5.3 Shortfalls of Urban Seascaping
[M]any landscape architectural assignments have to respond to a higher degree of unpredictability and thus need other types of design directives... However to study design directives for entirely new conditions, rigorous research through design is required to explore the breadth of future design possibilities beyond the precedents. Apart from that, designers in practice are increasingly urged to legitimize their design decisions towards a critical public. This requires conscientious designing and rigorous testing of design alternatives.
Sanda Lenzholzer, Steffen Nijhuis and João Antunes Granadeiro Cortesão, Research Through Design in Landscape Architecture: a first State of the Art
(Lenzholzer, Nijhuis and Cortesão, 2018, p.2).
Urban Seascaping encompasses many aspects covered in this research, be it from an epistemological perspective, a critical stance against the status quo of urban development in coastal cities, or a proposition to guide the mappings as a curatorial and analytical tool. However, it runs the danger of simultaneously encompassing everything and thus not being specific enough to distinguish anything. In the process of the research, I found it difficult to balance between the act of giving room for my conceptual propositions to be general enough to be applied in different contexts whilst also not being too broad, meaning that it might fail to offer concrete prescriptions in particular cases, making little less than a reductive to-do checklist. That being said, suggesting some generalisable “solutions” from a specific case study finding is an immense undertaking, and I am certain that Urban Seascaping has not escaped the pitfalls of these all too familiar shortcomings. However, I also recognise the importance of having an initial framework for thinking and doing, such as Urban Seascaping, that at least attempts to encompass a higher degree of unpredictability, complexity and plurality when dealing with the issues around climate change and more-than-human entanglements with urban development. I argue that USS has served its purpose in this research for the context of Vejle (East Jutland), but by no means universally applicable. Moreover, Urban Seascaping is by no means perfect or finished. It is an ongoing process contributing to the emerging fields of Blue urbanism (Beatley, 2014), Coastal Urbanism (Segal and Drake, 2021), Marine landscape architecture (Sørensen, 2020), and other urban landscape practices.
All the while, in the current age of information, which is characterised by increasing complexity, the relationships that Urban Seascaping seeks to map need to be communicated in a manner that people (i.e. different stakeholders) can relate to and easily understand without oversimplification. It is the biggest challenge of our times as researchers in the field of “green transition” to work with immense transdisciplinary complexity while being able to disseminate that knowledge to the wider community. I tried to ensure that the research was as clear and transparent as possible in navigating through the complexities and addressing the reasons why Urban Seascaping took the form it did as one approach to moving past B-A-U practices. In the future, these overwhelming complexities may become more sophisticated, familiar or easy to navigate. At such a moment, the proposition of Urban Seascaping may no longer serve its purpose as an alternative way to think differently but constitute the B-A-U urban developments at the coast. Furthermore, I had concerns about whether USS is the most appropriate term or perhaps the term has run out of steam throughout this research. My limited capacity to engage with the more “enchanting” narratives, such as the Māori people’s model of stewardship/guardianship, to represent the more-than-humans as a human ambassador and how this type of model could influence spatial design outcomes. Issues surrounding ethics and legal frameworks (i.e. Right to Nature) are incredibly complex, and thus, the ethical components of the Urban Seascaping proposition are not without weaknesses and fallacies. It is a task that would benefit from collaborations with lawyers (planners), local communities, philosophers and social scientists. Inputs from these disciplines would also have influenced this research in another direction, different from my close workings with marine biologists.
Moreover, collaborating with marine biologists was challenging to integrate knowledge that was radically new to me. Working with high levels of disciplinary entanglements made it challenging to regulate the different levels of complexity sufficiently enough to be relevant for this research. For instance, how much transdisciplinary knowledge needs to be synthesised? At what point does the complexity become an unnecessary level of depth that is irrelevant to stakeholders? (such as practitioners or municipal members). Therefore, it is important to stress that the intention of the Kumu mapping tool is not for stakeholders to create a replica of their corresponding context but as a way to be aware of these complexities at play and as a tool to think with when making decisions when considering marine realm into the development of the coast.
 In reference to the statement by Jane Bennett (2001), “it is hard to love a disenchanted world”.
 It would be unrealistic to expect municipalities or practitioners to repeat the level of depth I explored in this research – even the multi-scalar site analysis.