C I T Y / M E M O R I A L
By Diana Balmori
What if we rebuild our city as if it were a living thing: would everyone react angrily that we are mocking lasting values? If you think of cities as rocks, if you think of cities as fixed, eternally, this may be the case. Cities, however, change over time not only in response to catastrophe but continuously. This is almost the definition of a city: an evolving settlement.
Let me make the case for rebuilding New York as a living thing. The law of unintended consequences has yielded a slew of ecological problems generated by previous generations' improvements: heat islands (temperature increases over cities due to paved surfaces); polluted water bodies; loss of pure drinking water; peaks of energy use shorting out power plants; peaks of storms eroding, polluting, and flooding streams; smog choking us. These things now require us to understand the natural processes that link cause and effect, to develop an ecological urbanism.
Let us create a new part of the city based on clean sources of energy. Rather than build more power plants burning fossil fuels, let this piece of city get its energy through a wind farm on one of its islands -- Staten at Fresh Kills, or Governors.
Let us double the green absorbent surface of Lower Manhattan by having a large linear park wind its way through the area, providing a continuous green walk.
Let us require green roofs that retain water, which will evaporate through plants back into the atmosphere.
Let us enable the earth to absorb the water of passing storms, preventing river floods.
Let us make continuous strips of earth for trees in every sidewalk, to reduce heat loads and absorb water.
Let us harness the sun's power, lighting the streets of Lower Manhattan with photovoltaics.
Let us limit the number of automobiles, emphasizing mass transit on rails and water with cleaner sources of energy, natural gas or hydrogen.
Let us build places where anaerobic activity disposes our garbage.
Let us reuse water.
Let us fuse building with landscape through green roofs, each green roof dedicated to one person lost. A city with 3,000 green roofs as a symbol. But green wallsj, too, and tall buildings that have small parks in them.
Then out of destruction will come a living place and a memorial.
Balmori is the principal of Balmori Associates, a landscape and urban design firm, and teaches at the Yale School of Architecture and the Yale School of the Environment