If sea levels keep rising over the coming decades, where does that leave buildings located in coastal cities like New York City? This is a question addressed by NYC-based firm DFA with its conceptual design for a cluster of flood-resistant residential high-rises in Manhattan.
DFA's development would comprise 19 towers situated on Manhattan's existing Pier 40. The firm used an algorithm to calculate which of the pier's structural piles would be suitable to support the towers and this data informed their layout.
Working from the assumption that future rises in sea levels will inevitably flood the area, the idea is that the towers would still remain accessible. The lobbies of the towers would be used until the waters rose too high, then residents would make use of observation terraces located above the lobbies to enter the towers. An undulating deck would ensure easy access and the landscaping would also take flooding into account.
Existing elevator shafts would still be used after flooding. We'd hope that the project would take structural issues into consideration, such as protecting the towers against salt water, though the proposal makes no mention of such things.
"New York City's sea level is expected to rise 11-30 inches by 2050 and between 50 to 75 inches by 2100, with the majority of current buildings not designed to accommodate such inevitable changes," says the firm (those figures seem to derive from government studies  ). "DFA's vision for Pier 40, a 15-acre structure in the Hudson River that is greatly in need of repairs, takes a longer-term view with comprehensive design approach for the future."
The towers would range in height between 96 ft (29 m) to 455 ft (138 m)-tall and consist of a glulam (glue laminated timber) structure, with a glazed facade and green roof, as well as small pockets of greenery in terraces. They would feature a range of suites, with the focus on affordable housing, but also including luxury housing.
Elsewhere would be a soccer field, boathouse and other facilities, while floating pods would act as wave breaks to protect the development during storms.
While the project is unlikely to be realized anytime soon, it's an interesting idea and, assuming sea levels do indeed rise as expected, architects will likely have to begin addressing such issues more widely in the future.
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