Climate Change in Architecture


The city of Venice, Italy, is both sinking and contending with rising sea water. It is sinking due to natural settlement of the sediment upon which it is built, as well as other factors. Plazas within the city flood about 100 times per year, and new construction is having to accommodate for both the human and natural effects on the climate.

The town of Dunwich, England, has been slowly consumed by the sea since 1000 AD. It was formerly a robust port city and the third largest in England, but now only a hundred or so inhabitants occupy the remaining ruins. According to the town’s geomorphologist, “In the 1970s when I was a child playing on the beach, the last remains of All Saints church were visible on the shoreline,” Sear said in an e-mail. “Hence why I got fired up over the place!…The sand banks grow and decline over time, so there are periods when more of the site is exposed (1970s) and when they are not (now). As the coast recesses, so the banks migrate shorewards covering more of the site. The exposed remains lie in a tidal scour channel between the inner and outer bank. This migrates shorewards too; so in another 100 years different ruins may well be exposed, assuming the coastal morphology remains the same.”

Take a look at how much of Dunwich was lost to climate change over the last 1000 years.

All Saints Church in Dunwich can be seen being swallowed by the sea over the course of two hundred years.


In a more immediate example, the underground Doomsday Seed Vault in Norway, once surrounded by perpetual snow and ice, has experienced so much snow melt that it is at risk for flooding, and the increase in temperature is changing storage conditions enough to where the 900,000 seed samples from around the globe are at risk. Norway plans to retrofit the seed bank and add more refrigeration to protect the seed collection.