Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is drowning. The banks of the Fox River served as an idyllic setting for the building’s white steel and glass when it landed in Plano, Illinois. But lately the Fox has gone rabid, spilling over its banks three times in the past 18 years. So what to do? Preservationists are looking at installing hydraulic jacks to lift the house during floods, to the tune of about $3 million. Call it the Three Million Dollar Modernist. Ironically Mies put the house on stilts to prevent such flooding; I guess you can’t outwit a wily Fox.
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, AN is taking a closer look at each of the final ten proposals. Here’s BIG’s “Big U” that could save Lower Manhattan from the next superstorm.
On September 9th, New Orleans unveiled an innovative proposal for flood management: the New Orleans Greater Water Plan. Designed by Dutch engineers and led by chief architect and planner David Waggonner of locally-based firm Waggonner & Ball Architects, the plan seeks to mitigate the damages caused during heavy rainfalls. The concept is simple: keeping water in pumps and canals instead of draining and pumping it out. The idea is to retain the water in order to increase the city’s groundwater, thereby slowing down the subsidence of soft land as it dries and shrinks.
Just over four years ago, the Fox River spilled its banks, sending floodwaters into Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and causing significant damage. Built in 1951 and located outside Chicago, the river is again rising, now fully surrounding the stilted abode turned museum, and the house, operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has shared watery photos on its Farnsworth blog, stating: “The house is fully surrounded by river water, but neither the lower deck nor the upper deck has yet to be breached.” Water is not expected to enter the house, but all precautions are being taken, including elevating interior furnishings on milk crates.When the site is not flooded, tours of the house are available to the public.
While Hurricane Sandy hasn’t slowed development in some parts of Brooklyn, it has delayed the groundbreaking of the Roger Marvel Architects-designed hotel and residential complex at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park called the Pierhouse. The New York Post reported that the project was originally slated to begin construction this month, but Toll Brothers, the developer, said they will hold off until the redesign of the 159-apartment and 200-room hotel complex is updated with measures meant to protect against future storm surges. Changes include elevating the building three feet, adding steps and ramps to the lobby, and placing the mechanical systems on the roof. This development is paying for a considerable portion—about $3.3 million—of the park’s $16 million annual maintenance budget. Nearby, plans for a velodrome proposed for the park were scrapped in part due to potential flooding of the site.
In post-Hurricane Sandy New York, it looks like Zone A is expanding, and stretching beyond waterfront properties to encompass buildings farther inland. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released preliminary new maps on Monday revealing that an additional 35,000 homes and buildings are now listed in flood zones. Business and homeowners included in these new zones will likely see their insurance rates rise.
While the majority of New York City is pre-occupied with the recovery efforts post-Hurricane Sandy, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is discussing and introducing different measures that can be taken to protect our buildings from future storms. At a review session yesterday, Howard Slatkin, the Director of Sustainability and Deputy Director of Strategic Planning for the DCP, presented Hurricane Sandy: Initial Lessons for Buildings. From the start, Slatkin maintained that newly constructed buildings designed to code “fared better.” He listed several buildings—such as The Edge in Williamsburg, IKEA in Red Hook, and Arverne by the Sea in the Rockaways—as examples of new developments that successfully withstood the storm.
For five months a year Bangladesh endures a monsoon season, suffering from two floods yearly leaving millions of citizens living in river basins stranded without basic necessities. But a non-profit organization founded by an architect based in northern Bangladesh, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, has decided to build flood resistant schools that come to the homes of students. Health care facilities and homes are also being built to float by the non-profit.
Floods last spring in the United Kingdom have inspired a flood-resistant housing design that works with floodwaters instead of against them—homes that rise from their foundations with floodwaters and return to ground level once waters have dissipated. Baca Architects has proposed the first “amphibious house” in the UK, on the banks of the Thames River in Buckinghamshire, that if successful could reverse a decision to ban new construction in low-lying areas.
After going through 9/11, the importance of disaster preparedness and relief hit home with New Yorkers. “Everyone was focusing on the fact that New York had been damaged,” said Lance Jay Brown, AIANY board member and co-chair of the recently formed Design for Risk and Reconstruction committee of the AIANY. “The architectural community was galvanized to respond.” Just coming off a jolt from a rare, if small, earthquake and with Hurricane Irene on its doorstep, New York is once again focused on planning for disaster.