WASSERGEIST// YSOA Urban Studio Final Proposal
Nicolas Kemper & Anne Ma
WASSERGEIST reclaims Bridgeport’s tradition of encouraging an intimate relationship with the water. We begin by identifying three types of water: Ocean, Rain and Sewage. As Bridgeport has adequate capacity in its two Activated Sludge Treatment Facilities to handle both its own sewage and that of 9,000 Trumbull households, we focus on the first two types.
We address the threat of storm surges presented by the ocean by proposing a berm high enough (20 feet) to protect the South End from a 100 year flood surge. We then encourage activity on and along the ocean by punctuating the berm with three piers. The berms in turn wrap a series of bank side reservoirs – lakes elevated above ground level. These lakes mitigate and then capitalize upon Connecticut’s abundance of rain water.
Depending on where it falls, we see different kinds of rain water: that of the mountains (clean, comes through rivers) and that of urban areas (dirty, comes through storm sewers). Using canals running down Broad and Park as well as pumps, we bring the different kinds of water into different lakes which in turn treat, clean and use the water (see chart for breakdown). The 220 million gallons of lakes do not just provide the water storage capacity the South End needs for flooding (such as the 19.5 million gallon sewer overflow it experienced in the aftermath of Sandy), but through different kinds of lakes treats, cleans, and ultimately celebrates this under-appreciated resource of Bridgeport’s.
Connecticut is an extraordinarily wet state. Aquarion produces 15-20% more water than its customers consume. Connecticut does not even drill its aquifers. WASSERGEIST celebrates this abundance, and then leverages it into a new kind of urban development.
New Haven County, New London, Hartford, even Fairfield County - it is striking that Connecticut’s largest city should be one of its only major cities without an eponymous county. The overlook reflects Bridgeport’s youth and struggle: still a village not even worth looting during the revolutionary war, Bridgeport grew up as a borough of its neighbor Stratford, expelled from its city in 1821 at the hest of its jealous elder sibling: whereas Stratford retained five miles of coast, ten miles of the Housatonic River, and half of the harbor, Bridgeport was left with a mere 1,000 feet of coast and three quarters of the bridges to upkeep. Bridgeporters complained to the General Assembly of being “deprived of their lawful name as town and having another imposed upon them without their consent.”
Not a city to pout, Bridgeport replied with decisive action, incorporating as a city in 1836 so they could borrow money to build a railroad, which they did immediately, passing the bond measure in 1837. After the railroad, a series of ambitious investments in their city and infrastructure saw Bridgeport become an industrial powerhouse and immigrant mecca: not endowed with a great natural harbor, in 1888 harbormaster Captain John McNeil widened the harbor up to Black Rock and Cedar Creek, allowing manufacturers to bring their freight within yards of their factories, instead of carting it two or three miles from Bridgeport’s East Side. In 1863, PT Barnum lobbied the city and led a group of donors to establish Seaside Park. Starting at just 35 acres, by 1915 city purchases and donations increased it by 200 acres - today at 340 acres it is one of largest ocean side public parks in the Northeast. Then again in 1947 the Corps of Engineers used landfill dredge from Bridgeport Harbor to increase the size of Pleasure Beach by 16 acres and connect it to Stratford.
At the same time, the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company developed one of the most extensive fresh water reservoir systems in the country. Founded in 1853 and actually led by PT Barnum from 1877 to 1886, by 1900 the BHC had developed a storage capacity of 3 billion gallons. Vigorous investment and expansion through the early 20th century played a crucial part in the development of Bridgeport’s industrial capacity. Just one new reservoir, the Aspectuck-Hemlocks Supply System, required 80,000 yards of concrete, new bridges, and miles of new roads, but such investments paid off as Bridgeport could supply its thirsty industries with the water they needed. Today the BHC – renamed Aquarion – has nearly 25 billion gallons of reservoirs and serves some 600,000 customers more than 100 million gallons of water a day.
Throughout these investments there was an understanding that Bridgeport builds its own future and thrives from an intimate relation with the water: as Barnum put it, “it dwelt upon the absurdity, almost criminality, that a beautiful city like Bridgeport, lying on the shore of a broad expanse of salt water, should so cage itself in that not an inhabitant could approach the beach.” Swept up by the allure of the highway and vicissitudes of industrial decline, after the Second World War Bridgeport made major investments against the spirit of that understanding. With the 1957 opening of the United Illuminating Company’s Harbor Station and the $464 million Connecticut Turnpike, Bridgeport firmly sundered its South Side. Under the slogan, “Brand New Bridgeport,” in 1962 a major urban renewal program under Mayor Tedesco demolished 52 acres in downtown, trading fabric for the new Route 25-8 connector and the Lafayette Plaza shopping mall.
(Text by Nicolas Kemper)