Winners of an international design competition for building resilient cities have found unique solutions to climate change and devastating storms.

Since 2010, the ONE Prize Award has been exploring the social, economic, and sustainable possibilities of urban transformation.

Last year’s competition brief invited urban planners and designers to create solutions to prevent storm impacts through different initiatives such as protective green spaces, barrier shorelines, alternative housing, waterproofing technology, and public space planning.

Entrants were tasked with developing ideas that could either create an urban ecosystem able to prevent floods; restore social infrastructure and public spaces; protect Asian coastal cities against the unforeseen; or create shorelines that can serve as storm surge barriers as well as interactive zones.

As a whole, the ONE Prize Award looked for designers who had ideas that would use storm proofing as an opportunity to rethink the future of cities.

“While most cities around the world are built next to water, the risk of floods threatens more people than any other natural disaster. That risk is increasing as climate change pushes sea levels higher, and though cities are starting to design solutions there is a need for many more ideas,” the competition’s brief said.

The following ideas were recently named the winning projects:

1. Dynamic Capacities

 Dynamic Capacities

Dynamic Capacities

First prize went to a dam infrastructure system that would help create a new water management strategy in Tokyo, proposed by architect Kenya Endo.

After a massive typhoon in 1947, Tokyo built a network of dams, but the city is still unprepared for flooding. A similar storm today could affect 2.3 million people and result in billions of dollars in losses. Since it would be very expensive for the government to build and maintain new mega-dams, Endo’s project proposed to build barriers around the river using sediment collected from current dams.

The site selected for this project was located along the banks of Tone River, 100 kilometres from downtown Tokyo, where 12 million people live. Endo said the barriers will create a network of wetlands that can help bring back native wildlife while protecting the city from floods.

The system would also purify the city’s drinking water supply and, unlike a typical concrete dam, it could create parks and recreation green public areas.

“It’s a new type of dam that could interplay with urban design, enrich the ecosystem, as well as store water,” Endo said.

The competition’s jury said the project goes beyond just stormproofing to think more fully about what a city is, proposing a decentralized system of holding water, maximizing ecological functions, and incorporating urban activities.

2.  Barrier Staten Island

Barrier Staten Island

Barrier Staten Island

One of the three second place finishers was Barrier Staten Island, designed by Cricket Day.

That plan proposes a 7.5-mile long artificial island to protect Staten Island’s eastern shore, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Barrier Staten Island proposes to build out some of the existing shallows and to allow for sedimentation that could create a protective barrier island. While this is a site with fast-moving water where natural systems alone will not allow this to happen, Cricket Day proposes to engineer and intensify the natural processes.

The project includes a number of sports fields and recreation areas, including a green belt for hiking and biking; kayaking, fishing and boating areas; picnic areas; and open spaces to be used for concerts and community activities.

The techniques used – such as, gabion walls and sedimentation interventions – are commonly known. Still, the jury said, the proposal has identified a very ambitious piece of infrastructure that, because of its specific context and strategic approach, could be implemented quickly.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers has the know-how and the ability to do this. Some of the other proposals were equal in their ambition, but implementation would take hundreds of years,” they said.

3. Peripheral Multiplicity 

Peripheral Multiplicity

Peripheral Multiplicity

Fellow second place finisher Peripheral Multiplicity by Katherine Rodgers is located in Raritan Bay, a bay located at the southern portion of Lower New York Bay.

“The idea proposed might be the most obvious – and perhaps wisest – solution: Move people and buildings away from land along the coast that is likely to flood,” the jury said.

The design calls for a large park system encircling the whole bay coast in New York and New Jersey that would create barrier zones where water can swell during storms, while still allowing the space to be used at other times. The proposal is to stop urban development far from the coast and create a series of planted buffers, wetlands and paths that would slow down surging waves.

According to the jury, this project not only created an interconnected system of parkland that could host a large community, it also thought about how to engage local residents and develop a transportation system that would connect people from out of the city to enjoy the coastal area.

“This proposal is about creating not just protection but also amenities for people across two states, encouraging collaboration on a larger scale,” they said.

4. KOGAMI – Tsunami Alert Community

KOGAMI - Tsunami Alert Community

KOGAMI – Tsunami Alert Community

Designed to protect coastal communities in Sumatra from tsunamis, this solution by Ben Devereau proposes stacking old shipping containers on the ocean floor to create a coral reef. By adding a slight electric charge to the metal containers, the system can stimulate coral growth, building up a barrier that can slow down storms.

Devereau’s proposal explores the developing technology of cathode accretion, a process in which calcium carbonate suspended in all seawater may be brought together into conductive forms in the presence of a very low electrical charge.

“The project’s goal is to use this easily applied, adaptable, and economically advantageous process in a holistic and mutually beneficial system of strategies,” he said.

Once formed, the coral reefs will reduce the power of waves approaching the coast through a combination of induced shoaling, increased seabed friction, redirection of storm surges and gradual coastal shallowing. The complementary strategy is to create coastal structures operating as everyday community locations and as refuges in case of storms.

While this project was initially developed to mitigate the damage caused by tsunami along the coasts of Indonesia, it could be applied to coastal regions all around the world.