When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

CLARIN

High And Dry: Architecture In the Age Of Climate Change

Designers are starting to take global warming into account when planning buildings, particularly in seaside locations like Miami.

The Monad Terrace Lagoon building in Miami designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel
The Monad Terrace Lagoon building in Miami designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel
Miguel Jurado

BUENOS AIRES As you read this, the level of the world's seas may be rising by a fraction of a millimeter, slightly but inexorably. I don't mean to be alarmist here. It could take years for the sea to rise by a meter, and one meter isn't that much at the end of the day. But if the water does keep rising, places like Buenos Aires will certainly face problems.

This is all happening thanks to climate change and global warming, which is caused by our exorbitant fossil fuel consumption. Most of you know that already, even if President Donald Trump insists it's all a hoax.

And yet, while many in the United States prefer to look the other way, there are signs that the Americans aren't as distracted as they seem. In Miami, for example, buildings are already being constructed several meters above ground level. Last year, in south Miami Beach, the French architect Jean Nouvel presented a seafront block of flats he designed in which the ground floor stands a full four meters above the beach. I kid you not.

New building codes in Miami are already calling for structures to be built two meters above ground level. But in Nouvel's case, he decided to raise things further still to protect the underground parking from "once-in-a-century" type events that could flood the property.

Nouvel is by no means the first or only designer concerned about climate change. In Argentina, the Pérez Art Museum — owned by billionaire Jorge Pérez and opened in 2013 — is built on a system of piles and raised three meters above ground, allowing any floodwaters to pass underneath.

Flooding is a big issue in Miami, especially given the vigorous tides that storms provoke, both back and forth.

Pérez is also building two towers and a luxury hotel in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires's waterfront district, but without the same precautions. Why? For one thing, because Buenos Aires is less vulnerable than Miami to flooding, but also because Argentines don't like to think beyond the end of the month.

Planning ahead

Two years ago, NASA painted a fairly optimistic picture of what sea-level rise could look like by the end of the century. It's impossible to say with any certainty, however, what will happen, and if those numbers are off — if the waters rise more than 0.9 meters, a level experts see as being "manageable" — there could be devastating consequence for the tens of millions of people who live in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rosario and other coastal cities. The expansion of warm oceanic waters, melting mountain glaciers and loss of ice in Greenland and the Antarctic may prove decisive.

Flooding is a big issue in Miami, especially given the vigorous tides that storms provoke, both back and forth. One historic mansion had to be lifted onto higher ground in March 2016 to save it from floods. And in Miami Beach, the mayor, Philip Levine, has vowed to spend $400 million to raise streets and pavements and install pumps to drain flood zones.

Argentine developer Alan Faena, the man behind the Faena Art Center in Puerto Madero, hopes Authorities in Argentina will take similar precautions.

And yet, the three buildings Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is designing for Faena in Miami don't seem to take climate change into account. Strange, but perhaps there's more to Koolhaas's approach — or apparent lack there of — than meets the idea. For a Dutchman, after all, "anticipating floods is as ingrained in one's mind as riding a bike," as Koolhaas says.

There's a reason for that: floods killed thousands in The Netherlands in the 1990s and thousands more had to be evacuated from their homes. Now the Dutch are sharing their expertise with U.S. cities like New Orleans and with cities along the Norfolk coast in England. So what is the Dutch strategy? The prevailing opinion right now is to let the water in, through and out, and learn to live with mother nature instead of dominating it. Those are the people, after all, who designed big parking lots that double as flood reservoirs.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