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Adaptive Redesign for Jose Marti Park

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Architecture
Wordcount: 5300 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Due to climate change, global natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, sea levels rise, extreme weather and floods occur frequently, and become natural disasters, causing massive loss of life and damage to private property and public infrastructure. (Blackmore et al., 2008) In September 2018, the hurricane of Florence hit the east coast of the United States. Strong winds, heavy rains, and severe floods have caused serious damage to the southeast coast of the United States. (Reuters, 2018) In October of the same year, Hurricane “Michael” landed in Florida. The squally winds and heavy rains caused enormous damage to the states in the southeastern United States, killing at least 18 people and affecting more than 700,000 families. Economic losses amount to tens of billions of dollars. (Berman et al., 2018) And after the hurricane, it often caused serious flooding problems for coastal cities such as Miami, posing a huge threat to people’s lives. Today, however, the frequent flooding problems caused by climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather make people increasingly skeptical about the long-term effectiveness and reliability of static infrastructure. With the popularity and acceptance of the concepts of resilience and damage control, a flexible horizontal approach tends to replace flooding protection infrastructure. (Rossano, 2015) People gradually realize that cities must continually improve their resilience to flooding in order to reduce the risks, improve the ecological environment and promote human health and well-being. (Rossano, 2015) This article will take Jose Marti Park as an example to explore future solutions for coastal parks to cope with and adapt to frequent flooding problems and find specific implementation measures to achieve the transition from the rigid antagonism of “hard” engineering to the elastic adaptation of “soft” engineering. This manifesto outlines River First, Room for the River, Live with Flooding, Multiple Use, and Multi-level comprehensive flood control to help Miami satisfy the current and future demands of various residents while making the city more sustainable, resilient and attractive.


Jose Marti Park

Jose Marti Park is located at 351 SW Fourth St., adjacent to the Miami River, in the shadow of the I-95. It’s only a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Miami. (Miami, n.d.) Jose Marti Park locates above sea level and regularly threatened by flooding problems. (Van Alen, n.d.) Leisure facilities in the park include indoor and outdoor basketball courts, indoor gymnasiums, entertainment buildings, picnic tables and etc. (Janet, 2019)

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Because of the topography, the lack of drainage and the impermeable pavement, the park is vulnerable to flooding and heavy rain from the Miami River during the flooding season, which poses a severe challenge to the surrounding low-level coastal communities and the entire south Florida region. (Janet, 2019) Additionally, due to the urban expansion, the shortage supply of the land resource, many buildings invade the waterfront space, destroying the ecological environment of the waterfront, and hindering the development of landscape planning and design of urban waterfront areas. (Janet, 2019) In the development and design of the park, the straightening of the river bank, the concrete reinforcement, and the heavy use of hard pavement in the park hindered the self-repair function of the river and park, destroyed the natural ecological process, and the water seepage function of the land decreased. As a result of that, the frequency and intensity of flood disasters greatly increase. (Van Alen, n.d.)

From the rigid antagonism of “hard” engineering to the elastic adaptation of “soft” engineering

For centuries, the rigid antagonism of “hard” projects has been the main solution to control drainage and flooding. (Rossano, 2015) For example, in some flooding control projects, the levees of heavy-duty construction of reinforced concrete are used to cut and straighten rivers in order to quickly drain river water. However, the floodplain and the natural riverbed disappeared and the rich habitats on both river sides were destroyed. The destructive power of the flood was strengthened, the pressure of the downstream floods increased, and the hydrophilic interface of the city was destroyed. (Brown et al., 2009) Another example is the urban drainage project. In order to solve the waterlogging and satisfy the requirements of instantaneous drainage, the gray pipeline project is relied on, however, the project is huge, the maintenance cost is high and the sustainability is poor. And a large amount of precious rainwater is drained, and rainwater resources are not fully utilized, groundwater is not replenished. (Brown et al., 2009) Due to the dependence on this concentrated underground drainage system, the regulatory functions of rivers, lakes, wetlands and green spaces in the city are gradually lost (Muller, 2007).

