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Elevating awareness of Boston’s vulnerabilities to future changes in sea levels and leading the way in communicating the risks for the general public

Sea Change: Boston

Sasaki Sponsored Research
Boston, MA
Landscape Architecture
Planning and Urban Design
Additional Services
Civil Engineering
Completed April 2014
American Society of Landscape Architects, Honor Award: Communications Category
Boston Society of Landscape Architects, Honor Award – Communication

Sea Change: Boston is a Sasaki research initiative on sea level rise advocating for long-term coastal resiliency in the Greater Boston area.

Sea Change: Boston examined the city’s vulnerabilities to sea level rise and demonstrated design strategies for resilience.  Undertaken in 2013-2014, the project was a leader in translating the scientific risks about sea level rise to a general audience.  The risks for Boston were being better understood around this time, but the scientific community findings were not previously making their way into the average resident’s understanding.  Sea Change: Boston showed the future flood risks using interactive maps and accessible graphics, elevating community awareness of the region’s vulnerabilities. It helped residents grasp the future changes in store for the region and understand how future flooding could impact them personally.

The Sea Change team tapped into the firm’s interdisciplinary practice to engage in preparedness planning at the building, city, and regional scale. Sasaki designers also collaborated with experts in engineering, academia, advocacy, and policy making to harness sea level rise expertise and push design thinking further. Research included the mapping and diagramming of sea level rise in Boston and its effect on land use, demographics, and transportation systems, among other vulnerable systems.  Sea Change emphasized that critical urban systems must be considered beyond municipal boundaries. Design strategies and case studies illustrated an array of tangible solutions for how the Boston region can protect its edge while introducing greater vibrancy, connectivity, and economic opportunities along the water.

Sasaki curated an exhibition to showcase this research, highlighting Boston’s vulnerabilities and demonstrated design strategies. The exhibition shared the Sea Change research with the broader community in an engaging and accessible format, rich with graphics and interactive media. Events associated with the exhibition catalyzed a conversation among designers, city officials, real estate leaders, and academics about the need for future planning to prepare the region.

Sasaki created an interactive map that invited Bostonians to explore flooding scenarios and vulnerable urban systems. The City of Boston used the online map for their Greenovate Campaign, which informed the Climate Action Plan.  Community members have expressed how the map helped them better understand how flood risk could impact where they live or work, or how they get around.

Project Impact

Sasaki’s Sea Change: Boston initiative helped increase awareness in greater Boston of the region’s future risks. Outcomes from the Sea Change research have included Sasaki co-authoring the report “Designing with Water: Creative Solutions from Around the Globe” with The Boston Harbor Association and acting as an adviser on the Boston Living with Water Design Competition.

The research project catalyzed conversations that have grown since 2014. Today, the Boston region is a national leader in proactive planning for sea level rise.  The project has been recognized by ASLA as a national leader in communicating climate risks; Sea Change: Boston won the organization’s top honor in 2016 for communications.

“The multi-modal nature of this is a great strength. No matter what the capacity of the various audiences might be, they have provided a tool that everyone can use.”

-2016 Awards Jury (Sea Change won the 2016 national ASLA Honor Award for Communications)

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