Rising Currents: Projects for New York City’s Waterfront


An upcoming exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, “Rising Currents: Projects for New York City’s Waterfront,” will offer a set of “soft” infrastructure ideas for adapting to rising sea levels. The goal of the exhibition is to highlight the threats presented by climate change and explore  “new research and fresh thinking about the use of New York City’s harbor and coastline.” Soft (or, really, green) infrastructure involves the use of natural systems and can even support the development of local ecosystems. MoMA will also highlight concepts they consider “shovel ready,” arguing that climate change adaption projects can spur economic development.

Adam Freed, Deputy Mayor, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, gave the exhibition a positive review, calling the work “optimistic innovation.” Freed argues that the exhibition presents the green infrastructure ideas of the future. “The ‘Rising Currents’ exhibition provides us with a model of how the innovative use of both structural and non-structural elements can help us withstand the impacts of climate change while making the city more sustainable. It also emphasizes the need to involve a wide variety of disciplines, experts, and stakeholders in developing resilience strategies to ensure that all possibilities are explored.”

Freed contends New York City can prepare for climate change by developing a new approach to the built environment more in synch with the natural world. “The work of the five teams at P.S.1 illustrates that climate change will require us to alter the way we behave as individuals, build and operate infrastructure, design buildings, utilize land, manage natural resources, make investments, and plan for the future. Their work emphasizes innovative strategies that enhance our built environment while embracing the natural environment—even as it changes around us.”

The ideas were created by five interdisciplinary teams derived from P.S.1’s architects-in-residence program. The installation presents the proposals developed during the program, including a set of models, drawings, and analysis.

The exhibition will be open March 24 – October 11, 2010. Learn more and check out preparations leading up to the “Rising Currents” exhibition on MoMA’s blog.

Image credit: MoMA

2 thoughts on “Rising Currents: Projects for New York City’s Waterfront

  1. matthew 03/18/2010 / 4:34 pm

    “Soft (or, really, green)…”
    MoMA probably used the word ‘soft’ specifically to avoid the word ‘green’ and its negative connotations — its associations with artistically impotent green-washing projects, and its implication of allowing eco-friendliness to overrule everything else. Not recognizing or maintaining the distinction between soft and green can strengthen the stigma behind the word ‘green.’

  2. knoblauch 03/19/2010 / 9:27 am

    “Soft” also has important connotations of materiality, being absorptive and being responsive rather than hard and inflexible. Using the word soft seems gentle, subtle, and less imposing than the machine aesthetic of earlier technologically or infrastructurally-based urban schemes. (Of course, there is also the connotation with soft power.)

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