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

BIG Team is led by BIG Bjarke Ingels Group and includes One Architecture (water & urban planning), Starr Whitehouse  (landscape architecture), Buro Happold (engineering & sustainability), Level Infrastructure, (infrastructure engineering), James Lima Planning & Development (finance & economics), Green Shield Ecology (ecology),  AEA Consulting (arts & cultural planning), Arcadis (hydraulic engineering), Project Projects (graphic design), and the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons the New School for Design.

BIG Team brings together significant international experience in Denmark and the Netherlands with a deep understanding of this Sandy region’s economic, political and social environment. Team Leader, BIG, is a group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development with offices in New York City, Copenhagen and Beijing. For over a decade, BIG has been building a reputation as one of the most creative and intelligent architecture offices in the world. Our projects are also widely recognized as sophisticated responses to the challenges of urban development that create dynamic public spaces and forms that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious.

The team’s approach is rooted in the two concepts of social infrastructure and hedonistic sustainability. By proactively cross-breeding public infrastructure with social programs, the team will inject new urban life forms into our cities. BIG is committed to designing cities and buildings that are both ecologically and economically profitable–where sustainability is not a moral dilemma, but approached as a design challenge.


Team Approach

On October 29th 2012, Superstorm Sandy overwhelmed the most densely populated region of the United States. The resulting damage was widely experienced within the Tri-State area; an area which is highly dense now, and projected to grow significantly by the year 2050. As climate risks escalate, so does the desire to expand cities along coastlines. A balanced growth strategy is needed. In order to increase access to jobs and affordable housing, urban growth will need to take place both on the high-ground and near waterfronts, both within the city and in the larger metro area.

We believe that vibrant urban neighborhoods in the floodplain need not be abandoned with increased storms and sea level rise.  Instead, these neighborhoods can strategically grow to provide the coastal protection and resilient infrastructure that will address the climate.

Current reports on resilience take urban growth into limited account: often aimed at rebuilding rather than building better. The link between projections of growth and increased risks dramatically alters the economic equation in favor of building for resiliency. Growth also offers many opportunities for building resilience: new environments with built-in resilience, financial mechanisms that offset the cost of resilient measures, and protective landscapes that go beyond protection to improve the social infrastructure adjacent urban areas.


Design research (Resilient Growth)

The team began by focusing on the New York Urban Core: a dense, diverse, critical, and vulnerable economic engine for the region and country, hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. In the process of exploring the potential of pairing growth with resiliency, the team identified several potential sites in New York City having different waterfront and urban conditions: Lower East Side, The Battery, Chelsea, Red Hook, and The South Bronx.

These investigations have led to a number of techniques, typologies, mechanisms and concepts that that have informed our design opportunities. The findings of these studies have much broader regional applicability beyond the New York Metro area.

NYC can grow itself into resiliency. Much like smart growth, resilient growth has a set of tools that help to integrate urban challenges.

With more than 500,000 expected new units by 2040 in NYC coupled with an increased exposure of assets to extreme weather, big ideas and long-term thinking are needed. Yet in order to make something big, small is crucial.


Resilient Community Districts (RCDs)

In our proposal for Resilient Community Districts, community planning, social resilience, water management, utilities and financial instruments are organized on a district scale as well as an urban scale. This partial decentralization of critical infrastructure increases the resilience of the whole.  Community micro-grids and water management plans create redundancies that decrease the risks posed by increased storms and allow incremental adaptation to climate change.

District-organized social infrastructure and emergency preparedness provide a cohesive response to unforeseen emergencies.  Finally, leveraging local investment into coastal protection, matched with government investment as needed, engages neighbors in developing protective measures that provide for other district needs, and creates tremendous economies of scale that can directly benefit end users.


Implementation (Tailored Resiliency)

Design solutions for protection in the city become hybrid solutions, each custom tailored to their specific place, time and program.  The artful combination of a classic engineered infrastructural element with desirable social functions of each community can produce an almost unnoticeable protection. There is something that is not so complex about protection. On the most basic level, the task is to make a barrier of a certain height.  At the core of these design challenges is the requirement that this be done in a way that does not act as a wall or barrier, but is an upgrade to the social and urban condition.

View the team’s latest project updates on their page.

Winning Proposal


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 ...

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Design Process

Finalist Proposal

Other Proposals by BIG TEAM

Long Term Perspective – South Bronx

New York

Such a development should serve two purposes: to give the South Bronx a clear, civically oriented front towards Manhattan, connecting the area to Harlem via the Third Avenue Bridge, and to reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhoods. By elevating the land for development into an attractive waterfront landscape, new development can act as a buffer for the areas behind it. Locally, harder flood protection infrastructure might be necessary.

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Long-Term Perspective – Harbor District: Red Hook

New York

Planning for growth in Red Hook through a Resilient Community District strategy would deeply engage local stakeholders to find the right balance of diverse land uses. The RCD would prioritize creating spectacular public waterfront parks, which become the organizing element for substantial new affordable housing and a variety of other housing choices, enhanced transit connections to job centers, continued working waterfront industry...

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