bear the greatest brunt: more violent storms and the gradual inundation of agricultural and settlement areas. Among the most vulnerable places on the planet is Bangladesh, where half the population of 150 million lives in lowlands athwart the Bay of Bengal.

Tropical cyclones strike the Bangladeshi coastline routinely; very powerful ones strike at least every 15 or 20 years. In the last 40 years, faced with three extremely strong cyclones and massive population growth in the at-risk areas, the country can claim a somewhat heartening — albeit grim — record of declining storm-related deaths.

When Cyclone Bhola raged up the Bay of Bengal in 1970, with winds at 125 miles per hour pushing a storm surge of 27 feet inland for miles, it drowned an estimated 500,000 people. That was a different South Asian world in terms of technology (warnings only from ships at sea); governance (Bangladesh was then East Pakistan); and disaster planning (minimal attention, except to epidemic disease).

But the 1970 cyclone became blurred in public memory as citizens and leaders struggled to overcome the brutal 1971–72 civil war that created independent Bangladesh and forge a viable state. By 1991, the population had almost doubled, and the new generation, largely ignorant of 1970, paid little heed to the sparse and late warnings that Cyclone Gorky was upon them. Of similar strength and trajectory, Gorky resulted in an estimated 150,000 deaths.

Then the country galvanized its resources to put a stop to this cycle of heavy disaster mortality. It undertook small but thoughtful population studies that yielded important findings: Women died in much greater proportions than men because they could not run as fast to get out of the way; because they did not know how to swim; because their saris and long hair got caught in the debris; because their upper arms lacked comparative strength to hold on to branches; because they were also trying to hold on to their children. The elderly and children had very high death rates for many of these same reasons. People did not want to leave their homes and belongings — particularly those who were most poor. The shelters were too far away and degraded by animal and human waste.

Armed with this information and spurred by public grief, the government invested heavily, building improved and more numerous shelters inland and acquiring the best technology for early storm warnings. Local nongovernmental organizations began to teach families and women self-salvage tactics (tie your hair up in your sari; pay close attention to the warning signals). In 2007 Cyclone Sidr struck with very similar force and created similarly strong storm surges; yet this time, the storm-related deaths numbered 5,000.

As in Bangladesh, local adaptation linked to concerted government planning may prove a strong pillar in the world’s response to impending sea-level rise. Yet more profound adjustments, such as out-migration, may be necessary for some islands and coastal flood plains. What makes Bangladesh special is that for decades the entire society has focused on how to mitigate its ever-present danger from the sea.

Jennifer Leaning MD is the director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

New York: Think coastal, plan local

by Jane Amidon

Cities and coasts are like peanut butter and jelly, like Sonny and Cher — partnerships that were mutually beneficial in the beginning but have become ripe for reinvention. Peanut allergies and acrimonious divorces happen; extreme storms and floodwaters rise. For vulnerable urban waterfront zones, locations that once made great sense economically now present formidable questions. How much is at risk? What needs to change? How long will it take?

According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the top five global cities economically exposed to coastal flooding — Miami; New York–Newark, New Jersey; Kolkata, India; Guangzhou, China; and Shanghai — are forecast to have more than $12 trillion in combined coastal assets at risk by 2070. The imperative of climate-change adaptation calls for not just protection and remediation but a wholesale redefinition of the land-water interface.

In response, several coastal cities have shifted gears from what should be planning modes to a data-driven process of understanding what might be. Alternatives-based scenario building is gaining ground on masterplanning, particularly in the uncertain terrain of urban waterfront districts. As with the strategic shift in the healthcare industry from treatment to prevention, urban coastal management is moving from top-down prescription and hard infrastructure toward the bottom-up potential of multipronged resiliency models.

One such model is New York’s PlaNYC 2030 and its related initiatives, such as the Stronger, More Resilient New York strategic framework, released in June 2013 after Superstorm Sandy. Much of this work involves rearranging the city’s relationship to water. Aimed at diverse players, from politicians to designers to the general public, these tools offer hyperlocal and flexible goals, practices, and parameters instead of hard metrics. They respond to regionally specific conditions rather than conveying universal rules of thumb. Indeed, a fascinating and frightening lesson from Sandy was the varied impact on the coastline wrought by seemingly minor differences in orientation, wind direction, tidal cycle, soil type, and degrees of urbanization.

Since Sandy, a growing body of science, advocacy, and funding in so-called coupled human and natural systems (CHNS) is encouraging municipalities to approach coastal resiliency at the neighborhood level, couched within systems-scale research and analysis. The Stronger, More Resilient New York report, for example, reveals that while some aspects of the superstorm were long predicted, such as flooded subway tunnels, officials did not anticipate the devastating intersection of multiple systems failures: rail, road, electricity, food, and fuel supplies.

In lower Manhattan, investigators learned that despite current development patterns, flooding of roads, parks, and more than 130 million residential and commercial square feet followed historic inland topography; water seeks its level, and these floodwaters sought long-disappeared rivers, canals, and marshes. As a result, the framework outlines first-phase coastal protections such as multipurpose levees integrated with development and transit improvements, passive flood walls with coastal edge-conservation measures, and building code and insurance amendments.

All of this points to the city/region as the locus of innovation in response to sea-level rise and powerful storms. Recognizing the coastal metabolism in coupled human and natural systems will allow other waterfront cities to develop comprehensive “user’s manuals” such as PlaNYC. Although it is no longer possible for Sonny and Cher to reunite, this generation’s cities are clearly re-embracing their waterfronts, and cities such as Boston should continue to rediscover their intrinsic coastal attributes as an engine for managing environmental vulnerability and economic vitalization.

Jane Amidon is a professor and director of the urban landscape program at Northeastern University. She lectures and writes on modern and contemporary landscape and urbanism.

Case Studies in Coastal Vulnerability: Boston, Seoul, Hamburg, Bangladesh & New York

This article originally appeared in the latest issue of ArchitectureBoston as “Troubled Waters.“ 

The challenges of sea-level rise cross boundaries of all sorts: geographic, political, social, economic. Proposed mitigation strategies will also necessarily shift and overlap. Here, we present five case studies from across the globe that offer intriguing ways—some operational, some philosophical—to address the threats associated with . Drawing on a research initiative focused on vulnerabilities in Boston, a team at Sasaki Associates developed these additional design-strategy icons to illustrate the layered approaches. They are adaptable, the better to meet the unique demands of each coastal community.

