Water Driving Urban Design: Landscape Architecture Professor Leads National Panel

By Seth Truscott

Hope Hui Rising, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture with Washington State University’s School of Design + Construction, moderated and presented in a panel entitled “Water Urbanism: Water as a Driver for Urban Design and Landscape Architecture,” at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Annual Conference, Oct. 21-24 in New Orleans.

Her panelists included Dennis Carmichael, an ASLA Fellow and a former president for the society, and Prisca Weem, Stormwater Manager from New Orleans’ Office of Mayor.

“Delta cities will continue to be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise even after having maximized their water retention capacity,” said Rising. “Promoting upstream water retention through implementing water urbanism in upstream cities is a more cost-effective way to mitigate floods in delta cities.”

The panel was attended by more than 200 landscape architecture practitioners, educators, researchers, and students. Licensed landscape architects and certified urban planners in attendance received continuing education credits. The content of the panel will be offered by ASLA as an online continuing education course for a broader audience interested in better addressing the compounding effects of coastal, riverine, and inland flooding to better adapt delta cities to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

A prototype for urban design that captures and uses stormwater.
Prototype water system used in urban design, from the 2016 Water Urbanism panel.

Rising discussed the use of controlled flooding, room for the river, and multiple lines of defense to address inland flooding, riverine flooding, and coastal flooding through water urbanism. Water urbanism is a water-coherent approach to urban design that redefines Low-Impact Development as a stormwater management approach by addressing the impacts from not only developments but also climate change and sea level rise.

Due to the lack of proactive funding, climate adaptation has been largely funded indirectly by taxpayers nation-wide through the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an after-thought in post-disaster cities like New Orleans, says Rising. However, research shows that upstream water retention is more cost-effective than downstream. Most upstream water retention has been provided through reservoirs within river channels. Delta cities will continue to sink due to sediment trapping by upstream reservoirs.

Rising urged upstream cities to make the shift towards incorporating an intelligent amphibious transportation system into their right-of-ways to help delta cities, such as New Orleans, mitigate flooding. Such amphibious right-of-ways, she said, could be designed to provide ecosystem services, such as energy generation, to help both upstream and delta cities finance long-term climate adaptation strategies.

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