A pair of proposals to remake the Hudson River waterfront with large new projects envisions transforming the Battery and the site currently occupied by Pier 40 with futuristic innovations like drone landing pads and open plazas designed to be flooded.
Although neither plan is likely to be built anytime soon (if ever), they both emphasize the need for civic design to adapt to a future that is likely to be governed by priorities very different from those of New York’s present and recent past, with new priorities related to energy, affordability, transportation, and the environment.
The proposal for new towers at the Battery also features a skyjack that would also serves as a landing pad for drones and housing for wind turbines.
The scheme for the Battery, entitled Pier 2, comes from the Dallas-based design firm, Humphreys and Partners Architects. This project imagines a pair of high-rise towers situated beside the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. One of these would be erected on land, while the other would sit atop a deck jutting out into the water, and surrounded by a new marina. The plan calls for the towers, which resemble the cantilevered decks of the new 56 Leonard Street condominium in Tribeca (often referred to as the “Jenga building”) to be fabricated from modular units — manufactured off site at low cost, transported to Lower Manhattan, and snapped into place. In this way, Humphreys and Partners believes that the buildings could be erected for a fraction of the usual cost, and thus create the opportunity for large number of affordable housing units.
The outside of the buildings would be festooned with photovoltaic glass, and vertical plantings. A deck bridge near the top would connect the two structures and provide landing space for drones, while concealing wind turbines beneath. Also out of site would be underwater turbines to capture energy from the flow of the Hudson River. The entire complex would also be built at an elevation that would put it out of reach of rising sea levels and extreme-weather events for centuries.
The Pier 40 2100 plan would include 19 residential towers, enclosed in a latticed mesh that would also hold up plantings affixed to the outside walls of the buildings.
A similar emphasis on sustainability and resilience is the hallmark of a second proposal, this one from New York based architecture firm DFA, to replace Pier 40 (at the Hudson River and West Houston Street) with a cluster of 19 cylindrical residential towers, ranging in height from between 96 to 455 feet. As with the Pier 2 proposal, the DFA team envisions using innovative methods and materials to lower the cost of construction, and thus enable pricing the 450 units affordably. The scheme would also preserve Pier 40’s current use as an athletic and recreational facility by creating a large turf field at the center of the complex.
In the years leading up to 2050, a series of low-lying plazas and pavilions would serve as open space for the new Pier 40 complex.
Especially striking about the the proposal, which DFA calls “Pier 40 2100,” is the firm’s approach to rising sea levels. The design creates two levels of plaza and pathways, at different elevations. The lower of these is designed to be submerged and abandoned sometime around the year 2050, as water levels inexorably climb throughout the remainder of the 21st century. At that point, the second, higher set of pavilions and trestles would become the complex’s new baseline elevation, with the former open spaces transformed into a network of coves, inlets, islands, and wetlands.
Around 2050, flooding is expected to permanently swamp these parts of the development, at which point they will become wetlands, while a second (higher) series of open spaces and viaducts will provide access to each building.
While Pier 2 and Pier 40 2100 are both conceptual proposals — meaning that they are intended as much to seed discussion as to suggest specific, credible plans — they may each offer insight into the forces that will shape urban planning and civic design in Lower Manhattan in the decades ahead.