TITLE: Central city: inversion
Client: LA+ (ICONOCLAST International Competition)
Project Type: Speculative
Manhattan’s historical genealogy is one of brutal colonialism and subjugation of nature. Beginning with the removal of the Lenape people, continuing with the imposition of a totalizing grid across the island, following with the dispossession of the first community of free black people for the construction of Central Park, and terminating with a conquest of the sea through the expansion of land, Manhattan and its elements have been engendered through humankind’s most aggressive impulses. And now, our own civilizational lascivious excesses have triggered increasingly devastating climate change that threaten to redraw Manhattan. Vast swaths of land that should have never been, will—by the latest estimates—sink back into the sea by 2100. Therefore, with plant matter obliterated in Central Park, Manhattan has a unique opportunity for inversion—where once ‘nature’ now becomes a city, and the city is now offered for reclamation by nature. Moreover, as sea levels rise, a new coastline is revealed—both marker and metric for a simultaneous decolonization of the island’s urban footprint and an exodus to the narrow rectangular volume formerly known as Central Park. This new city can accommodate the same square footage as the old Manhattan achieved purely through increased density unencumbered by pandering urban design to cars. Instead, a random and adhoc choreography of volume and voids allow for a unique pedestrian/urban experience that prioritize chance encounters and promote intermingling. With the tired Cartesian grid abandoned in this new scheme, this new ‘Central City’ manifests a playful chaos that mimics the logic of a forest. Underground public transport is maintained to facilitate commutes across town. However, with a drastically reduced footprint, transportation within Central City is quick and effortless. With nature taking back the old urban Manhattan, vestigial ecologies are restored. Renewed pre-colonial natures that transition between terrestrial forests and estuarine littoral environments thus re-emerge as new catalyst and agents for a healthier and more sustainable relationship between anthropogenic forces and complex ecosystems.