Flemish Island Constellation
On the coast, in a landscape of instabilities and ambiguities, there are surprisingly three things that are constant. Firstly, sea level is rising. Secondly, a huge percentage of the global population live along the coast, a number that's steadily rising. Even if hurricanes after hurricanes after hurricanes kept pummeling their cities of ramshackled hovels, they will not budge. So rather than retreating, they will dig themselves deeper and deeper. And thirdly, they will entrench themselves by basically building walls.
One of these future walls may be the Flemish Island Constellation, a proposal by the Office of Permanent Modernity for a chain of artificial islands shielding the entire Belgian coast.
Unlike a similar project further up north, the Tulip Island in the Netherlands, and even the Palms of Dubai, this archipelago will be “based on morphological logic.” Instead of plopping down “arbitrary geometries,” the islands will be “built up from existing banks in the North Sea, using the current morphology to determine their placement.” Instead of isolating themselves, they will be opened up to the dynamic flows of the landscape. They will be “North Sea-specific.”
Once divined out of the sea, these extended coastlines will host natural reserves and sanctuaries for migrating wildlife, windmills and “dune villages.”
Meanwhile, we are of the persuasion that managed retreat is the best of possible solutions to coastal erosion and future inundation by sea level rise. What possible benefits local businesses and the heritage preservation police get from fortifying themselves in concrete are offset by the massive infrastructural cost needed, a multi-decade investment now even more unsustainable in the current financial crisis. And if past projects are anything to go by, what gets built will create more problems than it's supposed to solve.
But we're thinking of the eastern seaboard and the gulf coast of the United States. We don't know much about the coastal geology of Belgium. Sea level rise by climate change may be global, but hyperlocally, it will manifest itself in ways as myriad as the varying geomorphological conditions at every stretch of every coastlines. So maybe this artificial archipelago will work. It's already been conceptualized as anti-Dubai, so it rests on a good footing.
On the coast