How Hurricane Sandy helped us plan for the future
Pratt Institute President Frances Bronet on creative education through crisis.
On Oct. 29, 2012, the lights went off in Brooklyn, and water filled the streets. In the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, we learned resilience and resourcefulness, both as individuals and as communities. We also learned that our neighbors and local organizations are first responders. Enduring this defining storm–wind damage, flooding, power outages, and other harm–changed the way we all think about significant weather events accelerated by the climate crisis. And this knowledge has shaped policy and culture in New York City for the past decade.
As climate change becomes an increasingly felt reality across the globe, collaboration across generations, industries, and communities is the only path forward. At Pratt Institute, I’ve witnessed the power of creative, interdisciplinary thinking that responds to local needs and imagines better systems for disaster response in Brooklyn and beyond.
Empowering the next generation of leaders to create a better future for their neighbors begins in the studio and the classroom and takes shape through immersive, hands-on collaboration. We’ve gathered students and faculty to share what they’ve learned about the crises impacting our communities and how they have mobilized to build a more resilient and sustainable New York. On the anniversary of this devastating storm and with an eye towards an unpredictable future, we wanted to share a few lessons from our city and from each other over the past decade.
First things first, people need housing. By taking a global view and partnering with experts, we can help disaster victims now and in the future.
When a storm surge strikes, the most vulnerable populations are often disproportionately impacted. In Emergency Housing–an interdisciplinary course with an accompanying exhibition–architecture, interior design, and industrial design students at Pratt analyzed the growing number and intensity of natural disasters, the toll each takes, where they most frequently occur, and how various countries have approached the necessary damage control. In collaboration with mentors (some with experience at FEMA), designers, and fabricators, they designed a community for housing disaster victims that could be installed within a week’s time, support community needs, remain in place for 18-30 months, and be restored and ready for the next disaster. It is this kind of global, multidisciplinary, and nimble approach that will best serve communities in these times of need moving forward.