Floodscape Communities: Reconceptualising Architectural Design Strategies For Floodzone Settlements

The OECD report on Competitive Cities and Climate Change cites cities as major consumers of global energy and major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, to climate change. In addition, the expansion of cities in coastal and flood-prone areas makes these cities vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, such as rises in sea level or heavier rainfall. The combined effects of increasing water levels in rivers and the accelerated rise in sea level increase the likelihood of flood-related problems in cities, and with this, the vulnerability of the cities’ populations and economies to disaster. With climate change and urbanisation regarded as developments that potentiate each other, the report outlines the importance of setting environmental and economic priorities toward ‘climate conscious’ urban planning and management. The central questions of this research proposal are how can we reduce the risk of flooding in the cities of tomorrow? And, by looking at the contemporary cities that have developed adaptive strategies in response to climate change, is it possible to exchange this knowledge with cities in the global south that are increasingly vulnerable to flood risk? Within the discussion of flood adaptation in our built environment the study will also seek to define the role of design and the architect.

The research, conducted by project, will examine flood adaption strategies in four different cities and question how an exchange of knowledge can shape the design and flood protection of these cities in the future. Using land, terrain and territory as a means to consider the interrelation between hydrological, physical and political boundaries, the examples of Hamburg, Manila, New Orleans and Dhaka give insight into how cities are able to utilise and develop local capabilities and resources to plan towards flood resilience. The case studies will provide insight into how to develop design models and guidelines that support adaptive retrofitting in flood zones and possible new definitions of urban life. The outline on flood policies and their materialisation at community level is identified as the critical space that architects can operate in, not only to address the macro-economic demands of the city but also to develop places of socio-cultural potential.