Boston: Beware nostalgia

by Steven G. Cecil AIA ASLA

The anticipated onslaught of rising seas and severe storm surges has grabbed media attention, spawning dramatic narratives about the urban disasters ahead. The science-based predictions are grim, raising specters of an additional 4 feet of storm-driven seawater flooding coastal cities by the end of the century.

In the recent past, we have formed urban-design and regulatory models around nostalgic visions of waterfronts as bustling civic and maritime edges, where an unspoiled environment meets the architecture of the city. But these approaches can become barriers to necessary innovation in the face of climate change.

Key state and federal regulations limit alterations of shorelines and piers, as though they were ideal configurations. We use the scale of 19th-century waterfront buildings as the standard of measure. We set aside some areas for waterborne commerce that has practically vanished. We reward development of high-value uses that draw people along the water’s edge in areas of high risk.

Many current policy discussions call for barrier strategies to save the city waterfront so that the future looks like this imagined past. But we need some historic perspective and design-based optimism before we take this defensive view too far. Urban waterfronts — Boston’s harbor is a prime case in point — have been remarkably successful over the centuries precisely because of bold design and engineering. We have redesigned and rebuilt urban harborfronts time and again to adapt to changes in economic, transportation, and civic priorities.

Pull out any of those great books with maps and drawings showing Boston Harbor’s evolution, such as Mapping Boston (Krieger, Cobb, Turner) or Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston (Seasholes). They illustrate astonishing time-lapse leaps of urban change.

Look at the earliest views of the harbor. Boston was not, in fact, a great deepwater port at the start; mudflats dominated the water’s edge, and large ships sat on their hulls in the muck at low tide. The pattern of deepwater docks and finger piers around the harbor emerged only by knocking down hills and filling those flats. East Boston’s edge bloomed with clipper-ship construction during an era of sail that lasted scarcely two decades. The shipyards vanished, replaced by gigantic new piers hosting the Cunard Line, a gateway for immigration. Hundreds of acres of mudflats were transformed into the South Boston industrial waterfront, with its Fan Piers fed by rail spurs.

By midcentury, the shipping was nearly gone, piers rotted, and most marine-dependent businesses disappeared. Highways and parking lots filled in the deteriorating gaps. Those were the bad old days.

Since then, we have shifted course entirely. But we must realize that we did not “rediscover” a waterfront that was long lost. Rather, we scrubbed up the mess with unprecedented environmental standards and then recolonized the waterfront with uses corresponding to the strengths of our economy. We now have residences, offices, hotels, restaurants, and parks perhaps unimaginable to our predecessors.

A few years back, the South Boston waterfront was branded as our Seaport District. Revised branding is underway — the Seaport is now Boston’s Innovation District, successfully attracting science-based enterprises. We should think of all of our urban waterfronts as innovation districts, but from an even broader perspective: We need to reinvent the harbor and its borders through imaginative planning, architecture, and engineering based on emerging science and geared to the future.

Steven G. Cecil AIA ASLA has planned and designed waterfronts, ferry terminals, and harbor parks in Boston and throughout the country.

Seoul: Flood the zone

by Chris Reed ASLA

Water needs more space in the city. For many centuries, rivers, floodplains, and protective wetlands have been filled in or moved to make room for urban growth. This work was done with a mindset that once the water is taken away — often engineered out of sight — it would not come back.

But we know better now. Superstorm Sandy’s impacts on the metropolitan New York coast, Hurricane Irene’s severe flooding of inland rivers in Vermont, and the 1996 storm that pushed Boston’s Muddy River into the Green Line tunnels (flooding Kenmore Station to 20 feet) all testify to this fact. Unfortunately, the engineering strategies used to control the water only aggravated the impact of these storms.

In giving back space to water, I don’t mean to fully displace urban and social uses. In fact, reintroducing natural systems can and must bring new life and richness into the public realm. Fish parks, bobbing buildings, water plazas, canal streets: all can be designed to recognize both civic and hydrologic functions, while giving a nod to their watery origins. We can transform vacant land into new wetlands — whether within the city or at the edge. Stormwater detention basins, small-scale rain gardens, and seawalls can now be rethought and expanded into large-scale ecological parks that bring value to adjacent neighborhoods.

Perhaps we can go further, integrating water into the fabric of the city itself. Public plazas, waterways, and boulevards can be designed as floodable green infrastructures, creating new open-space connections that could also work as elevated escape routes in the event of an emergency. My core landscape studio at Harvard’s Graduate of Design takes these issues head-on, asking landscape architecture students to develop fully fledged urban strategies for a vulnerable coastal site that are finely tuned to the ecological and hydrologic dynamics in play, including the effects of storm surge and sea-level rise.

The Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea, is a great example of this change in approach. Once covered by layers of roadway and highway, the Cheonggyecheon was uncovered beginning in 2003 and renovated as a new central riverfront in downtown Seoul. It is set below street level, in order to carry intense floodwaters during the rainy season. But it was designed primarily as a public space, with water plazas, riverwalks, and civic rooms all along it. It has become the heart of life in the downtown area, and it has catalyzed redevelopment of adjacent properties along its length, thereby further enhancing the urban fabric.

The project cleverly uses water constantly being pumped out from the city’s subway tunnels, and it is set up to accept the treated effluent from a nearby sewage plant to maintain water flow throughout the year. City folks have flocked to it, but it is also great new habitat for all sorts of invertebrates and birds and fish — including carp up to 2 feet in length!

These are examples of how existing cities can be renovated to better live with water, while creating vibrant public spaces. Importantly, these strategies require a shift in thinking: We need to adopt an amphibious mindset. And they point to new coordinated, interdisciplinary, and collaborative roles that our public agencies can play in remaking the city.

Chris Reed ASLA is principal of Stoss Landscape Urbanism and associate professor in practice of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His work focuses on water-based planning strategies and design projects from Milwaukee to Shanghai.

Hamburg: Raise the city

by Donna Denio

We’ve all heard that Germany is light-years ahead of the United States in responding to climate change. Is it true, and, if it is, are there practices that can inspire our own choices?

I recently joined a delegation of 13 women leaders on a trade mission to Hamburg to find ideas and insights that can help Boston become more climate-resilient. Seven in our delegation knew one another through the organization New England Women in Real Estate, and we included four architects, an engineer, several planners, and two who craft or influence policy. We chose Hamburg because this harbor city has a raised environmental consciousness, and for good reason: The North Sea flood of 1962 destroyed 60,000 homes and took 315 lives.

The newest neighborhood in Hamburg — and currently the largest urban-planning project in Europe — is HafenCity, a 385-acre development with 6,000 residential units along with retail, tourism, and business uses that will replace a declining neighborhood along the Elbe River. Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, CEO of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, the master developer, described his team’s priorities. “Each public tender has focused on social innovation and creative ground-floor uses because, in Hamburg, the social obligation of ownership is a foundational idea of society. If all you have to offer is a pot of money, go home and sleep.”

In the early 1990s, with the harbor’s prominence in decline, civic leaders began reimagining the sparsely populated urban dock area a half-mile from city hall. A visionary masterplan by a Dutch-German team, led by Kees Christiaanse/ASTOC, set the stage. The plan mandated that the entire area have the same level of flood protection as areas of Hamburg next to the dike, between 24 and 28 feet above mean sea level, depending on distance from the water’s edge.

So HafenCity is tiered with a 30-foot difference in elevation. The lowest levels, closest to the water’s edge, are designed to flood and are for pedestrians and bikes. The next level is for sealed storage space and underground parking, and the highest level — 28 feet above mean sea level — is for buildings and major roadways for cars and emergency vehicles.

During seasonal peak-water conditions, plazas fill with water and become reflecting pools. Changes in paving material mark crosswalks and paths designated for pedestrians and bicycles. Benches and community spaces are cast into the backs and sides of ramps and steps, permanent structures that will not wash away.

The liveliness of the area is enhanced by the planning mandate that the ground floor of every building be community space. The parks adjacent to the waterfront are designed to attract people 24/7. People walk, bike, sit, spoon, read, feed the fish, and soak their feet in the water. This is no fortified city where the river acts as a moat.

Now about 50 percent complete, HafenCity has been nominated for the 2013 Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence. New York City is already embracing the HafenCity model. As reported in the December 2012 Architectural Record, planning guidelines for flood-prone Willets Point, in Queens, call for raising the entire site 14 feet above mean sea level, incorporating terraced public space at the water’s edge.

Which waterfront areas in Boston could benefit from a tiered planning approach? Or will it take a flood?

Donna Denio is a communication specialist and team-builder who believes the collective power of design leadership, especially by women, will change the world for the better.

Bangladesh: Honor simplicity

by Jennifer Leaning MD

As sea levels rise a predicted 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century, coastal and island populations in low-lying areas will bear the greatest brunt: more violent storms and the gradual inundation of agricultural and settlement areas. Among the most vulnerable places on the planet is Bangladesh, where half the population of 150 million lives in lowlands athwart the Bay of Bengal.

Tropical cyclones strike the Bangladeshi coastline routinely; very powerful ones strike at least every 15 or 20 years. In the last 40 years, faced with three extremely strong cyclones and massive population growth in the at-risk areas, the country can claim a somewhat heartening — albeit grim — record of declining storm-related deaths.

When Cyclone Bhola raged up the Bay of Bengal in 1970, with winds at 125 miles per hour pushing a storm surge of 27 feet inland for miles, it drowned an estimated 500,000 people. That was a different South Asian world in terms of technology (warnings only from ships at sea); governance (Bangladesh was then East Pakistan); and disaster planning (minimal attention, except to epidemic disease).

But the 1970 cyclone became blurred in public memory as citizens and leaders struggled to overcome the brutal 1971–72 civil war that created independent Bangladesh and forge a viable state. By 1991, the population had almost doubled, and the new generation, largely ignorant of 1970, paid little heed to the sparse and late warnings that Cyclone Gorky was upon them. Of similar strength and trajectory, Gorky resulted in an estimated 150,000 deaths.

Then the country galvanized its resources to put a stop to this cycle of heavy disaster mortality. It undertook small but thoughtful population studies that yielded important findings: Women died in much greater proportions than men because they could not run as fast to get out of the way; because they did not know how to swim; because their saris and long hair got caught in the debris; because their upper arms lacked comparative strength to hold on to branches; because they were also trying to hold on to their children. The elderly and children had very high death rates for many of these same reasons. People did not want to leave their homes and belongings — particularly those who were most poor. The shelters were too far away and degraded by animal and human waste.

Armed with this information and spurred by public grief, the government invested heavily, building improved and more numerous shelters inland and acquiring the best technology for early storm warnings. Local nongovernmental organizations began to teach families and women self-salvage tactics (tie your hair up in your sari; pay close attention to the warning signals). In 2007 Cyclone Sidr struck with very similar force and created similarly strong storm surges; yet this time, the storm-related deaths numbered 5,000.

As in Bangladesh, local adaptation linked to concerted government planning may prove a strong pillar in the world’s response to impending sea-level rise. Yet more profound adjustments, such as out-migration, may be necessary for some islands and coastal flood plains. What makes Bangladesh special is that for decades the entire society has focused on how to mitigate its ever-present danger from the sea.

Jennifer Leaning MD is the director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

New York: Think coastal, plan local

by Jane Amidon

Cities and coasts are like peanut butter and jelly, like Sonny and Cher — partnerships that were mutually beneficial in the beginning but have become ripe for reinvention. Peanut allergies and acrimonious divorces happen; extreme storms and floodwaters rise. For vulnerable urban waterfront zones, locations that once made great sense economically now present formidable questions. How much is at risk? What needs to change? How long will it take?

According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the top five global cities economically exposed to coastal flooding — Miami; New York–Newark, New Jersey; Kolkata, India; Guangzhou, China; and Shanghai — are forecast to have more than $12 trillion in combined coastal assets at risk by 2070. The imperative of climate-change adaptation calls for not just protection and remediation but a wholesale redefinition of the land-water interface.

