Global warming is the biggest challenge that humans face. As designers of our environment, landscape architects must address this important issue. Even if we were to go to a zero-carbon economy today, without carbon sequestration efforts our planet will continue to heat up to a level which will have catastrophic impacts on humans as well as other forms of life around the world.

Barring a drastic human response to climate change, by 2060 Boston will be dealing with heavier winter rains, droughts in the summer, a depleted aquifer, hotter temperatures, as well as a combined sea-level rise and storm surge of 8’ that will flood most of Boston, Cambridge and Allston.

Our studio is a speculation of how the new technology of Automated Vehicles (AVs), together with afforestation of urban areas, can help Boston to tackle global warming, mitigate the heat island effect, drawdown carbon and ultimately work in a symbiotic fashion with the built environment to enable cities such as Boston to adapt to and mitigate a warming environment.

Our studio is a continuation of our previous 2016/17 studio, done in conjunction with Harvard Forest and based on their study, “Changes to the Land”, set in the future of 2060. We explored this thesis focusing on four of the densest townships of Boston, Cambridge, Allston, Brookline and Boston (proper), which are comprised of 108sm and 900,000 inhabitants. The studio, through designed plans, illustrations and metrics, showed a potential benefit of $206,000,000 in energy savings per year. Based upon the convincing outcome of the 2017 studio, our 2018 Studio will go deeper into the topic through further research and design.

Our study site will be a “transect”, 15 miles x 2 miles wide, that follows along the Green Line, taking us from Boston’s inner city, through suburbs, past I-95 and into more rural environments. We will use areas harvested from unused space from streets and parking areas, created as a result of the use of automated vehicles as well as under-utilized public spaces, and existing parks. We will examine underground infrastructure to produce a more accurate picture of costs and benefits.

We will also study topics such as urban agriculture, the densification of suburbs, explore new wood products and technology, and the transformation of Boston into a more poly-centric city so to make it more self-reliant in the future and meet the overall objectives set in Harvard Forest’s “Regional Reliance Scenario” from their publication, “Changes to the Land”.

Our ultimate goal is to create a different view on the possibilities of AV technology through synergies between two quite different silos of knowledge: technology and ecology, to form a future urbanism.