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May 12, 2009
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Radicalism and big ideas are what John Hockenberry, WNYC and PRI host and moderator of the “Focus on Design and Global Practice” session, called for from architects during these poor economic times. With so many bad, small ideas out there, he exclaimed, architects need to think beyond pragmatism and look to idealism to bring hope back to the U.S.

Perhaps one of the biggest ideas presented was the “2007 Latrobe Prize Presentation” on the On the Water — Palisades Bay project. Awarded to Guy Nordenson, Stan Allen, AIA, Catherine Seavitt, James Smith, Michael Tantala, Adam Yarinsky, FAIA, and Stephen Cassell, AIA, the team has been studying the effects of the rising sea level in NYC’s Upper Harbor. As the water rises, major storms are a growing threat to the city. Looking to the history of the shoreline and using various types of analysis and modeling, the team combined engineering, research, planning, and economic analysis to analyze the effects of future weather conditions and propose a solution to lessen its impact.

By marrying design with detail analysis, the proposal incorporates everything from oysters to filter the bay, windmills and algae farms to generate energy, and artificial reefs to restore wildlife habitats. Artificial islands will be strategically placed to roughen the edge of the channel, decreasing the energy of a potential storm surge and replacing some of the lost wetlands. Piers and slips will help re-contour the edge of Lower Manhattan to help break the wave energy, lessening the impact of a potential hurricane.

Ultimately, the team hopes to “turn the challenge of a problem into an optimistic opportunity,” said Nordenson. This conceivably was the mantra repeated throughout the convention overall. By next year’s convention in Miami, let’s hope to see some of the positive results.


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