In response, several coastal cities have shifted gears from what should be planning modes to a data-driven process of understanding what might be. Alternatives-based scenario building is gaining ground on masterplanning, particularly in the uncertain terrain of urban waterfront districts. As with the strategic shift in the healthcare industry from treatment to prevention, urban coastal management is moving from top-down prescription and hard infrastructure toward the bottom-up potential of multipronged resiliency models.

One such model is New York’s PlaNYC 2030 and its related initiatives, such as the Stronger, More Resilient New York strategic framework, released in June 2013 after Superstorm Sandy. Much of this work involves rearranging the city’s relationship to water. Aimed at diverse players, from politicians to designers to the general public, these tools offer hyperlocal and flexible goals, practices, and parameters instead of hard metrics. They respond to regionally specific conditions rather than conveying universal rules of thumb. Indeed, a fascinating and frightening lesson from Sandy was the varied impact on the coastline wrought by seemingly minor differences in orientation, wind direction, tidal cycle, soil type, and degrees of urbanization.

Since Sandy, a growing body of science, advocacy, and funding in so-called coupled human and natural systems (CHNS) is encouraging municipalities to approach coastal resiliency at the neighborhood level, couched within systems-scale research and analysis. The Stronger, More Resilient New York report, for example, reveals that while some aspects of the superstorm were long predicted, such as flooded subway tunnels, officials did not anticipate the devastating intersection of multiple systems failures: rail, road, electricity, food, and fuel supplies.

In lower Manhattan, investigators learned that despite current development patterns, flooding of roads, parks, and more than 130 million residential and commercial square feet followed historic inland topography; water seeks its level, and these floodwaters sought long-disappeared rivers, canals, and marshes. As a result, the framework outlines first-phase coastal protections such as multipurpose levees integrated with development and transit improvements, passive flood walls with coastal edge-conservation measures, and building code and insurance amendments.

All of this points to the city/region as the locus of innovation in response to sea-level rise and powerful storms. Recognizing the coastal metabolism in coupled human and natural systems will allow other waterfront cities to develop comprehensive “user’s manuals” such as PlaNYC. Although it is no longer possible for Sonny and Cher to reunite, this generation’s cities are clearly re-embracing their waterfronts, and cities such as Boston should continue to rediscover their intrinsic coastal attributes as an engine for managing environmental vulnerability and economic vitalization.

Jane Amidon is a professor and director of the urban landscape program at Northeastern University. She lectures and writes on modern and contemporary landscape and urbanism.

Forum or Wake? MoMA’s Expansion Plans Spark Debate

Nearly 650 people crowded the auditorium at the Society for Ethical Culture on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday to debate MoMA’s expansion plans, which include the demolition of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien–designed American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) building. Organized by the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the AIA […]

Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal

Frank Lloyd Wright’s extensive archive of original drawings, films and models will be on display in New York City’s MoMA beginning February 1st thanks to a recent joint acquisition with Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. The exhibit, “Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal,” examines the tension in the architect’s thinking regarding American cities and the growth of the 1920s and ‘30s, revealing Wright as a compelling theorist of both its horizontal and vertical aspects.

From the comprehensive urban plan of “Broadacre City” to a polemical mile-high skyscraper proposal, the projects uniquely address questions of urban density that dominate current discourse and debate. Among the highlights is a 12-foot-by-12-foot model that dates back to the 1930s, exhibiting a radical vision for urbanization that remains significant even today. For complete details on the exhibition, please click here.

Title: and the City: Density vs. Dispersal
Website: http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1448
Organizers: The Museum of Modern Art, Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
From: Sat, 01 Feb 2014 10:30
Until: Sun, 01 Jun 2014 10:30
Venue: (MoMA)
Address: The Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, USA

MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Broadacre City. Project, 1934–35. Model: painted wood, 152 x 152” (386.1 x 386.1 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright and Eugene Masselink at the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright, American Architect. November 13, 1940–January 5, 1941. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Photo by Soichi Sunami MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Broadacre City. Project, 1934–35. Plan study for a highway interchange. Ink, pencil, and colored pencil on tracing paper, 22 x 35” (55.9 x 88.9 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Mile High, Chicago. 1956. Section. Pencil, colored pencil, and ink on tracing paper, 100 x 17” (254 x 44.5 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Model of Broadacre City under construction by Taliesin Fellows. 1934–35. Photograph, 9 9/16 x 7” (24.3 x 17.8 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). San Francisco Call Building. 1912. Perspective. Pencil on tracing paper, 47 3/4 x 23 7/8” (121.3 x 60.6 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York. Project, 1927–31. Perspective. Pencil and colored pencil on tracing paper, 28 1/4 x 10 1/8” (71.8 x 25.7 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Model of Broadacre City. 1934–35. Photograph, 6 5/8 x 4 1/4” (16.8 x 10.8 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Photo by Roy E. Petersen MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, New York. 1927–31. Aerial perspective. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, 23 3/4 x 15” (60.3 x 38.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jeffrey P. Klein Purchase Fund, Barbara Pine Purchase Fund, and Frederieke Taylor Purchase Fund MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Research Laboratory Tower, Racine, Wisconsin. 1943–50. Section. Pencil, colored pencil, ink, and gold ink on tracing paper, 35 1/8 x 20” (89.2 x 50.8 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Model of the H.C. Price Company Tower under construction by Taliesin Fellows. n.d. Photograph, 7 3/4 x 9 1/2” (19.7 x 24.1 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Mile High, Chicago. 1956. Perspective. Pencil, colored pencil, and ink on tracing paper, 105 x 30” (266.7 x 76.2 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York. 1927–31. Interior perspective, section, and plans of the living room and balcony floors. Ink, pencil, and colored pencil on window shade, 47 x 35” (119.4 x 88.9 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Grouped Towers, Chicago. 1930. Plan of the pedestal. Pencil on tracing paper, 13 3/4 x 35 3/8” (34.9 x 89.9 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Grouped Towers, Chicago. 1930. Perspective. Pencil and ink on paper, 19 x 28 1/4” (48.3 x 71.8 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Interview with Vicente Guallart, Chief Architect of Barcelona

In the following article, originally published in Polish in theDecember 2013 issue of A&B, Ewa Szymczyk interviews Vicente Guallart, the Chief Architect of Barcelona since 2011 as well as the founder of Guallart Architects and IAAC (Institute of Advanced Architecture in Catalunya). Szymczyk questions Guallart about his experience in , asking: how can you measure a city’s success?

