Tsunami defences are usually massive walls built from reinforced concrete and steel, but in this case a specially designed forest was the solution to protect the Chilean city of Constitución.
In 2010, Chile was hit by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in history. Subsequently, a huge tsunami ripped through the coastal city of Constitutión – destroying everything else that the earthquake hadn’t already. Faced with the enormous task of rebuilding an entire city, architecture firm Elemental had two big questions to answer. How can we secure the city from future natural disasters, and how can we redesign the city to improve life for our citizens?
The architects had only 100 days to come up with a solution. They quickly came up with a number of ideas based on strategies that other cities has used, but none seemed to entirely fit the context, as they couldn’t meet the needs of the city, nor provide enough protection should another disaster occur.
Finally, the brilliant idea of a strategically planted forest was introduced. While it may not stop a tsunami entirely, experts estimated that the forest would weaken it by around 40-70%. Aside from this potentially life-saving function, the wooded area would also absorb all the minor flooding from the rain the area receives several times a year. Furthermore, a public forest would also improve the citizens access to the coastal strip of the River Maule – a crucial part of the cities identity.
Via a voting process, citizens of Constitución identified the forest to be the best solution among a number of others. Currently, the selected woods are being developed to determine which will be the best for planting.