Come Highwater: A Model for Managing Sea Level Rise

Miami, USA; Shanghai, China; Karachi, Pakistan; New York City, USA; Cairo, Egypt

Climate change is causing an incremental rise in the world’s oceans and stronger, more frequent tropical storms. These conditions put low-lying coastal areas at risk of inundation and severe flooding.  Taking into account rapid polar ice cap melt, scientists predict a two-meter sea level rise by 2100 with storm surges in some areas up to six meters (19.7 feet).

These changes will threaten cities that are important to regional and global economies by forcing population displacement and upsetting economic, ecological, and agricultural systems. Traditional hard-edged engineered solutions have proven themselves to be limited by their inability to adapt.  A holistic approach of uniting coastal ecologies and urban infrastructure provides more resilient solutions. Connecting upland strategies to absorb, direct, and capture storm water combined with locally appropriate coastal surge attenuation strategies are necessary to form an interconnected system and develop a complete solution.

We look to existing coastal ecologies such as mangrove forests and tidal wetlands that have evolved over millions of years as natural waterfront protectors for inspiration to catalyze a natural engineering process that serves the same purpose. Seeding change that harnesses natural forces of tidal, wind, scrub and deposition, and growth of flora and fauna, creates protection that will gain strength over time, in tandem with climate change.

In this ongoing research project DLANDstudio examines Miami, Karachi, Shanghai, the Nile River Delta, and New York City to see how these strategies can be adapted to mitigate the effects of sea level rise in these areas. Economies of tourism, fishing, finance, agriculture and maritime industrial development relate to the strategies examined in each case study.