The Mannahatta Project


In 2009 New York City celebrates the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s voyage. He has sailed on his ship “Half Moon” from Amsterdam to explore an estuary from Staten Island to Albany, which is known today as Hudson River. He met with native Americans and observed almost undisturbed forested landscapes on an island, which is known today as Manhattan, or Mannahatta in a native language, the land of thousand hills. What has changed since that time? Streams, small lakes, hills, and forests gave way to skyscrapers and the first mega-city. Probably Hudson would never imagine this change, just like it is difficult for us to imagine what New York City will look like in 100 years from now.

This week Hunter College hosted a conference about the urban environment. One of speakers was Erik Sanderson. He is working on The Mannahatta Project, which recreates what Manhattan looked like 400 years ago – both visually and ecologically. Comparing the past and current Manhattan stimulates our imagination, and helps us to think about future changes of urban systems. This project is also very educational because it helps students to think about how to modify urban systems to make them sustainable and resilient in the long run.

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