Flashback: MoMA's Ideas to Combat Rising Seas in New York Harbor

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. 

Two years ago, MoMA mounted the critically acclaimed exhibition "Rising Currents," which featured design schemes for how to combat rising sea levels due to climate change. With New Yorkers and others on the Eastern seaboard clenched today as Frankenstorm hurls toward us—and with water already creeping over banks (yikes)—we thought we’d take a look back at the prescient exhibition. If only some of these ideas had been implemented right away! Sure, they weren’t responses to a vicious hurricane, but they certainly couldn’t hurt in times like this. 

"Rising Currents" was not your typical exhibition, particularly for an art museum. MoMA demarcated flood zones in the New York Harbor area and then asked interdisciplinary teams to devise concepts for how to mitigate escalating sea levels in those areas. The teams—comprising architects, engineers, and landscape designers—developed their concepts during an artists-in-residence program at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, MoMA’s affiliate in Queens. They were led by five architecture firms: Architecture Research Office, LTL Architects, nArchitects, Matthew Baird Architects, and SCAPE.

Courtesy MoMA.

The teams dreamed up vastly different strategies for modifying the coastlines encircling the harbor, but per the exhibition brief, all of them were focused on creating “soft infrastructures” that were mindful of Mother Earth. Below is a look at their concepts, which were on view at MoMA from March to October 2010. They may seem far-fetched, but they certainly get one thinking about how to make a city more responsive to the forces of nature.

Visit MoMA’s Rising Currents site to learn more, or read the review in The New York Times. And for those in Hurricane Sandy’s path right now, be safe!

Courtesy ARO.

Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio proposed creating wetlands around the edges of Manhattan. They also suggested replacing asphalt streets with a perforated cast-concrete surface that could absorb rainwater.

Courtesy LTL Architects.

The team led by LTL Architects proposed an “amphibious landscape continually activated by rising tides.”

Courtesy nArchitects.

nArchitects created a series of artificial islands with housing blocks.

Courtesy Matthew Baird Architects.

Matthew Baird Architects proposed replacing an oil refinery in New Jersey with piers that would support bio-fuel and recycling factories.

Courtesy SCAPE.

SCAPE imagined creating an oyster farm in the (now-polluted) Gowanus Canal.

Courtesy MoMA.

The exhibition in MoMA’s architecture and design gallery.

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

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