union square_nyc_2030


nyc_2030_Atmospheric Landscape Infrastructures | RISD | Urban Systems Studio


Concept:  By  2050, it is likely that the mean sea level in the New York area will  rise by between six inches and two feet as a result of warming oceans.  

Sea  level rise is merely the static part of warming’s impact. The dynamic  aspect is the flooding produced by storm surges. Because of higher water  levels, it is likely that flooding resulting from severe storms —  hurricanes and Nor’easters — will increase dramatically. What is  currently considered the one-hundred-year storm flood will recur every  nineteen to sixty-eight years, and the five-hundred-year storm flood may  recur closer to every one hundred years.

The already over-burdened infrastructure simply does not have the capacity to withstand the

conditions  of climate change. Currently nearly every rain event in NYC results in  CSO overflow severely damaging the estuarine ecology of the waterfront,  and thus threatening the health and happiness of the people of New York  City.

Atmospheric  landscape infrastructures is a visionary design proposal which  conceives weather as a tectonic experience to create a new type of urban  landscape. The separation between hydrology, people, ecology, and  infrastructure is dismissed, and integrated into one system. Union  Square was chosen as the site catalyst for it’s long history of being an  important collection point for people and events regarding political  and social change. The movement of people and water become synonymous as  bike parking and pathways grow rhizomatically throughout the city in  pair with a new decentralized stormwater system that captures and  biofiltrates water from point sources.

The  result of this system surgically spreading throughout NYC overtime will  lead to meeting PlaNYC’s goal of opening 90% of the city’s waterfront  for recreational use by 2030, reducing the carbon footprint of the city  by increasing bike infrastructure and drastically reducing auto travel,  increasing the city’s livability by reducing heat island effect and  providing safe and abundant drinking water, and preparing NYC for  climate change impacts by creating an adaptive and responsive urban  landscape system.


The  capacity of the new integrated infrastructure grows exponentionally as  the system itself grows. Like the rhizome, as new zones form and become  part of the system the responsibility for biofiltration becomes  decentralized, releaving the burden of the overall system and increasing  performance.

The  design has the capacity to biofiltrate all .5” rain events that occur  within a year in NYC, 62% of the total rainfall. Capturing point source  stormwater at this interval is critical. Smaller rain events carry  pollutants to CSO’s with less dilution, increasing the toxicity at CSO  outfall zones. Water currently captures building roof runoff, but as  blue and green roofs become more prevalent surrounding any atomospheric  landscape infrastructure system, it will eventually double its  filtration properties.

The  filtration operates on a slight tiered system, with each level designed  to withstand multiple levels of storm surge activity. When capacity is  reached, the overflow simply falls into the next tier. A 36” deep gravel  layer slows the water through filtration for a 30 hr. period, and then  released back into the existing system when no longer overburdened.  As  the new infrastructure rhizomatically grows however, the intention is  for a completely separate stormwater system. The water captured  eventually returning tto the waterfront, but only before it is cleaned  and utilized for the necessities of the the people of NYC.


Bike Structures

The  bike parking system does not consume space but is the result of the  creation of new space. The rising planes of the connecting bridge  structures reconfigure the spatial identity of dense urban space and  provide the capacity for large quantities of bike storage.

The  system itself acts as a structural and sculptural piece,  when  aggregated in masses it forms support for elevated forms and plays with  filtered light and ground plane shadows.