Salty Urbanism

In an inevitable future of sea level rise and climate change, a new framework for urban design and architecture that embeds ecosystem services and adjusts to increasingly salty landscapes will emerge as the only viable adaptation solution in South Florida. The porous limestone substrate poses particular challenges unlike any other coastal location in the United States, where levees, walls, and pumps are not long term solutions as water seeps up through the ground. Due to South Florida’s unique geomorphology, it floods four ways, three are known; 1) storm surge, 2) ground water table fluctuation (wet/dry seasons), 3) extreme rainfall events, and a fourth is emerging, 4) sea level rise. These dynamic and permanent flood states will radically alter the built environment more than anything else over the next 100 years. Referred to as “the Venice of America”, Fort Lauderdale is unique in that it boasts 330 miles of shoreline edge, a population of over 170,000 that swells during season, and industries and culture that are tied to the interface between water and land. Where the two systems meet—the city and water—lies an incredible opportunity for creative development reconciling the demands of each. Salty Urbanism provides a methodology and approach for the emerging crisis of climate change related issues and takes its cues from reconciliation ecology, a branch of ecology which studies and builds robust networks of biodiversity, known simply as green infrastructure, within human-dominated ecosystems. These new ecologies provide critical ecosystem services related to flood management, food supply, temperature regulation and geochemical balance (pH regulation). Salty Urbanism also infers that new development patterns (architecture and urban design) will emerge which adapt as well as adjust to future sea level rise. These new adaptive built and natural ecologies will force residents to rethink and retool their relationship with water—one where designing for exceedance, or rather flooding, is the norm and a new mantra for South Florida living will occur: how do we live with, over, and on water? Herein lies the design and planning challenge for cities in coastal areas of South Florida: to develop built environments that simultaneously solve for ecologically-based infrastructure while facilitating the city’s functioning and future growth within salty and saturated landscapes. Utilizing the North Beach Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, FL as case study, this work envisions and quantifies the experiential and ecological outcomes of alternative ways forward. These outcomes consider a future of saturated landscapes and, as a result, integrate research models that accommodate a variety of best management practices, low impact development, green infrastructure and other alternative concepts to be implemented over time in the neighborhood adaptation plan. Three scenarios defend, retreat, and adjust form a framework for evaluation and acceptance amongst various stakeholders. In this way each scenario operates in an evolutionary framework through a set of retrofit types at the scale of individual lots (what a property owner can do), public right-of-way (what a municipality or governmental entity can do), and neighborhood (what coordinated public/private collaborations can do) that are incremental, contextual, and successional. Tactics and techniques outlined in the strategies are implemented step-wise and successively across the various fronts in the urbanized area. In this way the project establishes meaningful conversations among stakeholders to envision and realize a prosperous way forward for the region.

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