The Mannahatta Project

The Mannahatta Project

Joe Gibney

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Predicated on an uncertain future in which “buildings” and “cities” can no longer be designed for ‘us’ alone, but rather, must seek to foster new forms of “architectural” and “urban” space situated somewhere between human and nonhuman use, the Geofutures program’s design research privileges neither. Instead, students are encouraged to explore the seemingly paradoxical condition of simultaneous proximity of and separation between the two. As such, experiential, conceptual, and performative aspects of architecture, that is to say, the aesthetic, cognitive, as well as instrumental capacities of a “building” or “city”, are generally characterized by qualities of ambiguity, uncertainty, and the uncanny; qualities endemic to the human experience in a time of environmental crisis and existential threat.

For instance, The Mannahatta Project proposal for a reconstituted “shoreline” around the perimeter of lower Manhattan offers a tacit critique of BIG’s Rebuild by Design proposal for the same site (perhaps a more subtle defensive barrier against the forces of the nonhuman, but a defensive barrier nonetheless), proposing instead a series of new opportunities for nonhuman as well as human forms of inhabitation premised on a deceptively simple question: rather than continue to build bigger and better sea walls in an arguably futile effort to keep the ocean out, what new opportunities arise if we simply let it in?

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Evan Douglis, Professor


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