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  • Bryan

Designing an Education around Sea Level Rise.

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

I went into architecture school because I knew the problems that I wanted to solve were too complex for any single major to tackle, likely requiring a union of professionals from differing backgrounds who all share the same goal — helping our communities thrive despite the adversities ahead.

Throughout my time in architecture school at Virginia Tech, I have been constantly sidetracking my projects to educate myself in ways that were not traditional of the architecture track. Constantly focusing on the sustainable aspects of buildings, like rainwater filtration in second year or a passively cooled and heated apartment building in third year, while taking classes outside of the realm of architecture to push the boundaries of my knowledge further.


In my fourth year, rather than traveling abroad (as most fourth years do) I spent the time locally at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center. While there, I took an Urban Planning class that focused on the policies and guidelines that shape our cities and a land tectonics class that covered all the basics of designing a landscape. Each of these classes I was fortunate enough to have professors who encouraged me to stray from the class' path to explore how each of the subjects relate directly to the issues behind my thesis, sea level rise. The Urban Planning class, I performed a semester long study of the City of Annapolis. While Annapolis has been my home, I dug deep into the city's guidelines and interviewed the city officials who are on the frontlines of the city's planning for sea level rise. In the Landscape Architecture class, the project was to redesign Windmill Park in Alexandria. Rather than design a park, I used the opportunity to design the first piece of resilient waterfront for the City of Alexandria. The park remained a park, but through retooling of its existing landmass and topography I designed it to become a semi-tidal stormwater management project that would handle a 100-year storm that was concurrent with a storm surge of the Potomac River in the year 2100. The project would defend roughly six waterfront blocks of historic Alexandria.


In the Spring of 2020, under Prof. Mario Cortes I started an independent study that focused on three cities that have been designed around the water. Rotterdam, Venice, and New Orleans were the focal points of the study. Diving into each of them, the research sought out specific works of architecture that respond uniquely to the water management questions. This research is still on going, with the hope of completing it soon. The thesis, as mentioned on this website, will focus on formulating solutions for three towns (and their greater areas) on the Chesapeake Bay: Annapolis, Galesville, and Crisfield. This will be a year long process, one that I hope to include the community in, to find out of the box solutions that allow each unique town's culture to thrive alongside rising waters. On this page, I will continually update the progress as best as I can.

Starting out my thesis, it is my hope to not just theorize solutions in the academic environment but to develop the necessary connections to continue growing this thesis into something bigger than itself — a community-based organization that assists Chesapeake Bay towns in planning for the future adversities due to climate change and sea level rise. The Chesapeake Project, I hope, will grow into a union of professionals from all walks of life who share the same goal, to preserve, protect, and adapt our tidewater hometowns for future generations to come. Anyone who shares this goal, please reach out to bryan@thechesapeakeproject.org if you think there's a way for us to work together.


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