The climate is changing, the sea level is rising…

Sea level rise, high tides, storms and floods enhance the vulnerability of urban waterfront territories. The necessary transformations face years of discussions and/or lawsuits involving significant losses and costs, before cities effectively adapt waterfronts to climate change. Resilience is transformative and in each transformation, tries to create a stronger, improved city. (Yamagata, 2016) The effect of climate change is increasing at an unprecedented rhythm which demands adaptation and transformation of vulnerable territories. These problems affect not only the local environment and economy, but also every citizen or even tourists.

Lasting solutions, efficient and imaginative strategies create more resilient cities, support a sustainable urban waterfront and improve healthy communities – these factors are essential to sustain the life on the waterfront.

S.O.S. for Urban Waterfronts to face Climate Change

S.O.S. – Sustainable Open Solutions for European urban waterfronts programme focuses to develop new solutions that emerge from the present necessities. The programme builds a new multidisciplinary collaboration network involving top European research institutions in architecture, urban design, regional planning and landscape architecture for better understanding of the impacts of climate change in urban waterfronts and explore them from social, environmental, educational, technological and urban design perspectives. The novelty of the approach is to overcome the problems that affect urban waterfronts and join efforts of specialists from different disciplines that have a recognized expertise in the subject and develop complementary research in the field of climatic transformation.

The aim of S.O.S Climate Waterfront

S.O.S Climate waterfront aims at improving sustainable research structure that enables new solutions and strategies to be found and might reverse the vulnerability of urban waterfront. The project benefits from special conditions not available in a single institution. Local experts, municipal representatives, stakeholders and international scholars work together, participants exchange views, gain new perspectives and discuss new approaches. The concept of human development is used in all research actions of S.O.S Climate Waterfront according to the United Nations Development Programme. The focus on people, their skills and opportunities rather than depending only on resources or profitable income is a priority in the research project. The main goal is to expand the realm of possibilities so that urban waterfronts can adapt, transform and create opportunities to be meaningful areas for the community. S.O.S. Climate Waterfront goes beyond economic features, and into reflect cultural, political, environmental and social, characteristics that influence the quality of human life in the context of climate transformation.

S.O.S. Climate Waterfront Approach

Through an interdisciplinary methodology, the S.O.S Climate Waterfront fills the gap in the understanding of how the different scales of urban and landscape planning, architectural design and technology are linked in waterrelated strategies and how they impact each other in the definition of preventive action plans and in the enhancement of more conscious solutions to inform the community, human welfare and socio-economic activities along those vulnerable territorial settings of the waterfront. The dissemination of results is the most effective through the cooperation of international networks, and regional networks. To achieve this, a steady and interdisciplinary research agenda is required, including environmental issues, smart technologies, strategies of resilience in urban design and culture. The aim of S.O.S. Climate Waterfront is to exchange transnational examples of best practices during the Secondments, Workshops and trainings organized with multinational groups.

Workshops - each semester 5-days’ workshop is organized by the host institution and focuses on their core of investigation. Participation is open to researchers, PhD students and post-docs to improve and benefit the scientific excellence within the partnership. To engage the present debate, the scientific committee invites external consultants and professionals from partner institutions. The scientific commission selects a particular waterfront case and identifies the risks of extreme swings brought by climate change. During a period of one week, the group debates the threats, shares previous transformations that affected the waterfront environment and discuss future potential scenarios.


Conferences - gather local experts, municipal representatives, partners and international scholars to share their researches on urban waterfronts. This is useful to exchange mutual visions and common practices, which constitute a relevant tool for future research. The research community will promote the active participation in international science and technology related conferences by providing the framework to include host presentation of papers from external guests previously selected. The organization of the conference is oriented towards the specific public involved with the Municipality, Regional Planning, Cultural Institutions Environmental Organizations and Universities interested in each discipline. Proceedings of the conference are available online (EVENTS hyperlink) to enhance the communication.

Networking meetings - project meetings of two days will be organized: kick-off meeting, two intermediary and the final project meetings. These meetings will be used for fine tuning the schedule, and have an internal character useful for evaluating the implementation of the Project, as well as for listing the specific topics of the Workshops, Secondments and Trainings.

Dissemination and outreach activities - S.O.S Climate waterfront research community promotes the scientific and public dissemination of the outcomes and findings including publications in relevant/indexed journals, policy briefs, studies reports, booklets and cooperation with other organizations, programs, networks, operating in the areas related to the project. The research project launches Sustainable Open Solutions that are to be communicated to wider audiences as they deal with environment, societal and transportation to be considered for discussion.

The capacity to build SOS Climate waterfront consists of several strategies:

  • Designing policies and recommendations to meet the needs of urban waterfronts.
  • Expanding curricular programmes to introduce researchers in public design and participatory processes on the transformation of waterfronts.
  • Increasing skills to deal with the production of future scenarios that integrate environmental, social, economic parameters.
  • Developing new means of research based on historic records, geographic data, digital-methods and cocreation with local scholars.
  • Identifying the patterns of previous urban development on the waterfront.
  • Visualising future progression of waterfront by the new software.
  • Engaging municipality representatives and especially technical staff to play a noteworthy role and envision decision-making in the urban agenda.

Obstacles for Sustainable solution projects

Municipalities, stakeholders, port authorities and local communities often disagree with projects upon their own needs. Misunderstanding or lack of awareness often impede the functioning of the project. In the last years a number of projects were interrupted when they faced strong opposition coming either from public opinion, the media and/or lawsuits. Projects seem to address sensitive cultural values and consequently face years of discussion, only to be put aside eventually. Such difficulties bring a loss of competitiveness on all sides, as well as decreasing quality of life for their citizens. S.O.S. Climate Waterfront seeks to eliminate these obstacles by cooperating with all stakeholders in pooling knowledge and developing new strategies based on climate change.

S.O.S. Climate Waterfront Solutions Strategy

Data related to historic and geographic records of specific waterfronts are used to construct patterns of development, feed algorithms and integrate the support of artificial intelligence to design future possible scenarios. Climate change solutions can only be successful in ensuring a resilient city if they also engage citizens, educating them about climate change challenges and solutions, and fostering possible changes in lifestyles.