The past week has seen a few noteworthy proposals and new developments for the future of waterways of Los Angeles and New York City. Here's the latest on Alt 20, the Big U (pictured above) and Plus Pool.
As a lifelong East Coaster, I can't speak to the ecological, infrastructural or historical significance of the Los Angeles River—I suspect that it's not all sun-drenched joyrides—but apparently big things are in the works for the "unsightly concrete corridor," per the L.A. Times' Louis Sahagun. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for paving over the basin in the late 30s, has opted to recommend an ambitious $1.08 billion proposal to restore and revitalize an 11-mile stretch of the neglected river basin, known as "Alternative 20," over a $453m plan it supported a month ago. "City officials estimate that revamping the entire river could create recreational opportunities—kayaking, fishing, bicycling—and attract more than $5 billion in investment over the next 10 to 15 years, generating up to 18,000 jobs."
Photo by Luis Sinco for the Los Angeles Times
The plan is still working its way through the proverbial pipes of Congress (the funds will come from city, state and federal sources), but for now we'll have to settle for the fancy before/after sliders over on Curbed L.A..
Not to be outdone, we New Yorkers are also looking to upgrade our waterways, and we've enlisted a Danish ringer to help prevent the kind of flooding that we experienced during Hurricane Sandy. The latest project from ever-inventive architect Bjarke Ingels, the Big U is among the six winning proposals for the federal Rebuild by Design program, which was launched in response to the October 2012 superstorm. The government has awarded Ingels & co. the hefty sum of $335 million to realize their prophylactic proposal for the business end of Manhattan (other winners received anywhere from $20m to $230m).
Designed as a defense against storm surge, the tripartite plan corresponds to three geographical 'compartments,' each of which can be implemented independently of the others. It consists primarily of landscape elements known as berms—shallow inclines that serve as barriers against flooding—which are disguised as a manifold recreation area that weaves through existing greenspace and pedestrian thoroughfares, including Battery Park. The Big U will also endow NYC with that 'reverse aquarium' we've always wanted, as well as 'deployable flip-down panels' along the FDR for a stretch along the South Street Seaport. (Is it cruel to conjecture that these could also be used to corral mobs of tourists so that they have no choice but to set sail on The Peking once they've they run out of deep dish from Pizzeria Uno?)
Meanwhile, on the water itself, our friends at Plus Pool have allowed us—Internet users, that is—to take a vicarious dip in their Float Lab at Pier 40 (the far end of West 14th St, for you landlubbers). The Google-powered online dashboard offers an array of handsome infographics featuring the latest data from the YSI Sonde, a water quality monitoring device, that is currently probing the depths of the Hudson.
While it would be nice to have benchmarks as a reference point for, say, turbidity, the dashboard is far more user-friendly than the raw data, which lives in a mind-numbingly opaque spreadsheet on Drive. I should also mention that Dong-Ping Wong of Family will be speaking at our conference and will surely fill us in on what's new with Plus Pool; let's just say they've come a long way from that first (and second) Kickstarter campaign.
As sensors become more commonplace and data becomes more open, I should hope that both Alternative 20 and the Big U make provisions for incorporating (and broadcasting) ecological monitoring. (See also: Studio Roosegaarde's quasi-literal 'blue sky' proposals for the likes of a smog destroyer and a smart highway, both of which are currently in progress.) Although the bulk of the investment in multi-purpose, resilient greenspace goes toward rearranging earth and water, the true opportunity lies in our ability not only to manipulate the elements but to better understand and adapt to our environment as it changes.
If you enjoyed this dip into the waters and you're not inundated with work, I also recommend checking out the latest issue of Uncube Magazine. Launched this week, the 22nd Issue of the Berlin-based online publication takes "Water" as its theme, featuring beautiful photo essays alongside substantive interviews and case studies.
Photo by Brigida Gonzalez