In response to climate change, the existing flooding control and drainage abilities of cities need to improve, but should not be merely building more bigger DAMS and complicated water pipe system, but need to think about how to develop a more flexible and efficient “soft” engineering and adapt to changes, finally create sustainable urban ecological environment. (Rossano, 2015) And the public spaces and parks in cities can play an active role, which means urban can combine parkland green space, improve urban environmental quality and build stormwater management infrastructure. During flooding, part of the rainwater can be transferred to the park green space that could absorb rainwater, and a landscape infrastructure park integrated with functions such as rainwater storage, pollution barrier, recycling, and traditional recreational sports would be formed. While bringing into full play the social and ecological benefits of the park, it also brings into full play the benefits of its stormwater storage infrastructure. (Muller, 2007)

River first

Resilience is not just about how to prevent interference, but how to adapt to change. Similarly, sustainability is not to reduce the dynamic nature of a system and thus reduce the efficiency of the system in order to maintain the equilibrium state of a system but to focus on the ability of system regulation and adaptability. (Lee et al., 2018) From defense to adaptation, from flood control to friendship with flooding, from stability and predictability to “risk management” with the tolerance of uncertainty; By cooperating with the natural forces, the landscape approach is applied to transform the flood dredging process into an aesthetic and experiential process. (Rossano, 2015) The design of the Lower Don Land in Toronto is a specific practice to realize water elasticity in high-density urban areas according to the hydrological characteristics of the site. The scheme shows a flexible urban form with high economic efficiency and adaptability to rain and flood from afraid and escape to harmonious coexistence (Stoss, 2019)

Like many port cities that have experienced industrial development, the existing site of about 113 hectares of Lower Don Land in Toronto is strongly devoid of natural elements. The original 500 hectares of wetlands at the intersection of the Don River and Lake Ontario were converted from shoals to beaches, and eventually, the wetlands disappeared completely, becoming mudflats of the Toronto industrial port area. Meanwhile, due to the lack of flooding discharge area, the area adjacent to the Don river is vulnerable to floods. (WATERFRONTToronto, n.d) In order to restore the ecological function of the intersection area of river and lake, Lower Don Land will be built into a new lakeside community with diversified ecological functions, colorful social life with a distinct personality. The designers proposed a “river-first” guideline. The biggest highlights of this scheme is to shape city’s form and construct the landscape infrastructure network, including various public open space, habitats for wildlife, public transport…, based on the dynamic process of water level and the trend of the flood channel and river tributaries, as the generation, development and evolution of the city framework. On this basis, a series of mixed blocks composed of different building types, such as business, culture and office, different densities and different types of public spaces, are formed to enrich the living environment and leisure experience of Lower Don Land.(Stoss, 2019) The planning shows us a whole set of urban development strategies with adaptability and elasticity, which are integrated with the river and human, nature and design. In addition to solving the problems of sediment accumulation and flood caused by artificial and deliberate control of estuary water direction, it provides us with a visual feast of functional and beautiful life landscape composed of the seasonal and permanent landscape. The landscape generated by the dynamic process of the river spans all kinds of spatial scales from the neighborhood to the block to the whole city and promotes various voids in the overall landscape framework of the city. Designers try to replace the rigid forms and structures of modernism with the more flexible urban forms generated by natural processes and become a better way to organize urban voids (WATERFRONTToronto, 2010).

Room for the river

The Netherlands is located in the lowland delta of northwestern Europe. It is a typical lowland country. About 50% of the country is below sea level, and about 1/4 of the existing land is reclaimed. It has been threatened by floods for a long time. (Lee, Chun, & Song, 2018 ) Its traditional means of flooding control and land development are mainly dikes, ditches, drainage, and subsequent reclamation. In a certain historical period, this traditional management method is very effective. However, with the development of high-density cities and the continuous rise of sea level, the space for rivers is significantly limited, and the risk of flooding control is increasingly aggravated by the traditional flooding control means, thus endangering the ecological health of rivers. Therefore, the Netherlands advocates the recovery and protection of habitats from natural disasters, the use of green corridors, and the enhanced use of riverside space. (Rijke et al., 2012) Since 2006, the Dutch government has launched a national strategic project called “Make room for the river”, which aims to improve the flood control capability of the Netherlands by expanding the drainage capacity of the river itself and reducing the water level of the river, so as to solve the flood control of the region around the river in the Netherlands, and provide sufficient ecological habitats, landscape beautification and environmental improvement for the organisms in the river ecosystem. (De Bruijn et al., 2015)

