The BIG U is a 10-mile protective ribbon around lower Manhattan that addresses vulnerabilities exposed by Superstorm Sandy (2012). The U consists of multiple linked design opportunities that each local neighborhood can tailor to its own set of programs, functions, and opportunities. Small, relatively simple projects invest in resiliency now, and these set in motion longer term solutions to create a protective framework that also doubles as community amenities.
The BIG U consists of three components: BIG Bench, Battery Berm, and Bridging Berm. BIG Bench is a continuous protective element adapted to the local context that mediates new and existing infrastructure. Like street furniture, it is designed to be practical yet playful. The Battery Berm weaves an elevated path through the park, enhancing the public realm while protecting the Financial District and critical transportation infrastructure. This signature building features a “reverse aquarium” that enables visitors to observe tidal variations and sea level rise. The Bridging Berm rises 14 feet by the highways, connecting the coast and communities with greenways. Ultimately, the Bridging Berm will cap the highway.
Rooted in the concept of “social infrastructure,” the BIG U protects the city from storm water and also addresses the needs of the city’s communities in the public realm. The Big U must to be able to address extremely diverse needs, financing abilities, public interests, and aspirations, and so consists of separate but coordinated plans for three contiguous regions of the waterfront and associated communities. Each compartment comprises a physically separate flood-protection zone, isolated from flooding other zones. The compartments work in concert, but each compartment’s proposal is designed to stand on its own.