The University of Pennsylvania School of Design team reimages the coast of Virginia as a fractured, cumulative, and diverse field of transverse ecological gradients rather than a continuous line. They demonstrate the efficacy of this alternate visualization of the coast through specific design projects.
While the projects are focused on coastal Virginia, the strategies they employ can be used elsewhere along the East Coast of the United States and beyond. They assume that sea level rise is not a problem to solve but an opportunity to move beyond the current imaging and imagining of the coast as a line—a line that all too easily becomes a battlefront between land and sea.
Turning the Coast
When European settlers arrived in Tidewater Virginia in the 1500s they brought with them the idea of a coastline, a line dividing land from sea. This line would become the first of many continental frontiers that would gradually move west. Each new frontier fulfilled prospects and opened new horizons; each also reinforced and hardened that ‘first’ line that would become the east coast of the United States
In Tidewater Virginia the sea extends deep into the continent, creating a dynamic and porous coast of gradients in space and time —gradients activated by animals, plants, and also vessels. This coast is not a line; it is a series of points that are open to accommodating the sea. It calls for a strategy that facilitates land meeting the sea in discrete “fingers of high ground.”