U.S. Invests $1 Billion to Boost Resilience

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana / Lacamo.org
Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana / Lacamo.org

Five cities, both large and small, and eight states were winners of the first-ever National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), which was organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation. Communities impacted by major disasters in the past few years will receive $1 billion to develop “resilient infrastructure and housing projects.” While many projects boost resilience for coastal or river communities, there are also inland projects that aim to protect communities against fire and flooding. A majority of the projects include multi-use green infrastructure — systems that both provide flood prevention and control and public green spaces. Winning projects also focus on transit, housing, and jobs. Some 40 communities submitted proposals.

In a conference call, HUD Secretary Julian Castro said this investment in resilience will help communities become “safer, stronger, and richer” as they adapt to climate change, which is the “great challenge of the 21st century.” The past few years, he said, have seen “extreme and devastating drought, wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes.” And with 2015 now just confirmed as the hottest year on record, extreme climate events will only get worse.

Here’s a brief overview of the state and city winners, organized by the amounts they won:

States:

Virginia: $120,549,000 for the Ohio Creek Watershed and Coastal Resilience Laboratory and Accelerator Center, which will develop “distributed green infrastructure projects, such as rain barrels and gardens, and combine them with coastal shoreline development to address flooding due to storm surge and torrential rains.”

Iowa: $96,887,177 for the Iowa Watershed Approach, an innovative program, which seeks to create local “watershed management authorities” that will assess hydrological and watershed conditions and create management plans for a more sustainable agricultural system.

Louisiana: $92,629,249 for its Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments Program, which aims to protect coastal wetlands, retrofit communities threatened by flooding, and reshape high-ground areas. The funds will also help a tribal community on Isle de Jean Charles–whose land has submerged by an amazing 98 percent since 1955–move to a new location.

California: $70,359,459 to pilot its Community and Watershed Resilience program in Tuolumne county, which was hit by wildfires in 2013. The program aims to create a environmentally and economically sustainable model for forest and watershed health that can be rolled out across the state.

Connecticut: $54,277,359 for a pilot program in the city of Bridgeport to test the state’s broader Connecticut Connections Coastal Resilience Plan, which seeks to connect “economically-isolated” coastal communities through a mix of green and gray infrastructure.

Tennessee: $44,502,374 for the state’s Rural by Nature, a federal, state, and local initiative to create resilient rural communities along the Mississippi River, which will restore two miles of degraded floodplain.

New York: $35,800,000 for public housing resiliency pilot projects throughout the state, which will test efforts to build resilience into low-income multi-family housing.

New Jersey: $15,000,000 for a regional resilience planning grant program, which will help local communities create their own plans to address their vulnerability to flooding.

Cities:

New York City: $176,000,000 for coastal resilience in Lower Manhattan and efforts to protect public housing projects.

New Orleans: $141,260,569 for the city’s first-ever Resilience District in Gentilly, which will include coastal restoration, new parks and green streets, and workforce development initiatives.

Minot, North Dakota: $74,340,770 for an integrated approach to manage climate change and flooding.

Shelby County, Tennessee: $60,445,163 for its Greenprint for Resilience program, which will build a connective set of green infrastructure projects to increase protection against future flooding while creating trails and recreation areas.

Springfield, Massachusetts: $17,056,880 for an Urban Watershed Resilience Zone, which will focus on jobs, restoring affordable housing, and the creation of a new distributed heat and power plant in the event of a grid failure.

Green infrastructure, which involves using designed natural systems to provide a range of ecosystem services, is a primary area of investment, said Harriet Tregoning, who leads resilience efforts at HUD. “Lots of the projects feature green infrastructure. But we used a benefit-cost analysis to ensure that green infrastructure offers more than one benefit–not just stormwater management.” As Tregoning explained, HUD encouraged the project teams to come up with ways that “green infrastructure for stormwater managment or flood control could double as a park or greenway, bicycle or walking path.” The goal is to “capture all the social co-benefits.”

Christian Gabriel, ASLA national design director for landscape architecture at the General Services Administration (GSA) and one of the evaluators of the proposals, argued that the process also encouraged new approaches to deal with these complex, multi-faceted problems: “Great planning and design necessarily cross political and geographic jurisdictions. When multi-purpose projects are conceived from inception as trans-disciplinary, they more effectively act as force multipliers in communities.”

