Meet the Woman Planning an Underwater Highline in New York City
This fall, architects Billie Iversen, Chris Mazzotta, and James L. Davis will design a bridge made of prefabricated plastic panels that is designed to withstand the worst of Mother Nature. Dubbed the “Turtle Bridge,” the project is being billed as an environmentally conscious alternative to the bridge over the Hudson River whose current design was chosen as the winner of the 2012 ULI Awards for Environmental Achievement.
Iversen grew up in Massachusetts and is a graduate of Yale. Like Mazzotta, whose company, Gensler, won a previous ULI award for its sustainable design of the Highline Park in Manhattan; Davis, whose company, Envision, designed the San Francisco Ferry Building; and Mazzotta, himself a Yale alumnus, he’s the son of a retired New York City Department of Health employee who would go on to found the World Wildlife Fund.
It’s not as if architects have always had the best of reputations. “A lot of architects have tried to be environmentalists, or have been environmentalists in the past,” Mazzotta says, “but they’re not really engineers or mechanical or structural designers, and they’re not doing something they were already very good at.”
For the project in New York, Mazzotta, who grew up near Boston, says he decided to get a more engineering-focused education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he began working with Davis when he was still a student at Yale, and the two began discussing ways to implement the Highline Park on the Manhattan side of the Hudson River. The bridges were the obvious choice, but it’s not exactly easy to build a bridge between two buildings that is designed not to allow light to seep in from below through windows.
“It took a long time to get this project off the ground,” Davis says. “People did a lot of work on it before we were ready to try it.”
The “Turtle Bridge