(Photo: MOMA)

Climate experts predict that at current rates of global warming, the city will face a tidal rise of 2 feet or more by 2080. The potential effect on Gotham and its surroundings could be so severe that someone ought to be thinking about it right now. So MoMA has commissioned four teams of young architects to anticipate the waters’ rise and come up with new ways to break up the devastating storm surges.

Are escapist art lovers up for wet reality? Many brush by, but a few pause at the startling graphic of the city’s familiar coastal profile shrinking inward as inky waters rise. Most of Governors Island is swallowed undersea. Manhattan still stands, but with ugly amoeba-shaped excisions. The graphic is in stark black and white, with no esthetic mercies like Magritte’s bowler-hatted floaters or Picasso’s bathers.

The project — called Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront — has been using space at MoMA’s affiliate, the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens, to devise innovations for the “impending urgencies” of irresistible tides and apocalyptic weather that are likely to confront New York City and other coastal cities.

Instead of concrete barrier defenses, the teams are aiming at ecological solutions and “soft infrastructure”: artful piers and parks, adaptive chains of new wetlands and giant oyster beds like those that once buffered the New World. P.S. 1 will offer an advance peek at the architects’ brave new world on Saturday. MoMA has scheduled an exhibit in Manhattan in March.


Francis X. Clines
New York Times