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Historic Resources: Visions and Revisions of Boston Harbor

01 tutu pathway render

Image: The Emerald Tutu project (Gabriel Cira, et al.)

  • COST

    Free for BSA members, $10 General admission. Learn more about membership options here.

  • TYPE





    1 LU/HSW AIA continuing education credit available

This HRC session takes a look at Boston's harbor through the lens of preservation, as it begins to present new cultural meaning for the city through the harmful rising sea levels and intensified storms of a changing climate. The urban condition that we call Boston is located where it is precisely because of the physical properties of the harbor; the City owes its existence to the unique congregation of water and landforms. Since the early 1600s, settlers have modified the coastline to serve the industrial and mercantile purposes specific to each era, and before that the Massachusett and Nipmuc people enjoyed the great abundance of shellfish in its broad flats and marshes. Given that long history of repeated human-driven changes — on land, at the coastal edge, on the seafloor — what can it mean when the harbor itself becomes an object of preservation?
There are currently two major proposals that challenge the City to think about its own survival amid rising sea levels, another matter of preservation. One group of advocates and engineers has proposed a harbor-wide barrier that would daisy-chain harbor islands into a massive seawall, although a multi-year study by the UMass Sustainable Solutions Lab concluded that ecological detriments, astronomical costs, and technical concerns of such a project render it infeasible (Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems: Preliminary Analysis for Boston Harbor, 2018 Sustainable Solutions Lab, UMass Boston). This session will highlight the nature-based alternative solution known as The Emerald Tutu, which proposes broad swaths of interconnected floating marsh mats in nearshore areas of the harbor for coastal protection during storms, ecological remediation, habitat creation, and human enjoyment.

Click here to view or download a copy of the agenda for this meeting.