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What are We Scared of?: Does the threat of climate change and sea level rise present a unique opportunity to re-imagine the way we live with water?

Part 1 Dissertation 2012
Andrew Casey
University of the West of England, UK
Prior to the current global economic downturn, climate change and the pressing need to both mitigate and adapt to its consequent effects had risen quickly in both public consciousness and as a priority for governments.

The response to date has been one of fear, a reaction to a perceived threat and an attempt to defend against this, in a situation where defence is often the least practical and most expensive solution. The outcome is the building of extensive engineering projects in an effort to deny that changes are even occurring.

Asking ‘what are we afraid of?’ this study argues for a much more intriguing alternative; that architecture fundamentally offers protection from the elements, as climate change causes these to become more extreme, the opportunities for architecture to change to extend this protection become greater and more open to entirely new alternatives.

Through an examination of studies into people’s responses to natural threats and an investigation of unadventurous government policy, a set of criteria is created by which case studies of alternative ways of living with water can be judged and compared. These case studies range from traditional vernacular solutions, through contemporary developments to theoretical and speculative suggestions that explore a possible future world where living with water has become a part of everyday life. The aim is to find alternatives that can replace fear with understanding, tolerance and even delight.

Andrew Casey

Elena Marco
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