Creating Resilient Cities: Disaster Field Lab

This course, taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and selected field sites in New York City will be conducted using a combined lecture and workshop format.  Topical areas include the study of the role and application of land use planning and design techniques to a range of issues associated with hazard mitigation and disaster recovery.  Examples include emergency housing design, construction and siting, hazard mitigation and disaster recovery plan evaluation, building and site design (pre- and post-disaster), the interrogation of strategies for conservation of damaged coastal areas, and adaptive strategies for coping with increased tidal and storm surge risks concurrent with sea-level rise. Researchers with expertise in hazard mitigation and land use, such as Gavin Smith (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) will provide guest lectures for the course and serve as jurors on the students’ final projects.

We are currently considering appropriate sites and topics in New York City as it recovers from the destruction brought by Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge and winds in October 2012. Sandy’s almost 14-foot storm surge underscored the vulnerability of coastal development and transportation infrastructure in the City, especially in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan neighborhoods. The recovery and redevelopment are on-going as multiple stakeholders – city government, private property owners and developers – begin to consider options for reducing future vulnerabilities to extreme weather events. GSD 5342 Creating Resilient Cities: Disaster Field Lab is a planning and design/research laboratory that will challenge its participants to develop his or her individual (or group) course of action within the professional capacity of the participant for the selected sites. The advantage of a regional site for the Disaster Field Lab course is that it will permit site visits and meetings with local stakeholders. Research on NYC’s recovery will be informed by the experience and perspective of recent and local precedents in post-disaster recovery.