The first successful cross-disciplinary research activity between the Digital Cultural Heritage and Climate communities that capitalised on recourses offered by the VI-SEEM project was recently exhibited at a popular international venue. The Seoul International Biennale on Architecture & Urbanism is a large-scale public event that addresses themes of particular relevance to urban settings on a global scale. This exhibition is organized by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Design Foundation and is expected to receive 4m visitors over the course of its duration. Titled “Imminent Commons”, the exhibition is co-directed by Hyungmin Pai, acclaimed architectural historian, critic, alumnus of MIT who is currently teaching at the Seoul National University, Korea and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, the award-winning architect and tenured Professor at Princeton University, U.S.A. From September 1 to November 5, 2017, the Biennale will provide a forum for debate to policy makers, experts and citizens at large. Centred on the thematic of nine Commons and four resources "Water, Air, Energy, Earth", the Biennale is organized along two major sections, the Thematic Exhibitions and the Cities exhibition that invites 50 major cities from across the globe.

Following the UN’s World Urbanization Prospect Report of 2014, 54% of the world’s population now live in metropolitan areas. By 2050, this percentage will increase to 86% in advanced countries, and 64% in developing nations. Already now, the MENA region, renown for its wealth of cultural heritage, ancient civilizations’ monuments and major sociocultural developments during medieval and early modern times, is experiencing a high degree of urbanization. The region saw a 400% growth in urban structures during 1970 to 2010. It is expected that over the next 40 years there will be an additional 200% growth of larger cites. Thus, the aforementioned sustainability challenges are of particular relevance to the MENA regions and its larger urban structures, including the rich in heritage cities of eastern Mediterranean region, such as Nicosia. Climate change will have particularly strong manifestations in the lived experience of urban settings (e.g., Lelieveld et al., 20141), and will pose great challenges to the material integrity as well as use of built heritage in these environments.

Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus and the only major inland city of this Eastern Mediterranean island has been continuously inhabited for over 4500 years. Estimated to become a climate change ‘hotspot’ in the foreseeable future, the people of this city already face the effects of the region’s changing weather patterns and climate trends. Recognizing the need to prepare for a range of extreme conditions has become crucial, as projected changes will bring a higher number of extreme weather events, which are expected to threaten the rich heritage of the city. This includes prolonged heat waves with enhance urban warming, urban flooding from high-intensity rainstorms, and deteriorating air quality due to atmospherically transported desert dust from North Africa or the Arabian Peninsula and pollutant influx from neighbouring Mediterranean countries in the north and west.

The presented collaborative research activity involves an interactive audiovisual exhibit of immersive simulations that illustrate possible futures of this city, visualising forthcoming conditions of heat, dust and floods using scientific data of climate observations and (computationally) simulated projections. The long-term objective of this activity is to contribute towards the achievement of an integrated climate change adaptation strategy for all of the evolving ‘hot spot’ cities of the region, and to safeguard the well-being of people living in these locations including both their social structures and the conservation of the built environment.

Figure 1. Visualization of the extreme dust event that took place on September 8, 2015 as seen in virtual reality using Nicosia simulation model.


Georgios Artopoulos, Theodoros Christoudias, Panayiotis Charalambous, Colter Wehmeier, Charalambos Ioannou, Charis Iacovou, Harry Varnava, Adriana Bruggeman, Panos Hadjinicolaou, Katerina Charalambous, Jonilda Kushta