Peter NIels Heller

Designing Precarity

   This architecture thesis is about climate change and unprivileged populations – sea-level rise in particular, and the neighborhood of East Boston.  Across recorded human history, the burdens of climate stress have fallen disproportionately on marginal populations, and today is no different.  After reviewing some of this history, and examining the geography and demographics of my chosen site, East Boston in Massachusetts, we move on to look at what architecture can do to create resilience.  We review recent architectural proposals for adapt to sea-level rise in urban areas, and also architects including Matta-Clark, Woods, and Ungers whose work informs and motivates this project, even if they weren’t specifically addressing sea-level rise.  With this background, I consider what sort of resilient design is desirable, and present speculative proposals.  We then explore East Boston to identify two sites for intervention, one a public asset (the neighborhood health center) and the other a typical street of rowhouses. The body of the work describes adaptive redesigns for the two sites.  The rowhouse interventions are a “kit of parts,” a set of tools that may be used in different configurations at different times.  The health center intervention is more comprehensive and directed at altering this critical facility so that it can continue to serve the neighborhood through an uncertain climate future.  Finally, I look at what learnings have come about through the execution of the project and I identify some future directions for the work.

Four Floodable Houses


Speculative Design for Floodable Houses

RISD Grad Show 2020