Designing the Adaptive Landscape: Leapfrogging Stacked Vulnerabilities

Design studio

In the Anthropocene, climate impacts are expected to fundamentally change the way we live in, and plan and design for, our cities and landscapes. Long-term change and uncertainty require a long view, while current planning approaches and policy making are mostly short-term oriented and are therefore not well suited to respond adequately. The path-dependency it implies causes an irresolvable dilemma between short-term effect and long-term necessities. The objective of the research is to investigate an alternative planning and design approach which is able to overcome the current constraints and take a holistic long-term perspective. Therefore, the methods used in the study underpin a creative process of future visioning through backcasting and finding a dynamic equilibrium in the past as a primer for long-term climate adaptation. This way, the individual vulnerabilities of current sectoral policies can be leapfrogged and integrated into one intervention. This design-led method is applied to the northern landscape of the Groningen region in The Netherlands. This intervention is positioned as a re-dynamization of the landscape by reestablishing the exchange between the land and the sea. The findings in the study show that a long-term perspective on the future of the regional landscape increases climate adaptation and enriches the opportunities for viable agriculture, increased biodiversity, and a raised land that is not only protected against possible storm surges, but benefits from the sediments the sea brings. The economic analysis shows that a new perspective for farming within saline conditions is profitable on a fraction of the land, the biodiversity can be enriched by more than 75%, and the ground level of the landscape can be raised by one meter or more in the next 50–100 years. Moreover, the study shows how a long-term perspective can be implemented in logic stages that comply with the natural step-changes occurring in climate change.

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