Lexicon for a Synthetic Metamorphosis of the Coast


The Landlab team has been researching through design in different coastal environments for over ten years. This experience has been recently enriched with the doctoral thesis of Miriam García:  Towards the Synthetic Metamorphosis of the Coast. Designing Resilient Landscapes. The result of this investigation is a new visual alphabet that displays a set of tools for coastal landscapes  design, which is the germ of a Lexicon for a Synthetic Metamorphosis of the Coast in which we will continue working.

click on the following links to download the full size leafleft, to explore our youtube and vimeo channels, or just to read Miriam's doctoral thesis. We are constantly updating Landlab web, keep an eye on it. Here you have a link for the last intervention of Miriam García in ThinkCommons.  You may also contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 








We are living in an Era in which the nature, as a distinct archetype of the human, no longer exists. What ecology and geology define as Anthropocene, identifying global warming as its most emblematic crisis. How do we cope with a world where not only our physical environments are melting, but also our ideas of what those environments are? This question is even more evident in areas that had suffered the catastrophically effects of climate change, like coasts. In this challenging context, Miriam´s dissertation displays a set of tools for sediment plain, barrier and deltaic coasts. A new visual and conceptual alphabet depending on the coastal classification and its hazard levels. This is the precedent of the Lexicon for a Synthetic Metamorphosis of the Coast. A project that is going to be extended to coral islands, sloping hard rock, flat hard rock and slop soft rock coasts. This way the Lexicon will provide a worldwide typological and technological catalogue of strategies, structures and socio-ecological processes, materializing the metamorphosis of the coast, free from the metaphysical concept of a static nature that must be protected, that opens the door to the synthetic ecology of the design of resilient coastal landscapes.  


 And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!

I don’t know what you mean by “glory” --Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.

Of course, you don’t... till I tell you. I meant there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!

But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument” --Alice objected.

When I use a word --Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone-- it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

The question is --said Alice-- whether you can make words mean so many different things.

The question is --said Humpty Dumpty-- which is to be master, that’s all.

(Carrol, 1865).

Landscape architect Meto J. Vroom, used this extract from Alice through the looking glass as a preamble for his most published book: Lexicon of garden and landscape architecture (Vroom, 2006) A compendium of concepts related to landscape architecture and garden design chosen by Vroom after more than 30 years of experience as landscape researcher. Vroom reveals landscape architecture as a discipline with its own theoretical, historical, symbolic and iconographic frame setting.


The doctoral thesis of Miriam García, who obtained the distinction «Cum Laude», aims to modestly join the efforts to build the discipline while embracing Vroom’s work, circumscribed in this case to a new way of understanding and therefore working with the coastal landscape. For this reason, it is necessary to reformulate the theoretical framework on which the littoral planning is based today. As a result of this reformulation, special concepts arise which are directly linked to a vocabulary that is unknown in some cases and even inexistent in some others. This vocabulary collects the socio-ecological processes that will make possible the synthetic metamorphosis of the coast through the design of resilient landscapes. Prior to the physical metamorphosis of the coasts as a mechanism of resilient adaptation to the effects of climate change, it becomes essential to develope a conceptual metamorphosis supported by its own semantics, generated through design. Because both technical and scientific languages remain always alive. Their evolution has addressed their own adaptation to different contexts and societies along the centuries, shaping the substrate of its culture.

It is necessary to indicate that, when developing the cases study of this investigation (winner proposals from Rebuild by Design Competition and Changing Course Competition) in two different types of coast (low sloping sedimentary coast and delta coast), the large families of landscape typologies (synthetic) are similar. 
These families can be at the same time (according to the analyzed coastal typologies) divided into components that maintain a relationship with the hazards/effects of climate change.
The classification of this sort of components deals with the coastal characterization described in The Coastal Hazard Wheel system (CHW) (Rosendahl Appelquist, 2013).

The investigation has allowed us to show not only the components but also the needed materials to design synthetic metamorphosis along the coastline. From then on, it is possible to recognize the fine details, the distinctive enhancements inside the different proposals that conform the new coastal lexicon. But of course, we are only in front of a sample, a portion of this new vocabulary that is yet to be fully developed. It may seem easy to understand, but in actual fact, it is not if we consider the infinite dynamic connections between communities and places.

However, all of them can be grouped into four large families that can work in a complementary way or fluctuate in space and time, depending on the contexts.