Amphibious Architecture

A collaborative project by xClinic (NYU) and The Living (GSAPP) developed for the Toward the Sentient City Exhibition at the Architecture League of New York 

September 17 - November 7, 2009

New York Citizens Exchange Text Messages with Fish

Amphibious Architecture is a floating installation in New York waterways that glows and blinks to provide an interface between life above water and life below. It was developed by the Environmental Health Clinic at New York University and the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Two sites: 
  • East River: Next to Pike St and FDR in Manhattan
  • Bronx River: Next to 1087 E Tremont Ave in the Bronx

Project Team:
David Benjamin, Soo-in Yang, Natalie Jeremijenko, Jonathan Laventhol, Vernon McDermott, Kevin Wei, Deborah Richards, Chris Woebken, Zenon Tech-Czarny, Abha Kataria, Amelia Black, Cathy Jones, Nicole Dooskin, Terri Bahr, Jack Powers, and Mark Bain

The project floats ubiquitous computing into the water—the substance that makes up 90% of the Earth’s inhabitable volume and envelops New York City but remains under-explored and under-engaged. Two networks of floating interactive tubes, installed at sites in the East River and the Bronx River, house a range of sensors below water and an array of lights above water. The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish, and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish, and their shared environment. An SMS interface allows citizens to text-message the fish, to receive real-time information about the river, and to contribute to a display of collective interest in the environment.

Instead of treating the rivers with a “do-not-disturb” approach, the project encourages curiosity and engagement. Instead of treating the water as a reflective surface to mirror our own image and our own architecture, the project establishes a two-way interface between environments of land and water. In two different neighborhoods of New York, the installation creates a dynamic and captivating layer of light above the surface of the river. It makes visible the invisible, mapping a new ecology of people, marine life, buildings, and public space and sparking public interest and discussion.


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