The Dam Studio: Climate Change Along the Mystic

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges for cities. Extreme weather stresses infrastructures, nature, and the built environment. It impacts people, their health, safety, livelihood, and lifestyle. The capacity to adapt will determine the growth and decline of cities worldwide as 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050[1].

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the broader Boston metropolitan area have been a model for advanced collaborative thinking to address climate change. The studio will take advantage of the readily available wealth of regional climate knowledge, data, and analyses, and will explore the local implications of climate change on the Upper Mystic Watershed located within the Boston metropolitan area. It covers 76 square miles, roughly one percent of the land area of Massachusetts, and the upper watershed refers to the freshwater area above the Amelia Earhart Dam.

The dam is at the risk of being flanked or overtopped by 2050, which would impact communities in the upper watershed area. Concurrently, more frequent and intense precipitation coupled with increased densification and loss of pervious surfaces has increased the occurrence of stormwater flooding in the cities and towns within the river watershed. 
The studio will explore the integration of climate science projections into planning strategies and design projects at the regional scale while also developing specific scalable design solutions derived from nature-based approaches, urban typologies, or infrastructure adapted to climate change. The studio is organized into three concurrent tracks of exploration: 

1.    Review of the science of climate change to understand its basis, probabilities, modelization, and risk and vulnerability assessments
2.    Development of clear problem statements to define the planning and design projects and assess the effectiveness of the proposed flood-resilient strategies
3.    Exploration of design solutions for a watershed master plan or for selected landscape and urban design projects adapted to climate change

Prerequisites: Knowledge of GIS.

[1.] “The 2018 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects” is published by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). See