Publish and Present
The urban waterfronts in the United States are largely characterized by hard shoreline walls of steel, concrete, timber, and stone. Though this construction maximizes area of usable property, it impairs natural ecosystems and further separates urban communities from the natural environment. On behalf of the National Aquarium (USA), and in collaboration with other design consultants, the authors are working to transform the highly urbanized canal between two piers in Baltimore, Maryland into a floating wetlands habitat. When complete, the installation will be the first floating wetlands system of this scale in the United States. The 15,000 square foot floating wetland will provide habitat for numerous native species including crabs, mussels, wading birds waterfowl, eels, and other fish species, while allowing visitors a unique perspective of the salt marsh habitat of the Chesapeake Bay. Though small-scale floating wetlands have been installed in the Baltimore harbor in the past, their maintenance and short service lives have been hindrances to their widespread use. This floating wetland design facilitates maintenance activities and extends the service life of the wetland indefinitely through use of inert plastic materials and an adjustable buoyancy system to counteract the accumulation of marine growth. This design solution blurs the boundaries between natural and structured urban environments, showing they can coexist and flourish together.
This paper explains how large scale floating wetlands can benefit and be applied to hardened urban waterfronts, using the case studies of floating wetland installations in Baltimore. It contains data from the construction and deployment of a prototype of the new wetland, and how prototype information is being leveraged to complete the final large scale design of buoyancy, structural, mechanical, and environmental systems.