The Future Provincetown 1

Historical accretion vs total design and artisanal production vs technological innovation are two of the most productive dialectics to have accompanied modern architecture since its inception. In order to investigate these sources of tension, this studio will confront an exceptional case of interdependency between urban morphology and building typology.

Rarely does the threat of global warming provide the impetus to speculate intensely on these matters at the architectural scale. Provincetown provides such a case. Sea level rise portends not only the loss of the city’s particular form of historically determined intricacy, but also the grandfathered codes and permissiveness that they enable. Provincetown's fine grained character and unusual way of life persist because so many of its small streets, sidewalks and staircases do not meet current codes. Owing to its scale and density, the city’s public and private social relationships are more significantly determined by the architectural consistency of porches, doorways, fenestration and interior spatial sequences than is typical of modern cities. Many of the city’s public and private spaces are so entangled that they seem to be codified spontaneously, not regulated prescriptively. Take for example the way people circulate during the peak summer months; Commercial Street, the main street threatened by future deep flooding, is commonly taken over by pedestrians, cyclists and performers even as cars and delivery trucks slowly make their way through. The situation often appears to be totally unmanaged. Every night, when the bars and clubs close, crowds swell spontaneously in front of Sparticus Pizza, the only after-hours establishment, making the street virtually impassable.

The studio will investigate strategies for maintaining and enhancing this way of life by elevating, preserving and transforming the parts of the city that will lose the battle against the rising water by the end of this century. This will entail the design of new infrastructure, streets, and buildings of different types and sizes to produce new forms of interdependency, all at the architectural scale.  The proposals will deploy both antiquated and contemporary codes with the aim of creating new forms of urban and architectural density. Among the architectural precedents to be explored will be McKim Mead and White, Richard Norman Shaw, Edwin Lutyens, Le Corbusier, Adolf Loos, Ernesto Rogers, Aldo Rossi, Anne Tyng, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, Kazuo Shinohara, Charles Gwathmey, Charles Moore, William Wurster, Bernard Meybeck, Alvaro Siza, Herzog de Meuron, Pascal Flammer, Atelier Bow Wow. Among the technologies to be explored will be CLT and hydraulic jacks.

In 2020, the city will celebrate the 400 year anniversary of the Pilgrims’ first landing in North America at what is today, Provincetown Harbor. Selected work from the studio, the first in a series of two, will be featured in a quattro centenary exhibition about the city at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.