Date of Award
Master of Architecture (MArch)
Dr. Zoé Samudzi
Some seventy-seven odd years in the future, the world as we know it will only be recognizable by those who are willing to accept it. The bustling metropolis of Boston Massachusetts has been transformed to appease the tides of Mother Nature as a consequence of human intervention. In the decades prior, humanity viciously fought to contain the effects of climate change, until many realized the colossal undertaking of such a battle. Municipalities across the globe had begun to accept that fighting the earth was no longer an option. Instead, the only hope forward was to adapt to a reality in which much of the teetering climate instability would be integrated as part of daily life. Boston, long ahead of climate change policy, was one of the first to dramatically shift this story.
Although this tale sounds like one of hope, it’s merely a reality of just living. This reality is one filled with a continuation of a human response, a response that resides on the basis of reactivity.
Our species isn’t the best at executing proactive plans. We can think critically and forward, but often we find ourselves taking on a challenge when we are approaching the threshold. We are surprisingly really good at crisis management when the only other option is absolute failure. We’ve seen it before with the industrial revolution when cities were choking on their own air, causing a near total collapse of powerful economic engines until people stepped in to avert the crisis. And although cities got better over the decades, they still live with yesterday’s consequences with polluted rivers, toxic soil, and crumbling infrastructure. Progress to reverse the damages have been slow and costly, albeit they are happening.
So, following a logic that has become of our species for centuries, it wouldn’t be irrational to believe that it will happen again. We are already within a storm, and the eye is approaching ever so closer. Climate change is this generation’s greatest threat and humans will inevitably respond in a fight-or-flight fashion.
So then, what does a post-flood urban environment look like on the other side of the storm?
Many speculations today paint a grim picture that the world in the near future will be that of one residing in total chaos. Others believe that we can successfully weather the situation and bring upon progress in a more just world. The answer is both, and neither. Humanity has, and will continue to evolve and move on. Adaptation is hard, but not impossible, especially in which the only means of survival requires change. Most humans genuinely do fear death, afterall. Our coastal cities may even be in a state of disarray in seventy seven years from now. The images behind me are a depiction of that. Humanity survives but still has many questions to ask themselves on how they could improve their condition.
The seaport district became that flooded, vertical urban environment as a response to an inevitable situation.
Some things haven’t changed much in several decades. The United States, if we presume is around in its current state, still operates on a capitalist system. Perhaps there are some aspects of how free-market capitalism has changed over the decades to address core issues, but the greater system still hangs over the nation. This, in return, continues to perpetuate a market driven economy. Seaport only became successful because the city of Boston had run out of space to build and thus, it became economically feasible to build over water once more. Private industry moved back in as profitability became desirable again, and in return altered the landscape into a bustling neighborhood. One that some may find uncomforting because there’s still aspects of exclusionary practices that continue to follow us through this system.
There’s plentiful amounts of LED billboards screaming for the attention of consumers, at the expense of light pollution and noise. Corporate shops line the pedestrian-scape as consumer culture still indulges in the need for easily accessible goods and services. Even city planning still isn’t separated by the needs of privatized organizations. Gondolas and private helicopter pads lead many to areas of commerce. However, High rises that once hosted offices fifty years prior are now molded into a mixed-use, vertical city hosting an array of public/private and civic services.
Even the idea of public space has changed, as the city worked to require new regulations on accessibility. Privately owned towers now must adhere to having publicly accessible pedestrian walkways inside, as the groundscape is no longer a viable space for traditional foot traffic. There is still a barrier of where the public can go, but the lines have been blurred as rooftops and entire floors became new spaces for plazas and gatherings.
The inevitable reality of the rising seas did not completely stop humanity from taking advantage of the new landscape. Even as walkability became limited on the original groundscape, a world of utilizing the water has sprung up. People now have the option to commute by boat, or shop and live on top of barges that adhere to the tides. It’s a different way of living, but not one that is out of the ordinary. Interestingly enough, sea levels had only barely risen to make the neighborhood into a permanently flooded state, but areas still peak above the water line at low tide.
Ultimately, the world is a different place than the one we are used to living in today. However, it still shares many similar characteristics we have been exposed to all of our lives. Humanity continues to move on, adapt, and innovate in the age of the anthropocene. Our species, equally, still continues to struggle under certain economic systems, social hierarchies, and proactivity. People might have a hard time understanding a different reality to the one that they are used to, but the truth is, times change, not because we want them to, but because they have to. Welcome to the year 2100.
Andrews, Kyle, "Cohabitation x Adaptation, 2100: A Climate Change Epoch" (2023). Masters Theses. 1080.
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