Le Jardin de bord de mer

Ste-Flavie, Québec

The Saint Lawrence River estuary and the adaptive capacity of plant life. Sponsored by Les Jardins de Métis in cooperation with the municipality of Sainte-Flavie.

Part of the forthcoming book Landscapes of Retreat                       [K. Verlag, Berlin]


This project addresses the retreat of communities away from the shoreline by valuing the land that is left behind. In particular, it addresses extreme shoreline erosion by relying on the adaptive capacity of plant life. Many shoreline plants modify their structure to changing conditions by strengthening their connection to the soil. In this way, the landscape of retreat celebrates change by transforming privately abandoned lots into vibrant public spaces. We envision an inclusive fabric that transforms the entire shoreline and strengthens it for an uncertain future.

Ce projet aborde l’exode des communautés du bord de mer en revalorisant les terrains qu’elles laissent en arrière, les « Landscapes of Retreat ». En particulier, il s’attaque à l’érosion extrême des berges en s’appuyant sur la capacité d’adaptation de la vie végétale. Plusieurs plantes du littoral adaptent leur structure aux conditions changeantes en renforçant leur connexion au sol. « Landscapes of Retreat » célèbre le changement en transformant des terrains privés abandonnés en lieux publics dynamiques. Nous imaginons un aménagement inclusif qui transforme tout le bord de mer et le renforce en vue d’un futur incertain.


Accepting a transitional shoreline means understanding that the living environment is, in increasingly important ways, asking how to shape the shoreline rather than how to preserve it. Designing a series of forests in lieu of restoring existing, fragile ecology forces a consideration of how the environment is valued and managed. In this case, deliberate species selection realizes the potential of plants to shape the environment, providing a foundation to develop a design that can be manipulated and measured alongside other, more typical construction materials.

Accepter un bord de mer en transition signifie comprendre que, de manière de plus en plus importante, l’environnement vivant qui nous entoure nous demande de savoir comment façonner le littoral plutôt que comment le préserver. Concevoir une série de forêts au lieu d’essayer de restaurer une écologie existante déjà fragile oblige à prendre en compte la manière dont l’environnement est valorisé et géré. Dans le cas présent, la sélection minutieuse et bien pesée des espèces végétales permet de tirer parti du potentiel des plantes pour façonner l’environnement, et sert de fondation à un design qui pourra être manipulé et mesuré en parallèle à d’autres matériaux de construction plus typiques.


Landscape of Retreat

Site included in the forthcoming book Landscapes of Retreat


Landscapes of Retreat offers a portrait of adaptation, established through fieldwork across exemplary sites and communities living with risk. The publication seeks to creatively refine the idea of ‘retreat’ by examining select, precedent-setting sites. Because the term poses more questions than it answers, it is important to understand what retreat is not: it is not nostalgia for sobering events, and it is not a last resort. Instead, the articulation of retreat offers a framework for attending to the radical difference between accepting norms and refusing to be stuck in their game.

The difference opens the possibility for adaptive stories to register with a concerned public, as an alternative to global-integration strategies that insist on rebuilding on otherwise vulnerable land.  Landscapes of Retreat is a primer for advancing planetary strategies that are not limited by citizenship or geography, and engage changing biophysical, ecological and cultural processes equally.

Over forty retreat cases structure the book. Sunken Ancient Egyptian cities that once occupied the unstable shorelines of the Nile’s estuary, nomadic patterns transformed by the climatic shifts of the Little Ice Age in Greenland, the birth of a volcano in Mexico and the move from water to land of boat-dwellers in the lagoonal landscapes of Vietnam are some of the cases that build an expanded imagination around retreat.

Fieldwork was conducted across four exemplary sites and communities that acknowledge the recurrence of vulnerability or the augmentation of risk and have taken action—independent from mainstream policy—to move out of harm’s way. The basic theoretical and practical parameters of moving accepts the fluctuations of landscape and reacts in response. The research that emerges highlights the land that is ‘left behind’ as humans resettle on higher, drier ground. The Landscapes of Retreat expands how creative disciplines can grow their response strategies in collaboration with the changing landscape.