Public space design for flooding: Facing the challenges presented by climate change adaptation

by Matos Silva Cabral, Maria (Ph.D. Dissertation)

Directors: Costa, João Pedro; Castel-Branco, Cristina

The urban phenomenon of floods is recurrent and is expected to be aggravated in the near and distant future, not only in light of climate change projections, but also if flood management approaches continue the path of “business as usual”. Facing this problem-matter, this research proposes the design of public spaces as a key component in the adaptation to current and expected urban flood events.

Climate change adaptation endeavours have already entered the urban agenda and are influencing urban planning and public space design approaches. This emerging tendency is further prompting new flood management paradigms that acknowledge the practice of integrating ecosystems and the natural water cycle. This research develops a solution-directed process, which is particularly attentive to design and envisions a direct application in contemporary practice. Its main objective is to develop a conceptual framework of flood adaptation measures applicable in the design of public spaces. A framework that aims to offer a wide range of systematized conceptual solutions, in order to promote and facilitate the initial stages of a public space project with flood adaptation capacities. Its relevance and applicability are tested in the case of the municipality of Lisbon. Overall, by approaching the subject of urban flooding through public space design, conventional responses, practiced through singular and segregated disciplinary approaches, are confronted with the rich and wide-ranging and interdisciplinary benefits brought by public space.

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