New York’s art world elite came out to ooh and ahh over the new Whitney Museum earlier this month, but The Atlantic’s John Whitaker was much more interested in the structure’s unique 15,500-pound door than the art beyond it. Part of a flood-mitigation system informed by the same engineers who work on U.S. Navy Destroyers, the river-facing door is capable of withstanding 6,750 pounds of debris in the event of another super storm like Hurricane Sandy. In fact, it was because of the 2012 disaster that Renzo Piano and his team made moves to fortify the museum and its precious contents.



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Kevin Schorn, an assistant to Renzo Piano, told The Atlantic, “Buildings now have to be designed like submarines” in order to protect them against creeping water levels and natural disasters. But it was important to Piano that any flood-mitigation efforts remain stealthy, almost as if to protect New Yorkers from their own reality.

Related: Take a sneak peak inside the new Whitney Museum in Manhattan

In addition to the mammoth door, which is 14-feet-tall and 27-feet-wide, the Whitney Museum’s lobby is 10-feet above sea level and will remain water-tight even if the sea rises to 16.5 feet, which, Whitaker notes, is 7 feet higher than levels reached during the worst storm to hit New York in recent history. A 500-foot-long mobile wall comprised of stacked aluminum beams provides further protection.

Whitaker decries ‘surreal’ debates over whether climate change is even a real thing, but the Whitney, which was inundated with 5 million gallons of water during Hurricane Sandy, is facing reality. He writes, “The museum’s actions—turning to specialists in naval engineering, for example—augur an era of improvised ingenuity, of localized efforts to address a problem in dire need of a global solution.”

Via The Atlantic