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Drift City: Architecture’s Response to Sea Level Rise

**Honorable Mention in Pamphlet Architecture 36 Competition**

**Honorable Mention in 2016 Laka Competition: Architecture that Reacts**

US Coastline  


Type: Urban Design, Environmental Infrastructure

Project Text

Drift City is a floating, linear city that simultaneously defends, retreats and adapts to the rising sea.  It is a city that materializes in response to the hydrological crisis prompted by climate change.  It is a city that marks the edge of land and water, then migrates in both directions.  Drift City is a mechanism that enables the control of, escape from, and adaptation to water’s ominous presence.  


In the wake of an escalating global crisis with water, this project is a critical speculation of innovative design solutions to address the rising of sea levels.  Drift City is a hybrid solution—a solution that says yes to defending, to retreating and to adapting.  It is a city that acts as a defense wall.  Yet it also instigates and enables mobility for retreating populations.  However, retreat may not be permanent, but rather a form of temporal adaptation.  It fundamentally questions the condition of static building and offers a new way to live that is sensitive to the fluctuations of water.


­In its defense readiness condition, the Drift City is a line—rather a mega-line running parallel to the disappearing coast.  It is a continental Drift City that delineates an interface between sea and land.  As a structure of defense, it is built to protect and acts as a mega sea wall.  It is a constructed mechanism that buffers the land—emblematic of the strategy of constructing large infrastructures to keep rising water levels away from people and the built environment.  The project engages and celebrates the archetype for defense—engineered structures of a monumental scale that seek to protect against water’s encroachment.


While the Drift City celebrates the monumental infrastructures of modernity, it acknowledges the antiquated logics of the mono-functioning machine.  Thus, following contemporary policy for multi-programming infrastructure with civic spaces, Drift City pairs federally funded utility component with local, public, domestic programs.  The highway is linked to the home, the street is linked to the market, and the levee is linked to the park.  It is a city of hybrid zoning.



Seth McDowell


Seth McDowell, Rychiee Espinosa


©mcdowellespinosa architects

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