Designing an oceanfront development in an area at high risk of flooding is a challenge that combines two different factors: resiliency against natural disasters and the impact of climate change, as well as the pleasure and enjoyment of a seaside life.
Data reveals that sea levels could rise at a faster rate than forecasted just four years ago; potentially rising by more than 2.5 feet by the 2050s. By that same decade, there could be three times as many days at or above 90 degrees, leading to heat waves that threaten public health and the power system, among other infrastructure systems.
For these reasons the City of New York and the community of the Rockaway peninsula have planned to rebuild this vulnerable area of the Rockaway coastline recently damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, with a particular attention to safety, resiliency and sustainability.
The Seeding Office’s design proposal, in partnership with Biber Architects, Arup, Robert Silman Associates and YR&G identifies a new resilient and sustainable plan that looks at future scenarios without compromising the existing local identity and strong community’s affection to their coast.
Seeding Office is focused on exploring; studying, investigating and discussing everything that concerns the way people live in their built environment.
Our projects are guided by a strong sense of contextualization that examines each situation within its own environmental and cultural definition.
As architects and designers we want to increase awareness of, and sensitivity to, the use of what we call the formal language of shapes and spaces featured prominently in our designs.
Shapes and forms convey specific meanings that become part of our subconscious understanding of the visual world. Our proposal is driven by a concept that combines all the planning constrains with a use of shapes and design of spaces that present and future generations of Rockaway residents can feel comfortable with and adopt as their own.
We are not aiming to create an “instant” neighbourhood or a “ brand new” neighbourhood. On the contrary, our strategy is driven by the desire to create an “indeterminate” design; one that will be shaped by time and engagement of the community with the space. These are not rigid schemes that will predetermine only a selected range of possibilities, but designs that a community can naturally evolve with over time.
The design of the overarching iconic boardwalk guarantees residents and visitors the freedom of moving, crossing over, cycling, walking, standing, meeting, resting at any point, but above all the opportunity to seize the spaces underneath and create a socio-cultural-economical productive urban element.
The boardwalk is the glue connecting all the urban and natural elements together: the site to the mass transports hub; the urban form to the beach-side; the sport and recreational activities to the residential areas; the commercial and leisure spaces to the existing urban texture.
But the Boardwalk is also a functional element; it defines the dune ecosystem natural nourishment, protects the urban area from possible storm surge, produces clean energy with its wind mills powering street lights and night low consumes lighting features, allowing flexible distribution of services and creating an elegant access way to the residential areas.
The language of shapes and spaces embodied in the boardwalk design are a clear example of one of our most important objectives: design elements that can enhance encounters, provoke real affection to a place and create memories in residents and visitors.
Furthermore, resiliency against floods can reveal real opportunities for additional sustainable solutions. Resiliency in an urban context can enable urban systems to withstand disruption and destruction, but we have widened the concept into planning an urban fabric that can support a local economy, create employment for present and future generations and increase awareness of this rich ecological region and its surroundings.
Well-designed communities can be the key to solutions for managing the twenty-first century’s sustainability crisis.
Construction efficiency, longevity and cost-effectiveness all rely upon solutions that take into account the project’s full lifecycle. For this reason the design avoids the need for maintenance as much as possible. Targeting a 100-year lifespan for all park structures and permanent exterior elements requires sustainable and durable materials matched to the particular demands of their setting. We are building in an environment with salty atmosphere, intense solar exposure and constant cycles of wetting and drying.
An important factor in the design is the flood elevation under the 100-year Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) extreme flood conditions. We developed layered strategies to protect the development in the event of exceptional storms:
- First layer of defensive elements (physical boundary to resist the impact of storm surge): Existing reinforced Jetties; dunes system; boardwalk
- Second layer of adaptive elements (balance between the need to protect and acceptance of flooding) :Landscape design; rain gardens; filter strip and eco-embankment; storm water green streets
- Third layer of passive elements (acceptance of the flood) : Permeable paving; storm drainage pipes; basins
- Base flood elevations (ABFE levels): Raised platforms; safe livable areas; safe evacuation routes and assembly points.
The combination of all these strategies together with the new infrastructure acts as a single solution addressing multiple objectives. Furthermore the goal of net zero energy will be met with energy efficient buildings and onsite renewable electricity and heat generation. Today, the only commercially viable renewable onsite electricity generation source is through solar photovoltaics (PVs) while the wind turbines will provide clean energy for streets and boardwalk lighting becoming a strong branding and educational element to the project .