Date of Submission

Spring 4-30-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Architecture

Department

Architecture

Primary Advisor

Ermal Shpuza

Abstract

Many of the world’s historic and notable cities grew on waterfronts taking advantage of transportation, protection, and resources. While water is essential, it can also bring great destruction where flooding and erosion leave universal damage. In light of climate change predictions, by 2050, 90% of the major waterfront cities in the world will face the challenge of rising sea levels. Waterfront cities must quickly adapt and answer to this influx of water before its effects become irreversible. Urban design should address how to enhance the resilience of coastal cities to flooding through the reintegration of nature and water into the city, thus redefining the relationship between the built and natural environment. Rather than barricading the water edge to keep the water out, this thesis proposes a position of embracing the new reality of increased seawater levels and considers it an opportunity to improve the quality of public space by bringing the water into the city.

This thesis explores models of integrating ecological design strategies into an existing urban network to adapt the life of the city to changes in sea level, creating resilience to address climate change. This proposal reimagines East Boston applying predicted changes in sea level over the next fifty to eighty years. This area of the city was largely composed of wetland and existed mostly under the water table until the city expanded by filling in land and dams over time since the 1800s. Current sea-level rise models show that by 2070, much of the man-made land in East Boston will be submerged under the new water table, and thus returning the area to a similar composition that it originally existed as: a series of islands connected by submerged shallow flats. This thesis proposes an urban design solution that embraces the projected rise of water and adapts the existing street and infrastructure network to connect and inhabit the dry islands while reconstituting the natural ecology of the surrounding marshes.

This framework of eco-masterplanning creates new ways the city interfaces water at the urban scale integrating reconstructed ecological systems with resilient infrastructure. The explorations model new symbiotic relationships where the city integrates its design with water through canals, wetlands, and resilient waterfront infrastructure. The urban design adapts as tides rise and fall, storm surges come and go, and sea levels change over time. This thesis proposes a hybrid design, part ecosystem and part infrastructure, that is neither fully organic nor fully artificial, creating a new relationship between the city and the water it is surrounded by. Through its design, waterfronts are not only more resilient to rising sea levels but are also enhanced in number and quality of public space where people can enjoy and interact with the water. Just as nature adapts in the presence of change, the city must adapt by embracing these otherwise negative changes while evolving its design into something positive.

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