City of Flux: Liberating the Concrete Terrain
In recent decades the world has increasingly become aware of our role in the continual degradation of our planet’s natural environment. One of the most influential and controversial issues of the Twenty First Century is climate change and a subsequent rise in global sea-levels. The implications of the most recent scientific predictions will play out over the following century and beyond, significantly affecting millions of people and thousands of coastal cities around the world. Accelerated sea-level rise globally will demand urban, landscape and architectural solutions for low-lying regions to respond over the coming decades to the extensive changes that will occur. New Zealand has a vast coastline and therefore will be particularly vulnerable to the predicted one-half, to two meter rise in sea-level during the following century (Evans, Milfont, and Lawrence 3). As occupants of an island nation, New Zealanders’ share a strong affinity to water. The earliest Maori settlements to the most recent developments in New Zealand have occurred predominantly in coastal regions, taking advantage of both land and marine resources. In order to envision a vital future for New Zealand’s coastal cities, the temporality of the relationship between these urban centres and the sea forces us to confront the transitory quality of our place within it. Simultaneously, the design proposal presented in this thesis recognises that Wellington has historically reclaimed large areas of land to form the majority of the central city seen today, and that in order to flourish in the coming century of climate change will require urban design more responsive than we know today. The imminent threat of the encroaching ocean within the high value precinct of Wellington’s central business district provides an opportunity to engage with the dynamic transition from land based activities to those functions that engage with incremental flooding. Using a critical transect of Wellington’s central city this thesis proposes a system of intervention to modify a section of the existing urban fabric to accommodate, prepare and adapt for flooding. The aim of this design investigation will be to place the programme as a hinge between land and sea.