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By 2120, one fifth of Boston’s downtown will be underwater or under threat from fierce weather. As new developments rise on waterfront sites such as Fort Point, the following strategies will help create places that are not just persistent but prosperous.

Make it Modular: Levees and break walls require lots of upfront investment. They could also diminish views. We propose a modular approach that could be carried out as individual properties are developed. Earthmoving equipment would be used to cut soil from one part of a threatened site and fill on another part, raising its elevation above the rising sea levels. Overtime, as the strategy is enacted on a large scale, a delta would form.

Make it Adaptable: The area where the land is cut would initially be used for community gardens and parking. As sea levels rise, it would become a recreational and habitat area inundated with water. Community gardens may switch from farming vegetables to farming fish. As self-driving cars become mainstream, nearby parking will no longer be necessary. Vehicles will drop off residents and visitors at the edge of campus and then continue on to a nearby parking garage on less valuable land off site. New pedestrian bridges built as water floods into these areas would keep the site accessible to emergency vehicles. Bringing the water into the neighborhood, rather than holding it out, would cool the neighborhood during heat waves.

Make it Resilient: A lively pedestrian sphere requires a lively first floor with retail and community functions. Houses on stilts just won’t do. But raising the ground level so that the first floor is above wicked high tide may be too pricey. The first floor of each building is sealed off from the other floors, so that if the lower floor of the building is affected by a wicked high tide in the future, it will not damage the other floors or affect their ventilation systems. The furniture and the finishes on the first floor will be water repellent. When100-year storms are predicted, any merchandise from the lower floors, sitting on movable shelves, would be moved upstairs.

Make it a Real Neighborhood: The neighborhood would have a mix of uses and classes. Community spaces, restaurants, and retail (including a market for locally grown food) would inhabit the first floors of most structures. They’d draw convention attendees and neighbors alike. The second floor of each building would be office space. Upper floors would be dedicated to housing and include common areas that could be reserved by residents for gatherings. Developers would be encouraged to add affordable housing by allowing them to build higher if they do. A similar strategy would be applied to retail and restaurants as well, so that the working class residents don’t have to travel to meet their needs.

Make the Landscape Multifunctional: The landscape in this new development serves protective, productive, ecological, and recreational purposes. New islands help to buffer the development from storm surges, and also provide habitat for marine life. Vegetable gardens on roofs and in the future flood zone recycle rainwater collected from white roofs and paved areas. As the saltwater rises, gardens in the flood zone would become areas for farming native fish such as cod—reinforcing a local seafood culture that has struggled due to overfishing. Boardwalks, water play areas, dog runs, and fields for soccer and Frisbee would serve the community. Meanwhile, adjacent wetland areas would provide opportunities for observing birds and marine life from the shore or in a kayak.

Company Name
University of Washington

Team Member(s)
Shu Kuei Hsu, Landscape Architecture/ Coordinative and compile design
Shih-Chia Chiu, Landscape Architecture/ Landscape design, open space design
Yu Ting Lin, Urban Design/ Urban context study and master strategy
Hao Liang, Architecture/ Resilient architecture design
Kei-Sing Yiu, Environmental Engineering/ Green infrastructure design and research
Dan Jost, Ecology and Sociology/ Ecology and Sociology strategies development