Six Feet Under #1: Boston
Posted by
Washington, DC 
Joined May 7, '17 

Seasoned lurker here, but don’t get me wrong; I love this community and I’ve learned so much from you. I finally have something I’m really proud of that’s made out of Proofgrade materials, so I wanted to share it. It’s the first in a series called Six Feet Under in which I’m visualizing a worst-case scenario sea-level rise by 2100 in American cities. This is Boston. The light blue is the original/current coastline and shows the projected inundated vs. dry areas.

full copy


Last summer, I was playing with NOAA’s sea-level rise viewer and turned it all the way up. I was shocked at the potential devastation and wanted to make art about it, then thought wait… this seems improbable and alarmists get dismissed. So I researched feasible worst-case scenarios from sources such as the UN, Nature Communications, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and 2 m by 2100 is within the realm of possibility.

However, the GIS data from NOAA are only available in whole-foot increments so I rounded down to be conservative. Annnd I only make bad jokes, hence the title of the series. Once I had my number I poked around the coast and chose cities where the loss felt like a punch in the gut. While there are a number of digital avenues I considered to communicate this, I thought laser-cut maps were the best way to go. They’re nostalgic and tangible so I wanted to play off of that.

I had to seriously clean up the data in Illustrator to make them laser-friendly and chose my scale and level of detail based off of what wouldn’t fall through the crumb tray immediately, wouldn’t get burnt to a crisp, and wouldn’t be too fragile to handle. If you’re familiar with the city you’ll see I excluded most of the bridges as the interactive portrayed them as inundated. I also did not research elevation for bridges, ramps, and overpasses, but instead treated all roads as if they were at ground level.

I have juuust enough plywood to do Charleston next in this style since it’s sold out for the moment, then I think I’ll move onto other techniques unless it gets back in stock. And if it helps anyone, I framed it with Tru Vue Optium museum acrylic, it’s pretty incredible stuff and most of the time you can’t tell its there at all so the depth gets preserved without glare.

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