How Three Major US Cities are Preparing for Climate Change

As the world recognizes Earth Day 2019, the public discourse is increasingly dominated by citizen action across the world manifesting a widespread fear and frustration at a perceived lack of action by governments and officials to confront the issue forthrightly. From the Extinction Rebellion protests that have gripped London, to school student strikes across 125 countries, global cities are increasingly finding themselves on the front line of a battle to limit the effects of global warming.

To this end, the architectural community has taken major steps in the past 12 months to generate design-led solutions which tackle climate change. From ecoLogicStudio’s bio-digital curtain to Bjarke Ingel’s floating city, the architecture world has speculated on issues across the global/local, and macro/micro spectrum.

In the United States too, there is evidence that climate change is finally moving to the forefront of design, with initiatives such as the AIA’s toolkit for tackling the issue. The past 12 months have also seen plans made by some of the United States’ most populous cities to protect themselves against rising sea levels, and unpredictable weather events. Below, we outline three such cities that we have reported on in the past 12 months.

New York City


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced plans for a $10 billion coastal resilience project, designed to protect Lower Manhattan from flooding. In an editorial piece in New York Magazine, Mayor de Blasio outlined the ambitious plans to alter the waterfront of the Financial District, constructing a major infrastructural element up to 500 feet into the East River.

Part of the Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience Study, and designed in collaboration with climate scientists and local offices, the Mayor describes the scheme as “one of the most complex environmental and engineering challenges [New York] has ever undertaken and will, literally, alter the shape of the island of Manhattan.” The multi-billion dollar project is designed to protect Manhattan through the year 2100.

Read more about the project here.


© SCAPE/City of Boston

Late last year, the Mayor of Boston and SCAPE Landscape Architecture collaborated on a vision to protect the city’s 47 miles of shoreline against climate change. The scheme lays out strategies which will “increase access and open space along the waterfront while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.”

The vision forms part of the Imagine Boston 2030initiative while using the city’s Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps, targeting infrastructure along Boston’s most vulnerable flood pathways. The SCAPE vision calls for the creation of elevated landscapes, enhanced waterfront parks, flood resilient buildings, and revitalized connections to the waterfront. The scheme focuses on four areas: East Boston and Charlestown, North End and Downtown, South Boston and Fort Point, and Dorchester Waterfront.

Read more about the project here.

San Francisco

One year after the launch of Resilient by Design's Bay Area Challenge, organizers led by TLS Landscape presented the final nine design concepts to protect San Francisco from the consequences of climate change. The Bay Area Challenge launched with a call to action to "bring together local residents, community organizations, public officials and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative solutions that will strengthen our region's resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes."

The idea formulated as a “blueprint for resilience” that can be replicated and utilized locally and globally. Other urban challenges will also be addressed, including housing, transport, health and economic disparity as a means of not just protecting the current regions, but strengthening them. The elite, collaborative teams include world-renowned designers like BIG, Mithun, and HASSELL+.

Read more about the project here.

About this author
Cite: Niall Patrick Walsh. "How Three Major US Cities are Preparing for Climate Change" 22 Apr 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

© SCAPE/City of Boston


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