Transition as condition: Toward flood resilience through flexible architecture

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesis


Flooding is increasingly becoming an inevitable reality affecting communities around the globe. Following current urban planning and landscape design approaches, which challenge the exclusive application of hard-infrastructure projects and advocate the implementation of urban environments ‘making room for the water,’ architects propose solutions able to withstand the pressures exerted by flooding. This thesis focuses on these strategies, analyzing contemporary residential architecture for the floodplain, aiming to create a catalog of ideas for the design of houses better suited to cope with flooding. It also intends to unveil a paradigm shift in architecture, from the conceptualization of static structures, toward the design of flexible solutions that accept and incorporate the transitory condition established by floodwaters in the production of residential design. The thesis presents the systematic analysis of twelve residential case studies located in the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom, exploring emergent built forms able to cope with flooding through structures that are raised, buoyant and/or permeable. Each house was analyzed through a set of parameters (Site, Structure, Skin, Program, Infrastructure, and Furniture), which allowed for the examination of architectural elements in each design and their later comparison. The analysis shows that flexibility becomes a crucial component in the establishment of flood resilient architecture. It also concludes that, in order to sustain the daily lives and minimize the disruption of affected populations, architects must design houses able to physically withstand flooding, at the same time guaranteeing the continuous provision of access and utilities for their inhabitants. Furthermore, the research has unveiled that architecture for flooding generates unique housing typologies able to influence the way populations inhabit space. The dissimilarities between proposed and implemented case-studies additionally point to the fact that flood resilience can only be attained through the implementation of strategies at various scales, which are contingent to well integrated planning practices and building codes regulating development in floodplains.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Poerschke, Ute, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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