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RISE UP: Community Coastal Stewardship in the Rockaways

RISE UP borrows its name from the Rockaways Initiative for Sustainability and Equity. The not-for-profit is the heart of this project, which goes beyond architecture to encompass a design process for bolstering deep engagement with the environment. 

RISE UP: Community Coastal Stewardship in the Rockaways
“RISE UP is really about environmental leadership, because the education part of it is directed at future stewards. It’s the clear winner.”
Julie Bargmann, AZ Awards 2024 Juror

Hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and subsequent extreme weather events, the Rockaways, in Queens, New York, have re-emerged thanks to the work of community organizations like RISE. The New York firm WXY architecture + urban design initially engaged with these groups when it designed the nine-kilometre Rockaway Boardwalk, a first step in providing new climate-resilient infrastructure for the area. Taking shape more recently, the RISE UP project encompasses the two interconnected designs of the Arverne Nature Center and the Greater Rockaway Coastal Resilience Plan, the latter an environmental stewardship program co-developed with ecologists at eDesign Dynamics. Geared to the needs of the area’s low-income and minority communities, it proposes four pilot projects along a 7.7-hectare stretch of shoreline on the Rockaway Peninsula. Already completed, the first saw youth planting native species like little bluestem, seaside goldenrod and eastern red cedar to protect against storm surges and flooding; a public school curriculum on local dune ecologies is in the works.

RISE UP: Community Coastal Stewardship in the Rockaways

A safe space for the implementation of these community activities, the Arverne Nature Center stretches its arms out to the community. Raised above the floodplain, it stands as a common ground for everyone from beachgoers and organizers to Department of Parks and Recreation staff. The architects describe the centre as a connecting point — and have designed it as such. The building’s boldest characteristic: a covered wraparound porch with a large terrace that faces the boardwalk and the ocean. Generous ramps and stairs tie the porch to the landscape, the city and the boardwalk. Capped with two solar arrays and clad in wood left untreated to patinate, the building is as integrated into its site as it is into the community it serves. A physical manifestation of the activist ethos that drives the whole of the RISE UP project, Arverne Nature Center exemplifies collaborative, locally led climate action.

Team: Claire Weisz, Adam Lubinsky and Mark Yoes with Nathalie Kauz, Pierre de Brun, Tom Offord and Suryani Dewa Ayu

Winner: Environmental Leadership
Award of Merit: Social Good
RISE UP: Community Coastal Stewardship in the Rockaways

RISE UP encompasses the two interconnected designs of the Arverne Nature Center and the Greater Rockaway Coastal Resilience Plan.

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