In the Nijmegen area, the renovation of the Waal is considered to be the most complex project in the “Room for the river” program. (Royal, 2019) The designer creates a slender island between the Var River, the historical center of the city and the north bank of the Waal River by excavating a flood circulation channel, and several newly constructed bridges improve connectivity in the area. The island and the circulation channel together form a riverside park. This initiative not only reduces the risk of flooding but also provides leisure, ecological and aesthetic value. (Letty, 2015) The park consists of three functional layers: creation, growth, and water movement. The “creating” layer represents hard landscape elements that are dug or filled during the construction phase. The second layer, “growing,” is the possible future development of the landscape (natural and artificial). The third layer, “water movement”, is a situation in which the water level fluctuates in all seasons. Combining the dynamic landscape experience of the river with the dynamics of the river is a big idea for the designer. For example, some of the roads in the park will be submerged at high water levels, and the passage can only be achieved by step stones. (Waterfront Centre, n.d.)

Live with Flooding

Levees are the most common form of flooding-control infrastructure, and many coastal cities have built huge levees at great expense to protect a large number of housing projects in the flooding areas behind them. Due to frequent extreme weather and sea level rise, flooding disasters are becoming continuously serious. Once the dam breaks, residents, cities and grain fields behind the dam will suffer great damage and risk. (Rossano, 2015) As Rossano(2015) argues, “Flooding control infrastructure plays an ambiguous role here, both as protection and as a trap, because it often encourages risk-taking in the shadow of dike protection.” The myth of absolute protection gradually disappears with every breach of the dam, and people’s concept of contemporary flooding control has changed from eliminating the flooding to control the flooding and then to adapt to the flood and live with the flooding. (Rossano, 2015)

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Yanweizhou Park is located in Yanweizhou, Jinhua, in eastern China. Three rivers with a width of more than 100 meters are distributed in this high-density population area. Due to the difficulty of access to cultural facilities including the Opera House and the green spaces adjacent to Yanweizhou, which means the cultural facilities and green space have not been fully utilized. And the remaining 50 acres (20 hectares) of riverside wetlands were destroyed by the sand mining site. (Tidelion, n.d) The landscape architect designed a hydroelastic terraced river embankment that covered the flood-adapted native vegetation and will be open to the public during non-flooding periods. In flooding periods, the floods brought fertile silt and deposited on terraces, enriching the growth conditions of native tall grasses in riverside habitats. Therefore, no irrigation or fertilization is required at any time of the year. (Oppla, 2018) The terrace dam will also repair and filter out the rain on the road surface. (Turenscape, 2015)

Additionally, the inland area is fully permeable to create a water resilience landscape through the extensive use of gravel from the site’s reuse materials. Gravel is used in pedestrian areas and permeable concrete pavement is used for vehicle access and parking lots. The inland inner pool is designed to encourage river water to penetrate through the gravel layer. This improves the water quality mechanically and biologically that is available to swim in the river. (Oppla, 2018) A pedestrian bridge crosses two rivers, connects the parks on the banks of the southern and northern urban areas, and connects the city with the newly built Yanweizhou Park. And the connection will not break during the flooding period. (Turenscape, 2015)

Multi-purpose mixed use

Flexible landscape pathways can help communities cope with phased or sustained floods and adapt them to new lifestyles. These systems can be used as natural channels and buffer zones, parks and open spaces to ensure safe passage of water; as a detention pond, to store excess rainwater for future use, to help communities manage water resources more effectively, and at the same time, to take into account social functions, a public domain of environmental functions and infrastructure functions. (Palazzo, 2019)