Ewa Szymczyk: When measuring the contemporary city’s success we typically use economic measures. In this sense Barcelona ranks very high, being a top tourist destination and managing its budget in times of global crisis. But there are many other ways to measure its success. What in your opinion makes a city a good city? Isn’t it much more than economic prosperity?

Vincente Guallart: A good city is a place where the citizens live well. So the best measure for a good city is how the citizens live. The truth is that the city is a physical representation of a social agreement. If you think for instance about Phoenix in Arizona, maybe people live there the way they want and the way they like to live. Obviously there are also questions related to cost. I mean, questions related to environmental and economic costs. Therefore the cost of a city like Phoenix is very different from the cost of a city like Hong Kong, which is the densest city and probably the most efficient urban structure in the world. So the question is the economic efficiency and also the quality of life of the citizens. And the best way to know is to ask citizens how happy they are to live in a place like this. The truth is that if you are a citizen of Barcelona you are quite happy. We have been evaluating this over the past few years and the average rating is seven out of ten. So that is in general very good! The people are proud to live in a place like this.

It’s true that Barcelona, in order to arrive to this point, had to suffer great transformation of the last thirty years. This is the responsibility of the politicians and the people developing this transformation. We are a part of a long history that started more than 2000 years ago with the Romans founding the city. And today we try to create the city with a good quality of life. I don’t want to say that this city is better. The best way to measure it is to ask the citizens. You can ask for example people living in far Greenland if they are happy to live there and they will tell you ‘yes’. A hunter in the forest or citizens of a small village might be happy too. The most important thing is to fulfil the mission, which is the happiness of the people.

ES: Barcelona, as part of the City Protocol platform, is working on city certification, which is like the architectural LEED but for cities. Can you tell us more about the indicators that are used in this protocol?

VG: City Protocol is a platform to share knowledge about the progress of cities. It’s not strictly a certification system but obviously will generate some knowledge that will allow for the evaluation of the city’s progress.

There are some certification systems in the world that in general are very partial, analysing only isolated aspects. This concept has a few different aspects: pure information – data, indicators connecting different kinds of data about the city, indexes that are comparisons of the indicators, and in some cases you can finalize it with certification. It is good to remember that there are some certifications, well known internationally, which are pure business for those that organize them. So the best urban certification should be accepted by many people, promote quality and with as little cost as possible. So in that sense the City Protocol objective is not to create an urban certification system. The vision is much broader. But maybe in some moment we will use some certification system to evaluate how cities work.

What is important is to understand what a city is. How should we analyse a city? If someone tells you that the city is water infrastructure, mobility and governance, they are telling you three very different things. What we have been doing is to define, in a holistic way, all the different layers that you can find in a city. And you can choose to talk about one of them but you should know what makes a city. The problem is that we, as urbanists, we work on cities that last thousands of years, but we don’t have real prescriptions for making cities. We do not have a book where you could see everything that you should know about cities and could answer how to solve your city’s problems. This is what the City Protocol would like to do. It tries to develop the sign of cities, which would remove this opportunistic and speculative vision about city transformation. Even the speculation coming from the government can tell you something that is not true. In some cases the local government sells, very fast, the best places in the city to do some development, for instance, to develop a “façade” to the sea. But fifty years later you could see that what they did was a pure disaster for the city.

This is the right balance you should try to keep: try to develop a city in a rational way, obviously using the opportunities that appear along the way, but without destroying your future with the decisions you take now.

ES: Is the City Protocol also working on tools for municipalities to help them evaluate their success?

VG: Yes, the first sign of success is coming from the fact that the municipalities are copying each other. If something is working in one place, for example the bus system or the light system, others will try to copy this. The best way to measure the success is to see how much they copy you or how much they are looking at your solutions. But more than copying directly, which can be done in the wrong way, we should learn to share knowledge in order to promote a collective progress for the cities around the world. This is exactly what City Protocol is trying to do. There would be some recommendations and standards, but what is important is not to say what is good and what is bad. Instead we want to walk together, to make common trips in order to develop cities and improve the quality of the city.

ES: How can this kind of cooperation be successful when some cities’ budgets are far smaller than that of Barcelona? We know for instance that the Colombian city, Medellin is looking very much at Barcelona’s case, but is unable to transform so rapidly.

VG: We receive over 200 cities’ delegations every year – not only Medellin but many other cities form China, India, Latin America are looking at us. This is because Barcelona has great traditions in urbanism, innovation and the organization of urban habitat. In the case of Medellin, the best results came from people studying here and sharing this vision back there. The problem in Medellin was urban violence, a low quality of living with no infrastructure etc. They transformed the social inequality by changing the physical environment. This is crucial. The model of Barcelona is in fact very simple. Every time that we have economic and cultural progress you can visualize this in the public space. By sharing the progress with everyone you create a better city for everyone. In other cities the progress is very private, very capitalistic. The money goes to big mansions while the city is not well maintained etc. We try to use the physicality of the city as an interface to better the quality of life of the people. This is the goal we work hard on every day: to listen to what the people are asking for, to try to do our best with the design of the public space, but also to create right governance. The internal organization is crucial in order to achieve, let’s say, external results in the city. Those results are not a question of design; they’re a question of organization. What we would like to do is to share our knowledge with other cities to promote better cities around the world.

ES: Do those investments in public space, infrastructure, public facilities have a direct link with the economy? Can you say that making a new, nice library in a city district will improve the economic situation of its citizens?

VG: Those are two different things. The first one is that obviously you need resources in order to do a city transformation. In order to get there you need to do several things right. You need to create a right path. This is not a short term path; it’s a long term path. If you do things right in some moment and you do it many times then many people would be interested in being a part of this project. Many cities are changing their ways – sometimes doing this, some other time that. It’s very difficult to change direction so many times. Barcelona is quite consistent, for a long time, trying to generate a good quality of life.

The other question. Yes, we try to spend or to invest our money in the right place and in the right moment. That means that if you invest your money in a right way you generate revenues. The 22@ is a very clear example. In the 80s, when the economy of information and success of Silicon Valley started to be famous around the world, the idea of an industrial park was developed. Industrial parks, following the American model, were developed at the peripheries of cities. And this is what happened in Barcelona in the Sant Cugat area outside the city. We thought, well, that’s a new economy, we should generate a new kind of city. But this was a disaster. I mean, this is not exactly our tradition. Some people realized that what we should do in order to promote progress in the city is to bring those new forms of economy to the heart of the city, transforming all post-industrial neighbourhoods into neighbourhoods oriented to IT companies. This is more or less what the city of did with Silicon Valley. It was important to have a vision about what we wanted to do, to develop an urban but also economical plan to make this possible, and then communicate to the world ‘hey we are here, we want to do this, come and join us’. So we did an investment, with which we attracted other investments. What is important is to develop a plan that you are able to explain in order to attract the investment, which will always be in parallel with the municipal one.

ES: You said once that ‘the time of the investors who buy cheap land, build, sell expensive and run away from the city is over’ and that you need investors who stay and develop their project. How can you say no to investors in times of economic crisis and, on the other hand, attract good ones?

VG: The first thing is that the bad ones disappeared with the crisis. It’s because their business was based on economic speculation and not on real values for cities. While industrial economy was oriented to products, the information economy is oriented to services. That means that future business is more about running a business than about buying and selling. Traditional real estate business is about buying and selling, but in many cases it doesn’t work very well. In the moment of financial crisis you can go bankrupt very quickly, while the business based on something that you generate in your daily activities, based on real values for society, will pass the crisis in a softer way. So from that point of view it’s not that we do not want developers that will speculate. It is they that disappear in a moment of crisis.

The task is really to develop and push for other forms of economy related to those values, related with services, management.

For example, it’s very typical that some football clubs promote speculation through requalification of land, promoting housing development in order to sell the apartments and get money to buy football players. This is really crazy! A better business model would be for example to have a hotel were the fans can come, stay in the hotel; then you generate slower revenues but more permanent ones. So a good economy is about renting and managing a service, sleeping and living in the city, and not buying and selling a product that is an apartment to sleep in a city. It’s about having a good business plan that builds on slower but more permanent business, that in the long term is the best one.

ES: The city’s shape depends on many different actors, such as individual citizens, citizen organizations, the private sector etc. How do you make sure that all those actors understand your actions? How do you establish a common vision?

VG: A city is created by a political vision. This political vision comes from the social realm of the city. Politicians are chosen, of course in democratic countries, by the citizens. We had politicians that were very consistent, in the last few years, trying to develop a vision for the city. And yes, at least every 25 years you need to upgrade your vision because otherwise you go into crisis. This is what is happening in Barcelona, which was fantastic in planning small scale urbanity, but now — with the arrival of new technologies, ideas of sustainability, local production of energy, and new industries in the city — it has to change. And that’s the idea which is a mantra of Barcelona, an idea of mixing many slow cities inside a smart city. The idea that the neighbourhoods should be the place where people live, with a high quality of life, with work places where people can find good bakeries selling fresh bread every day. The idea of a good quality of life that one can share with neighbourhoods which are connected to each other and to the world. If you want to do this you need to make some changes in the city. First of all you need to have a vision that you need to share with the business sector and you need to share with the people. In general, if the vision is right, the people will be happy. This is what is happening more or less. Sometimes you say something that is not what you’ve been doing for the last five years, but everyone feels that what you are saying makes sense. Because if they feel it doesn’t make sense, they remove you from power. From that point of view we are trying to explain what we are doing; we talk with the citizens, we explain through TV, the newspaper. The mayor gives talks, we make articles and exhibitions, we do projects and share them. By promoting this interaction we create a common vision of the city.

ES: Let me summarize. The idea is for a common city vision and inside it, a variety of smaller visions within the neighbourhoods.

VG: No, there are no smaller visions. It’s the same vision but with different identities. What we need to promote are the different identities within the city. In many cases you have people with different cultures living there, different topographies, different markets. The best cities are those that have a great diversity. If you are able to promote these diverse identities but keep them connected to one vision, then you will have a mixture that produces a good city.

ES: So you suggest a more decentralized way of governing the city.

VG: Yes, but while you are promoting different identities you need a web manager. All the webs, like the internet, have managers. It’s not to say that everyone has to go in the same direction. You need to have a shared vision, but then everyone has to develop it their own way. The best cities are those that have very clear leadership. For example in London the mayor is the leader of many different neighborhoods. Or in New York there are a lot of different districts., but at the same time the mayor is a strong leader that says which direction we should go. So this balance between a clear leadership and diversity is very important.

Ewa Szymczyk is a Graduate Architect and Urban Planner; she is also trained to work in development cooperation.Currently living in London, Szymczyk is a part of ansambl.

New Images Released of Foster + Partners’ Luxury Manhattan Condominium

Foster + Partners has released new images of their revised, 19-story luxury condominium tower planned for West Chelsea in . Named after its address, 551 West 21st Street, the cast-concrete and glass structure plans to open its 44 residences, and three penthouses, to occupancy in the Fall of 2015.

The majority of the building will be made up of two-to-five bedroom residences, with the top three floors dedicated to 6,200+ square foot penthouses with 360-degree views of the Hudson River. From “grand galleries” to corner great rooms, each column-free and expansive interior will be finished with French-inspired herringbone floors, custom millwork and kitchens designed by Foster + Partners for Molteni.

On the upper-most floor, the building’s most impressive penthouse will feature a 4,000+ square foot private rooftop terrace with a swimming pool, kitchenette and bar area.

The first two floors of the building will incorporate a new gallery named the 303 Gallery; this will have a separate entrance to the residents’ portion of the building, which is designed to offer the maximum level of privacy and security to the occupants – including concealed flood prevention gates in the event of a storm surge.

Architects: Foster + Partners
Location: Get directions 551 W 21st St New York, NY 10011
Executive Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle
Financial Partner: GTIS Partners
Construction Lender: Wells Fargo
Year: 2015
Photographs: Hayes Davidson, Courtesy of Foster + Partners

TED Talk: Manhattan’s Past, Present and Future

Click here to view the embedded video.

