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Keeping Current: A Sea Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami  was a series of open design competitions inviting interdisciplinary teams to develop solutions and ideas using the lenses of economy, ecology, and equity to adapt to sea level rise.

Van Alen Institute worked with local municipalities in the greater Miami area, along with elected officials, academics, business leaders, community advocates, and residents.

Photo: Scott McIntyre

The South Florida region has become emblematic of the threats associated with climate change. Even on sunny days, the streets regularly flood at high tide. Just three feet of sea level rise would leave a substantial part of South Florida underwater. New ideas for the built environment, regional development, and opportunities for all of the region’s six million residents are urgently needed. The region must transform its infrastructure to protect everything from drinking water to homes and business from rising seas.

In recognition of the magnitude of these challenges, Van Alen Institute initiated Keeping Current to enhance resiliency in the greater Miami area and create visionary and implementable design solutions to sea level rise.

This report summarizes the work and lessons learned during our time in South Florida and acknowledges all the collaborators who played an instrumental role in Keeping Current.

Keeping Current External Summary




North Miami is one of the most flood-prone communities in Miami-Dade County. In collaboration with the City of North Miami, Van Alen Institute launched this design competition to reimagine public uses for flood-prone vacant lots—also known as repetitive loss (RL) properties.



This design challenge, in partnership with the City of Miami, sought to identify an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, and city makers to develop a replicable climate adaptive schematic design and master plan to reduce flood risk and minimize the impacts of rising sea levels on the park.



Keeping Current Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2018. Photo: Scott McIntyre

In collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and The CLEO Institute, this paid three-week program engaged 19 high school students ages 16 and older in a competition to research, design, and develop forward-thinking solutions to climate change.



Keeping Current Climate Leadership Workshop. December 14, 2019. Photo: Scott McIntyre

On December 16 and 17, 2019, regional leaders in design, government, development, and community engagement gathered for a design-thinking workshop to help create tools and solutions that better advance climate-adaptive design.



Press Coverage

Keeping Current kicked off with a one-day research summit in Miami, engaging over 30 scientists, researchers, designers, and other experts to identify promising approaches to key challenges in the region. Attendees also discussed future research, resources, and policies that are needed for the region to adapt to climate change in ways that promote ecology, economy, and equity.

With over one billion dollars in infrastructure spending planned in the region, it’s vital to think about what this could mean and how it can benefit communities. The summit engaged local academics at the University of Florida, University of Miami, Florida International University, and Florida Atlantic University who are leading the way in discovering and identifying the myriad of causes and effects of sea level rise in South Florida and beyond.

Building from their research and the work of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, the summit advanced the conversation on resilient design solutions. We’ve compiled notes from summit discussions, interviews, and additional research into the Keeping Current Resource Guide.

The Keeping Current Resource Guide is intended for design teams applying to the project’s competitions or working on future infrastructure projects in the region—in particular, those who are not familiar with the South Florida region.

The Resource Guide shares information on various local approaches to climate change adaptation and gathers together reports, articles, online mapping tools, and other information that can inform teams’ work. The Resource Guide is intended to offer a user-friendly survey of resources and a starting point for exploration and understanding of the region.


Research Team
About Us

We can’t do this project alone, and we are incredibly grateful to have the following individuals advise us on the project’s development:

At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross disciplinary research, provocative public programs and inventive design competitions.

Through our projects in some of the most vulnerable areas on the planet, we’ve witnessed the devastating effects of climate change and sea-level rise. We’ve also observed firsthand the willingness–and even enthusiasm–achieved when communities come together to develop creative solutions for protecting their cities. It is this enthusiasm and willingness to stimulate change that brought us to South Florida.

Keeping Current is spearheaded by Van Alen Institute, and is part of our broader inquiry into how communities are impacted by climate change, and how community engagement practices can be redefined, also explored in such initiatives as: Shore to Core, a design and research competition to reimagine downtown West Palm Beach as a dynamic, resilient waterfront city; Crossroads Conversations, a public program series that invites passersby from all walks of life and political convictions to engage in thoughtful dialogue on some of the most pressing issues of our time in iconic public spaces; and Rebuild by Design, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region and developing fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.

For press information, please contact Kokei Otosi, Project Manager at kotosi@vanalen.org

The press release can be found here.


The Rockefeller Foundation

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot–or will not. For more information, please visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved 474 grants totaling $141.5 million and made 14 social-investment commitments totaling $50.8 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.

Since 1967, The Miami Foundation has used civic leadership, community investment and philanthropy to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls Greater Miami home. We partner with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 1,000 personalized, philanthropic Funds. Thanks to them, we have awarded over $250 million in grants and currently manage more than $300 million in assets to build a better Miami. As the Foundation marks our 50th anniversary, we are celebrating great Miamians who have championed what matters to them, encouraging all residents to share their Miami stories and unite around the causes they care about. For more information, please visit https://miamifoundation.org.


Keeping Current is sponsored by Target.


Terra is an integrated development firm in South Florida focused on creating sustainable, design-oriented communities that enhance neighborhoods and bring people together.