The Future of Coastal Planning

In the winter issue of ArchitectureBoston, Urban Landscape Director and Professor Jane Amidon considers the approaches cities with vulnerable urban waterfront zones can take to prepare for the risks of coastal flooding.

For urban waterfronts that are ecologically sensitive and climatologically vulnerable, development zones that once made great sense economically now present formidable questions. How much is at risk? What needs to change? How long will it take? The imperative of climate change adaptation calls not just for protection and remediation, but an entrepreneurial redefinition of the land-water interface. In response, a number of coastal cities have shifted gears to use scenario-building as an alternative to master planning. As with the strategic shift in the healthcare industry from treatment to prevention, urban coastal management is turning its focus away from top-down prescription and ‘hard’ infrastructure toward the bottom-up potential of multi-scale, multi-use, multi-prong resiliency models. A growing body of science, advocacy and funding around coupled human and natural systems research (CHN) encourages municipalities to approach coastal resiliency at the neighborhood scale couched within systems-scale research and analysis.