When it comes to global cities, New York City may be one of the most prominent – but it is also relatively young. Just 400 years ago, Manhattan island was mostly covered in forests and marshes. In his talk at TEDx Long Island City, Eric Sanderson discusses the city’s radical changes in land use over the past four centuries, and begins to contemplate what the next four might look like. How can we take a city like and make it as efficient as the forest it replaced? In a bid to uncover the ideas that might make this possible, he introduces Manhatta 2409 – an online tool which maps/compares the historic and current land use of Manhattan and allows users to propose new uses. Learn more in the video above.

Architecture Bookstores Are Dead. Long Live An Architecture Bookstore?

Last week news broke that the Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th Street  is doomed. The owners of the well-loved building, which is not officially landmarked, plan to demolish it to to make way for another luxury residential tower. This set off another round of fretting about the future of bookstores, especially art and design bookstores.  But […]

The Architectural League Spring Events

The Architectural League announced their Spring 2014 calendar of events. ‘First Friday’ events are held at the offices of the hosting firms. It started January 10 with Toshiko Mori and future participants include COOKFOX Architects, SHoP Architects, and GLUCK+.

‘Current Work’ lectures are held at The Cooper Union and are co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. The lectures will start this Thursday, January 23 with Richard Meier, and future lecturers include Yung Ho Chang, Farshid Moussavi, and Sou Fujimoto.

For more information on the events, please go to ’s official website.

Photos of Eero Saarinen’s Abandoned Bell Labs

This article by Samuel Medina originally appeared in , titled “Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs, Now Devoid of Life” and features stunning photos of the abandoned leviathan by Rob Dobi.

At its peak, thousands passed through its massive, light-filled atrium. Today, Bell Labs Holmdel stands empty, all of its 1.9-million-square-feet utterly without life. An iconic example of the now-disparaged office park, the campus in central Jersey, was shuttered in 2007 and vacated soon after. Years later, it remains in an abandoned, if not unkept state. The grounds are cared for, the floors swept clean, and the interior plantings trimmed, however haphazardly. (That’s saying something; in the laboratory’s heyday, plastic shrubbery filled its glorious central hall.)

More about the building’s future, and more photos by Rob Dobi, after the break

For zombie fans, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine the luckless protagonists of the Walking Dead holed up here, fenced off from the rest of the world by six-story high glass walls. (Alternatively, it would make a great lair for the Governor.) Of course, in such a scenario, it’s plausible that the virus capable of raising the dead would have originated inside the lab itself. As is often noted, the building is as highly prized by scientists as it is by architects. It was here, Saarninen‘s quarter-mile fortress, that has housed some of the last century’s most significant scientific discoveries.

And it’s here that the building’s new owner, Somerset Development, imagines a new urbanist temple to commerce. Plans are in place to revitalize the site as a town center for Holmdel, complete with urban ammenities like shops and a coffee shop. But as Fred Bernstein wrote in last month’s cover story, the building’s uncompromising layout complicates Bell Lab’s adaptive reuse. architect Alexander Gorlin is currently exploring strategies that will bring life back to the historic complex, while still preserving Saarinen’s graceful design. It will be interesting to see how he navigates that process.

In the meantime, take a tour of the building through Rob Dobi‘s striking photography of the building in its current state. It might be your last chance before the place is overrun with mocha-wielding teens.

The Indicator: The Floor Plates Just Didn’t Line Up

The Folk Art Museum is most certainly doomed; it may have been doomed from its first appearance. Designed and built to endure, it will soon dissipate in a fog of demolition and fading memory, its lifespan ultimately briefer than a McDonald’s franchise. Looks aren’t everything, I guess.

This raises a lot of questions about permanence, memory, and the spatial character of cities. If The Folk were not in , would its status as a landmark building still hold? A particularly type of building, more front and slot, it’s a building that is about the street as much as it is about an interior world beyond that street. And losing it will mean West 53rd will be wrought more mega in scale and commercial in vision.

As Paul Goldberger stated in Vanity Fair, “A city that allows such a work to disappear after barely a dozen years is a city with a flawed architectural heart. A large cultural institution that cannot find a suitable use for such a building is an institution with a flawed architectural imagination.”

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s response, cited in The Architect’s Newspaper, echoed the sentiment:

“The Folk Art building was designed to respond to the fabric of the neighborhood and create a building that felt both appropriate and yet also extraordinary. Demolishing this human‐scaled, uniquely crafted building is a loss to the city of New York in terms of respecting the size, diversity and texture of buildings in a midtown neighborhood that is at risk of becoming increasingly homogenized.”

Mimi Zieger, writing in Dezeen, countered: there is “a lingering sentimental belief that architecture is an exception to the rules of obsolescence.” She continues by suggesting that architecture be more at home with designed-in obsolescence. “Today, upgrading is a function of Moore’s law,” she argues, “the observation that technology gets exponentially smaller and more powerful every two years. It’s like breathing: one inhale, one exhale.”

But in the case of architecture it seems there may be a variant of Moore’s Law at work. When one architecture is swapped out for another architecture, what replaces the original can be larger and more dissipated. It is the Folk that is smaller and more powerful…though not powerful enough to alter the course of MoMA’s board and DS+R’s mouse clicks.

What now? What are we left with? Architects lamented The Folk’s diminished stature in the eyes of MoMA, a revered but complicated institution. They now lament MoMA’s decision to do away with the building. Soon they will mourn its disappearance. And then it will be gone. The fact that it is in New York makes this more resonant, but also more normal. And then it will be on to the next thing.

The act of disappearing the Folk and shoving a glass box over where it stood is like removing a limb from a body and replacing it with an elephantine prosthetic. But, in time, the DS+R prosthetic will be the new limb and The Folk, the barely perceptible phantom.

Many who have never been to that block won’t even know what the Folk was, nor of its existence. But as long as it stands it remains for discovery. It is there to be found and felt as you walk down the sidewalk, even if it’s merely a shell of its former self. And I suppose this is the point: the Folk is difference amidst a grid of increasing sameness. It’s a special little point and makes people stop and wonder. But this is not enough to hold off the pressures of real estate in post-Bloomberg New York, a city that continues to periodically work itself into frenzies of development. And MoMA has been itching to develop that block for a long time.

