Design with Floods: From Defence Against a ‘natural’ Threat to Adaptation to a Human-natural Process

Design with Floods: From Defence Against a ‘natural’ Threat to Adaptation to a Human-natural Process

L. Hobeica P. Santos 

Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal

31 August 2016
| Citation



Recognizing that traditional flood management interventions focus on defence, attempting to eliminate contingencies in the urban relationship with rivers, an emergent perspective, spearheaded by spatial design, seeks to deal with floods through a more holistic framework. In contrast to the prevalent ‘design against floods’ approach that targets either the hazard or the exposure components of flood risk, ‘design with floods’ focuses as well on the assets at stake (including the built envelopes of exposed people and activities, usually covered under the term vulnerability), duly acknowledging the intertwining of natural and human processes. Using a multiple case study comprising three European flood-prone urban projects, we explore potentials of spatial design as an adaptation tool that goes beyond flood protection to foster wider societal gains. Our analyses have so far suggested that ‘design with floods’ requires a positive stance through which problem-solving and sense-making approaches are merged to provide both safety and urbanity (enriched urban realm and experience), without eliminating floods per se, accepted as a complex hybrid process.


flood adaptation, riverine urban projects, spatial design, urban regeneration


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