The architect making friends with flooding

Facing floods and fires, undocumented immigrants have nowhere to turn for help

When Hurricane Ida hit New York City on September 16, it dumped more than three inches of rain an hour. Sewers overflowed, streets turned into rivers, and thousands of homes and basements across the city’s five boroughs flooded. Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas saw the devastation firsthand when she toured her constituent neighbourhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside in Queens.

Despite the growing impacts of climate-related disasters from coast to coast, the New York program is the first time a state or the federal government has invested in supporting undocumented immigrants after a disaster.

Family after family, mostly low-income immigrants, told her they’d lost almost all of their possessions in the storm. But as González-Rojas encouraged residents to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, she learned that those who were undocumented were ineligible for aid…READ ON

The architect making friends with flooding

For years, Beijing landscape architect Yu Kongjian was ridiculed by his fellow citizens as a backward thinker. Some even called him an American spy—a nod to his doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and his opposition to dams, those symbols of power and progress in modern China.

Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua City
TURENSCAPE

Yu’s transgression: he advised working with water, rather than trying to control it.

In dense cities, only around 20% of rain actually infiltrates the soil. Instead, drains and pipes carry it away—lunacy

Yu is at the forefront of a movement that aims to restore the ebb and flow of water to urban environments. His landscape architecture firm Turenscape, which he cofounded in 1998, creates flexible spaces for water to spread out and seep underground, both to prevent flooding and to be stored for later use. His vision is to heal the natural hydrology that we’ve disrupted by tightly confining rivers with levees, putting buildings or parking lots where water wants to linger, or erecting dams that have, to varying degrees, dried up 333 rivers in the Yangtze area. “Those gray infrastructures are actually killers of the natural system, which we have to depend on for our sustainable future,” Yu has said. By trying to solve one problem at a time—flooding here, water scarcity there—the 20th-century approach to water management has undermined itself…READ ON

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