Transforming delta terrains : research and design for a site in a telecoupled river system

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management (from 130101)

Abstract: In this study, telecoupled and local impacts on flooding in the Paraná River Delta in Argentina are analysed and described. A sustainable design strategy is then proposed for a newly developed site in the delta. Land systems are not only affected by their direct surroundings, but also by interconnections with distant areas. The accelerating pace of globalisation and new anthropogenic drivers produce novel relationships between previously disparate geographical places. This situation can be observed in the lower Paraná River Delta, north of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Characteric for the delta is it being a heterogeneric area where a number of different human and natural pressures converge. The drivers behind these pressures are direct and indirect interactions, couplings, from local and distant places in the connected river system. Research on upstream and local events reveals changes in the conditions of the river system. Telecoupled and local impacts are historically major forces which form and govern the delta processes, but as the impacts are amplified, new challenges in the form of large environmental transformations are currently emerging in the delta. Growing urbanisation in the delta makes it clear that the area is increasingly becoming a part of the urban conurbation of Buenos Aires. Since the expanding delta front is expected to reach the city, this could result in major challenges in adapting to changes in flooding and sedimentation. The analysis in this study shows that, in order to manage the telecoupled and local impacts, the delta needs to function as an open system rather than as a landscape in isolation. Many current local interventions, such as new private developments, run counter to this principle. While the traditional human lifestyles were previously able to coexist with the natural environment and hydrodynamics of the delta, human and natural processes are today increasingly beginning to collide. This thesis sets out to explore the possibility of conducting design interventions that are in line with the natural processes of the delta, as an alternative to the many unsustainable actions that are taking place in the area at the moment. A recently developed site on one of the most fragile islands along the delta front, the Colony Park project, serves as a case in point and exemplifies the transformation from natural wetlands into a closed, private settlement constructed on embankments. The site has therefore been selected as an area of focus in this study. The results of this work are the implementation of a research approach based on interconnectedness, as well as a case study involving a design strategy which relates the theoretical findings to design practice. It concludes that taking into account interconnectedness in the physical construction and in new integrated design solutions has the potential of generating benefits for this problematic, closed site. Creating a more open system can help to decrease vulnerability in the delta, as well as to support its future sustainability.

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