He added that the “competition asked proposers to not only provide compelling physical solutions but also propose new working relationships and create resilient models for collaborative work between governments and civil society.”

While the $1 billion is a drop in the bucket in terms of what’s needed, NDRC is an important expansion of the Rebuild by Design competition, which dedicated $920 million to improve the resilience of the communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, as it may show this competitive financing model can work nationally as well. The NDRC involved some 25 federal agencies, including 100 experts, and it took 16 months to review the proposals and select the winners. What’s needed in the future is a scaled-up annual process, which is something we hope the next administration will take up.

Many more communities need help with resilience, or there will soon be more Isle de Jean Charles, more looking for a new home.

ASLA Announces 2016 Professional and Student Awards Call for Entries

ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / Tom Harris
ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Copyright Tom Harris

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces its calls for entries for the 2016 Professional and Student Awards, the world’s most prestigious juried landscape architecture competition. Each year, the ASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture from around the globe, while the ASLA Student Awards give us a glimpse into the future of the profession.

Award-winning submissions will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and in many other design and construction industry and general-interest media. Award recipients, their clients and student advisors also will be honored at the awards presentation ceremony during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, October 21-24, 2016. Award-winning submissions will also be featured in a video presentation at the ceremony and on the awards website following the event.

The prestige of the ASLA awards programs relies on the high-caliber juries that are convened each year to review submissions. Members of this year’s professional awards jury are:

  • Kona Gray, ASLA, Chair, EDSA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Keith Bowers, FASLA, Biohabitats Inc. Baltimore
  • Jennifer Guthrie, FASLA, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle
  • Mami Hara, ASLA, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia
  • Christopher Hume, Architecture Critic, Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario
  • Lee-Anne Milburn, FASLA, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California
  • Willett Moss, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
  • Suman Sorg, FAIA, DLR Group | Sorg, Washington, D.C.
  • Laurinda Spear, ASLA, ArquitectonicaGEO, Miami

Joining the jury for the selection of the Research Category will be representatives on behalf of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA).

Members of the student awards jury are:

  • Laura Solano, ASLA, Chair, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Ned Crankshaw, ASLA, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Terrence DeWan, FASLA, Terrence J. DeWan & Associates, Yarmouth, Maine
  • Janelle Johnson, ASLA, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, Chicago, Illinois
  • Roger Lewis, FAIA, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  • Elizabeth Miller, FASLA, National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • Forster Ndubisi, FASLA, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Trinity Simons, Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Washington, D.C.
  • Barbara Swift, FASLA, Swift & Company Landscape Architects, Seattle

Both the ASLA Professional and Student awards feature five categories: General Design; Residential Design; Analysis and Planning; Communications; and Research. The Professional Awards also include The Landmark Award, while the Student Awards include the Student Community Service Award and Student Collaboration categories.

Entry submissions and payment must be received by March 18, 2016 for ASLA Professional Awards and May 13, 2016 for ASLA Student Awards

New Visions for Los Angeles’ Pershing Square Park

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects
Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Four design teams have been announced as finalists in the competition to remake Pershing Square Park in downtown Los Angeles. Pershing Square Renew, the public-private partnership behind the revamp, has whittled the finalists down from 54 entries and 10 semi-finalist teams. According to Dezeen, Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, said: “the world-class firms selected by our jury represent a huge range. They include global stars and local unknowns.”

The 5-acre park has seen many iterations over its nearly 150 year history; the latest was created in 1994 by Mexican architect and landscape architect Ricardo Legorreta and American landscape architect Laurie Olin, FASLA. Development on a new park is expected to begin later this year.

Here’s a brief overview of the four finalists, who largely present concepts rather than actual designs at this stage:

Globetrotters: This proposal, developed by European firm Agence TER and local Los Angeles firm SALT Landscape Architects, calls for “folding down the walls and edges of the existing park to reconnect Pershing Square with its immediate surrounding context, creating a seamless flow between, through, and across the city” (see image above). The design concept features a “smart canopy,” a “wind garden” for children, a “scent garden,” and a day and nighttime farmer’s market.

