If you were going to participate in the Terreform ONE competition, which charged designers with the task of inventing something around the theme “Water as New York City’s Sixth Borough,” what would you do? Would you think like Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari and build a floating community on New York’s waterways, or would you think like the second place winners and invent a different floating aquatic community? OK, I suppose that a floating community is kind of the obvious route to take when you hear “water as the sixth borough.”
Fortunately, not all designers who participated in Terreform ONE took the route of least creative resistance. Designers Jeffrey Troutman, Dustin Buck, Kendal Goodman, and Paul McBride took a radically different approach to the theme by envisioning a social and transportation infrastructure that could dramatically alter the way New Yorkers interact with the environment.
Their concept, Network Urbanism, is probably the most interesting proposal. It may not be as flashy as floating houses and stores, but it’s so viable and practical that I really have to wonder why Network Urbanism hasn’t already happened. Basically, the central idea of the plan focuses on smart phones. New Yorkers would download an app, which would allow them to input their destination or search for nearby events. This app would point the user to ferries that could often provide transportation that’s both quicker and cheaper than taxis.
The apps would also be feeding data to a central processing center, which would react to public needs. As more and more New Yorkers decide that they want to travel from point A to point B, then the city could increase the number of ferry transports for that particular route.
Kiosks near the water’s edge would act as staging grounds for ferry drop-offs and pick-ups. From there, the natural next step would be to develop these kiosks into public spaces that could be customized to fit commercial or public needs. Eventually, the city could introduce micro ecosystems to beautify the area, which would attract more and more people. Network Urbanism would create a literal meetup spot for people in this virtual social media network.
What makes this system so brilliant is that it’s a cycle that funds itself. Rather than dumping millions of dollars into floating habitats, Network Urbanism uses already established smartphone technology and pairs it with a growing demand for cheap transportation. The more people use it the more money it would make, so the revenue this system collects could be used to develop the shoreline into a beautiful park-like environment.
It’s green, it’s practical, it’s comparatively cheap, and it’s beautiful. What’s not to like?