This just in: Continuing his campaign of goodness and fairness, Pope Francis will purchase the bronze panels for the Vatican, where they shall remain for eternity, or until the seas rise. If this doesn’t work out, look for them in the MoMA giftshop.

Guy Horton is a writer based in . In addition to authoring “The Indicator”, he is a frequent contributor to The Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis Magazine, The Atlantic Cities, and The Huffington Post. He has also written for Architectural Record, GOOD Magazine, and Architect Magazine. You can hear Guy on the radio and podcast as guest host for the show DnA: Design & Architecture on 89.9 FM KCRW out of Los Angeles. Follow Guy on Twitter @GuyHorton.

The Indicator: The Floor Plates Just Didn’t Line Up

The Folk Art Museum is most certainly doomed; it may have been doomed from its first appearance. Designed and built to endure, it will soon dissipate in a fog of demolition and fading memory, its lifespan ultimately briefer than a McDonald’s franchise. Looks aren’t everything, I guess.

This raises a lot of questions about permanence, memory, and the spatial character of cities. If The Folk were not in , would its status as a landmark building still hold? A particularly type of building, more front and slot, it’s a building that is about the street as much as it is about an interior world beyond that street. And losing it will mean West 53rd will be wrought more mega in scale and commercial in vision.

As Paul Goldberger stated in Vanity Fair, “A city that allows such a work to disappear after barely a dozen years is a city with a flawed architectural heart. A large cultural institution that cannot find a suitable use for such a building is an institution with a flawed architectural imagination.”

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s response, cited in The Architect’s Newspaper, echoed the sentiment:

“The Folk Art building was designed to respond to the fabric of the neighborhood and create a building that felt both appropriate and yet also extraordinary. Demolishing this human‐scaled, uniquely crafted building is a loss to the city of New York in terms of respecting the size, diversity and texture of buildings in a midtown neighborhood that is at risk of becoming increasingly homogenized.”

Mimi Zieger, writing in Dezeen, countered: there is “a lingering sentimental belief that architecture is an exception to the rules of obsolescence.” She continues by suggesting that architecture be more at home with designed-in obsolescence. “Today, upgrading is a function of Moore’s law,” she argues, “the observation that technology gets exponentially smaller and more powerful every two years. It’s like breathing: one inhale, one exhale.”

But in the case of architecture it seems there may be a variant of Moore’s Law at work. When one architecture is swapped out for another architecture, what replaces the original can be larger and more dissipated. It is the Folk that is smaller and more powerful…though not powerful enough to alter the course of MoMA’s board and DS+R’s mouse clicks.

What now? What are we left with? Architects lamented The Folk’s diminished stature in the eyes of MoMA, a revered but complicated institution. They now lament MoMA’s decision to do away with the building. Soon they will mourn its disappearance. And then it will be gone. The fact that it is in New York makes this more resonant, but also more normal. And then it will be on to the next thing.

The act of disappearing the Folk and shoving a glass box over where it stood is like removing a limb from a body and replacing it with an elephantine prosthetic. But, in time, the DS+R prosthetic will be the new limb and The Folk, the barely perceptible phantom.

Many who have never been to that block won’t even know what the Folk was, nor of its existence. But as long as it stands it remains for discovery. It is there to be found and felt as you walk down the sidewalk, even if it’s merely a shell of its former self. And I suppose this is the point: the Folk is difference amidst a grid of increasing sameness. It’s a special little point and makes people stop and wonder. But this is not enough to hold off the pressures of real estate in post-Bloomberg New York, a city that continues to periodically work itself into frenzies of development. And MoMA has been itching to develop that block for a long time.

This just in: Continuing his campaign of goodness and fairness, Pope Francis will purchase the bronze panels for the Vatican, where they shall remain for eternity, or until the seas rise. If this doesn’t work out, look for them in the MoMA giftshop.

Guy Horton is a writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to authoring “The Indicator”, he is a frequent contributor to The Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis Magazine, The Atlantic Cities, and The Huffington Post. He has also written for Architectural Record, GOOD Magazine, and Architect Magazine. You can hear Guy on the radio and podcast as guest host for the show DnA: Design & Architecture on 89.9 FM KCRW out of Los Angeles. Follow Guy on Twitter @GuyHorton.

Current Work: Richard Meier

Each year The Architectural League in its Current Work program presents the work of significant international figures who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment. Richard Meier will present his work in a public lecture to be followed by a conversation with a moderator and fellow partnersBernhard Karpf, Reynolds Logan, and Dukho Yeon in honor of fifty years of independent practice.

Recent projects completed by Richard Meier & Partners include the Arp Museum in Germany; the OCT Shenzhen Clubhouse in ; the Broad Art Center at UCLA; and United States Courthouses in San Diego and Islip, New York.  Currently under construction are offices in Rio de Janeiro; a hotel complex is Jesolo, Italy; a residential tower in Tel Aviv; a resort in South Korea; two residential towers in Tokyo; and the first phase of a master plan for downtown Newark.

For more information please click here.

Title: Current Work: Richard Meier
Website: http://archleague.org/2014/01/richard-meier/
Organizers: The Architectural League NY
From: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 19:01
Until: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 22:00
Venue: The Cooper Union
Address: 7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003, USA

Quest to Save A Mysterious Hudson River Castle

Preservationists are at work attempting to salvage what remains of a New York architectural oddity. The strange medieval-looking structure known as Bannerman’s Castle is located on Pollepel Island, a small stretch of land about 60 miles north of Manhattan on the Hudson River. Scottish-American Arms mogul Francis Bannerman IV built the series of buildings in […]

World Trade Center Progress Report: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Slowly, and surely not lacking critique, Santiago Calatrava’s transport hub rises $2 billion over budget, SOM’s Freedom Tower — now, more mundanely referred to as 1WTC — is recognized as the tallest building in the western hemisphere and there is still a considerable amount of development yet to be done on the . Read Edwin Heathcote’s article on the Financial Times regarding the good, the bad and the ugly: ”Rebuilding the World Trade Center: A Progress Report.”