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17 November 2017

Van Alen Institute Launches Keeping Current: A Sea-Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami

A series of design challenges to adapt to the effects of sea-level rise in Greater Miami through the lenses of economy, ecology, and equity.

Media Contact:

Jessica Lax, Van Alen Institute, jlax@vanalen.org, 212-924-7000 x 20

MIAMI (Nov. 16, 2017) — Van Alen Institute today launches Keeping Current: A Sea-Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami, a series of three design challenges seeking innovative solutions to protect South Florida’s 6 million residents from the potential catastrophic consequences of sea level rise. Van Alen Institute will invite interdisciplinary design teams to propose implementable and replicable solutions for three sea-level rise challenges that also address regional issues of economy, ecology and equity. The $850,000 initiative has support from The Rockefeller Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and The Miami Foundation, and is sponsored by Target. Keeping Current harnesses Van Alen’s 120 years of experience of organizing interdisciplinary design competitions to help residents develop a better understanding of the challenges posed by sea-level rise.

Just three feet of sea-level rise would leave a substantial part of South Florida underwater. New and implementable ideas for the built environment, regional development, and opportunities for all of South Florida’s residents are urgently needed. The region must transform its infrastructure to protect everything from drinking water to homes and business from rising seas. Keeping Current will strengthen the region’s resilience and serve as a model of urban resilience to others.

On the ground implementation of the challenge solutions is integral to Keeping Current from its outset. Van Alen is working with Greater Miami Area municipalities’ resilience, procurement, and budget teams to identify infrastructure projects already in the pipeline, for which innovative solutions to address sea level rise are urgently needed. This new process ensures that the winning design solutions will not only serve priority infrastructure needs, but – by incorporating innovative ways to adapt to rising sea levels – will safeguard the significant municipal funding leveraged for their on-the-ground implementation by investing in projects that are sustainable and responsive to climate change.

The initiative will develop tailored community engagement efforts in each municipality, to ensure residents are involved in the design process from the start. This inclusive process will connect Keeping Current design teams and municipal stakeholders with community members to incorporate local knowledge, feedback, and interests into the designs to be developed in 2018. Keeping Current supports the efforts of the Resilient Greater Miami & the Beaches (Resilient GM&B) collaboration formed in 2016 by Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami Beach, and the City of Miami to respond to the region’s top resilience challenges, including sea-level rise, together with the 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation initiative’s efforts in the region.

To commence the initiative, and expanding on the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact’s work, Van Alen is hosting a one-day research summit on November 16 to progress the conversation on resilient design solutions in coastal and inland areas. An interdisciplinary research team of academics from the University of Miami (UM), University of Florida (UF), Florida International University (FIU), and Florida Atlantic University (FAU), are developing data standards and design guidelines to inform sustainable design in the region. Van Alen Institute will then author and produce a public report depicting the guidelines established by the research team, which will inform designers responding to the Keeping Current challenges and future design efforts to better understand their opportunities for a resilient Miami. Simultaneously, Van Alen will produce information that is more public facing, to help local residents understand the challenges, and how they can advocate for change in their everyday lives. The guides will be used in public engagement programs and will be made publicly available here in February 2018.

Keeping Current will culminate in a public exhibition and conference for local leaders showcasing solutions and opportunities developed throughout the project. Van Alen Institute expects two resilient redesigns to break ground as a result of this effort. “Keeping Current turns the design competition model on its head by locating sites with plans and funding in place for the implementation of winning proposals,” said David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute. “We are proud to guide interdisciplinary teams through the process of community engagement and building Greater Miami into a region ready for the risks of sea level rise.”


Summit Participants

• Anthony Abbate, Director and Professor of Florida Atlantic University School of Architecture

• Esber Andiroglu, Associate Professor of Prof. Practice, Dept. of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Miami

• Fred Bloester, Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geomatics Engineering

• Jessica Bolson, Postdoctoral Associate at Florida International University

• Henry Briceno, Research Faculty at Florida International University Southeast Environmental Research Center

• Sonia Chao, Research Associate Professor at University of Miami School of Architecture

• Nancy Clark (Research Chair), Director, UF Center for Hydro-Generated Urbanism

• Andrea Dutton, Assistant Professor of Geology, University of Florida

• Jessica Foley, Resilience Coordinator at Miami-Dade County

• Debbie Griner, Resilience Manger, Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department

• Denis Hector, RA, LEED AP, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, University of Miami

• Peter Jenkins, Program Manager at 100 Resilient Cities

• Roderick King, Director and Assistant Dean at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s M.D., M.P.H., and Public Health Education

• Benjamin Kirtman, Professor at University of Miami Department of Atmospheric Sciences

• Martha Kohen, Professor at University of Florida School of Architecture

• Caroline Lewis, Founder of the Cleo Institute

• Joanna Lombard, Professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture and Department of Public Health Sciences

• Marilys Nepomechie, Professor of Architecture, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, Florida International University

• Juliet Pinto, Interim Executive Director and Associate Professor in the Florida International University Department of Journalism + Media

• Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Professor at University of Miami School of Architecture

• Gray Read, Associate Professor at Florida International University School of Architecture

• Roberto Rovira, Associate Professor at Florida International University School of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design

• Nancy Schneider, Senior Program Officer on U.S. Program of Institute for Sustainable Communities

• Sonia Succar, Urban Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy

• Tiffany Troxler, Director at Florida International University Sea Level Solutions Center

• Shahin Vassigh, Professor at Florida International University School of Architecture


Project Advisors

• Christina DeConcini, Director of Government Affairs, World Resources Institute

• Nicole Hammer, Biologist and Environmental Justice Advocate

• Jesse M. Keenan (Project Advisor Chair) Area Head and Director of Real Estate and the Built Environment, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

• Caroline Lewis, Founder and Executive Director, CLEO Institute

• David Martin, President and Co-Founder, Terra Group

• Jayantha Obeysekera, Chief Modeler, South Florida Water Management District


About Van Alen

At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.


Keeping Current is part of Van Alen Institute’s broader inquiry into how communities are impacted by climate change, and how community engagement practices can be redefined, also explored in such initiatives as: Shore to Core, a design and research competition to reimagine downtown West Palm Beach as a dynamic, resilient waterfront city; Crossroads Conversations, a public program series that invites passersby from all walks of life and political convictions to engage in thoughtful dialogue on some of the most pressing issues of our time in iconic public spaces; and Rebuild by Design, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region and developing fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.

Special thanks to the Van Alen project team: Jerome Chou, Ruth Cole, Jessica Lax, Ruchika Lodha, and Isabel Miesner.


Keeping Current: A Sea-Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami is made possible with support from:

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, we pursue this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities, and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, we work at the intersection of four focus areas–advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities–to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, the Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot.

The South Florida project aligns with the goals of 100 Resilient Cities pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. The goal is to help more cities build resilience to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century–such as South Florida’s opportunity to build resilience to climate change.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved 474 grants totaling $141.5 million and made 14 social-investment commitments totaling $50.8 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.

The Miami Foundation

Since 1967, The Miami Foundation has used civic leadership, community investment and philanthropy to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls Greater Miami home. We partner with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 1,000 personalized, philanthropic Funds. Thanks to them, we have awarded over $250 million in grants and currently manage more than $300 million in assets to build a better Miami. As the Foundation marks our 50th anniversary, we are celebrating great Miamians who have championed what matters to them, encouraging all residents to share their Miami stories and unite around the causes they care about.

Target Keeping Current is sponsored by Target



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