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick
Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher & Partners

Landscape Starchitect: From James Corner Field Operations, the creators of the High Line Park in New York City and Los Angeles-based Frederick Fisher & Partners, this proposal seeks to create an “urban oasis and outdoor destination for the city — a place of both respite and event; both garden and theater.” The team sees the park as a node in a greater “cultural loop” that links historic landmarks and a key point in an “art and culture walk.” The proposal also calls for bringing the park all the way to its edges, minimizing any barriers to access.

Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects
Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects

Local Force: This proposal created by international landscape architecture firm SWA and Thom Mayne’s Los Angles-based practice Morphosis imagines an “eco-topia,” a “net-positive” park that provides the “water resources necessary for irrigation, sanitation, and recreation through stormwater collection and a demonstration facility for sewer mining.” The team also focuses on improving access, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the need to create a sustainable business model for the park’s long-term upkeep.

Wild Card by wHY and Civitas
Wild Card by wHY and Civitas

Wild Card: New York-based wHY architects and landscape architecture firm Civitas offer a vision of a new Pershing Squark Park that is a “social laboratory, a socio-cultural hub in an urban natural oasis.” Mark Johnson, FASLA, founder of Civitas, writes: “our goal is to generate experiences that you feel inside, that mean something to you; with social interactions that you remember and share with others.” They want to incorporate “food culture and food security” considerations into their design as well.

The four finalists are now further fleshing out their design proposals in the lead up to a public presentation in March, 2016. Public participation is seen as central to the process, and comments will be invited for the next stage as well. The 9-person jury includes landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, FASLA, and Michael Shull, general manager, Los Angeles department of recreation and parks.

Los Angeles city councillor Jose Huizar, who initiated the revamp of the park and is also on the jury, said: “Pershing Square is one step closer to once again becoming the focal point of life, commerce, and civic engagement in downtown Los Angeles.”

A Stunning New Ski Complex in Slovenia

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / Studio Akka
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / Studio Akka
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / Studio Akka
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / Studio Akka

At the end of last year, a beautiful ski complex opened in Planica, a historic winter sports center in Slovenia. The complex, managed by the Slovenian Ministry of Sports and Education, offers large and small hills for multiple types of skiing: jumping; flying, which is apparently a more extreme form of jumping; and cross-country. Elegantly set at the foot of the protected Triglav National Park, the facility features sculpted cement and wood buildings and slopes, harking back to the heyday of Midcentury Modernism. Designed by Abiro architects and Studio Akka landscape architects, the complex is integrated into the surrounding pine and beech forest.

According to Studio Akka, much planning and design work went into ensuring the new complex fit the scale of the site. The design team used “the precise planning of topography, the systematic selection and reduction of material, shapes, and forms” in order to integrate with “the exciting silhouette of the mountains and the calmness of the pine and beech forest.”

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

They also explained that within the complex, form followed function. “Design follows technical and organizational requirements.” Multiple ski lifts take different kinds of fliers and jumpers up to their slopes. But stepping back, the firm writes, “the ski jumps that fan across the landscape introduce a spatial order that unites all elements into a meaningful whole.”

© Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

Unlike other ski complexes, the ski jumps at Planica can be used year-round. A base mat of astro-turf enables fliers and jumpers to practice in off-seasons as well.

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

In warmer months, the underlying forms fully reveal themselves and the wood details pop against the greenery.

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

As one season transitions to another, the complex creates a set of dialogues: “solid versus soft, resistant versus ephemeral, cold versus warm, monumental versus intimate.”

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

The complex can fit up to 15,000 spectators. Seating is built into viewing spots at the base of the slopes.

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

But the complex may be most appealing when no one is there, except for the “young ski jumpers who come to train in solitude.” Then, the complex’s “simplicity” and its respect for nature is most apparent, writes Studio Akka.

Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič
Nordic Ski Center in Planica, Slovenia / © Miran Kambič

Slovenian ski enthusiasts expect big things for local talent on these jumps and courses. The 37th annual FIS Ski Jumping World Cup comes to the new center in mid-March. Slovenia Peter Precv is currently world leader and will need to exceed a flying jump of 241.5 meters to set a new record in Planica.

