Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New York City's Amphibious Heritage

Via the always interesting Strange Maps, a utopian proposal from the early 20th Century for New York City with current parallels of either the practical Dutch examples of land reclamation or the ridiculous Dubai examples of artificial islands.  Immediately making me think of Robert Grosvenor proposal for 'Floating Manhattan' - This 1911 proposal by Dr. T. Kennard Thompson entitled 'A Really Greater New York' poses a large scale land reclamation of New York and the surrounding areas - adding 50 square miles of land to the metropolitan area.

:: image via Strange Maps

Some additional explanation:
"...proposed to expand New York into its adjacent waters for a grand total of 50 square miles. Thomson was neither a lightweight nor a crackpot. As a consulting engineer and urban planner for the City of New York, he had been involved in the construction of numerous bridges and over 20 of New York's early skyscrapers, specialising in their foundations, designing pneumatic caissons. It was the versatility of these caissons that would lead Dr Thomson to envisage a much wider application for them. In August of 1916, he wrote an article in Popular Science, advocating 'A Really Greater New York'."
For a full picture of the concept, check out the full post, but in a nutshell, my favorite part was the new proboscis attached to the end of Manhattan ('New Manhattan') - retaining a New York/New Jersey split.  Think of the cost-benefit of this (ecosystem health and environmental impact aside) were it built 100 years ago.

:: image via Strange Maps

This isn't to say that Manhattan, and many other cities around the world haven't expanded their footprint in less dramatic ways through landfilling, edging slowly into the adjacent lands.  Is it such a crazy proposition, thinking of the value of land in Manhattan and other densely developed (and land-locked) cities, is it such as strange idea?  Boston is a great example of a city built on fill, not by spreading inland,  but by capturing significant amounts of land within the Charles River basin and Harbor areas.

:: image via Crusoe Graphics

Or instead of giving this over to building, how about restoration of the areas where we've destroyed the margins through industrialization.  We could add, through land-filling, wide vegetated buffers for open space and restoration of coastal ecosystems engineered specifically for recreation, habitat, and riparian health - strips for phytoremediation between city and river - buffers for us and to remedy or ills.  While difficult to generate using existing built up edge conditions, this new process of reclamation of riparian corridors, although artificial (a la P-REX), would be a hybrid ecology that may work versus a traditional, reactive, natural methodology.

:: image via Als Dream Journal


  1. What a strange possibility- New York best left alone though. Let it grow upwards with new technologies in architecture rather than sideways.

  2. The proposal actually reminds me most of Singapore, where the entire south coast is artificial. It's all totally built up so you don't notice, but there's nothing natural there at all. Rem Koolaas had a couple pages on it in S, M, L, XL, noting that it's getting flatter as it gets wider. I guess when they run out of hills they'll start buying them from Indonesia. Meanwhile inside the city it's all green shade trees and orchids, the most walkable city in the tropics.

    But that filled-in East River would surely kill too many movies where you've got to escape but the Brooklyn Bridge just came down.


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