UMass Amherst Artist and Landscape Architect Carolina Aragón Unveils Public Art Installation Depicting Future Flood Levels in Boston

FutureSHORELINE display uses sculptures created from lobster traps to show projected high-water marks in Fort Point Channel
  • View of the land and floating showing the different flood levels for 2030 shown in silver, 2050 in light blue, and 2070 in dark blue. credit: Matt Conti
    View of the land and floating showing the different flood levels for 2030 shown in silver, 2050 in light blue, and 2070 in dark blue. credit: Matt Conti
  • Floating sculpture showing future 1% annual chance flood levels above mean high water for the Fort Point Channel. The bottom 3 layers represent flooding for 2030, the layer above flooding for 2050, and the top layer flooding for 2070. credit: Matt Conti
    Floating sculpture showing future 1% annual chance flood levels above mean high water for the Fort Point Channel. The bottom 3 layers represent flooding for 2030, the layer above flooding for 2050, and the top layer flooding for 2070. credit: Matt Conti
  • FutureSHORELINE. credit: Matt Conti
    FutureSHORELINE. credit: Matt Conti
  • FutureSHORELINE. credit: Matt Conti
    FutureSHORELINE. credit: Matt Conti

    AMHERST, Mass. – Visitors strolling the Boston Harborwalk along Fort Point Channel will now be able to visualize the scientific predictions for future flood levels and their proposed solutions, thanks to a new public art installation created by University of Massachusetts Amherst artist and landscape architect Carolina Aragón.

    Titled FutureSHORELINE, the installation on the eastern part of the channel across from South Station consists of two main components, a floating sculpture and four land sculptures. The sculptures are comprised primarily out of lobster traps custom-crafted by Riverdale Mills of Northbridge and over 3,000 hand-punched, recyclable aluminum fins suspended from the cages by custom steel wires and rings produced locally in Western Massachusetts.

    The floating sculpture is a 10-foot tall stepped cylinder made of blue lobster cages. Each tier of the sculpture – 6.4 feet, 8.1 feet and 9.7 feet – represents the projected elevation for sea level rise and 1% annual chance flood (100-year flood) at that location for the years 2030, 2050 and 2070, respectively, based on the Massachusetts Coast Flood Risk Model (MC-FRM). The land sculptures show how these water levels would flood the site, as represented in tiered cages with different colored fins indicating the proposed 6-foot berm that is part of the adaptation strategy for the Fort Point Channel neighborhood.

    “This project was born in early 2019 following the FutureWATERS/AGUASfuturas installation in East Boston, which had visualized projected flooding for the area for 2030 and 2070,” Aragón says. “After speaking with members from the City of Boston’s Climate Ready office, I became interested and motivated to not only show the projections for future flooding, but also show how the city had begun planning to protect the neighborhood with a 6-foot berm. The title FutureSHORELINE came from my desire to question and visualize the impending modification of our shorelines, either through the effects of climate change or as a response to it, and how we need to begin to better understand the implications of this massive phenomenon. The piece is thus both a sobering connection to the consequences of our cumulative actions while also foreshadowing the near future which will inevitably impact large portions of our coastline and its population.”

    Aragón, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at UMass Amherst, has more than a decade of experience creating temporary art installations in the Boston metro area. FutureWATERS/AGUASfuturas, exhibited at the East Boston Greenway, and High Tide, exhibited at the Rose Kennedy Greenway, previously called attention to Boston’s vulnerability to flooding due to sea level rise by providing site-specific and accessible visualizations that could be understood by a diverse public.

    “This site selected for FutureSHORELINE is significant as it represents an opportunity to place the artwork along one of the most publicly accessible vulnerable areas and flood pathways for South Boston,” Aragón says. “Additionally, it can help highlight future berms and other potential landforms in the future that will be designed to increase resilience in the area. As the city awaits potential funding from FEMA to develop landforms and flood-resistant measures along the Channel, this installation can call attention to this important, future work.”

    Aragón’s other past projects have included RisingEMOTIONS, an installation that publicly displays people’s feelings about sea level rise in East Boston, and projects that have linked diverse communities to their built environments, such as Flocks, a mile-long installation of reflective birds suspended over Cambridge Street that celebrated diversity and human migration in Cambridge, and Parks to People, her work as artist-in-residence for the National Park Service that engaged youth in creating artworks to invite the general public to visit the New England Trail in Holyoke. Aragon has been recently named as one of 2020 Codaworx Creative Revolutionaries, and her work has also been displayed at the World Bank’s “Art of Resilience” exhibit and the National Park Service’s “100 Years of Arts in the Parks.”

    FutureSHORELINE, which is currently scheduled to be exhibited through the end of Summer 2021, was funded by several grants, including those from the Fort Point Arts Community, a UMass Amherst Faculty Research Grant, a Social Science and Environment Seed Grant and an Institute of Diversity Sciences Seed Grant. Additional support for the project was supplied by the UMass Boston School for the Environment, the City of Boston Environment Department, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects and UMass Amherst Facilities and Campus Services. Flooding information was provided by UMass Boston School for the Environment and the Woods Hole Group.

    Aragón created the installation with the assistance of her students and her collaborators/installers Robert Gilmore, Patrick Bowler and Claudia LaFontaine.

    More information about FutureSHORELINE, as well as links to Aragón’s previous works, can be found at http://www.carolinaaragon.com/#/futureshoreline/.