The 2023 Envision Resilience New Bedford and Fairhaven Challenge participating universities are the Rhode Island School of Design, Northeastern University, the University of Florida, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the University of Virginia. The Envision Resilience Challenge, a semester-long design studio and community engagement initiative connects interdisciplinary teams from leading universities with coastal communities to imagine resilient pathways in the face of climate change through adaptive design. Since its inception three years ago, the program has worked with more than 200 students from nine universities to serve the six coastal communities of Nantucket, Wickford, Warren, Providence, Aquidneck Island and Barrington. Carolyn Cox of the FCI helps with the academic coordination of this initiative to give UF students the opportunity to work across universities, disciplines, and geographies.  

Once the whaling capital of the world and now home to the highest-earning fishing port in the country, New Bedford and Fairhaven have long been defined by their connection to the water. Like coastal communities around the world, these seaport towns are facing rising sea levels, increasingly hotter temperatures and more frequent and intensifying storms. Envision Resilience students this year will once again be tasked with identifying threats, researching possible solutions and proposing innovative ways of living under future conditions that address issues of environment, housing, transportation, equity, local industry, ecology and resilience. A cohort of community advisors will serve as liaisons between the student teams and the communities so that outcomes reflect the values, cultures and needs of the people.

“The 2022 Envision Resilience Narragansett Bay Challenge opened up my thinking to what's possible,” said climate consultant Curt Spalding, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator under the Obama Administration and the former executive director of Save the Bay. “It raised the bar for developing a longer-term effort for planning across Rhode Island communities. There is no doubt of the impact this program will have on the New Bedford and Fairhaven communities.”

Each year, final designs of the Envision Resilience Challenge are presented to the community through a number of local events and a multi-month exhibition. To date, these designs have reimagined coastal edges and urban systems through nature-based solutions in vulnerable areas and regenerative systems in a post-carbon economy and explored new ways of living that embrace healthy, sustainable and equitable systems. From floating wharves and raised streetscapes to living, integrated shorelines and net-zero buildings that use hemp lime construction, the student work has inspired conversations on how local residents can work together to consider adaptive waterfronts and neighborhoods that benefit people, ecosystems, recreation and resilience.

Click here to see designs from previous challenges in Nantucket and Narragansett Bay.