UNESCO World Field Laboratory: making strides against rising tides through design


Different cultures, multiple languages, one goal. That was the objective of a two-week long, international collaborative workshop organized that developed concepts for the urban and cultural adaption to sea level rise, an escalating issue along Florida’s coasts and other parts of the world. The focus on Florida is component toward a world view across the planet.

The workshop was organized by The Consortium for Hydro-generated Urbanism in the School of Architecture (CHU) and the UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Urban Quality and Culture and included participation of students, faculty and leaders from the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Sapienza University of Rome, Polytechnics of Milan and Turin. Workshop members traveled to New York City and then Miami to meet scientists, local stakeholders, researchers and public authorities, and then traveled to Gainesville to develop design proposals for the future of the Miami Dade metropolis.

The paradigmatic conditions of central business districts, river basin settlements and expanding water ecologies into urban areas, were addressed with infrastructural and civic interventions. Workshop members collected research and scouted areas extending from Biscayne Bay to the Miami River Basin to the Everglades in the western territory of Miami.

According to Martha Kohen, professor and co-director of CHU, adaptation is an important concept to take away from the workshop. Rather than insisting upon only conservation-based strategies, the workshop discussed adapting new designs and selective retreat options in order to face future situations.

“The reaction of fear is what we are trying to confront,” she said. “Instead of fear, what are the investment options that will direct us to a safer future?”

Having part of the workshop in Florida was very critical, according to Lucio Valerio Barbera, who is the UNESCO chair holder in Sustainable Urban Quality and Urban Culture.

“I think that Florida is one the most important ground zero sea level rise places because few feet of rising of the sea level would make an entire metropolis face great trouble,” he said. “However, being that Florida is one of the most advanced technologically and progressively aware, I am sure that Florida can be the laboratory for actions and proposals that can be disseminated to other parts of the world.”

The outcome of this workshop is to ultimately propose design alternatives that would be presented to a global constituency for discussion at a workshop following this one in Italy in October 2016, Kohen said.

“In order to develop innovative adaptation strategies, it’s very important to involve collaboration between interdisciplinary experts such as scientist, designers, government officials, economists, community stakeholders and policy-makers,” said Nancy Clark, co-director of CHU. “One of the most important outcomes from this research were the opportunities we discovered hidden within Miami’s vulnerabilities to sea level rise and climate change.”

While some stakeholders in Miami worry that the city has only 40 years left before a large portion of the population will have to leave their communities, Clark said the goal of the workshop was to create designs which allow residents to still be thriving in their neighborhoods in the year 2100.

UNESCO Masterplan April 5






UNESCO Masterplan April 5 detail river basin and waterfront


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