The Far Rockaways in New York is home to a thriving community of long-time residents and seasonal beach-goers who are strongly connected to the area and who wish to grow their community in the future. It is also home to a diverse range of flora, fauna, and bird species that traverse the bay during their seasonal migrations.
Architect: Dalia Hamati
Team Members: Andrew Burdick, David Tepper, Christina Ciardullo
Country: United States
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, where the vulnerable peninsula was doubly soaked from the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Jamaica Bay to the north, we asked the question of how to continue building resiliently to serve the peninsula’s various populations in a world of rising sea levels and more frequent storms. While our question was focused on an 80 acre stretch of beachfront property in the Rockaways, we were keenly aware that this is an issue facing waterside communities all over the world. As such, our proposal seeks to facilitate the establishment of a highly dynamic community in which stakeholders plan ahead for changes occurring on the ecosystem, regional, and global scales, in addition to those occurring within the site boundaries and within the immediate community.
Such planning will preserve the ecological functions that will serve as the basis for resilience and will preserve the residences and community that grow within this dynamic system. In creating our design, we undertook a “whole systems” cross-disciplinary approach that strove to 1) consider the interconnectedness of biological and man-made factors at various scales by integrating naturally protective sand dunes with existing urban housing and circulation typologies; 2) ensure that the project is designed intelligently and holistically through a deep collaboration with landscape designers, energy consultants, civil engineers, real estate developers, and members of the local community; 3) continue to meet ecological and community goals far into the future by considering the phases of the project across future generations.
Our team created a flexible kit of parts comprised of an integrated system of dunes, piers, and housing clusters. The dunes form a naturally defensive system as they gradate from live dunes at the waters’ edge to fixed dunes at the subway tracks. A light elevated pier network weaves among the dunes, protecting critical infrastructure during storms while creating a second ground that sponsors housing, commerce, and infrastructural facilities. The community is self-reliant thanks to a co-gen facility and canopies of photo-voltaic panels which provide reliable renewable site energy that not only contribute to a net-zero and low carbon footprint energy strategy but also underpin community and social resiliency reaching far beyond the project site boundaries. Further, the development dedicates a stretch of area to a nature preserve, allowing natural species to thrive and grow.
This new mode of systematic coastal development – a lighter touch for a longer time – will continue the tradition of, and further catalyze, our ability to live on the beach. Resident communities are protected against storm events without detriment to surrounding neighborhoods, while forming a strong architectural identity and a unique sense of place within a coastal context.