Ideas for Rebuilding East Manhattan’s Edge on the Water

by Stanley Collyer

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First Place entry by Joseph Wood

Civitas, a New York-based non-profit has focused its programs on the Manhattan side of the East River waterfront. One of its more recent ventures was a design-ideas competition, Reimagining the Waterfront, the overriding idea being to improve the East River Esplanade between East 60th and 125th Streets.

Of course, all this was before Hurricane Sandy dealt a serious blow to the city and its infrastructure. But some of the entries, especially the first place prize-winner by Joseph Wood, apparently interpreted the design program not necessarily as a challenge to deal with the rising tides around the island, but inserting interlocking canals, which would be regulated in part by gates and filtration equipment to integrate the Upper East Side and East Harlem. Tiered plantings would filter storm water before flowing into the river-bound canals.. His plan appeared to relate to Venice and its canals, letting the waters penetrate into the urban fabric of Manhattan. This may have appeared to many to be a rather far-fetched scheme; but in view of the havoc Sandy wracked on the island, maybe not so off-the-wall after all.

The second- and third-place winners, Takuma Ono and Darina Zlateva of New York, and Matteo Rossetti of Italy also proposed interesting ideas for the site; but in view of the recent catastrophe which visited the island, the first-place winner will be again looked at in a different light.

A blue ribbon panel, which adjudicated the competition, was made up of Robert Rogers of Rogers Marvel Architects, architects Adam Yarinsky, Billie Tsien, Jack Travis, Signe Nielsen, Manhattan borough parks commissioner William Castro, Warren James, and attorney Al Butzel.

The competition received over 90 submissions from 24 countries, representing a multitude of schemes.

Prize Winners:


First – Joseph Wood, New Jersey, USA

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Second – Takuma Ono and Darina Zlateva, New York City, USA

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Third – Matteo Rossetti, Italy

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Honorable Mentions:
– Gerard Cadger and Xenia Semeniuk, Canada
– David Elzer, Virginia, USA
– Néstor E. Lebrón González, Puerto Rico
– Jorge Manuel López, José María Echarte, Victoria Marrero, José Luis Llaca, María Ortiz, and María Andés, Spain
– Mohammad Ali Behbahani, Marco Corazza, Francesco Fusillo, Vincenzo Marcella, Roberta Nardi, Italy


An article on the competition in the Architects Newspaper can also be viewed at: