Date of Award

Spring 5-30-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Kathryn Foley

Second Advisor

Matthew Donham


Today a lot of design research is concentrated on problems of resiliency and performance in conditions of hazardous events, such as sea level rise, hurricanes, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes and drought. And while designers, architects and engineers try to convince people to care about these issues, offer building higher seawalls, recreating marshlands, reinforcing shorelines and various ecosystems, they never really address evacuation, which remains a big problem for vulnerable areas prone to cyclical occurrence of natural disasters.

More people die during evacuation - escaping the disaster site, rather than from the disaster itself; more people die because of the consequences of the disaster in their own homes or vehicles. For example, in 2016 in Japan, Kumamoto prefecture 50 people were killed directly by the earthquake, while over 900 people were injured; but over 170 people were killed indirectly, 24% of whom died because they were trying to find shelter in their private vehicles (Japan Times, 04/14, 2017). However, this doesn’t seem to be an issue worth looking at from a design perspective. But building seawalls is not a solution either - it is the same mitigation of the aftereffects, rather than addressing the root of the problem. Natural disasters are impossible to control; true, therefore I believe it is necessary to first and foremost address people’s understanding of the extreme danger that their situation poses, address their safe escape and shelter.

Phase 1 will investigate my chosen site - Rockaway Peninsula, Queens, NYC. I will research the history and geography of the site, its current condition and strategies that have been employed by the authorities to recover after superstorm Sandy of 2012. Phase 2 will look into case studies in US and abroad in order to learn of various strategies that are developed to deal with the same type of disaster as Sandy and/or similar type of sandbar location and its communities. Phase 3 will look into how to create an evacuation plan in a physical form by providing people with a guiding system that would help them to get to shelter safely even during a superstorm like Sandy.

By performing this research I am trying to answer a question “How can landscape be adapted in order to improve efficiency of evacuation”, which arose after I found evidence in social media of people’s ignorance of the real danger and/or unwillingness to leave; people’s unwillingness to follow police orders and trying to perform evacuation on their own. For example, in Palm Beach, Florida local residents refused to follow orders of police and firemen and chose to evacuate on their own terms because evacuation prepared by the government officials was “ineffective and life threatening.” By investigating this topic I am trying to define what evacuation is apart from being a line on a map which officials from Town Hall had drawn, and how can evacuation become a part of a physical landscape, become something that people would intuitively understand and follow.



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