The Big “U”

New York

We propose a protective system around Manhattan from West 54th street south to The Battery and up to East 40th street: 8 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area. US infrastructure traditionally has not been civic or accessible, but rather, it has been imposed on our cities at large scale with sometimes terrible consequences for the urban experience. How can we combine the mandate of large-scale protective infrastructure with meaningful community engagement? How can we manifest the requirements of a ‘Robert Moses’ hard infrastructure combined with the local community-driven sensitivity of Jane Jacobs? The multivalent ‘U’ consists of multiple but linked design opportunities; each on different scales of time, size and investment; each local neighborhood tailoring its own set of programs, functions, and opportunities. Small, relatively simple projects maintain the resiliency investment momentum post-Sandy, while setting in motion the longer-term solutions that will be necessary in the future.

Download the boards presented by BIG Team in 2013 here.

Go to team page


October 28, 2013 10:50 am
from spklimek

This is a great combination hard and soft infrastructure Kit of Parts which provides regional resiliency infrastructure while simultaneously providing an opportunity for community engagement and unique neighborhood specific configurations. It would be great to visualize more of these options and field input from different community stakeholders to build a bank of ideas for this Kit of Parts.


October 28, 2013 11:19 pm
from Jonah Gardner

I am thrilled by the concept of tunneling the Henry Hudson Parkway, turning its roof into a park with vital cultural and commercial experiences, it might actually bring something to new york that it doesn’t have. At the same time one feels cautious about the lowered parkway: Will it flood instead? Where does the gases and exhausted pollutants go. How is that tunnel not another pollution magnet? With these questions in mind, the urban feature is needed in New York and welcomed social space. Perhaps the tunnel can become an interactive experience as well? The extended urban green promenade was welcome when Olmsted proposed the greensward(Central Park), as a direct criticism of the commisioner’s plan, today it could be The Big “U”. As was mentioned at this mornings presentation at the kimmel center, this proposal offers of a multitude of design opportunities in a joint multiprogram space. Hudson Yards, a planned new urban experience is already taking on the role of massive pedestrian expanses. A true city of the future would seek to expand in this manner, not linger in the past of 1950s carorama.



January 31, 2014 1:20 pm
from Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled

The physical accessibility of “A re-imagined Eastside, with elevated F.D.R. integrated as levee” (photo #8) for people with mobility impairments is unclear from the picture. Wheelchair users may wish to sit by the river, and even fish. (There is adaptive fishing equipment). Moreover, there appear to be no handrails for people who are ambulatory but have difficulty with steps. Accessibility considerations should be kept in mind throughout the design of the protective system.


February 13, 2014 11:07 am
from Daniel Horn

Interesting concept. What happens when the “art” wall breaks to let traffic flow through? Will flood waters simply flow through there? And if it is a “sealed” condition along the lower portion of Manhattan, what happens to the adjacent coastal areas of Staten Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens? An impenetrable membrane will only have negative effects for these adjacent areas. The flood water will be funneled even more into these regions.


March 14, 2014 9:11 am
from Karen Lee

will you please put me on your email list for presentation / workshop notifications


June 2, 2014 6:28 pm
from Joe Dolice

Congratulations to everyone at The Big Team who worked on putting the BIG U together, and for winning the award.

I very much enjoyed participating in the neighborhood surveys you conducted and would like to be kept informed of any other public meetings you may be having in any neighborhoods in the Big U area about your plans for the future,

Thanks very much and best of luck in implementing the work assocuated with the project.


October 4, 2014 9:52 am
from Andrew Hoffman

What about the outer boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens?


December 19, 2014 3:14 am
from benjamin button

New York is outdated, they city should invest money into making the structure semi-amphibious, the infrastructure should be able to withstand a flood. Building a wall is a band-aid, New York needs a surgery.


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