Fitzgibbon Chase community, located in Brisbane, Australia, is an ecological and energy-saving fully intelligent community. (Economic Development Queensland, 2017) As the model of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) in Australia, the residential area adopts all natural drainage, and the biggest highlight is the community park that serves as the rain flooding regulating, storage and drainage. This park locates in the middle of the community and looks like a familiar normal community park where people usually fly kites, run and socialize. But the difference is that the elevation inside the park is lower than the surrounding roads, and the recreational facilities are located on higher ground. (Urban land development authority, 2012) One of the park’s features is a wetland that serves as a rain-flooding passage, which was carefully determined by the designer according to the speed, frequency, and duration of the flooding. After a downpour, the community’s rainwater will be collected here. At this time, the park, like an infrastructure, can perform functions such as flood drainage and groundwater replenishment, becoming a veritable urban stormwater management infrastructure. (Urban land development authority, 2012) The following photos completely record the comparison of the two floods in October 2010 and January 2011, intuitively showing how a multi-functional community park drains the flood and performs the functions of urban basic facilities while meeting the residents’ daily recreational functions. (Urban land development authority, 2012)

Multi-level comprehensive flood control

Cities need a comprehensive strategy to deal with disasters such as climate change, rather than a single response model because single-function intervention models often have unintended and catastrophic consequences. The strategy of living in harmony with nature and building a multi-level comprehensive defense system will bring more synergies to the city. (Palazzo, 2019) In addition, because the multi-layer protection system contains multiple functional elements if any of these elements are lost due to the disaster, it will not affect the overall operation of the city. (Palazzo, 2019)

The integrated flood plan for Hoboken, a historic town across the river from Manhattan, developed by the OMA team, is a concrete attempt at such a multi-tiered system. (OMA, n.d.) They adopted “Resist,Delay,Store,Discharge” of 4 kinds of flexible rain flood management, create a soft adaptive landscape system to deal with the influence of the tides and heavy rains caused flooding. (Karissa Rosenfield, 2013) The design team designed a sloping park in the small bay north of Hobken, combined with low sloping to protect the important infrastructure in the area from the impact of the tide; and added green infrastructure in Washington Street, the main street along the town center such as water-permeable ground, rain gardens and landscape drains that are used to delay the flow of low tides and surface runoffs to maximize rainwater infiltration; and to use light rail lines around the city as traffic and rainwater storage and filtration integrates into a comprehensive landscape infrastructure and ultimately drains the purified excess rainwater back to the Hudson River. (Karissa Rosenfield, 2013)

The best defense is an adaptation, just as nature adapts itself. System-based adaptive multi-level, multi-benefit integrated design strategies are far more important to the development of cities and regions than single-purpose projects. (OMA, n.d.) Through this layered strategy, the flood control capacity of the region is strengthened and consolidated, which is the most economical, effective and feasible solution while bringing social and ecological benefits. (Karissa Rosenfield, 2013)


In order to cope with climate change, the existing urban flood control and drainage ability needs to improve, but should not be merely building more bigger dams and water pipes, but need to think about how to adapt to change, how to use more flexible and more efficient “soft” engineering adaptability to management flooding problems, at the same time to create sustainable urban ecological environment. In adaptive design, flooding is no longer a disaster for residents to defend against, but a part of the landscape in the park, realizing the transformation from absolute defense to the adaptation to flooding. (Rossano, 2015) City public space and parks can play a positive role, will build the park green space, improve urban environmental quality and the rain flood management infrastructure construction: during the flooding period, part of the rainwater can be transferred to the park green space where could be able to absorb rainwater, which means this space will be a multi-functional landscape infrastructure park, including rainwater collection and storage, pollution barrier, recycling, as well as the traditional recreational sports and so on. By this way, the park will be given full play to the benefits of rainwater and flood storage infrastructure while given full play to the park’s social and ecological benefits. Through interdisciplinary exchanges, the flooding problem can be solved at multiple scales, the water storage capacity of the land can be improved, the groundwater can be supplemented, and the multi-purpose utilization of the land can be realized. (Palazzo, 2019)

This manifesto analyzes the practical cases of park design combined with water resilience construction in various countries. By expanding the concept of landscape, the basic functions of leisure and entertainment are guaranteed, while the functions of infrastructure are endowed. A new multi-purpose, mixed-use mode of urban rain flood regulation needs to establish links between parks and the surrounding urban areas and effectively integrate the landscape ecological function, social service function and the rain flooding control infrastructure, and achieve the ecological function and infrastructure functions compatible and complementary, which provides a new way to solve the crisis of environment and resource pollution faced by human survival and development.


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