On the Water | Palisade Bay

A two-year investigation of New York’s Palisade Bay funded by the AIA’s 2007 Latrobe Prize, On the Water | Palisade Bay proposed the redesign of the upper harbor of New York and New Jersey in response to the rise of sea levels and storm surges.

aerial of Lower Manhattan with proposed islands

The project culminated in a book, was the basis for the exhibition Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront at the Museum of Modern Art and was exhibited at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy.

On the Water | Palisade Bay book laid out

Led by the engineer Guy Nordenson, a multidisciplinary team of collaborators researched and documented the physical conditions of the harbor. GIS mapping of topography and bathymetry provided a means to precisely measure the impact of elevated water levels and storm surges on the surrounding land, buildings, and infrastructure.

bathymetric diagram of Palisades Bay highlighting regions at risk to rising tides
proposed Palisades Bay masterplan

Focused on a vision of the harbor as a new regional center, the project was partly a response to the failure of “hard” engineering during Hurricane Katrina. Instead of building floodwalls to keep the water out, “soft” engineering strategies including a constructed archipelago and wetlands were proposed to blunt storm surge force and address the advance of water onto land. The result is a resilient relationship between land and water, beneficial for both people and the surrounding habitat.

  • Palisade Bay area 1: existing highways compared to proposed intervention
  • Palisade Bay area 1: existing highways compared to proposed intervention
  • Palisade Bay area 2: ferry terminals compared to proposed intervention
  • Palisade Bay area 2: ferry terminals compared to proposed intervention
  • Palisade Bayarea 3: narrow landscape with small structure compared to proposed intervention
  • Palisade Bayarea 3: narrow landscape with small structure compared to proposed intervention
man interacts with water table model
Water table studies modeled island forms that would reduce storm surge damage.
  • mapping Palisade Bay currents through proposed island type 1
  • mapping Palisade Bay currents around existing docks
  • mapping Palisade Bay currents through proposed island type 2