Design travels to South Carolina to plan more protective urban coastlines

Can we imagine protection as a living component of our urban system? Imagine an integrated, interlocking, and connected system of nature-based solutions interwoven throughout the quintessential urban fabric. Imagine that this system has all of the built-in engineering required to protect a city from storm surges, adapt to changing sea levels, and reduce flooding from stormwater.

Aerial view of a South Carolina coastal municipality map diagramed for design purposes
Aerial view of Imagine the Wall, Charleston, a proposal for the South Carolina coastal city. (Image: Weitzman School)

Such a protection system is envisioned in “Imagine the Wall, Charleston.” The proposed system combines natural elements with structural systems that respond to the local conditions of Charleston’s varied shoreline and urban fabric, a wall that is more than a wall.

Imagine the Wall, Charleston is the result of a collaborative effort between One Architecture & Urbanism, which is led by Matthijs Bouw, an associate professor of practice at the Weitzman School, Fellow for Risk and Resilience at The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, and director of the Certificate in Urban ResilienceBiohabitats, which is led by Keith Bowers, a member of the board at The McHarg Center; DesignWorksApplied Technology & Management, Curtis Cravens Consulting, and John Nettles Art.

Built on the USACE’s report, the proposal intends to broaden the conversation about Charleston’s “Sea Wall” and perimeter protection and initiate discussions between stakeholders that will guide decision making and the creation of a contextual and nature-based protection plan.

The team’s solutions serve the idea of nature-based design that combines hard engineering and traditional construction materials with ecological forms such as marshes and oyster reefs. The combined approach offers reduced maintenance costs and living systems that can respond dynamically to future conditions, benefiting both the community and the surrounding natural environment.

Read more at Penn Design News.