Van Alen Institute Introduces The Climate Council




Photo: Cameron Biaylock via Van Alen Institute

Climate change is affecting the entire World ~ each region experiencing unique differences like rising temperatures, rising sea levels, degradation of coral reefs, water shortages and a plethora of related changes and events. Taking a deep-dive into the serious matter of climate change, Van Alen Institute launched the Climate Council.

The Climate Council will be a platform for exchange for leading architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners, researchers, developers, and other environmentally-minded professionals.

It will be led by Council Co-Chairs architect Claire Weisz (Principal-in-Charge, WXY Studio), and landscape architect Mark Johnson (President, Civitas).  They are tasked with exploring climate-related issues through curated trips that incorporate design, educational, social, and professional activities.

The result of climate change can cause a multitude of problems stemming from changes in temperature, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, sea levels rising, extreme weather events ~ and like dominos falling, floods and drought, lack of fish or agriculture ~ even diseases associated with these events.

“We have been creating projects to tackle the impact of climate change for years,” says Van Alen Executive Director David van der Leer. “With the launch of the Climate Council, we are deepening our focus on one of the most critical issues of our time, bringing together some of the best minds in several disciplines to share knowledge and accelerate our ability to adapt cities and landscapes to our changing climate.”

The Council program centers on investigative travel to North American destinations that are undergoing, or will soon undergo substantial environmental change. In these places, the Council aims to learn from the challenges they see, to offer professional advice, and to share lessons learned with other regions, both through further Council travel and via their practices.

“Bringing experts together in real places of extreme climate impact is where new connections are made, and ideas are exchanged. It’s important that the Climate Council is happening on a continental level,” says Climate Council Co-Chair Claire Weisz.

“The Council gives us access to people who are experiencing the effects of our changing world first hand,” says Climate Council Co-Chair Mark Johnson. “It is our hope that by bringing our diverse Council members together with real issues and evidence, that we will spark our thinking, dig deeper, and find ways to bring best practices into every aspect of our professional work.”

This July, the founding members will travel to Sacramento and California’s Central Valley, with a focus on the future of food through the lenses of land, labor, and water, collaborating with local experts and academics to explore how design can play an impactful part in the movement of food across communities, regions, and the globe.

The Climate Council is part of Van Alen Institute’s broader inquiry, which has been exploring these issues through multiple initiatives over the past six years. Some of these initiatives are:

  • Keeping Current: A Sea Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami (2017-ongoing), a two-year program including design competitions for public facilities, a summer program for high school students, a mobile exhibit and conference, and more in collaboration with Miami-Dade County and other local partners. This project is supported by nearly $1M in funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Miami Foundation, Target, and Terra.
  • Van Alen Sessions: Season Four (2016-ongoing), a series of short videos exploring Miami’s endeavors to adapt to climate change to be premiered June 28, 2018 at Van Alen with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Shore to Core (2016), a design and research competition in collaboration with West Palm Beach (FL) Community Redevelopment Agency, invited professionals to reimagine downtown West Palm Beach as a dynamic, resilient waterfront city.
  • Changing Course: Navigating the Future of the Lower Mississippi River Delta (2015), a design competition to reimagine a more sustainable Lower Mississippi River Delta. Following Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a broad coalition gathered to develop strategies to bring communities, ecologies, and commerce back into balance.
  • Rebuild by Design (2013) was an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region and developing fundable solutions to protect residents from future climate events.

We look forward to updates as this dedicated group of talented people move forward with this investigative program, bringing a wide range of professionals together to establish a common language of resiliency across disciplines.

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Save the Date for FLOW! Getting Around the Changing City, June 17-23 and explore the present and future of urban mobility, at Van Alen Institute, 30 West 22nd Street.