My MSc Urbanism thesis is about stimulating climate and flood resilience in hurricane-prone Houston, Texas. To bridge the gap between research and design, I use visual storytelling as a research method, applying three scenarios on site to come to a design. Using scenarios to determine the potential of a place allows us to think outside of the box, and by creating stories in this fictional space it becomes possible to explore various choices that lead to different effects. I studied these effects before deciding which elements I would like to apply in my own design. I developed three scenarios: a dystopian, a restorative and a utopian scenario. Accompanying the visual stories (at the top of the page), here are some fragments of the textual narrative:
1) dystopia. “When parents dare to take their children out onto the street, you will occasionally hear a child ask with sympathetic curiosity what happened to the river. ‘There is no planet B’ activists write on the wall, still fighting for a healthier earth. Yet water already flows into the tunnel, flooding the words ‘I don’t believe in climate change’. The road is blocked so frequently, that traffic signs have to warn drivers that the road ends in water. Completely drenched in this water, lies a child’s teddy bear, representing the trauma that such a future brings…”
2) restorative. “Nature in the city is encouraged, but only in confined places, trapped. Despite improvements, nature is not accessible to all. Still, the future is not all bleak. Some highways came down. Of course, there was some disquiet: ‘Typical government, pushing into the lives of regular people.’ In order to change old habits, you need to change mindsets first. Made up from different patches, the city becomes a collage where humans have created carefully constructed parks along the river, presenting themselves to nature, but also their power over it…”
3) utopia. “The wetland grasses gently flow in the rhythm of the stream. The river is wide and muddy, so people stroll on wooden structures along the water. The surrounding trees whisper their age-old tune. A great egret with its long legs firmly planted in the stream is hunting for its prey. Monarch butterflies with their familiar orange and black veins attract cheerful smiles. The city has created something crucial; and this allows a stronger than ever connectedness between humans and nature…”
In essence, this method of applying visual storytelling techniques is a part of design research in which we are able to project new futures. On the one hand, we discover the potentials and limitations that are fundamental to the location, and on the other it allows us to envision how the boundaries of reality can be stretched, challenged and provoked. After all, old ways will not open new doors.