Redefine the West Water Edge of the Manhattan Grid

by Junfeng Wang (MAUD ’13) and Yi Tu (MLAUD ’13)

As one of the largest ports in the world, the west side of Manhattan witnessed the prosperity of the island during industrial age. Meanwhile, the island has also suffered from the heavy industrial infrastructure that blocked the waterfront from the city. Contrary to the 1811 Commissioner Plan, the grids had never touched the waterfront because of the city’s reliance on shipping industry.

manhattan grid 1

With the advent of containership and airplanes, the latter half of the 20th century found the west side waterfront being transformed into a fragmented terrain of highways, bridges, esplanades, parks, and dilapidated housing. The post-industrial waterfront was experiencing an identity crisis.

Various schemes have been proposed to regain this long-gone waterfront amenity for the city. Learning from the previous projects by understanding both their successes and constraints, we  propose a new west side waterfront that is well organized as a holistic system and adapted to the waterfront environment, meanwhile it is also strongly connected to the city interior physically and programmatically.

The urban grid is used as a powerful tool to reconnect the city and its waterfront. By extending the grid system to touch the waterfront, we create a more intimate relationship between city and water. Existing physical and programmatic conditions have been considered and selectively preserved as important components of our new system. As a toolbox, a five-step strategy deals with the relationship between grids, infrastructure and waterfront. This five-step strategy has been tested at three sites.
The project re-invites the waterfront to the city and create a new identity for the Manhattan post-industrial waterfront.
manhattan grid 2