Vancouver launches challenge to address sea level rise and coastal flooding

SmartCitiesWorld news team


Two multidisciplinary teams will explore solutions to guide urban development and ecological revitalisation in the False Creek floodplain and inform the city’s Climate Adaptation Plan.

The City of Vancouver is launching a design challenge to explore ideas for addressing sea level rise and coastal flooding in False Creek.

The Sea2City Design Challenge (Sea2City) brings together two multidisciplinary teams over a 12-month period to explore solutions to guide urban development and ecological revitalisation in the False Creek floodplain. It will also inform the next phase of the City’s Climate Adaptation Plan and the Vancouver Plan.


International teams

The teams were selected after a competitive application process and have practitioners based in Vancouver, San Francisco, New York, and the Netherlands. They are being led by landscape architecture and urban design firms Mithun+One and PWL Partnership.

Each team brings together specialists in landscape architecture, equity, reconciliation, urban planning, environmental sciences, and engineering that have experience of planning and designing for sea level rise and coastal flooding.

“Sea level rise is an unprecedented challenge for a coastal city like Vancouver,” said mayor Kennedy Stewart. “It requires bold and creative thinking and the City is looking forward to welcoming new perspectives and ideas to address climate change and sea level rise in False Creek.”

Guided by community values and design principles identified through earlier engagement with residents, business owners, and others who work and play in and around False Creek, the Sea2City design teams will work cooperatively with the city and project partners to: 

  • explore coastal adaptation approaches that respond to the social equity, economic, and ecological challenges posed by sea level rise and coastal flooding
  • investigate coastal adaptation approaches for sea level rise beyond one metre
  • expand the City’s toolbox of coastal flood management approaches
  • increase public awareness of climate change and sea level rise.

The programme will include a number of different activities including public learning and design events, advisory group sessions and decolonisation and indigenous perspective workshops.

“We’re looking forward to bringing together a range of people, practitioners, and thinkers to address a complex challenge,” said Angela Danyluk, senior sustainability specialist, City of Vancouver. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the City to connect innovative design with public engagement. A successful outcome will be one that connects with the public and builds a shared understanding of climate change, sea level rise and the land and water we call False Creek.”

Deb Guenther, project director, Mithun+One, said the visions that emerge from Sea2City “will inspire public conversations and initiate action”.

She added: “The process of imagining an adapted waterfront can elevate multiple intersectional and urgent issues – climate adaptation, economic development, and truth and reconciliation – and how these might change our experiences and shape an equitable built environment.”

Derek Lee, principal, PWL Partnership , said: “We share a collective passion for protecting, enhancing, and adapting urban waterfronts in response to climate change. Addressing the challenges of sea-level rise is always cherished work. It fulfills our personal and corporate values regarding protecting our planet for future generations and fighting climate change.”

The area currently known as False Creek is of significant meaning to the local First Nations who stewarded the land since time immemorial.