A Permanent Short-Term Fix

by Don Friedman on February 13, 2018

When Hurricane Sandy submerged a chunk of lower Manhattan, our office was on Broadway, on the ridge at the center of the area. A little over a year ago, we moved to the corner of Broad and Stone Streets, in a lower area where a lot of neighboring buildings flooded to some extent. Various large-scale projects are in different stages of planning or construction to mitigate the effect of future storms, from making it easier to seal off subway ventilators, to building a scenic berm around the southern tip of the island.

Meanwhile, building owners in the area are looking for less-than-hideously-expensive ways to protect their buildings from catastrophic flooding should another Sandylike storm hit. A number of the newer big buildings have arcades at street level, the result of too-narrow sidewalks (this part of town has a 17th century Dutch village street plan) and zoning bonuses given to developers who created public amenities. Those two facts combined lead to those curious boxes in the picture above. That’s 85 Broad Street, across from our office, and the brown metal boxes on the sides of the arcade columns hide brackets where temporary flood partitions can be mounted. A storm like Sandy gives plenty of warning, so it’s realistic to say that the building staff will remove the covers, put the partitions in place, and wait for the water to come.

This may seem a little strange, but it’s worth noting that the entire historic center of Prague is protected from river flooding using a similar temporary-barrier system. In that case, the only permanently affixed equipment are a series of sockets in the pavement paralleling the river front. When there’s upstream flooding, the covers over the sockets are removed, posts set in the sockets, and barriers erected between the posts.

Possibly Futile Clarification

August 17, 2017

These maps of subway stations have been getting a fair amount of exposure lately. I suspect that in part it’s because they are beautiful drawings. Considering them just as abstract art, they’re great to look at; the fact that they are reasonable accurate and detailed maps of subway stations makes them incredible. Subway stations are […]

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A Thousand Words

August 7, 2017

From Beyond My Ken: There was an interesting demonstration of the relative inadequacy of language during my trip to Governors Island last week. If you click on the photo above, which shows the Governors Island ferry tied up on the island as seen from the Manhattan shore, you can make out the configuration of the […]

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Drawing Pulled In Two Directions

July 31, 2017

I found this to be an interesting article on the use of iPads in creating and working with drawings. We use iPads pretty heavily for field survey work – taking notes on PDFs of drawings, taking notes in general, creating annotated photos – but have not got very far into using them as drawing tools. […]

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New And Obsolete Beauty

July 23, 2017

Very few people draft by hand any more, and I haven’t done so in 25 years, but I still want this brand new drafting table.

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Three Thoughts In 285 Words

July 21, 2017

I read Doug Stowe’s blog regularly. There’s a pretty good size gap between his work and mine, but what he has to say is always interesting and he says it in a way that both informs and entertains. His July 4th post is a good example of why I read his blog. In a very small […]

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Mental Mapping

July 13, 2017

This article from the Architectural League on avoidance mapping is interesting in itself – it has a lot to say about what different people feel is important in their local environment – but it’s also interesting in what it has to say accidentally about how people see those environments. Some of the people interviewed have […]

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Graphic Representation

July 11, 2017

Perspective elevation of the Fifth Avenue front of the New York Public Library: This article at ArchDaily on the graphic representation of construction details is interesting in two ways, one serious and one frivolous. The frivolous issue is that only six of the original ten illustrations are present, because the article is an incomplete translation; […]

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February 19, 2017

Another good and long read that I recommend: Why is Sketching (Still) Important (To Design)? A longer version of this argument can be found in one of the best books on engineering epistemology, Engineering and the Mind’s Eye. The shortest possible version of the idea: if you can’t draw it, you don’t really understand it. Finally, the […]

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February 16, 2017

That picture was taken in 1950 but still pretty accurately represented what a drafting room looked like when I started full-time work as an engineer in 1987. We sat on high stools, at drafting tables, having taken our suit jackets off, and used insanely-bright task lamps. I never drafted in the formal sense, but I […]

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