Brief

The Emerald Tutu is an NSF-funded research project working to design and implement biomass-based coastal protection infrastructure for urban areas such as East Boston, Massachusetts. A floating network of interconnected, anchored massive organic growing modules dampens wave energy and reduces flooding, storm damage, and erosion on shore while improving nearshore water quality. These biomass modules are seeded with marsh grass at the surface, and are home to many seaweeds below the waterline, all of which add significant mass and frictional surface area and provide habitat for many types of creatures, human and non-human.

Origins

In 1878, the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted began the design of the 1,100-acre connected park system in Boston known as the Emerald Necklace. He envisioned it as a collective space where inhabitants of the crowded, chaotic city could find healthy activity and mental solace. A series of pleasant public spaces brought nature back to the city, where it could be enjoyed by all. But, as a system, it also solved major drainage challenges of an industrializing city, and it integrated transit while balancing residential development. 140 years later, a group of friends from MIT took this same approach to solve a contemporary coastal urban problem with nature, collectivity, and resilience. As a part of an effort to radically redefine the way we as a society approach urban-scale problems and infrastructural solutions, they included a bit more seapunk and a lot more drag…

Mission

The goal of the Emerald Tutu is to provide a climate resilience infrastructure solution that is deployable, flexible, inexpensive, green, non-invasive, and a joy to experience. As is abundantly clear in our era, “gray infrastructure” coastal barriers and other traditional coastal engineering approaches are ineffective and even harmful, both ecologically and economically. Civil infrastructure for climate resilience should be accessible to all people, encouraging everyday use and environmental benefits as well as protection during catastrophic storms. Furthermore, it should economically empower local populations during its implementation and upkeep.

Team

Gabriel Cira

Gabriel Cira

Project Lead

Gabriel is a licensed architect based in Massachusetts. He has brought the project from the initial idea through multiple awards and grants to its present NSF-funded R&D activities and strong community links. Gabriel is active in local politics and advocacy in the Boston area, including the discourse on city-wide adaptation to climate change. He teaches the longstanding Architecture of Boston course at MassArt, which connects cooperative infrastructure history with the future of climate resilience. Growing up on Cape Cod, Gabriel has been a sailor since he was 5 years old. Other current ARCH CIRA projects include building a geothermal greenhouse for an urban farm, restoring a historic 1886 Black church, and working with The Architecture Lobby’s Coop Network group.

Dr. Julia Hopkins

Dr. Julia Hopkins

Coastal Hydrology Expert

Julia is an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Northeastern University. Her lab, the Coastal Urban Resilience and Environmental Solutions (CURES) lab, leverages field observations, numerical models, and targeted lab experiments to investigate how waves and tidal currents impact natural and urban shorelines. Prior to joining Northeastern, Julia was a postdoctoral associate at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where she worked on sand-based natural solutions for the sinking Dutch coastline. scientific experience combining field, lab, and numerical experiments brings high-level hydrology and coastal simulation capabilities to the team. Julia was receiving her PhD from the MIT-WHOI joint Program in 2018 when she joined the Emerald Tutu team as a founding member.

Louiza Wise

Louiza Wise

Ecological Engineer

Louiza is a recent graduate from Northeastern University with a degree in Environmental Engineering. As a student she was involved in many engineering- and community-focused activities including research on the ability of constructed wetlands to improve water quality. Louiza grew up in Cleveland, Ohio boarding both Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River where issues of water quality are ever-present in public discourse. She joined the Emerald Tutu in 2021, bringing her project leadership experience as well as industry experience with constructed wetlands and their impact on natural environments.

Dr. Nicholas Lutsko

Dr. Nicholas Lutsko

Climate Scientist

Nick is an assistant professor of Climate Science at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research combines theory, numerical modeling and observations to understand the changing circulation of Earth’s atmosphere, and study the climate system holistically in order to better predict how it will respond to rising CO2 concentrations. He leads the development of network scale models for the Emerald Tutu to study how a floating biomass network can be used to attenuate wave energy. Nick was a postdoctoral associate at MIT (2017-19) when he joined the Emerald Tutu team as a founding member.

Contact

Reach out at emerald.tutu@gmail.com