Watch an interactive fly-through and see more photos.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (January 1 – 15)

rooftop-garden-brooklyn-inspired-by-high-line-02
Rooftop Garden in Dumbo, NYC / Architectural Digest

Can a Professionally Designed Garden Add Value to Your Home? The Huffington Post, 1/4/15
“This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown – the landscape architect renowned for designing over 170 country house estates and gardens during the 18th century. His elegant style of undulating parkland and serpentine lakes can still be seen at dozens of locations, including Blenheim Palace and Stowe.”

See a Rooftop Garden in Brooklyn Inspired by the High Line Architectural Digest, 1/6/15
“Few cities in the world have real estate as expensive as New York’s. For its millions of residents, the idea of certain amenities, such as a private garden—must be quickly abandoned. Yet one apartment building in Brooklyn’s trendy Dumbo neighborhood is creatively changing all of that.”

The New Dolores Park Will Be Pristine—But Can It Last? Curbed, 1/7/15
“It was another beautiful morning in Dolores Park, accompanied by the soothing sound of jackhammers. City officials—including Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Dolores Park’s Project Manager Jacob Gilchrist—went along on a preview hard hat tour (sans hard hats—it’s mostly just grass out there, after all) of the park’s south end to show off the final phase of the park’s $20.5 million renovation.”

To Preserve and Protect: Working with ArboristsMetropolis, 1/7/15
“As landscape architects we love trees! Be they pre-existing or newly planted, trees are often the backbone to a site design. Mature, statuesque trees add invaluable character to a place and are often a site’s greatest asset or attraction.”

Field Mighty Real The Architect’s Newspaper, 1/11/15
“Once a quarry, then a landfill, the property at Circle Acres Nature Preserve in the Montopolis neighborhood of Austin was purchased by Ecology Action of Texas with the goal of transforming the site into a nature preserve and park.”

Let’s Talk Water Planetizen, 1/12/15
“It is important to note that landscape architects have been leaders in sustainable design since long before it became a hot topic. Environmental stewardship is a core value of the profession, and designing with water in a responsible and beautiful manner is what we do.”

Disruptions Are Needed to Achieve a Sustainable Future

Bus rapid transit (BRT) in Bogota, Colombia / Scania.com
Bus rapid transit (BRT) in Bogota, Colombia / Scania.com

“The Paris climate agreement didn’t create the commitments we need to limit global warming to a 2 degree Celsius increase,” said Laura Tuck, vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank at Transforming Transportation, a conference in Washington, D.C. “But it was an awesome achievement. All 190 countries — everybody — are in.” All countries are now focused on how to achieve a net-zero carbon world by 2050. For Andrew Steer, president of the World Resource Institute (WRI), the success of the Paris climate meeting, and the long-term movement towards the ambitious 2050 goals, signifies the “renaissance of moral imperative around the world.”

Tuck and Steer called for undertaking “disruptive approaches” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the transportation sector, which accounts for the second largest share of energy-related emissions.

On the goods side, this involves shifting freight transportation from roads to rails and waterways. “Freight logistics for transporting goods needs to be greener.” Suresh Prabhu, minister of railways for India, concurred, explaining how India, with the World Bank’s help, is investing billions in a new, renewable energy-powered regional rail network to better facilitate the movement of goods.

And urban transportation was described as critical to achieving a sustainable future. This is because more than half of the world’s population — who create 80 percent of global GDP, consume 70 percent of the world’s energy, and expend around the same percentage of its GHGs — are found in cities, and they can either get around in cars on in a more sustainable manner.

While many of the world’s largest cities are busy retrofitting themselves with more sustainable transportation networks, it may not be too late to do things the right way the first time around with the world’s exploding second-tier cities. “We need to get to those second-tier cities that are growing fast. We need to get to them early and get them to invest in ‘live, work, play’ environments,” said Tuck.

A key part of this strategy in developing countries is to expand street-level connectivity; invest more in public transportation, like bus rapid transit (BRT), subways, and light rail; and create a regulatory environment that enables shared transportation, including mobility on demand services like Uber and Lyft and shared car and bike services.

