Local architect Cristina Bump (of Mithun) believes we need to approach this important decision with open minds, looking to examples of seawall design from coastal cities around the world for inspiration. That's why she approached the American Institute of Architects Seattle chapter (AIA Seattle) with a proposal to study innovative seawall design in Sydney, Melbourne and Vancouver. As Bump told AIA Seattle:
Rather than replace the current Alaskan Way seawall with a copy of the current one, Seattle has an opportunity to link the urban downtown core to the water while revitalizing the sea ecosystem that was damaged by the existing vertical seawall.
The organization announced today that it will support Bump's project with a $5,000 travel scholarship. In Canada and Australia, Bump will research the impact that alternative seawall designs can have on urban development and natural habitat. She plans to work with partners at the University of Washington, the City of Seattle and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a series of recommendations for Seattle's seawall replacement. Her research will also appear in an exhibit at AIA Seattle's downtown gallery at the end of this year.
It's encouraging to see the City of Seattle, and so many local organizations, supporting a thoughtful and innovative approach to redesigning the seawall. The willingness to explore ideas from abroad is also promising. Though Seattle has a plenty to be proud of, looking outside is likely to bring fresh inspiration.
And the importance of building the seawall correctly cannot be overstated. the As Alex Steffen wrote in his December letter to King County Executive Ron Sims:
A 1.5 meter sea level rise [predicted by the European Geosciences Union] would result in storm surges much, much higher than anything we're used to seeing now. If we're going to defend Seattle against rising waters, we need to make sure that our investments in the seawall now will support the kind of waterfront defenses we'll need in the coming decades.
Photo: The seawall in Vancouver, B.C.
Photo credit: flickr/AlmostJaded, Creative Commons license.