Coastal cities divide the areas between the land and sea; they act as an interface between marine life and terrestrial life. They represent prompt changes in the habitat of living organisms, producing unique flora and fauna that are well adapted to the changes in the ecosystem across the region. 

Coastal areas are the most populated regions in the world due to their diverse natural environments, forms, and dynamics, which lend them to be resourceful in creating opportunities for social and economic activities i.e., industrial, travelling, trade ports, and tourism sectors. Coastal regions have suitable biophysical and climatic conditions, encouraging humans to settle down nearby ever since prehistoric times. 

The economic outlook of the utilitarian society has fueled urbanisation in the coastal regions in the view of intrinsic values that the coastal areas hold. It is predicted that the rate of population living in coastal regions will rise to 75% by 2025. Some of the most well-known cities in the world, such as Venice, Miami, Edinburgh, and New Orleans, are naturally, culturally, and architecturally rich coastal cities.

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Fotog, getty images,1 July 2018, Miami high-rises stretch along the florida Coastline_©

In the future, there will be more immigrants moving into coastal areas as the increase in human settlement is moving parallel with urbanization. Most developing countries are dependent on coastal resources for agriculture, forestry, mining, oil refining, textile manufacture, and ocean transport. Such interdependency has sparked an interest in conflict over the environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources due to such activities. And with water at the heart of climate change, it has exacerbated the water-related hazards in coastal areas, such as flooding.

Coastal Design

Coastal Architecture adheres to the minimalistic design style, which favours simplicity. It aims to cancel out the noise and focuses on the beach ambience by opting for neutrals. It commemorates the shades of the ocean and the waves with its light colour palette. Coastal designs complement the nature that is outside by incorporating natural elements inside, such as linen fabrics, natural woods, and jute. Their homes have large openings which flood the white interior spaces with natural light, perhaps to welcome the ocean into their homes and maintain the warmth by softening the air with the fresh cool sea breeze. Some coastal designs also follow the rustic flair of Mediterranean-inspired aesthetics in their interior and exterior such as terracotta finishing, tile flooring, and sunbaked colours which makes the user feel warm and laid back.  

Roger Davies, 28 March 2016, Spanish Colonial – style home _©

Climate adaptable living

The impact of the climate crisis has already been evident in the life of climate cities. Water-related disasters such as flooding, storm, and heavy rain have accounted for 70% of all disaster-related deaths in the past 50 years. Rising temperature increases moisture in the air and results in heavy storms and unprecedented weather patterns. In coastal areas, the rise in sea level decreases the availability of freshwater for humans and the ecosystem as the groundwater salinises. Thus, with the need for more availability of freshwater, the food supply decreases as most of the water is utilised in the agricultural sector. 

To cope with the dramatic effects of climate change, there needs to be a drastic change in how the built environment is designed to suit the natural environment. The reinterpretation of a coastal city should be made in such a way that it abides by the fundamental values of the natural habitat of the city. It needs to preserve the inherent characteristics of the city; its flora and fauna. The climate-adaptable city can be made resilient to sea wave effects by constructing protective structures along the coastline of these cities, as they prevent erosion by redirecting the changing currents. There are several types of structures for coastal protection, such as Seawalls, breakwaters, bulkheads, groins, and jetties.

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Mammoth memory, Typical re-curved sea wall which turns the wave energy back on itself _©

Seawalls are built along the coastline to prevent the coastal structure from severe impacts of flooding and changing currents. Breakwaters are offshore structures Bulkheads are retaining walls, generally constructed to retain the earth and reduce the extent of seawater flooding. Groins are permeable/impermeable barriers that prevent soil erosion by changing offshore currents and reducing their intensity. Jetties are shore perpendicular structures placed adjacent to tide inlets to limit currents and to protect the harbour from strong waves. 

Such supplementary structures to the existing infrastructure can open possibilities for green barriers. Not only does it act as a prime protection against water hazards, it becomes a green corridor between the land and the sea, the city, and nature. They can be designed to form floating water parks, estuary gardens, and coastal promenades.  

Co-existing with the marine life 

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NOAA, 31 July 2020, Simplified description of a coastal carbon cycle _©

The Ocean is the lungs of the planet as it absorbs 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions and generates 50% of the oxygen that humans breathe. Oceans can be used as the planet’s ally against the climate crisis. Ocean habitats such as mangroves and coral reefs are some of the most ecologically important ecosystems. If the coastal cities set marine conservation goals to protect nature’s carbon-sinking mechanism, it can be the planet’s saving grace, thereby creating more coverage plans for marine protected areas.  These ecosystems not only provide a healthy lifestyle for aquatic habitats, but it also provides coastal protection against floods and storms. Thus, a symbiotic relationship is critical to creating a climate-resilient coastal city that is aesthetically beautiful and functionally durable.

Reference List:

Design for Heritage,‘Design for heritage’, Coastal cities and Landscape, Accessed 23 July 2023

Hamakareem M., ‘The Constructor’, Types of coastal protection structures and their details, Accessed 22 July 2023,to%20redirect%20rivers%20and%20streams.

MasterClass, 17 July 2021, ‘MasterClass : Articles’, Coastal Interior Design: 3 Styles of Coastal interior Design, Accessed 21 July 2023

Rasmussen E., 30 October 2021, ‘Making Adaptation Beautiful’, How to protect coastal cities in ways that are both robust and poetic, Accessed 22 July 2023

Scialabba N.,‘Issues, perspectives, policy and planning processes for integrated coastal area management’, The need for integrated coastal area management, Accessed 20 July 2023

United Nations, ‘United Nations Climate Action’, The ocean – the world’s greatest ally against climate change, Accessed 20 July 2023

Image 1 – Fotog, getty images,1 July 2018, Miami high-rises stretch along the florida Coastline

Image 2 – Roger Davies, 28 March 2016, Spanish Colonial – style home (Photograph)

Image 3  – Mammoth memory, Typical re-curved sea wall which turns the wave energy back on itself (Graphic image)

Image 4 – NOAA, 31 July 2020, Simplified description of a coastal carbon cycle (Graphic Image)


Sumin Bajracharya is a flamboyant architectural designer passionate about design and the wanderlust that comes with it. A nature lover and photography enthusiast who encapsulates the ambiguity of the world through his lens