The Human Body as a Sensory Design Tool to Advance Understanding of Coastal Landscapes Changes

  • Carola Wingren



 As the world’s climate changes and becomes warmer, the sea level is rising and affects the coasts globally (Church et al, 2013). One area where its impact is especially evident is southern Sweden, where land uplift is almost absent and where commitment and preparedness among authorities to adapt to these rising sea levels are limited. In a search for complementary strategies to enhance the work for climate adaptation, alternative methods have been tested in collaborative work with a choreographer and groups of Master’s students in landscape design, where the students used their bodies to express landscape dynamics, principles for protection or interaction with the sea and their own understanding of a future changed meaning and identity within the coastal landscape. In one of the choreographed, design-driven movement workshops, the students walked the high-water line as it appears on maps and, with other movements, they integrated the dynamics of the sea and its confrontation with coastal life.

The challenging and tentative work, conceptualised as ‘reflective motion’, ended in a public performance where the students identified and dramatised threats, reconciliation and possibilities for change in relation to future sea-level rise on the site. The performance took place along a 2-kilometre stretch and concluded with a public discussion in the library. The method seemed to be useful and complementary to other methods; by ‘blurring’ the static high-water line in favour of a more complex understanding; by being an interactive tool between the researcher, the designer, the choreographer and a coastal society (Germundsson and Wingren, 2017); by developing a ‘value action’ or a common language of environmental awareness (Hirsch, 2016); and by giving space for emotional expressions and mourning related to loss of landscapes, landscape identity and meaning (Cunsolo Willox, 2012). The results indicate that ‘reflective motion’ is a method that can be investigated further as a platform for better-informed design and as a forum where local people and authorities can meet to share their landscape knowledge.