Brenda Snyder, a landscape designer who re-imagined Olympia a hundred years from now, spoke at our ‘Imagine the Deschutes Estuary’ event on September 28th.
Sea Level Rise: Re-imagining the Urban Edge
Brenda Snyder, an urban designer from Seattle, imagined Olympia a hundred years from now. She shared her ideas at our annual event on September 28th. Having grown up on the Puget Sound, she is aware of a steep decline in the health of the sea. At the University of California for her Masters of Urban Design, she had a question on her mind: How can we improve the relationship between our built environment and natural systems? For her thesis, she had her sights set on Olympia, it’s shoreline built on dredgings and at great risk of rising water. In this work she presented us with some intriguing ideas for change that could spark a proactive and planned response to sea level rise. She offers ideas to re-imagine downtown Olympia, with a very specific message: to soften our edges.
Brenda’s work begins with an assumption that the dam has been removed and the estuary restored. This provides the material basis for redesigning the waterfront to accommodate rising tidewaters. Using the RAP strategy (Retreat, Adaptation and Protection), she also assumes that the Olympia will consider the historic core and the intertidal zone of equal value. She spoke about our tendency to harden our edges at the shoreline, which eliminates intertidal habitat, blocks public access, and provides a false sense of security from flooding water. The major concerns in her design are the health of the shoreline, social and economic vitality offered by the built environment, and natural processes of an estuary.
Some of her ideas include:
- Creating “Creek Street” to daylight Moxlie Creek, designed as a pedestrian and commercial corridor.
- Aqua blocks with rain gardens that are designed to accommodate stormwater.
- Protecting the maritime industry of the Port by preserving islands for operation.
- Retrofitting LOTT as a treatment wetland to filter stormwater runoff, with the assumption that waste treatment would be decentralized to protect the water.
- Capitol Crest Promenade, with stretches of natural landscape parks and commercial areas.
Brenda has offered us some real gems, possibilities to come together and meet needs that often seem to conflict. Some of her ideas may not be the solution, especially without input from the community on the design, but they do help spark our imaginations as we talk about the future of downtown Olympia.
The video of her presentation is here: Imagine the Estuary (includes a lively dialogue with some history of the estuary and dam)
The visual handout from her presentation is here: Re-imagining the Deschutes Estuary
Brenda’s full thesis is available here: Sea-Level Rise: Re-imagining the Urban Edge