The coastal zone is home to some of our country’s most valuable ecological and socio-economic assets. Many of these locations are being demonstrably transformed due to large-scale human and biophysical processes such as urban development, climate change, and rapid sea-level rise (SLR). The result is a potential loss of myriad ecosystem services such as storm protection, wildlife habitat, recreation and aesthetics, among others. South Florida, home to the Miami metropolitan area, stretching from West Palm Beach in the north to Key West in the south, is emblematic of such conditions. Its rapidly growing population of ~6.5M, much of which sits below 10 feet NAVD88, is already experiencing a growing flood risk linked with SLR. In an inevitable future of SLR, South Florida communities will be faced with increased vulnerability due to permanent inundation, frequent heat waves, intensifying hurricanes and catastrophic die-offs. This risk is compounded by rising groundwater tables due to the region’s porous limestone geology that will cause flooding far from coastal shorelines and a complete loss of the regions drinking water supply. Policy and design solutions are not truly considering the necessary transformation that will be required to live and work within a saturated coastal environment. The old paradigm of flood management and control will need to change from prevention, to acceptance. Population will decline as businesses and individuals decide the costs are too high to maintain regional assets and decommissioning of the built environment will prove to be an enormous challenge.
These challenges will transform regional tourism, housing, waste management, energy and food production. Nascent economies that emerge from climate change and SLR will form as the only viable response to living in a saturated and salt-laden landscape. Unplanning Miami redesigns the built environment through a framework of strategic decline and resettlement patterns in response to these unique challenges. A framework of resettlement and abandonment across both temporal and spatial scales as it relates to urban and landscape transformation was prepared through design thinking and technological approaches. To stay requires conventional practices of land ownership and management that promote separation from ecological networks to be questioned and translated into an unplanning framework. Development of amphibious strategies through new languages of wetness, buoyancy, tethering, anchorage, hosting (scaffolding), raising and suspension are considered. Left behind are preconceived notions of environmental control, mitigation, resistance, and permanence for a symbiotic existence, adapting to a dynamic, transitional and fluid environment.