03 July 2009

Fall Studio: Sea Level Rise

When you think of Cape May, you probably think of old Victorians and great beaches, not a community at risk. This fall in studio, we will be changing our perspective a bit.

While I am still unprepared to reveal all of the final details, I wanted to share the basic outline of our fall studio project for Intermediate Landscape Architecture I (11:550:331). The entire semester will be spent exploring design interventions and implications of sea level rise and global warming in Cape May County, New Jersey with funding assistance from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The project will be building on the results of the Spring 2009 Advanced Environmental Geomatics class. CRSSA has already created some great research on the Vulnerability of New Jersey's Coastal Habitats to Sea Level Rise that will give you a sense for both the seriousness of the threat and the diversity of issues wrapped up in this seemingly simple problem. SEBS researchers and Rutgers alums are all looking into the problem.

Cape May County has become the high profile location of an ecological decline that is represented in the falling populations of the interconnected populations of red knots and horseshoe crabs. This got some national attention when PBS aired an entire episode looking at the problem, but has been the focus of research here at Rutgers and at the NJ DEP for some time. It is also a great spot for ecotourism, which would presumably decline quickly as the natural landscapes are degraded.

One of the clear challenges would be to start building an infrastructure now that will better support the future residents of Cape May County. What would high performance infrastructure guidelines tell us about where we should be looking? We aren't the first people to explore these topics, so we need to learn from past studies if we are going to accomplish something new.

The certain threat and the uncertain details make sea level rise, and the larger patterns of climate change, an interesting problem for designers. In the San Francisco Bay Area, concerns about sea level rise (as shown in their local paper) led to the Rising Tides Competition this summer. Hopefully we'll get to see some results this fall before we are too far along in our project. I strongly encourage our students to look back at the IFLA 2008 Student Competition, which gives some great ideas about both the imaginative and serious aspects of this as a design issue.

You should also take a little time to peruse both popular portrayals and serious discussions of climate change and sea level rise. Keep an eye on regular news accounts about the science. How are going to communicate the complexity of the issue? How are we, as a class and a team, going to resolve uncertainties? Do we need to educate the public or are they fairly aware? We'll be sifting through countless agency reports, like the recent EPA report on Adaptation Planning for the National Estuary Program, and trying to organize the things we learn from them. We are also going to start paying attention to more and more mundane things like maps of sidewalks. Keep your eyes (and browser) open for these and keep careful records of what you see.

If you can get out and explore, it would be great. But if you can only get to Trenton, that would work too. The New Jersey State Museum in Trenton also has an exhibit called Rising Tide: Climate Change & Sea Level Rise in New Jersey.

But take some time to get to know Cape May County. Think about the landmarks and people. What is it known for? What is it like for tourists? But what is it like for year-round residents?

Finally, Places and Spaces will now be an active focused source with at least 3 tags for this project: cape may, JrStudio, sea level rise. Use them to keep up.

No comments: