Winning Project

New York, New York

BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Project Projects, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, Arcadis, and the Parsons School of Constructed Environments

The Big U is a protective system around Manhattan, driven by the needs and concerns of its communities. Stretching from West 57th street south to The Battery and up to East 42th street, the Big U protects 10 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area. The proposed system not only shields the city against floods and stormwater; it provides social and environmental benefits to the community, and an improved public realm.

The proposal consists of separate but coordinated plans for three contiguous regions of the waterfront and associated communities, regions dubbed compartments. Each compartment comprises a physically separate flood-protection zone, isolated from flooding in the other zones, but each equally a field for integrated social and community planning. The compartments work in concert to protect and enhance the city, but each compartment’s proposal is designed to stand on its own. Each compartment was designed in close consultation with the associated communities and many local, municipal, state and federal stakeholders; each has a benefit-cost ratio greater than one; and each is flexible, easily phasable, and can be integrated with in-progress developments along the City’s waterfront.

Bridging Berm provides robust vertical protection for the Lower East Side from future storm surge and rising sea levels. The Berm also offers pleasant, accessible routes into the park, with many  unprogrammed spots for resting, socializing, and enjoying views of the park and river. Both berms and bridges are wide and planted with a diverse selection of salt tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials, providing a resilient urban habitat.



Between the Manhattan Bridge and Montgomery Street, deployable walls are attached to the underside of the FDR Drive, ready to flip down to prepare for flood events. Decorated by neighborhood artists, the panels when not in use create an inviting ceiling above the East River Esplanade. At night, lighting integrated into the panels transforms a currently menacing area into a safe destination. Panels can also be flipped down to protect from the elements, creating a seasonal market during the winter.


The east and west boundaries of the Battery were key inlets during Hurricane Sandy, allowing floodwaters to rush into Lower Manhattan and shut down the nation’s – and the world’s – premier financial district. Enhancing the public realm while protecting the Financial District and critical transportation infrastructure beyond, the Battery Berm weaves an elevated path through the park. Along this berm, a series of upland knolls form unique landscapes where people farm, sunbathe, eat and engage with world class gardens.


In place of the existing Coast Guard building, the plan envisions a new building programmed as a maritime museum or environmental education facility, whose form is derived from the flood protection at the water-facing ground floor. This signature building features a “Reverse Aquarium” which enables visitors to observe tidal variations and sea level rise while providing a flood barrier.

Download a PDF of the team’s final competition boards here.

View a PDF of the team’s full proposal here.

Read about highlights from the design process.

Review an earlier version of the proposal here.



Asian Americans for Equality, Battery Park City Authority, Battery Park Conservancy, Brookfield Properties, Con Edison, Dermot, Downtown Alliance, Edison Properties, Empire State Development Corporation, Fire Department of New York, Friends of the High Line, Howard Hughes Corporation, Hudson River Park Trust, Lower East Side Ready (LTRG), Metropolitan Water Alliance, Metropolitan Transit Authority – City Transit / Bridges and Tunnels, Municipal Art Society, New York Rising, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York Building Congress, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, NYC Housing Authority, NYC City Council Districts 1,2,3,4, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, NYCy Department of City Planning, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, NYC Department of Sanitation , NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of Education, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission , NYC Manhattan Community Districts, NYC Mayor’s Office & Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, NYC Parks Department, New York Police Department,  New York State Senate Districts 26,26,28,31, New York State Assembly Districts 65,66,67,73,74,75, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Riverkeeper, Real Estate Board of New York, Regional Plan Association, Scenic Hudson, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of the Interior – National Parks Service, US Department of Transportation, US Environmental Protection Agency, US General Services Administration, US Congressional Districts 8,12,14, 1,2,3,4,6

Go to team page


April 3, 2014 11:44 am
from tim hawkings

this is amazing- practical, functional and beautiful!


April 7, 2014 4:06 pm
from chris collins

It has been terribly confusing and frustrating as to whether your plan goes north of 14th Street on the East Side of Manhattan. Several resiliency plans cut off at 14th Street. Solar One is located at the equivalent of 23rd Street and the East River and took on 13′ of water during Sandy. Despite that, we drained our solar powered building the following day and provided power for the local community for a week before the power came back on powering everything from emergency medical devices to lap tops, cell phones and chain saws. Solar 2 which will replace Solar One will be the city’s first net zero energy and fully resilient building. Raised 15′ above grade, we hope to get in the ground in the Spring of 2015. It should be funded by RBD and part of any plan.


June 11, 2014 1:57 pm
from Joy Garland

As a resident of Stuyvesant Town, I completely agree with Chris, that the resiliency plans should extend above East 14th Street to cover the long awaited Solar Two building which offered emergency electrical power not only to local people but to hard hit areas like the Rockaways and Staten Island. The communities along the East River like Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, and the United Nations International School, were all deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy as was Stuyvesant Cove Park which lost all but one of its evergreen trees and many native plants and grasses by absorbing much of the salt water flooding.

June 3, 2014 4:57 pm
from John Water

The frustrating thing in this plan is that it does not seem to take into account hospital row. When Sandy hit, New York City was faced with a hospital shortage as the area between 23rd and 34th was flooded. This plan does not seem to account for that and we will find ourselves with the same problem the next time a storm hits.


January 19, 2015 5:08 pm
from Rafael Melendez

When developing the BIG U enclosure, consider making appropriations for both of these potential projects:
1. Expanding Battery Park southward to add a real recreational facility for the existing and growing residential community that would include a baseball field and a soccer field. Given that much of Lower Manhattan has now been rezoned for residential living, there are no real playground venues where the residents can “play” and exercise outdoors. This will become a bigger issue as the area grows more and more residential.
2. Consider the location of the new Madison Square Garden to be located on the Hudson on 34th St as opposed to inland. This would provide for future NE Corridor NJT service that could stop at a new MSG/HudsonYards station prior to ending in the new Penn station further inland. This MSG on the waterfront would provide for better entertainment services that would include open roof concerts, water sports and marina, fireworks, water taxis from NJ. A multiple ledge platform architectural layout overlooking the Hudson would provide further multi-entertainment capacity acting as “after party / event” space. A combination of a High Line extension / monorail running from the MSG to Penn Station would add the finishing touches of connectivity.


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