Nearly three billion people currently live in low elevation coastal areas around the world. Today, these areas are vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise. How architecture and urbanism will deal with such threats will be a central question in the near future. In this article, we highlight Alfie Hope‘s response to such threats. The project is called Sea Rise City: Growing New Land in Bristol to Combat Sea Level Rise, and it is a proposal for a water-based city which deals with rising sea levels by designing a new hydro-urban model for the future. The project is imagined to be located on the edge of the river Severn estuary on the outskirts of Bristol, UK. It is imagined to be developed in partnership between the city of Bristol and the United Nations.

The long term project acts as a model for future urbanism on water by replacing land which is lost to sea level rise. This is done by growing floating bamboo landscapes which act as a canvass for urbanism. The construction of the landscape is facilitated by a floating off-shore infrastructure, the headquarters of the 18th UN department: the department of Water & Climate Change. This water-based landscape could become home to 17 communities, subsidiary branches of the other UN departments which experiment with the many aspects involved with future urbanism on water leading to the generation of knowledge for future generations.


BALLOON PASSENGER’S VIEW OF SEA RISE CITY: The large scale of Sea Rise City is best appreciated from the air during the annual Bristol balloon Fiesta. [Source: Alfie Hope]
BALLOON PASSENGER’S VIEW OF SEA RISE CITY: The large scale of Sea Rise City is
best appreciated from the air during the annual Bristol balloon Fiesta. [Source: Alfie Hope]
OCCUPIED BY SELF-SUFFICIENT UN SUBSIDIARY DEPARTMENTS: Inhabitants of Sea Rise City live in 17 UN communities, each belonging to a different branch of the UN with vested interests in future sea level rise. Each is self sufficient, watering crops using gravity based reverse osmosis processes within watering towers. [Source: Alfie Hope]
OCCUPIED BY SELF-SUFFICIENT UN SUBSIDIARY DEPARTMENTS: Inhabitants of Sea Rise City live in 17 UN communities, each belonging to a different branch of the UN with vested interests in future sea level rise. Each is self-sufficient, watering crops using gravity based reverse osmosis processes within watering towers. [Source: Alfie Hope]
MASTER PLAN OF SEA RISE CITY: Sea Rise City is a landscape grown from bamboo on the Severn estuary in Bristol. The landscape is grown accordingly as sea levels rise, here the extent of climate change is envisaged as 7m+ by the year 2275 and development is illustrated in 1m+ waves. [Source: Alfie Hope]
MASTER PLAN OF SEA RISE CITY: Sea Rise City is a landscape grown from bamboo on the Severn estuary in Bristol. The landscape is grown accordingly as sea levels rise, here the extent of climate change is envisaged as 7m+ by the year 2275, and development is illustrated in 1m+ waves. [Source: Alfie Hope]


Alfie started his project by the brief of ‘redefining utopia’ and is based on the notion that Utopia and Dystopia are intertwined, with one supporting the other. In the project scenario, the City of Bristol is chosen as the location for the project due to it’s bad history and the role it played in the transatlantic slave trade, which brought riches and prosperity to the UK, underpinning the start of the industrial revolution. Given the recent apology debate surrounding the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, (and Bristol’s refusal to apologise) the city becomes the site for the project in order to repent for its past. It does so by establishing new methods to tackle sea level rise as part of UN efforts to establish a better future for everybody.

The project anticipates that the Bristol area will likely experience a sea-level rise of 7m by the year 2275. The project deals with the issue using a method to effectively ‘grow’ new land from bamboo as the sea level gradually rises. This method was inspired by the ancient methods of Chinampa farming used by the Aztecs on lake Texcoco to establish floating agricultural landscape made from organic materials. Eventually, the floating landscape consolidated and thickened to form new land.


