Barkow Leibinger

Barkow Leibinger
Schillerstraße 94, D–10625 Berlin
T +49(0)30 315712 -0 F -29

Occupy Infrastructure

New York Rockaway call for ideas/ go to video


Our approach to Rockaway is really 3 fold. We need to repair these communities from the damage that has been done, then, to protect them from future destruction as our waters rise, but also to offer something new. Social and event spaces that are made from protective infrastructure.

The idea is to construct a network of retaining berms based on priority and need with local materials and by the communities that they protect. These berms are not continuous (like a wall) but overlap to allow beach access, gateways, and to maintain visual and spatial openness and continuity between beaches and neighborhoods.

These are in a sense multi-tasking systems: you can walk on them like a boardwalk, you can use them as amphitheaters, they create spaces behind them on the landside for farming, gardens, sports, swimming, shops, events, pavilions or camping.

It’s an open-ended system: The communities that they protect will determine different ways how to use them based on need and interest. Its flexible and what we are showing is not set in stone but is a kind of demonstration of how this might work.

There is also an idea that focuses on how you make such a project: How do you build it? We have a lot of experience with smart materials. For examples, communities can collect waste plastic for example from the ocean: you can recycle it combining it with cement to make infralight concrete, 1/3 the weight of regular construction concrete that can at the same time make really strong retaining structures. These are building blocks of a variety of shapes that can be made on-site and with local participation. Smart, light, and strong. These blocks are interlocking and open so plants can grow between them and water can drain through them and return to the ocean.

This project can be phased over time, you don’t have to do it all at once, as needed and by priority: this is a democratic process and will be determined by the communities.

No barrier, this idea is like a protective landscape that can open and close making a sequence of spaces like an emerald necklace. Over time the berms will be integrated into the beach as they are partially covered in sand, by vegetation and trees. Boardwalks and bridges zigzagging across the crowns of the berms will connect meadows, orchards, sport fields, swimming pools, and pavilions and shops.

Rockaway can take possession of this landscape use it and extend neighborhoods into them. Occupy Infrastructure that is pragmatic but also poetic.

Project Information

Architects — Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, Frank Barkow, Regine Leibinger


Team Design — Frank Barkow, Sonia Cohan, Gustav Düsing, Jonathan Kleinhample, Blake Villwock



Rockaway, New York



March 2013


Initiated by

MoMA PS1 and MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design