Aquatic architecture has one huge appeal: space. Pretty much every square inch of land on planet Earth is owned by somebody or some government, but the ocean is basically fair game. You can take your boat just about anywhere, but you can’t build a house or walk onto any stretch of property. So, if you can manage to build some sort of aquatic structure or environment, that gives you the major advantage of being able to capitalize on some seriously underutilized space.
New York City is one of Earth’s most densely packed and crowded areas, and the extremely high property value makes buying up land prohibitively expensive. See where I’m going with this? Looking at the New York waterways as a potential area to develop might be a pretty good option.
Last year, the Terreform ONE competition asked designers to imagine water as the sixth New York borough. Designs started pouring in, giving us a wealth of innovative aquatic environments. The grand prize went to Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari of Canada with their beautiful Parallel Networks vision. These designers envision a network of floating walkways and lily pad-like pods that could be customized to suit the needs of the city. Some pods might be more environmentally conscious by producing energy or acting as habitats for marine life, whereas other pods might offer recreational areas or spaces for small businesses.
The end result would be something like a floating park, where New Yorkers could come and relax, buy some frozen treats from a floating gelato stand, and enjoy the scenery, even if the scenery might not always be all that pretty.
Parallel Networks is a commendable idea that actually has quite a bit of potential, but I find that the design lacks a bit of ambition. A new park area would certainly be nice and all, but New York does already have Central Park. I kind of feel like this missed the mark, after all, it is much more like a park than a borough. I can’t really imagine people living or spending a significant amount of their time on these pads.
The main appeal of this design, though, is that the lily pads are modular, so they can be moved around to suit the needs of the city. It would actually be kind of neat to see these pods moved around due to public requests, or create massive islands that could host large crowds.
So, now the big question: is there actually any chance of seeing New York build Parallel Networks? It’s fairly possible. The competition was judged by the New York City Planning Commissioner, and New York has already demonstrated that they’re willing to entertain somewhat unorthodox aquatic architecture. Floating boroughs may not be that far-fetched, after all.