In addition to their many environmental benefits, these sustainable sources of urban transportation can be major job creators. Just to use one example, Steer said in Bogota, Colombia, some 40,000 workers are directly involved in keeping their city’s BRT system working, with another 55,000 indirectly involved. As Dario Rais Lopes, national secretary of transport and urban mobility for Brazil explained, his government is now forcing all of its 5,600 cities with a population of more than 20,000 to come up with a plan for moving to a BRT system, so imagine the number of jobs there. And then think about all of the jobs related to constructing sustainable transportation infrastructure. In an example from the U.S., complete streets, which provide equally as safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles, were found to create far more jobs than traditional road construction projects.

Copenhagen, Denmark, was held up as a model of disruption in urban transportation. Morten Kabell, mayor of technical and government affairs for the city, explained how the city transformed itself from a car-centric city 40 years ago to the Copenhagen of today, where more than 50 percent of the population commutes by bicycle, even from the suburbs, while just 20 percent use public transportation, and the rest drive. Copenhagen has its priorities straight: when snow storms hit, the city actually plows the bike lanes first, before streets for cars. But Kabell added that “Copenhageners aren’t so idealistic. They bike because it’s the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to get around.” And the city has worked hard for decades to disrupt the rein of cars.

Copenhageners biking in winter / My City Way
Copenhageners biking in winter / My City Way

Kabell explained that Copenhagen, one of the world’s richest cities, “had to change in order to set this example. Only a few decades ago, we were both totally car-dependent and on the verge of bankruptcy.” City leadership believes going green is what saved the city from financial ruin and ensures its continued success. Today, instead of allowing big box stores only accessible by car, they enable small, local stores for bicyclists. And now Copenhagen is only upping the ante: they are investing $1 billion in wind turbines in the city, with the goal of being totally carbon neutral by 2025.

And if Copenhagen’s well-plowed, wintry bike lanes sound disruptive, how about “taxibots,” which are autonomous vehicles shared by one of more riders at the same time. Cities could begin to get serious about taxibots, said Jose Viegas, the head of the International Transport Forum (ITF), which just did an intriguing modeling exercise on what these vehicles could mean for Lisbon, Portugal. ITF thinks taxibots would reduce overall car use, eliminate the vast majority of parking spaces, but could also increase total vehicle miles traveled.

Taxibots study / ITF
Taxibots study / ITF

Still, to put all of this in perspective, Ani Dasgupta, director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at WRI, said the vast majority of the world’s transportation spending is still on car-based infrastructure. He said with increased political pressure, national energy policymakers now must really think again before approving a new coal-fired power plant. Dasgupta believes the world will have really turned the corner when national leaders feel the same pressure when they want to build a new highway. “But we aren’t there yet.”

Most Popular Dirt Posts of 2015

Apps Survey / ASLA
Smartphone Apps Survey / ASLA

As we look forward to covering new stories on the built and natural environments this year, here’s a look back at the 10 most popular Dirt posts of 2015. The results of ASLA’s online survey, which asked landscape architects about their use of smartphone apps, were enduringly popular. On the technology front, readers also sought out an op-ed from Jordan Petersen, ASLA, on what drones will mean for planners and designers. (Speaking of which, The Dirt is always looking for original op-eds, particularly from member landscape architects, designers, and planners. If interested, please send us a note at info@asla.org).

Also worth highlighting: The Dirt‘s readers were very interested in the latest research on the health benefits of landscape architecture. We’ll post more on this exciting field of discovery in the coming year.

1) DesignIntelligence 2015 Landscape Architecture Program Rankings
Once again, Louisiana State University came in at the top of undergraduate landscape architecture programs. And for the 11th year, Harvard University came in as the best graduate program in the annual survey conducted by DesignIntelligence on behalf of the Design Futures Council.

2) Smartphone Apps for Landscape Architects: Useful Tools for Site Analysis and Design
In order to better understand what smartphone apps landscape architects use to conceptualize, design, and construct projects, ASLA recently surveyed practicing landscape architects, students, and university faculty from around the world.

3) What Dose of Nature Do We Need to Feel Better?
There has been a boom in studies demonstrating the health benefits of spending time in nature, or even just looking at nature. But a group of ambitious landscape architects and psychologists are actually trying to determine how to prescribe a “nature pill.”

4) Complete Streets Are a Bargain
Normal, Illinois, doesn’t sound like a typical spring break destination—but for me, it was the perfect getaway.

