Environmental disruptions and technological advances have always influenced where and how people live. Early humans may have left Africa after rapid fluctuations in rainfall destroyed their food supply, and the opening up of the American Southwest occurred roughly in parallel with improvements in air-conditioning technology. In the decades ahead, a warming planet and a booming population will again alter where we live and how we construct our homes.
PROBLEM: RISING SEAS / SOLUTION: CITY(E)SCAPE
DESIGNERS: MUSTAFA BULGUR AND SINAN GUNAY
The most immediately disruptive force could be a rapid rise in sea levels. A coalition of scientists from Denmark, England and Finland predicted last year that by the end of this century, melting ice and thermal expansion will drive up the world’s sea levels by more than three feet. It’s unclear how many people that would displace, but the damage could be vast—approximately 10 percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas lower than 30 feet above sea level. Land that remains above water will face increasingly frequent storm surges and flooding. The residents of coastal cities could head for higher land, or they could do something distinctly more drastic: They could add a second city above the water.
Agriculture Model: Kevin Hand
New York City, for instance, is an archipelago that could lose as much as a fifth of its landmass by 2080. But Mustafa Bulgur and Sinan Gunay, recent graduates of Istanbul Technical University’s architecture school, suggest that New Yorkers could make up the lost housing by stringing cables between existing skyscrapers and suspending some 600,000 prefabricated homes among them. By tethering a cable over the flooded streets and avenues—and even extending those cables out to structural towers in New York Harbor—it would be possible, they say, to safely house up to 2.5 million people.