by Meghna MehtaDec 09, 2019
The exhibition Sea Change: Flood Resilient Architecture for the 21st Century at the Roca London Gallery, explores the need for architecture to adapt to a growing climate reality - urban flooding. Following a recent report by RIBA (Royal Institute for British Architects) that states that 1 in six homes in the United Kingdom are currently vulnerable to flooding and the number is expected to double by 2050, an architecture for flooding must be given urgent attention. With water further causing an average of £1.4 billion of damage each year to UK businesses and households, architecture must be designed in a manner that humans can 'live with water'.
The curator of the exhibition, Eva Woode of Studio Woode, says a new approach is required to have flood resilient architecture. “Most architects are now aware of the fact that the construction industry is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions. However, we are still learning about how to adapt to this new reality - architects, developers, local authorities and communities will need to work together to make sure existing and new buildings and developments are resilient, as flooding will become the 'new normal’,” she explains.
The exhibition Sea Change showcases projects from across the globe that are attempting to address this aspect of dealing with changing climatic conditions. The exhibition meticulously selects and presents proposed and completed projects in the field of flood resilient architecture by leading architects worldwide. Varied solutions include developing floating buildings, improving flood barriers and turning them into recreational spaces, and elevating a range of public and private buildings.
One of the projects looked at as an example is the Floating Houses IJburg by Marlies Rohmer Architects, which was completed in 2015 and proved to be highly successful. Situated on a lake east of Amsterdam, Rohmer’s original scheme for 158 homes has since been expanded and will ultimately constitute 18,000 units, housing 45,0000 people.
Another project developing on an innovative concept for the integration of sustainability and resilient city planning, and showcased at Roca London Gallery, is the HafenCity in Hamburg by urban planner KCAP. Located in the Elbe river’s flood zone, the urban plan represents Europe’s largest inner-city redevelopment project. This project, scheduled for completion by 2025, defines how concepts for flood prevention need to be integrated right from the start.
Examples also include Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) Oceanix City, unveiled at the first United Nation's high-level Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities in April 2019 billed as a concept for the world’s first resilient and sustainable floating community, is designed to accommodate 10,000 people.
The exhibition also looks at flood resilient solutions that take into account the enjoyment of living close to water, by a sea or a river. Examples of these include BIG’s winning scheme for a flood defence and public park to prevent the extensive flooding experienced by Lower Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. Zaha Hadid Architects’ sculptural Niederhafen River Promenade in Hamburg replaces one of the city's deteriorated flood barriers, built in 1964 in the aftermath of storm surge floods that caused 315 fatalities and destroyed 60,000 homes. The design incorporates amphitheatre-like staircases, a three-storey restaurant and shops at street level, proving that flood infrastructure can open up new public spaces and riverside walkways.
Other schemes show how we can channel floodwater through ‘blue-green’ infrastructure solutions, where water is allowed to enter the built environment, but is safely directed to a parkland. Copenhagen-based architectural firm SLA Architect’s scheme The Soul of Nørrebro does just this, creating a new model for flood management by using the city’s frequent downpours to feed an urban wetland area.
Alongside the main narrative at the exhibition, there is some thought-provoking content on the idea of ‘flooding as the new normal', through film, futuristic visualisations, books, poetry and a subtle flood mark running around the gallery walls, to indicate where the water level may be in years to come.
Sea Change: Flood Resilient Architecture for the 21st Century will be on view till May 16, 2020, at ROCA London Gallery, United Kingdom.