Preparing for the worst: "Rising Currents" exhibition at MoMA

„Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront“ is an initiative organized by the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York to propose solutions for the effects of climate change on the city‘s waterfronts. In a workshop in January, five interdisciplinary teams worked on designs for different parts of the city which are now being exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art until October 11, 2010.

The exhibition presents architectural proposals that emphasize adaptive (i.e. „soft“) infrastructure solutions for New York and New Jersey‘s Upper Bay to make New York City and surrounding areas more resilient in responding to rising sea levels and more frequent storm surges. Elements of the proposals range from the creation of salt- and freshwater wetlands along the banks of the bay and a Venice-like aqueous landscape, to habitable piers and manmade islands, and a protective reef of living oysters. Five multidisciplinary teams of New York-based architects, engineers, and landscape designers selected to participate in Rising Currents developed the proposals during the initiative‘s workshop phase at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, from November 2009 to January 2010.

Exhibition curator Barry Bergdoll said: „Climate change is seen here not simply as a problem to be confronted, but an opportunity to be seized. As the city charts its future in coming decades with the realities of changed sea levels and more frequent storm surges, the proposed projects featured in this exhibition represent realistic possibilities whose impact and influence could be felt in the not-so-distant future. The projects are truly "glocal", that is, conceived for local conditions, but with global implications.

The five teams of architects, engineers, and landscape designers — led by principals at Architecture Research Office (ARO) with dlandstudio, LTL Architects, Matthew Baird Architects, nARCHITECTS, and SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE PLLC — have conceived projects for five sites, identified and researched by the Latrobe Team (a multi-disciplinary Princeton University affiliated group funded by the Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and led by structural engineer Professor Guy Nordenson, and including his associates Catherine Seavitt and Adam Yarinsky). The Latrobe Team‘s study, and the related publication, On the Water: Palisade Bay, served as the framework for the teams‘ work toward adaptive and widely applicable infrastructure for the sites, which is on view in this exhibition.

To provide the context for understanding the problems and issues that the teams were required to address during the workshop phase of Rising Currents, the exhibition begins with a background presentation of the Latrobe Team‘s project, including its final master plan and schematic proposals, a detailed presentation of topographic and bathymetric data, as well as projected flooding based on incremental sea level rise. Nordenson, Seavitt, and Yarinsky's work is the basis for the various proposals for the coastline of New York and New Jersey, not only to render it both more resilient for climatic changes to come, but also to reorient the perception and the experience of the city around the water, allowing New York to join a host of cities around the world from Copenhagen and Amsterdam to Singapore and Hong Kong, which increasingly focus on an active waterfront of mixed use.

At the center of the exhibition are the physical and digital models and drawings produced by the five teams, whose members worked collaboratively to create the exhibition with members of MoMA‘s Department of Exhibition Design and Production.

Rising Currents inaugurates a new series of Architecture and Design exhibitions at MoMA called Issues in Contemporary Architecture, which will focus on timely topics in contemporary architecture with an emphasis on the urban dimension in order to increase public dialogue around seminal issues.
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