Graduate 2017: A secure coast beneath our feet

Education and students

Danes love living near water and houses with sea views are more popular than ever before. But, in a country as flat as Denmark, living near the water also carries a risk. The climate is changing, with heavier rainfall and more frequent storm surges as a consequence. That means we need to think ahead and take precautions. Meet the architect, Sam Coolidge. In his final project he designed a master plan for the area near Amager Beach: a plan that incorporates both urban development and coastal protection.

What is your final project about?
In Copenhagen, incidents of storm surge represent a growing threat. Meanwhile, the city is expanding in the direction of the water. My project seeks to integrate coastal protection with urban development. I created a master plan for the area near Amager Beach, which not only protects the existing city using dikes, but also facilitates a close relationship between the city, nature and water. The plan changes as the water rises, and Amager Beach Park will gradually adapt to the changing conditions. An inner ‘water space’ makes it possible to create a new low-lying district with green parks directly on the water. 

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4

What was your motivation for this project in particular?
I am fascinated by the great changes that rises in sea level will cause. I think that the gradual transformation of the coast is hugely exciting. We have a tendency to regard the landscape as something static, but here it is obvious that it is constantly changing. I would like to work on the changeable coast and protect Copenhagen with strategies that do more than simply building higher and higher seawalls.

In what way does your project contribute something new to the area/subject you have been working on?
I have expanded on COAST and Polyform Architects’ initial proposals for the protection of Copenhagen. I introduce a gradual implementation of the solutions and try to zoom in on Amager Beach, which is particularly vulnerable because the area is low-lying. By reducing scale, I try to get even closer to the coast and its spatial potential and challenges. 

The inner dike

Where do you imagine your degree project will make a difference?
The City of Copenhagen has just published a Storm Surge plan, in which they set a timeline for implementation of the coastal protection. 2018-2020 is referred to as a “clarification stage for analysis and project proposals”. In other words, now is the time that architects and urban planners can help shape the debate and hopefully the solutions too. In the coming years we will be making decisions that will shape the coast for centuries. 

During this period there will be many exciting challenges, which the architecture profession must help to solve. So I hope that my project will inspire fellow students, architects and planners - not to mention politicians. 

To which UN goals does your project relate?
Sub-objectives under UN global goal number 11, which tackles the adaptation of cities and towns to meet climate change and access to green public spaces. 

Water courtyard

Can you see any employment opportunities in your degree project?
Rises in sea level are going to shape coastal areas throughout the world. That means there will be a great demand for solutions and experience in the field. 

Where do you see yourself career-wise in five years’ time?
I have got a job at Tegnestuen Vandkunsten, where I look forward to continuing my professional development. In five years’ time, hopefully I will have helped create some exciting projects.

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