Ephemerality as a design element for
the adaptation of coastal cities to sea level changes

Despina Linaraki, Cities Research Institute (Griffith University)

There is an increasing demand for creating solutions for the adaptation of coastal cities to sea level changes and floods. Scientists and engineers around the world are particularly looking for solutions found in nature. Natural structures have the advantage of self-maintain, self-repair and self-grow and they are able to keep pace with sea level rise. This research is focusing on the investigation of naturally formed floating islands to propose adaptation scenarios of coastal cities to sea level changes and floods. The floating islands are significant case studies not only because of their natural buoyancy and physical adaptation to sea level changes but also because of their ephemeral character.

Natural processes, such as floods, volcanoes, or other environmental activities, can sometimes create ephemeral floating landmasses in the water. These landmasses are made of unconsolidated matters such as vegetation, sediments, ice, or magma. Their material and structural composition allow the mass to flow above the water level for a period of time. Moreover, due to their unconsolidated materials, these masses are vulnerable to morphological changes that occur as part of environmental and anthropogenic impacts. In addition, these islands can grow, evolve, or disappear in a shorter or longer time. These unique characteristics of the naturally formed floating islands are examined in this research to find out how they can be translated into the city fabric.

Currently, there are examples around the world were people have inhabited ephemeral floating islands. For example, the Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca or the Phumdis Islands in Lake Loktak. Their structures have been adapted to the ephemeral character of the island. Consequently, these structures can grow, evolve, or disappear similar to the island ephemerality. This research is investigating if ephemerality is a possible solution for the adaptation of coastal cities to sea level changes and floods.

Keywords – Ephemeral, Architecture, Floating islands, Adaptation


Despina Linaraki is an Architect Engineer and Researcher. Currently, she is a PhD researcher at SeaCities, Cities Research Institute, Griffith University in Queensland. She has completed her Master of Science, 2015 from Columbia University in New York, at Advanced Architectural Design- Global Cities development. At the same time, she holds a Master of Architectural Engineering, 2013 from Technical University of Crete in Greece. Since 2014 she is a register Architect in Greece. Her main research interests are nature-based interdisciplinary solutions for the adaptation of cities to sea level changes and floods.

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