floatNYC, New York City, United States

Anticipating the rise of “smart cities” that use artificial intelligence, connected autonomous transportation systems, and advanced-real time sensor technologies, Gensler— a global architecture, design, and planning firm—is researching how to reclaim, activate, and transform our urbanscapes for the future.
Park Avenue is one of the main arteries of New York City’s East Side, carrying a constant stream of road and foot traffic north and southbound. Originally hosting a green space alongside one of the world’s first railroads, Park Avenue has undergone significant transformations over the decades. Today, it is home to many of the world’s leading businesses, yet lacks a mix of land uses and opportunity for shared, outdoor human experiences. 
Creating a completely unique and inventive experience, Gensler’s vision acts as a prototype that will activate main city corridors and transportation infrastructure, energizing a half-mile of Park Avenue—from 46th Street to 58th Street—with FLOAT NYC and addressable digital paving tiles. 
FLOAT NYC is a passenger cruise on a 105-foot-high buoyant float structure, capable of hosting television and film screenings upon its facade. The 30-minute ride and digital platform is an amalgamation of New York’s quintessential experiences: Bryant Park’s events and performances, Times Square’s urban stage, the High Line’s elevated perspective and greenery, and the Macy’s parade’s awe-inspiring floats. Three linear pavilions within the medians—located a block north of Grand Central Station, across from Seagram Plaza, and north of 57th Street—host cafes and amenities where visitors can socialize and observe the FLOAT’s offerings and action. The pavilions will also act as docking stations for passenger boarding.
Gensler researched a variety of technologies and resources to minimize infrastructure needs for the FLOAT. The FLOAT’s structure, composed of a light-weight space frame, will host a deck capable of ascending to the float’s summit and descending to the pavilion for passenger pick-up and drop-off. The façade, encompassed by ETFE foil pillow, allows the structure to be airborne with its LTA (Lighter-Than-Air) technology and can display digital graphics. To stabilize and mobilize the FLOAT, an autonomous tote vehicle will run parallel along Park Avenue’s at an estimated two miles per hour. 
To mitigate the shifts in pedestrian and road traffic that occur throughout the day, Gensler proposes addressable digital paving tiles, informed by embedded sensors, that allow for the reallocation of valuable street and pedestrian space. Reading traffic fluxes, a “digital” median technology will display graphics upon Park Avenue’s roadways and sidewalks, enlarging or dividing them. This technology not only bolsters a safe environment for pedestrians and drivers, but it unlocks the opportunity for adaptive and responsive urban programming to be used in additional cities worldwide. 
Gensler’s FLOAT NYC and digital paving tiles create an active and immersive street life that unlocks both public space and the business district’s potential. A hybrid of open public space, digital technology, and autonomous vehicles, Gensler’s multi-dimensional concept redefines the human experience and transportation within this urban geography, inspiring cities worldwide to activate and celebrate their own. 

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