Speculative Savannah: Preservation Through Poverty

Savannah College of Art and Design


Bay Street At Low Tide.jpg

Preservation Through Poverty

c. 2216


Late in the 21st Century, climate change hits the world with full force putting numerous cities partially underwater. Some had time to prepare and were ready for these changes, but others refused, opting to stick with their traditions, unwilling to change and evolve with the times. The coastal city of Savannah, Georgia was among them.

Until that time came, the city of Savannah thrived and flourished due to the expansion of SCAD and the growing tourism industry. However, this adversely affected the social classes of the city, increasing the wealth gap of the population to even higher extremes, almost eradicating the middle class entirely, leaving the city with only the rich and the poor, creating a major disconnect with the future of the city.

Due to the many ordinances that protected the city, the historic district remained unchanged until it was far too late for city officials to intervene. In a last ditch effort to save themselves, the upper class citizens of the city decided to use their wealth to build upwards on the grounds of Forsyth Park, erecting a massive tower to house the wealthy, leaving the poor down below, in the remains of a slowly flooding city.

When the floods had officially come, the remaining citizens too poor to leave the city had to adapt to the changes and utilize the buildings in an entirely different fashion, inhabiting the upper levels of structures in the historic district, leaving the lower levels to the devices of tides.

Adapting to the changing times, the remaining citizens learn to thrive in the new environment, preserving the historic district in their own way, through their own uses. Parking garages become inhabited as marketplaces and makeshift structures are constructed atop buildings in an effort to create additional dry housing for a growing population and a continuously rising water level. In order to traverse the city, inhabitants have learned to travel with the tides, sticking to the rooftops and makeshift bridges during high tide, and wading through waist-high water during low tide to reach inaccessible areas of the city.

This shift from historic age value to a more pragmatic, utilitarian value sheds new light on the preservation of the city, not for aesthetics, but practicality and function deemed essential for the continual survival of the population.