THE FACTORY FLOOR: Bamboo harvested from the forest is made in to new rafts and other constructions inside the floating factories where organic waste is processed and where bamboo cuttings are grown. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE FACTORY FLOOR: Bamboo harvested from the forest is made into new rafts and other constructions inside the floating factories where organic waste is processed and where bamboo cuttings are grown. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS: The administrative headquarters is the base of the United Nations department of Water & Climate Change. The building also serves as a food bank for produce of UN communities across Sea Rise City, as well as a banqueting hall for factory workers, administrative staff, and dignitaries. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS: The administrative headquarters is the base of the United Nations department of Water & Climate Change. The building also serves as a food bank for the produce of UN communities across Sea Rise City, as well as a banqueting hall for factory workers, administrative staff, and dignitaries. [Source: Alfie Hope]


The focal point of the project is the newly established United Nations department of Water & Climate Change. This new arm of the UN manifests itself as a floating infrastructure located at the current mouth of the river’s estuary. The infrastructure provides a base for the creation of the surrounding landscape by facilitating the manufacture of new landscape rafts and by treating organic waste from Bristol. The organic waste process creates compost, which is used to provide nutrients for the growth of the landscape, it also creates biogas, used for energy, and waste water, used for irrigation.

Alfie imagines the headquarters to compress of the following:

1 – Several ‘land factories’ which process bamboo to create new bamboo rafts, which are then planted with bamboo to provide a further supply of materials or community units such as accommodation etc.

2 – An administrative HQ complete with banqueting hall, archives, and food bank.

3 – A breakwater harbour wall as storage for biogas and wastewater.

The surrounding landscape provides a canvass for United Nations communities, each representing UN departments with vested interests in the future of climate change. The communities are envisaged as self-sufficient bases for the generation and dissemination of knowledge which are much akin to monasteries. These communities play host to visitors and students from around the globe who come to experiment and learn methods such as how to grow food in a salt water environment, before returning home to implement techniques and methods to benefit others.


THE HARBOUR & CENTRAL CANAL: The department of Water & Climate Change is linked to the city of Bristol via the central canal which establishes a route for the transportation of organic waste. Organic waste is processed to create compost to nourish the bamboo landscape, provide water for irrigation, and provide biogas for energy. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE HARBOUR & CENTRAL CANAL: The department of Water & Climate Change is linked to the city of Bristol via the central canal which establishes a route for the transportation of organic waste. Organic waste is processed to create compost to nourish the bamboo landscape, provide water for irrigation, and provide biogas for energy. [Source: Alfie Hope]
LOCATED AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER: Located at the present day mouth of the river Avon, the department of Water & Climate Change highlights the extent of sea level rise to future generations. [Source: Alfie Hope]
LOCATED AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER: Located at the present-day mouth of the river Avon, the department of Water & Climate Change highlights the extent of sea level rise to future generations. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE FLOATING HEADQUARTERS: A floating harbour infrastructure for the construction of new floating land which is surrounded by a break water wall containing waste water and biogas. [Source: Alfie Hope]
THE FLOATING HEADQUARTERS: A floating harbour infrastructure for the construction of new floating land which is surrounded by a breakwater wall containing wastewater and biogas. [Source: Alfie Hope]


About the Designer: Alfie Hope is an award-winning student of Architecture. His accomplishments are wide-ranging having been nominated for the RIBA presidents medal awards and having been recognised as one of the best in his year group for his final year undergraduate project ‘The Woodworker’s Guild’.

His natural talent for design propelled him on to the international stage early in his career. In 2009, he gained a place on the ERASMUS exchange programme leading him to study at the Politecnico di Milano as part of his undergraduate degree. He worked internationally before even completing his first degree, in 2011 he spent time in Copenhagen working with Christensen + CO Arkitekter on the development of the Copenhagen Soil Centre, a zero energy environmental facility.

Having recently received a distinction for his Masters in Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL Alfie has already gained much acclaim for his final year postgraduate student project with both national and international media attention. Alfie is currently working for Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF).

Click here to view his website.