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These Amazing Designs Are Helping People Tackle Rising Sea Levels

A photo exhibit asks whether the human race will sink or swim.

The architects in the Annenberg Space for Photography’s photography exhibit, Sink Or Swim: Designing For A Sea Change, have brought their talents to places impacted by devastating storms and rising sea levels, and whose ideas may well be signs of a design revolution to come.

“We’ve got designers coalescing around an emerging philosophy that the modernist way of building is not suited to this challenge we face, that have to rethink the way we build,” the exhibit’s curator, Frances Anderton, said.


The innovations depicted in the exhibit– including high style houseboats, floating schools, and temporary homes made from shipping containers – are a source of hope, even as much of the world seems slow to plan for coming changes in the landscape.

But it’s not just the cutting edge that’s paving the way for a water-ready future. Communities in flood-prone areas have been designing for a life on water for centuries, and their low-tech adaptations – like houses built on stilts – can inform new solutions.

Hundreds of millions of people live in low-lying coastal areas all over the world, from New Orleans to Japan to Bangladesh. And while the respective resources they have to address rising sea levels vary, they are united by their common challenge. And in all of these places, there are minds thinking about how we can make it through the rough century ahead.

“We have the capacity to be really smart if we choose to be,” Anderton said. “We need to harness our smarts and our will at both a local and a global level.”