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Mayor Bloomberg And Oem Commissioner Bruno Announce Winners Of "what If New York City..." Competition To Design Urban Housing For Use After A Disaster

February 6, 2008

Ten Winners Receive $10,000 to Further Develop Designs

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno today announced the winners of the "What If New York City…" post-disaster housing design competition.  The competition began in September 2007 and challenged entrants to create innovative temporary housing solutions for the thousands of New Yorkers who might be displaced in the event of a catastrophe. Because of its population density and concentrated infrastructure, the City is not well suited for traditional post-disaster housing, such as mobile homes. The 117 submissions that OEM received were from architects, industrial designers, engineers, inventors and students from 30 countries. Ten winners and ten honorable mentions were chosen by a jury of experts in and out of government. The ten winners will each further develop their designs with the support of a $10,000 award and the assistance of technical consultants made available by OEM. After the development period, one or more of the winners may be selected for prototype construction.

"This competition is just one example of how we're tapping the ingenuity of the private sector to help improve public services," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Should a storm hit the City, our recently updated plans will meet the immediate need for shelter, but these contest winners will help us to provide needed longer-term provisional housing that ensures the safety and comfort of those displaced."

"Serving on the jury was an eye opening experience," said OEM Commissioner Bruno. "We examined thoughtful submissions by the best and brightest from around the world. I am eager to see the winning designers further develop their ideas into solutions that we can incorporate into our Coastal Storm Plan."

"For millions of people worldwide, climate change will mean increased flooding, more frequent and devastating coastal storms, and dramatic coastal erosion-resulting in the loss of lives, livelihoods and homes. The Rockefeller Foundation's Climate Change Resilience Initiative aims to develop the ability of communities to manage and plan for the dire consequences of climate change," said Maria Blair of the Rockefeller Foundation.  "The OEM competition has not only raised awareness for the need to manage the effects of climate change, but has also elicited innovative designs and plans for post-disaster housing from professionals and students around the globe.  We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno for creating this model project, which we are proud to support."

"Through this competition, New York City is setting standards for post-disaster housing options that are applicable to cities around the world," said Cynthia Barton, Director of Strategic Development at Architecture for Humanity New York. "In different ways, the winning proposals support New York's diversity, both of its built form, and of its family and community structures. They are all visionary, and as their practical promise develops through the contribution of technical expertise, they will become real improvements for disaster response, in terms of logistics and also quality of design."

The design competition complements the City's Coastal Storm Plan (CSP), which outlines the protocol for informing, evacuating, and sheltering New Yorkers in the event of a devastating storm or hurricane. The competition scenario given to entrants focused on a fictional neighborhood called Prospect Shore that has just been hit by a Category 3 hurricane, leaving 38,000 families without housing.  The City intends to incorporate aspects of the competition's winning submissions into the sheltering component of the CSP.

Some teams addressed New York's space constraints by using modified shipping containers and space on City streets. Other winning submissions sought to ensure quick readiness by proposing pre-fabricated residences, delivery of emergency housing via waterways and structures that could be easily assembled by community residents.

The competition jury rated submissions on a series of criteria, including: capacity, the possibility for rapid installation, site and unit flexibility, reusability, livability, accessibility, security, sustainability, and cost efficiency. The jury was chaired by Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner David Burney and the other jury members were: Commissioner Bruno; Paul Freitag of Jonathan Rose Companies, LLC; artist Mary Miss; Guy Nordenson of Guy Nordenson and Associates; Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos; and Richard Plunz of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

At the announcement, held at OEM's Brooklyn Headquarters, the Mayor and Commissioner Bruno were joined by DDC Commissioner David Burney, Rockefeller Foundation Associate Vice President and Managing Director Maria Blair, Architecture for Humanity - New York Director of Strategic Development Cynthia Barton and Director of Design Research Andrew Burdick. The Rockefeller Foundation provided funding to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City for the competition's design and management, as well as prize money for submission development. Architecture for Humanity, which has extensive worldwide experience in designing shelter after disasters, advised OEM on the creation of the competition.

Further information on the competition, including details on the winning submissions, is available at

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