Coastal Retreat: Staging Inundation in Provincetown

by Kent Hipp (MLA '17) — Recipient of ASLA Certificate of Honor and ASLA Certificate of Merit

Using the concept of “coastal retreat”—a double entendre meaning both place of repose and process of relocation—this thesis imagines the adaptation of Provincetown, Massachusetts to climate change over the coming century. Built upon a shifting dune field at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has been a symbol of resilience, self-determination, and liberation for many different populations over time: from the Pilgrims and Portuguese fishermen to the gay and lesbian communities. As our climate warms and sea levels rise, the town’s intricate waterfront fabric and dune ecology will be radically disturbed. Can the identity of Provincetown be preserved as historic structures and landscapes are altered? What new landscapes and forms of habitation will emerge in the wake of this change? Rather than strive to preserve the built environment, this project embraces change and proposes a process of incremental adaptation to sea level rise that builds upon the town’s legacy of reinvention. Through the identification of historic examples of migration and transformation, such as the deconstruction of ships to build homes, the project argues that the raw material of the town can be reconfigured to make site specific interventions that hold the memory of the past in tension with the present. Using a scenario method, it envisions multiple futures unfolding over time to create a new town fabric that supports plurality and spontaneity.