Resilient Urbanism


Design Research

2021 - Coming Soon





Bonnie Chuong | Shifting Manhattan's Shoreline

Over the last three centuries, New York City’s shoreline has expanded in response to development pressures. Today a network of hard infrastructures and hundreds of piers have replaced the original shoreline and its marshes. The most vulnerable areas are ones that were filled and correlate directly with the flood plain.  This has made Manhattan especially vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surge, and pluvial flooding. After Hurricane Sandy and the 14’ storm surge that put half of Manhattan out of power, the city has begun efforts to protect itself. New York’s response ranged from a US$10 billion berm, a US$119 billion sea wall, to more innovative strategies like the “BIG U” from the Rebuild by Design competition.  The first two strategies are criticized for their ineffectiveness and damage on marine ecology. The costs of these projects show New York’s monetary capabilities and willingness to invest in flood protection. Conversely, the “BIG U” was criticized to be exclusive to public-private partnerships. This shows complex social, political, and economic realms the designs must acknowledge.  

These issues create an opportunity to reconsider Manhattan’s shoreline as a continuous system of public green infrastructure, one that is connected to the rest of the city’s greenspaces. This thesis aims to reclaim spaces between existing piers to form a continuous new edge of wetland marshes, parks, promenades and programmable public surfaces in response to climate change. The strategies utilized follow Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) that highlight ecosystem processes such as restoring riparian zones, beach nourishment, and barrier islands. NBS emerged during discussions at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and they are to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems.  

Ambika Pharma |
On Thin Ice

2020 Heather M. Reisman Gold Medal, John H. Daniels Faculty, University of Toronto

Maritime chokepoints are congestive pathways that define some of the world’s most frequented shipping routes. Located at fixed geographies, these critical junctures of international trade result in unique spatial considerations born from an influx of port urbanization, global security risks, increased traffic, and cross-border conflicts. In addition to being a high intensity passage, major geographical characteristics of straits are the presence of unique ecologies, terrain, and natural resources. Offshore installations, extractive industries, fisheries, subsea internet and gas operations all occur along rich productive zones within chokepoint extents. Newly emerging passages, made viable by changing climate and terrain, will give rise to unexplored opportunities inspired by emergent social dynamics, big infrastructure, and tightly bound logistical and ecological regional systems.

Due  to sea level rise and ice melt, the extension of disruptive trade routes through the Poles are increasing. As Arctic sea ice retreats, the Bering Strait’s emerging role as a major maritime chokepoint threatens this fragile landscape. New pressures brought upon by the shipping industry, political investment, and global security are poised to clash with one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems and indigenous subsistence populations. This project proposes a reinvention of nautical systems that wraps economy, trade, and ecology around a new formulation of logistical landscapes and time. The bending of the international date line around the Diomede islands dividing the Strait creates a “time-exclusion-zone” and an arctic bio-reserve as the passage evolves. The proposed bioreserve is imagined as a device for political and ecological innovation in this tenuous region. A series of multi-scalar landscape interventions and infrastructural systems re-imagine how shipping routes, urban development, and shifting terrain in a future Arctic could ultimately benefit the vulnerable ecological systems they transverse.

Ihab Daakour | Water Sensitive Urban Design

Water Sensitive Urban Design examines links between urbanism and water, specifically, the effects of floods. It creates a series of guidelines which encourage integrating water into design instead of avoiding it, when building on floodplains. The projectproposes new typologies, and the adaptation of existing typologies, of buildings and outdoor spaces that vary in terms of density and can adapt to different water levels and flooding conditions. These redeveloped typologies are integrated into the design of a new development proposal for the Lower Don Lands area.

Andrew Hooke | The Island Section

The island of Dominica has one of the lowest GDPs in the Caribbean and some of the most mountainous terrain. This project examines the limiting role that topography has played in the country’s economic development and aims to reimagine the landscape into a productive terrain. A slope strategy is outlined with the goal of optimizing economic gain through risk mitigation and economic diversification.

The design interventions display possible resolutions of this strategy in three high risk but culturally significant sites. Since Dominica does not have a legally binding land-use strategy in place, this project has the potential to significantly impact the island’s development.

Shaine Grace Wong | Constructive Deconstruction

2020 Award of Excellence, WLA Awards for the Student, Analysis & Planning Category

The Constructive Destruction, rethink the issue of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Cambodia — from a deadly threat to a potential resource for development. What if the demining of UXO is piggy-backed with local infrastructural development? Can we redesign the demining effort to shoot two birds in one stone, and mitigate other environmental issues that are also threatening post-war Cambodia? This project explores strategic ways to restore the Cambodian landscape to safe grounds while developing critical infrastructure for future development and environmental issues mitigation. The proposed interventions also create cultural landscapes and experiences that tell the unique war history of the country.

‍Cambodia has more active buried explosives than people living above. During the Vietnam war, 2.7million tons of ordnance were dropped in Cambodia; more than half remained unexploded. The immense amount of UXO and high economic cost of removal creates an insurmountable challenge to Cambodia. Demining remains today a highly inefficient, low incentive, and poorly organized activity. Every week, 3 innocent lives are lost.The research was inspired by the way locals repurpose the bombshells into daily commodities like canoes and house foundations, and develop bomb craters into fish farming ponds. It explores design opportunities that capture the action of demining to serve its highest potential for future development, and repurposes the bomb-scapes for productive applications.

The research started with the methodology of studying the types and spatial distribution of the UXO, and their relationship with other environmental issues. Issues such as deforestation, flooding, water pollution, and development pressure of arable land. In Stung Treng, the excavated demined landscape are proposed to develop into a waterway that serves as an irrigation canal, providing irrigation water for the development of rice paddy inland, functioning as a waterway to transport crops to markets for sale, and serving as aquaculture ponds. The excavated soil from demining can be reused as fill materials for flood levees along the Mekong river. In Kampong Cham, demined craters are proposed to develop into rainwater harvesting ponds for irrigation/livestock water, and others to develop into flood diversion channels for excess river flow, mitigating the effects of flooding to the surrounding agricultural area. For craters that are outside of the flood zone, they are proposed to be preserved and grow into nature reserves, providing habitats for a new landscape ecology to thrive. Eco-tourism can be promoted, educating visitors on the impact of war and allowing a new experience to the post-war landscape. The demining of unexploded ordnance may seem insurmountable — but when demining is strategically designed to be capitalized as long-term and high-return investment, it attracts investments and provides higher incentives for demining. This results in the efficient removal of UXOs, the safety of people, and the economic recovery and prosperity in the country of Cambodia.