STREETS THROUGH THE SEA: Public space in and on water

Francesca Dal Cin, formaurbis LAB, CIAUD, Lisbon School of Architecture
Fransje Hooimeijer, Associate Professor Environmental Technology and Design (TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Department Urbanism)

Sea level change is an important consequence of climate change, both for societies and for the environment. Furthermore, sea level rise impacts in coastal cities are expected to represent a major challenge this century, with millions of people globally exposed to a variety of natural hazards such as storms and flooding, which are exacerbated by global warming. Population density is significantly higher in coastal than in non-coastal areas, combined with coastal growth, land conversion and urbanization significantly increases levels of risk and vulnerability along the waterline.

In the uncertain context of climate change, floating and amphibious dwellings have been built in different territorial contexts: river and sea. It is important to highlight that in the analysis the effects of sea level rise on coasts and rivers are considered not uniform, as they vary considerably from region to region and over a range of temporal scales. Rethinking water, both in urban spaces and as a urban space itself, without channeling it as we did in the past, and creating spaces for it instead, is a contemporary challenge.

The aim of the article is to shift the focus of the infrastructural architectural debate from floating housing to urban public spaces in and on water. Through the creation of a matrix, we want to analyse a floating buildings projects: their territorial location (sea, ocean, or river), their relationship with the public space of the pre-existing city, their capacity to create public space on the water. Conclusion of the article concerns the need to outline the design rules of the floating urban public space, solve the connection node between the floating building and the historic city by transforming pier, dock and quay into a street.

Keywords – Climate Change, Amphibious projects, Floating dwellings, Floating urban public space, Design matrix


Francesca Dal Cin, graduated in Architectural Science with Urbanism specialization from the Architecture University of Venice Italy, IUAV, in 2017. Later she develops a PhD in Urbanism at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon (Portugal), with the thesis “Streets by the sea. Type-morphology of Portuguese Atlantic waterfront facing sea level rise", supported since 2018 by a research fellowship from the University of Lisbon. Since 2017, she is member of formaurbis LAB, a research team that develops several research projects related to urban forms. She participates in national and international seminars and regularly publishes articles on the theme of Urban Morphology and Water. Her research area is the definition of architectural and urban rules for the adaptation of the waterfront, its connections between the floating building and the consolidated city, in a climate change scenarios.

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