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BUILDING RESILIENCE IN ST.THOMAS

Instructor: Jamie Granger, Scott Page

Students: Celine Apollon, Corey Wills, Jamaica Reese-Julien, Jazmin Diaz, Jiake Yu, Kayla Lumpkin, Kayla Lumpkin, Kristin Chang, Marc Schultz, Matthew Rivas, Paulina Safari, Qi Si
Here the waterway acts as a cultural and ecological asset. Through the use of community gardens, an edge berm, and managed wetlands, this urban asset becomes a multiuse corridor that serves the greater community.
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Hover below to view the "Sights, Sounds, and Voices of St. Thomas"!

The crystal-clear waters that surround Saint Thomas characterize its beauty, history, and the locals’ connection to the land; however, a changing climate resulting in sea level rise, increased storm activity, drought and saltwater intrusion are threats to the island’s assets and economic activity. St. Thomas’ location within “hurricane alley” triggers a precarious cycle of storm damage and recovery. In the past 30 years, eight major hurricanes (Hugo 1989, Marilyn 1995, Bertha 1996, Georges 1998, Omar 2008, Irma 2017, Maria 2017) have caused significant damage and loss of life across the island. Despite the continuous risks climate change presents to vulnerable communities and systems on the island, resilience is the cornerstone of St. Thomas’ history, people, and culture.

 

 

The purpose of the studio focused on the island’s vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise to address the gaps between the island’s most pressing challenges and envision what a resilient island would look like. The studio’s resiliency plan aims to approach the island’s interconnected challenges through five categories of action that are grounded in values of solidarity, justice, and respect towards the St. Thomas community.

  1. Safe multi-modal transportation networks

  2. Equitable access to food and shelter

  3. Thriving ecosystems and pristine natural resources

  4. Sustainable waste management

  5. A self-determined and diversified economy.

 

These five categories of action laid out in the plan are not meant to be comprehensive solutions to the issues we identified, but rather pilot programs that begin to move the island in a more resilient direction given the future of climate change. St. Thomas’ citizens are strong, diverse, and know their island better than anybody. We hope the St. Thomas Resilience Plan will meaningfully contribute to the existing body of work centered around the island’s long term health, safety, and resiliency. maximize the benefits of this new bridge & ring road initiative, and to ponder possible unwanted effects. 

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Above and Below: This studio included an analysis of St. Thomas’ natural habitat, followed by design proposals to protect and restore the island’s natural habitats.

As part of the category of action to curate a self-determined and diversified economy, the studio proposed developing a community land trust to be used on existing vacant public land. The land  will then provide cooperative housing for St.Thomas residents. 

Above: Part of  the "Community Tourism" Proposal involved re-activating public spaces to be used by both residents and tourists. These spaces can also be used as tools to preserve St.Thomas' rich food and music culture. 

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The studio’s work aims to support current and past resilience work, such as Dr. Greg Gaunnel’s contributions towards the USVI hazard mitigation and resilience plan. Through intentional thought, discussion, and observations, the students developed a vision of resiliency for St. Thomas: Saint Thomas will leverage its rich cultural fabric and unique natural resources to become a self-determined and thriving community which will be resilient to social, economic, and environmental shocks.

The students outlined their process through a series of seven steps that guided them towards addressing the studio’s purpose. In the beginning stages, they gathered research from experts in climate change adaptation. They learned from leaders, teachers, and students on St. Thomas who are leading this work on the ground, and they analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from reliable sources and past research. During the trip to St. Thomas in mid-October, students visited sites and spoke with local experts, residents, and stakeholders to understand St. Thomas’ vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. During the mid–review presentation, the students presented their analysis of the research collected and received feedback to shape their final recommendations.

Here reveals the 5 different gut typologies

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A proposed community art and
gathering center constructed using recycled
materials from the island.

The semester-long journey brought the students from urban West Philadelphia to the hilly topography of St. Thomas with a breadth of questions, deep curiosity, and intentionality. The St. Thomas Resilience Plan documents the result of this studio’s journey. Although the plan marks an end for the studio’s work, their hope is that the analysis, data, and ideas can be used as a catalyst for creating lasting, resilient change for all current and future residents of St. Thomas.

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Here depicts the results of a site suitability analysis conducted to decide on which areas of St.Thomas have the most suitable environmental, typographic, and social conditions for affordable housing.