MoMA Rising Currents
New York, NY

nARCHITECTS was one of five architecture firms selected in 2009 by MoMA to participate in the Rising Currents workshop and exhibition, whose goal was to envision design solutions that would mitigate the impact of storm surges and sea level rise in New York City’s Inner Harbor. nARCHITECTS was assigned the southern region of the harbor, defined by the Verrazano Bridge, Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Staten Island. Rather than propose a design solution for this area, nARCHITECTS developed a zoning manifesto that envisioned a radically transformed New Aqueous City, a title meant as a jab at utopian and modernist totalizing projects, and a tendency by governments to implement change through large infrastructural engineering projects. In a critique of top down solutions, the team proposed an urban acupuncture (ref Jaime Lerner), in which a dispersed series of top-down interventions are complemented by bottom-up reactions, from a variety of urban actors and natural processes. The project assumed that the city would be comprised of 7 Boroughs, including the 6th Borough of Palisades (the Inner Harbor), and the 7th Borough of New Jersey.

New Aqueous City Zoning Manifesto

Article I: General Provisions (excerpts)

Chapter 3 – Comprehensive Regulations in all 7 Boroughs of the Regional Metropolis of New Aqueous City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey, Manhattan, Queens, Palisades, Staten Island).


The provisions of this Chapter establish special comprehensive regulations for the design of future structures and public spaces that shall be resilient to sea level rise and storm surges. These regulations are a significant step forward towards bringing the Zoning Resolution into conformity with current environmental assessments.

1.0 Design Requirements for Islands

Within the riverbed zone of 30’ to 40’ below mean sea level, no structures other than Wave Attenuating Islands shall be built.

1.1 Construction Requirements for Islands

Wave Attenuating Islands shall be assembled from modular floating sections, brought together by barges. To increase buoyancy of sections, barriers shall be inflated during transport. Sections are to be equipped with inlet valves to assist in submersion to riverbed.

1.2 Design Requirements for Inflatable Barriers

Wave Attenuating Islands shall house a system of Inflatable Storm Barriers. Modular concrete sills at the riverbed shall connect individual islands to form an archipelago. In the event of a storm, sensors shall signal pumps housed in the concrete island section to inflate the dynamic barriers above the surge water level. Upstream valves are to open, allowing water to also enter the tubes. Only during an event shall the archipelago become a defensive line.

1.3 Provisions for Public Access

Public access shall be provided to all wave attenuating islands over one acre in size. Use shall be limited to recreation and wildlife observation.

1.4 Provisions for Habitat

Wave Attenuating Islands, in conjunction with a porous zone of boulders constructed around them, shall be designed to capture sediment flowing down the Hudson River during low tide. Any resulting natural habitat shall be protected and allowed to enhance the island’s wave attenuating properties.

2.0 Design Requirements for Public Waterfront Areas

Designated urban corridors that extend between existing subway stations and new ferry service shall be zoned as Urban Development Corridors terminating in Public Waterfront Areas resilient to sea level rise and storm surges. Provisions of this section will encourage lively multiple use neighborhoods that promote job creation.
2.1 Design and Construction Requirements for Wave Attenuating Piers

Wave Attenuating Piers shall extend from Urban Development Corridors, and provide for multiple uses that include ferry stations and docking facilities for Mobile Program Barges, public leisure areas and protected wetlands. Piers shall be comprised of boardwalk segments supported on modular concrete porous wave deflectors (storm surge side), and of floating segments tethered to piles (protected side).

2.2 Requirements for Ferry Service

A new generation of Biogas Ferries shall dock at the water side (express lines) and the land side (local lines) of the Wave Deflecting Piers.

2.3 Energy Requirements for Ferries

Biogas Ferries shall be powered by methane fuel harvested from sewage (note that one ferry mile requires approximately 4,800 gallons of sewage to be processed – equivalent to 8 households a day. The Owl’s Head Treatment Plant processes 120,000,000 gallons per day, which would power one ferry for 25,000 miles).

2.4 Use Requirements for Barges

Mobile Program Barges, powered with biogas, shall dock at public piers on a rotating basis. Uses shall include greenmarkets, libraries, swimming pools, sports facilities and vaccination clinics.

2.5 Requirements for Pier Buildings

Multi-Use public buildings shall be constructed at the land side of Wave Attenuating Piers. Building uses shall include but not be limited to: cultural facilities, restaurants and office space. Public buildings at piers shall also provide public access to a roof that facilitates evacuation during storm surges.

2.6 Requirements for Tram Harbor Loop

A new Tram Harbor Loop shall encircle Palisades Bay, connecting five of the seven boroughs of New Aqueous City. Tram lines shall be located in proximity to public waterfront areas and ferry service, and shall utilize existing transportation infrastructural routes where possible.

3.0 Provisions for Aqueous Neighborhoods

Areas below the 20’ topographic elevation line are subject to flooding during a Category 3 Storm. Buildings within this zone shall be resilient to sea level rise and storm surges, and shall be constructed as per the provisions of this section. All structures shall have a uniform public roof level to allow for safe havens or evacuation. Building owners shall establish depth of structures depending on acceptable level of risk (owners are advised to check the National Flood Insurance Program’s regarding insurance of habitable spaces below 20’ above mean sea level). Given the absence of flexible provisions regulating building height (skyline), this zone shall therefore be characterized by an active waterline.

3.1 Design Requirements for Aqueous Buildings

All buildings sited below 20’ above mean sea level shall be hung from a shared bridge structure provided by the city, which shall also serve as a safe evacuation zone during flooding. Access shall be from the uppermost level below the roof, via vertical support units which shall also house elevator and stair cores and other amenities. Buildings shall be constructed with lightweight materials.

3.2.1 Special Regulations for Waste Management: Liquids

Liquid waste from each neighborhood block shall be treated by floating treatment wetlands. 400 sq.ft. of wetland shall be allotted to treat waste for each household of four. Treatment wetlands shall be supported on floating concrete barges, guided by piles and coupled together to form an area resilient to tidal changes and sea level rise. In the event of a storm, they shall also serve as breakwaters and wave attenuators.

3.2.2 Special Regulations for Waste Management: Solids

Solid waste from each neighborhood block shall be treated by micro anaerobic digesters, to be housed in the vertical building supports. Bio-gas produced by each block shall be used for cooking. Note that energy produced by anaerobic digestion is a renewable source and reduces the emission of landfill gas.

3.3 Provisions for Floating Public Areas:

Public access shall be provided to all floating boardwalks and pier parks in the Aqueous Neighborhoods. Fifty percent of this public way shall be comprised of floating parks. Floating parks shall include floating wetlands to aid in water quality improvement and habitat creation.

MoMA Rising Currents
Client : MoMA
Project Location : New York, NY
Status : 2009-2010
Program : Speculative alternate New York
nARCHITECTS Team : Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (Principals) Julia Chapman, Noah Levy, Seung Teak Lee, Meir Lobaton, Sanjukta Sen (Core Team Members).With nARCHITECTS office: Dominique Gonfard, Stephen Hagmann, Hubert Pelletier.
Collaborators : Design Team: with Andre Guimond, Juliana Muniz, Teo Quintana, Rebecca Garnett, Tyler Velten and Brett Appel; Consultants: Ed Purver, Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha, Arup NY