When the Roux Institute announced their arrival in Portland, I felt cautiously optimistic. This boost to creativity in 21st-century design with a look toward the future would help our economy. However, the more I read about the plans, the more concern I feel for our waterfront.

This conceptual rendering of the planned Roux Institute campus on the B&M Beans site in Portland shows the B&M building in foreground with the Roux Institute facility behind it, housing with underground parking to the left, along with a restored coastline, public spaces and a new bike trail. Rendering courtesy of Tsoi Kobus Design and Stimson Landscape Architects

We need our tech and future design thinkers to align their work with natural systems. In that particular location, what needs respect is the sea. The ocean is surely rising, the storms and high-water marks are increasing, and it’s only responsible to flow with it. Yes, we can engineer hurricane-proof windows, foundations and buildings, but shouldn’t we use that engineering prowess to build with the earth and water? This location should be rebuilt as a good example of how to “retreat” appropriately with a nod to the climate, tides and sea of the future.

Let’s get these think tank designers, architects, landscape specialists, electrical, mechanical and all sorts of engineers, biologists, hydrologists, geologists and so many more to work in new ways toward real system thinking change as it relates to technology. Build wave-slowing reefs and marshes; look at the historic excess of water in Back Cove, flooding along the Old Port, etc. Rebuild the existing building as a model, but limit huge hotels and other housing. Be forward thinking for real.

Let’s stop burying our head in the sand while we build against nature right in the path of the future waves.

Carey Hotaling

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