I had a conversation with somebody last year about moving to Miami. “Oh” she said “but you wouldn't move there would you? It will all be under water before too long”. What? Really? It was the first I had heard of it. With climate change and rising sea levels I was, of course, aware that the world might look radically different during the course of my lifetime. Coastal erosion, islands rapidly disappearing, excessive flooding - this is in the news all the time. There are frequent articles in the UK press of houses about to fall off the edges of cliffs, once inland villages that were now right on the coast and of roads that now led nowhere. Miami though? It seems like such a proper permanent place. Apparently not, some sources say that low-lying Miami will have to be abandoned as soon as 2060 as sea levels are apparently rising along the east coast of the US three times faster than the global average. As the city of Miami should be thinking of their relocation plans, construction continues and new condos continue to be built along the shore-line. Before these new developments are even washed away, even a slighter rise in sea level and increased tidal surges will inundate the sewage system and decimate fresh water supplies. Crazy times, it seems, are ahead.
The exhibition Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, currently on show at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles and curated by architecture writer and radio Host and Executive Producer of KCRW’s DnA: Design and Architecture, Frances Anderton, explores these issues through the work of eight photographers from around the world. The images not only show the reality of sea change but also the story of human resilience, adaptation and infrastructure planning. The exhibition presents a broad range of work from architectural, fine art and news photographers, showing the implications and responses of people and governments in both the richest and poorest coastal communities on earth. Posing questions on the problems of climate change and the role of contemporary design in navigating the future, Sink or Swim documents a changing landscape and communities of people that are, sometimes, woefully unprepared, for the future.
Features newly commissioned and archival works by photographers Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes, Paula Bronstein, and Jonas Bendiksen, Mark Holtzman, Kip Evans and Monica Nouwens, this is also the first exhibition at Annenberg Space for Photography to feature newly commissioned works.
One of these new commissions comes from Stephen Wilkes who is widely recognised for his fine art and editorial photography. This new aerial image shows the Global Green’s Holy Cross community project in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. The housing development design from Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd in New York, was the winner out of 125 entries received after a competition call-out. The brief was to design a zero energy affordable housing development in the area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In Wilkes' image we see the first complete phase of the development, single family homes topped with solar panels. The homes are also equipped with a Building Dashboard(R) energy and resource monitoring systems and each home is estimated use at least 75% less energy than equivalent dwellings.
Iwan Baan was recently shown as part of the Barbican’s major photography and architecture exhibition Constructing Worlds (You can read about it on the blog here) with his series of images focusing on the Torre de David. For Sink or Swim, Baan has turned his attention to the Stilt houses in Ganvie, Benin. This village, built right in the centre of Lake Nokoué comprises living accommodation, shops and restaurants and is home to some 20,000 people who navigate the stilt village on boats. It’s thought the original reason the stilt village was created was to protect its inhabitants from infiltration by slavers, today, however, this method is much discussed as an option for future floating communities all over the world.
Sink or Swim runs until May 3rd at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles.