Extreme weather impacts multiple Midwest sites


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


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Severe flooding and shoreline erosion, brought on by a Spring that saw historic amounts of rain throughout the Midwest, has highlighted the vulnerability of cultural sites to extreme weather and the effects of climate change. 

In Beverly Shores, Indiana, the Florida Tropical House, as well as other buildings along the shoreline, are threatened by extensive erosion that is edging dangerously closer. 

The 100-year flooding events that Mies van der Rohe and Dr. Edith Farnsworth considered when siting her now famous home along the Fox River have become more and more regular occurrences, with dramatic images to accompany the event. The Farnsworth House undertook a Flood Mitigation Project in 2013 to address the issue, which determined that a hydraulics system to raise the building during floods was the most promising solution. 

Severe flooding caused two damns to fail in Midland County, and residents of the surrounding communities were told to evacuate, including the midcentury mecca of Midland, which was just featured in our Regional Spotlight on Modernism Series earlier this month. Some estimates are that the towns could be under 9 feet of water. The extent of the damage has yet to be determined. 

And in what is hopefully the final dramatic turn this week, flooding in downtown Chicago caused the Sears Tower to lose power. 

These events highlight the need for all historic sites, including modern ones, whether coastal or not, to consider the impacts of climate change and determine possible mitigation steps. 

Earlier this year, Docomomo US signed on as an endorsing organization of the Climate Heritage Network, and is currently considering how we can deploy the goals of this agreement in our ongoing programming.