Towards co-creation: A design-led study of ecological shifts in the tidal margin.
The ecological resilience of the intertidal margins of many cities is increasingly under pressure due to climatic shifts and urbanisation. As rising sea levels push the high-water mark landward, many coastal species are prevented from migrating inland due to natural or man-made barriers. This results in a phenomena known as ‘coastal squeeze’.
Pauatahanui Inlet, Porirua supports a diverse ecosystem of aqua-fauna, micro invertebrates and wading birds that rely on the shallow saltmarsh habitat within the estuary. However, with sedimentation from the surrounding catchments slowly filling up the inlet along with and predicted tidal inundation from sea level rise, the future of this coastline is uncertain.
Rather than attempting to solve or secure a fixed future for the coastline, as is the prevailing anthropocentric response, this design led research seeks to respond to these human induced pressures by working with the cyclical phenological processes and ecological interactions occurring within the harbour. The research ambition is to co-create a shared public tidal realm.
This objective is tested through the design of a coastal boardwalk for the Pauatahanui Inlet. Unlike human-focused boardwalks, this infrastructure is designed with the capacity to adapt as the tidal edge shifts, in either direction, while facilitating movement for all forms of life to traverse the harbour. The research attempts to surpass perceived barriers between nature and culture with an emergent inquiry into the poetic nature of the site itself. Here landscape design practice is developed towards the creation of social capital as occurring between species, while ensuring the natural ecosystem (and the life it supports) has the capacity to adapt to potential climate related changes.