WATERMARKS: WINNERS IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION

 

We are pleased to announce the winners of the international competition, “Watermarks”, held as part of the 100th-anniversary celebration of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley.  The competition was inspired by research demonstrating that members of the public (even well-educated professionals) living in housing developments below sea level in the San Joaquin Delta of California do not understand their true risk of flooding. Because they are “protected” by levees designed to control the “100-year flood”, under the federal flood insurance program, these developments are not considered to be “in the floodplain”.  Unlike the practice in many cultures that have recorded historical high water marks with plaques or lines on structures, reminders that the waters will rise again, new developments in the US are typically ‘memory-free’. The competition sought innovative ways to communicate the level of floods that will eventually occur, from inundation of unprotected floodplains by big floods, overtopping or failure of levees, failure of upstream dams, or coastal flooding.

 

The competition received 27 entries from North America, Europe, and Asia, proposing a variety of interventions to raise awareness of vulnerability to flooding in places where you wouldn’t expect it. Entries were judged based on their innovative and pedagogical value, integration within an existing fluvial context, location in urban landscape environments with a density of people who live, work and play, and the degree to which the proposals were interactive and dynamic, providing social and programmatic diversity.  Winners were chosen by a panel of experts in environmental planning and landscape design: Anu Mathur (University of Pennsylvania), John King (San Francisco Chronicle Architecture Critic), Georges Descombes (ADM Architects, Geneva), Herbert Dreiseitl (Atelier Dreiseitl), Walter Hood and Matt Kondolf (UC Berkeley).

 

1stplaceFirst Place ($3,000 prize) was awarded to Rae Ishee, Marta Gual, Paul MaGehee, and Catherine Reibel (UC Berkeley) for ‘Water Reach’, which focused on the South Prescott neighborhood of Oakland, California, a neighborhood isolated by rail and highway lines, and with projected sea level rise, will lie below sea level and thus highly vulnerable to flooding.  The design conveys future sea level rise through a set of platforms built to the same datum, and reconnects the neighborhood to the city by elevating residents.

1st Prize – WaterReach

 

 

 


2ndplaceSecond Place
($2,000 prize) was awarded to Kenneth Helphand, Liska Chan, Shannon Arms, Pieter Van Remoortere, Carol Stafford, and Emma Froh (University of Oregon) for ‘PDX Marks’, which capitalizes on the watermarks that already exist in downtown Portland, Oregon, turning ubiquitous bridge piers into colorful gauges showing future flood levels, and calling attention to rising waters though interactive features.

2nd Prize – PDXmarks

 

 

 

 

 

3rdplaceThird Place ($1,000 prize) was awarded to Lucile Besson and Hervé Haffreingue (Atelier Brume) for ‘Safety Line’, which focused on the Brookside neighborhood of Stockton, California, depicting the sea level contour on the ground with a large, visible line and elevating benches to a level at which one could sit without wet feet during a future flood, a compelling, visible reminder of future high water levels.

3rd Prize – Safety Line

 

 

 

 

 

The Watermarks competition was sponsored by the University of California Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Beatrix Farrand Endowment, as part of the observation of the department’s centennial, the Next 100 Years. Competition coordinators Matt Kondolf and Walter Hood.

 

COMPETITION BRIEF

 

When waters rise in cities, they leave their mark on our infrastructures. Some cultures have recorded historical high water marks with plaques or lines on structures, reminders to the fragile place in which they live, and a constant reminder that the waters will rise again. However, new developments continue to be built in the US on lands that will flood (White 1942), but because they are “protected” by levees designed to control the “100-year flood”, under the rules of FEMA, these developments are not considered to be “in the floodplain.” Unfortunately, even if the levee works perfectly and protects against the 100-year flood, it is not designed to protect against the 200-year flood, or the 300-year flood, etc. The risk of being flooded by one of these floods higher than the levee is called the “residual risk”, and over the 30-year life of a mortgage amounts to 26% (Burby 2001).Yet many do not understand their risk.

100yrs_content_watermarks_05

 

People can buy houses in these developments and are never informed of their true flood risk. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and along the San Francisco Bay of California, and in the Mississippi Delta of Louisiana, many houses below sea level are not considered to be within the official 100-year floodplain because they are “protected” by a levee. Residents of such a new development in the San Joaquin Delta did not understand their residual risk, reporting that their real estate agents had told them they were “not in the floodplain” (Ludy and Kondolf 2009). How can we communicate the true flood risk to people living in landscapes where the vulnerability may not be obvious?

How can we communicate the true flood risk to people living in landscapes where the vulnerability may not be obvious?

Within this context, the “Watermarks” competition, held as part of the 100th-Anniversary celebration of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley, solicited proposals to raise awareness of vulnerability in places where you wouldn’t expect it.

 

The competition called for: innovative and pedagogical designs to articulate landscape risk by marking water flows on infrastructure and built landscapes, integrated within an existing fluvial context (not be stand-alone installations), located in urban landscapes where there is a density of people who live, work and play, and interactive and dynamic, providing social and programmatic diversity.  The risk of high water could come from inundation of unprotected floodplains by big floods, overtopping or failure of levees, failure of upstream dams, or coastal flooding.

 

Contact us at ‘watermarkscompetition@gmail.com watermarkscompetition@gmail.com

 

References Cited
Burby, RJ (2001) Flood insurance and floodplain management: The U.S. experience. Global Environ Change Part B: Environmental Hazards 3:111-122
Ludy, J, Kondolf, GM (2012) Flood risk perception in lands ‘protected’ by 100-year levees. Natural Hazards 61:829-842
White, Gilbert F (1942) Human Adjustment to Floods. Ph.D. Dissertation. Department of Geography. Chicago: University of Chicago.