5) Doctor’s Orders: Go the Park
Pediatricians in Washington, D.C. are prescribing their patients a new type of medicine: parks.

6) A New Map of the World’s Ecosystems
A new, free, web-based tool from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and ESRI allows us to gain a better understanding of the ecological character of any place in the world.

7) Do Urban Growth Boundaries Work?
Urban growth boundaries are held up as one of the most effective tools for limiting sprawl. But do they actually constrain unplanned development?

8) Drones Will Elevate Urban Design
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently released long-awaited guidelines for commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drones.

9) Smartphone Apps for Landscape Architects: Useful Tools for Construction and Presentation
In part two of this three part series, we continue to summarize the results of the survey, focusing on useful apps for constructing landscapes and presenting design ideas to colleagues and clients.

10) A Rare Look at the New U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
This $646-million project is just the first in a series that will transform a mid-19th-century mental asylum, founded by social reformer Dorothea Dix, into the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, of which the Coast Guard is a major piece.

New Map Shows the Impact of Future Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise in New York City / Climate Central
Sea level rise in New York City / Climate Central

World leaders have begun to get serious about fighting climate change, but we still face the incredible risk of a rising sea in this century and far into the future. According to Climate Central, a research organization, a 4-degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature increase, which is our current path, could result in sea level rise that would submerge land where 470 – 760 million people now live. If the world’s governments actually meet the declared goal of the UN climate summit in Paris and reduce and draw down carbon emissions, keeping the world to a 2 Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase, 130 million would need to evacuate over coming decades. To understand how serious this could be, here’s some perspective: 4 million Syrians have fled their homeland since their civil war began in 2011, with 380,000 making their way to Europe this year. Imagine millions more on the move each year, all over the world, and the political, social, and environmental effects of this migration.

In a new report, Climate Central finds that Asia, with large populations on coasts, will be hardest hit. “China, the world’s leading carbon emitter, leads the world, too, in coastal risk, with 145 million people living on land ultimately threatened by rising seas if emission levels are not reduced. China has the most to gain from limiting warming to ​2°C, which would cut the total to 64 million. Twelve other nations each have more than 10 million people living on land at risk, led by India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan.” And the U.S. could experience huge impacts, too, with land for 25 million underwater. Major parts of coastal cities like New York City, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; river cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C.; and smaller coastal and river communities could be submerged.

The Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, their latest interactive map, shows in startling detail what that flooding could look like, foot by foot, with a 2 degree Celsius increase. The map, which was relaunched last November to extend the coverage from the U.S. to the whole world, is designed to help policymakers and planners better plan coastal resilience efforts.

Plugging in New York City brought up a map showing the relative impact of inundation, ranging from 1 to 10 feet. As one moves up the scale in sea level rise, parts of lower Manhattan are submerged, and LaGuardia airport in Queens is totally underwater (see map above). A rising East River would flood highly populated parts of Brooklyn as well, and New Jersey would become a patchwork of islands.

In Los Angeles, almost all of the coastal communities, including ecological preserves, are completely submerged.

Sea level rise in Los Angeles / Climate Central
Sea level rise in Los Angeles / Climate Central

Looking at Washington, D.C., one could see the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers expanding beyond their banks, putting much of the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, the Navy Yard, and parts of the National Mall underwater. Reagan National Airport could also need to close some runways.

Sea Level Rise in Washington, D.C. / Climate Central
Sea Level Rise in Washington, D.C. / Climate Central

And an even scarier map shows side-by-side comparisons for any mapped point, with both a 2 degree Celsius and 4 degree rise.

Sea level rise will be incremental and long-term. They write: “carbon emissions this century can lock in these projected threats, but the associated sea level rise is expected to play out over a longer period, likely centuries.” To date, the seas have risen approximately 8 inches.

The data in the map is based on research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. According to Climate Central, these are just median projections — meaning real sea level rise could equally be higher or lower.

A fascinating, complementary map is the Atlas of a Changing Planet, a “story map” from Esri. And for American users, the U.S. Historical Topographical Map Explorer, the result of a partnership between Esri and the U.S. Geological Survey, is a useful tool for calculating elevations.

Raise Your Sustainable City Ambitions

Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates
Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates

The American Architectural Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA) is looking for innovative public-private partnerships with ambitious sustainable planning and design goals. Teams are encouraged to apply to participate in an intensive 2.5-day design workshop led by SCDA in Washington, D.C., August 3-5, 2016.

Since 2009, SCDA has helped 55 project teams from 50 cities in the U.S. hone their sustainable plans and designs. Some recent highlights:

Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania: In 2009, a team of planning officials and developers met to discuss how best to achieve their goal of urban, mixed-use development on the 1,000-acre former ship yard. The team sought guidance on “best practices in sustainable planning, design, and development, including strategies coordinated with the recently launched GreenPlan Philadelphia and LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) certification process.”

According to SCDA, their experts helped the project team realize “symbiotic relationships that the Navy Yard development could promote with the City of Philadelphia. These included integrating transportation and open space networks throughout the 1,000 acre site as well as developing residential and commercial spaces onsite to promote 24/7 use.” Check out the resulting master plan, which also includes the landscape planning work of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Mill River District, New Haven, Connecticut: A 206-acre urban and light industrial district in New Haven has many underused brownfield sites. “To address these challenges and build on the area’s native advantages, the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven (EDC), and the City of New Haven Department of Economic Development entered a public-private partnership with Mill River District businesses to create a development plan that will maintain the city’s industrial base, establish the district’s distinct identity, attract new businesses, and address sustainability challenges at the local and regional levels.”

With the help of SCDA in a 2012 design workshop, a revised plan was devised to improve pedestrian access, especially to the riverfront; set aside some parts of the waterfront for flood-preventing green infrastructure; and create a better balance between environmental and economic development. Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, said, “the lessons learned through SCDA played a large role in shaping the way we view the district.” Learn more about the resulting phased planning approach.

Mariposa Corridor, Fresno, California: In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the city of Fresno, which is home to more than 500,000 residents, has some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the country. While there are major challenges, city leaders have long sought to revitalize the Mariposa corridor, which connects Fulton Mall, a former main street that was transformed by architect Victor Gruen and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo into a pedestrian mall in the mid-60s; the civic center; and a proposed new high-speed rail transit center.

In 2012, SCDA experts helped the Mariposa corridor project team, which included city officials and local developers, to comprehensively rethink the deteriorating pedestrian mall and vacant buildings along the corridor, creating an integrated transportation and economic development strategy. The team then leveraged the new concepts created at SCDA to win millions in federal transportation planning grants. Plans were also shared with the community and local arts groups, which led to some innovative fundraisers (a rapelling event), and public space improvements, including the construction of an ice rink.

Submit your application by January 28, 2016.

A Temporary Playground Offers “Light Therapy” in Wintry Montreal

Impulse / Image © Ulysse Lemerise
Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

In winter in the northern hemisphere, night falls early. Way up north in Montreal, Canada, the sun leaves the sky at 4.30. To deal with the onset of winter doldrums, Montreal started Luminothérapie or “Light Therapy,” an innovative public art event that brings light, music, and fun to the streets. In the Place Des Festivals, the feature attraction of this year’s Luminothérapie is Impulse by landscape architecture firm Lateral Office, CS Design, and EGP Group, which features 30 giant, light-filled seesaws, backed by wall-projected video art. It’s a temporary “illuminated playground” for kids and adults.

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise
Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

 

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise
Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Sitting on the ends of the seesaws and kicking off starts the LED light show and sounds. The intensity of the seesawing is reflected by the intensity of the light and tonality of the sounds the structures give off. So the seesaws’ light and sound will differ from player to player. The organizers told Dezeen, “Impulse is an urban installation that renews itself for every different audience. Each person becomes, while on the seesaws, the player of a novel instrument.”

In the same district, nine wall-projected video and sound art pieces are running simultaneously. The pieces show angular architectural forms, pieces of video games, or, simply, bright bands of color, transforming building facades into new nighttime experiences.

Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon
Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon

Chantal Rossi, Ville de Montréal Associate Councillor Culture, Heritage and Design, told ArchDaily: “Every year, we are eager to give Montrealers a new creative winter experience. Luminothérapie’s public installations transform our relationship with the city, beautify it, and give it a wonderful, friendly touch. Luminothérapie also keeps Montreal shining bright around the world as a hub of interactive art.”

Try out Impulse through the end of January. See more photos.