The webinar Transforming Urban Waterfronts is part of a series of Intercult’s seminars discussing different themes in relation to Europe, such as climate change, cultural heritage and European cultural politics. The webinars are livestreamed on Intercult’s Facebook page every other Wednesday. Transforming Urban Waterfronts was livestreamed on the 6th of May 2020. What follows is a short summary of this webinar.

For this webinar we invited three partners from the project S.O.S Climate Waterfront from different parts of Europe; Thessaloniki, Lisbon and Stockholm. The theme for today’s discussion was how urban waterfronts can be developed in a sustainable way? The webinar discussed possible solutions to future climate changes and rising water levels; how can we develop urban planning strategies, infrastructure and architecture solutions that are sustainable?

Pedro Ressano Garcia (Professor Lusofona University Lisbon) is an architect and a planner based in Lisbon and Quebec. He coordinates the S.O.S Climate Waterfront project. This project strives to develop sustainable models that can be used in different urban waterfronts all over Europe. Urban waterfronts are very vulnerable to climate change and therefore we must build a body of knowledge to protect these cities from future climate catastrophes and rising water levels. How will waterfront cities deal with climate change? This is the core question that drives this research project. How does economic and social factors impact the climate and how can we create an urban environment that is resilient to the climate changes to come? The project’s vision is to create a symbiosis between the people, natural conditions, urban environment and climate change adaptation. It is crucial to collect information in order to understand the threats. The S.O.S Climate Waterfront research focuses on four key factors; environmental planning, economic impact, cultural influence and data management. A specific methodology has been developed in order to collect and organize the research from different urban waterfronts. Different perspectives have to be applied; for example both the past and present have to be evaluated and understood in order to imagine possible future solutions. Every urban waterfront has different cultural and geographical features that need to be taken into consideration. It is by researching the interaction of these different factors that the project can build a body of knowledge on the effect of climate change on urban environments. This information is collected and put into different common databases for future use.

Katarina Larsen is a researcher and teacher at KTH Stockholm. They’re working with questions of urban planning in relation to the people who live in urban waterfronts. For example, Stockholm is a city that is defined by its proximity to water, and the waterfront plays an important part in the lives of its citizens. Katarina Larsen also spoke about the values attached to urban waterfronts and what they mean to the people who live there. It’s important to understand how different social groups view cultural heritages. The question of urban waterfront projects interest people because the waterfront is such an important part of the city’s image. Interdisciplinary urban planning projects like these can help bring light to the cultural and historical aspects of the city.

Anastasia Tzaka is an architect/urban designer and PhD researcher at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She emphasized how climate change is a global issue and must be fought together. We have to work together to develop solutions to future climate changes. Waterfront cities in the EU all face the same climate changes. But it is possible to adapt to the new conditions by collecting information and understanding the threats. In Thessaloniki the team worked with students whose visions helped create a dynamic and fresh approach to the development of urban waterfronts.

The webinar Transforming Urban Waterfronts can be viewed in its entirety on Intercult’s Facebook page.


Links to more information about Stockholm as a water city 

Portrait of Stockholm (in English, 15 minutes)

A source of information for Stockholm and Sweden is the Swedish Institute, for example showcasing the TEKLA initiative, to empower women in science, technology and engineering and math sciences.

Link to the Horisont 2020 project S.O.S. Climate Waterfront where INTERCULT is a partner