New-Ark: How Newark Saved Manhattan

The Story of How Newark, New Jersey Saved Manhattan (MIT Department of Architecture)

New-Ark, is simultaneously a project about an exodus from a sinking island, Manhattan and the heroic transformation and regeneration of Newark, New Jersey. Considered the operational life-line for New York, Newark is one of the nations largest air, rail and shipping hubs. It processes tons of cargo, goods and waste daily along with thousands of people through various interchanges, multi-modal stations, ports and vessels, bridges and tracks. Newark is considered to be the backstage for the dazzling performance that is daily life in Manhattan.

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New-Ark subverts this historical power relation by projecting the project into a future scenario where run-away climate change and rising sea-levels begin to wide out major metropolises around the world. Exploring the creative notion of ‘the copy’ or the ‘transplant’; Manhattan is transposed onto vast tracts of Newark. Block by city block the buildings vanish and reappear in a new location, superimposed onto quite sub-urban areas of Newark.

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Apartment buildings slam into sub-urban houses; a pier jets out into a  grassy park. The new urban environment New-Ark preserves the precious fabric of the worlds most exciting city and forms new connections, adjacencies and personal narratives in the process.

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This research project was inspired by a poem by David Berman


A second New York is being built
a little west of the old one.
Why another, no one asks,
just build it, and they do.
The city is still closed off
top all but the work crews
who claim it’s a perfect mirror image.
Truthfully, each man works on the replica
of the apartment building he lived in,
add new touches,
like cologne dispenser, rock gardens
and doorknobs marked for the grand hotels.
Improvements here and there, done secretly
and off the books. None of the supervisors
notice or mind. Everyone’s in a wonderful mood,
joking, taking walks through the still streets
that single reporter allowed inside has described as
“unleavened with reminders of the old city’s
complicated past, but giving off some blue perfume from the
early years on earth.”
The men grow to love the peaceful town.
It becomes difficult to return home at night,
which sets the wives to worrying.
The yellow soups are cold, the sunsets quick.
The men take long breaks on the fire escapes,
waving across the quiet spaces to other workers
meditating on their perches.
Until one day…
The sky fills with charred clouds.
Tool belts rattle in the rising wind.
Something is wrong.
A foreman stands in the avenue
pointing binoculars at a massive gray mark
moving towards us in the eastern sky.
Several voices, What, What is it?
Pigeons, he yells through the wind.