Coastal Dreams

Large tree covered in ice looms over New York City.

Coastal Dreams is a speculative futures project, envisioning the cities along Lake Erie as subjected to extreme winter weather conditions in the face of global climate change. Sara Svisco developed a narrative, which depicts life in 2391, as the lake begins to experience alarmingly high water levels, resulting in the flooding of nearby coastal cities.



Sara Svisco


Sean Burkholder


ARC 606, Spring 2018


MArch – Ecological Practices

In Svisco’s narrative, local municipalities fund projects in response to the continuous environmental threat. They build retaining walls along the shoreline in an attempt to preserve their cherished way of life. However, these walls still failed. Water levels continued to rise, and floods became increasingly more violent. Residents worked together to maintain the walls and add to them every five years. After only fifty years, the walls surpassed the city in height. Completely barricaded from its northern enemy, residents had become accustomed to this omnipresent force that held their fate at bay. Then, in 2453, a flood breaks the walls, and wreaks havoc on the city, burying it for over one hundred years, and leaves it completely devoid of any sign of life.

I think the opportunity to use architecture as a means of remediating our environmental impact is so inspiring…

– Sara Svisco, MArch

Decades later, after the region thaws, a team of researchers return to the city to study the ruins and past effects of climate, as well as to explore how to rebuild after this ecological recovery.

Svisco herself is from Buffalo, NY, and has always been very conscious of her impact on the environment – trying to reduce her personal effect as much as possible. Over the past five years of study, Svisco has become particularly aware of how the practice of architecture can affect the environment at a much deeper level.

For Svisco, the intent behind design is equally as powerful. The potential for a building or installation to evoke such intense responses from observers has always been intriguing to her. “Design, in general, impacts so many aspects of everyone’s lives, and if I can have a hand in making it a positive, memorable experience, I’d be satisfied.”