Sophia Sufeng Xiao


Blurred Lines: From Fragmentation to the Common on Urban Coastal Edges

Advised by Craig Douglas

This thesis investigates how ecological and social agents can facilitate the blurring of urban edges, reverse the historical progress of urban fragmentation, and enrich culture and publicness in the Bronx, New York City. From the 1930s to 1960s, directed by Robert Moses, the government transformed streets into expressways, parcels into superblocks, and urban voids into single-function open spaces, shaping excessive amounts of edges and lines. The fragmentation enforced social divisions. It displaced the preexisting communities, segregated racial groups, and caused social vulnerabilities.

This project regards climate change and projected sea level rise as an opportunity to initiate the agenda of urban progress by blurring lines to reverse fragmentation. The ecology acts as a means to activate the blurring, mediating the edges with water and land. It encapsulates the social interventions that engage with multiple social groups to generate diverse eco-hydro-social conditions, gradually transforming the fragmented spaces into a common landscape.

Street map with topographic overlays and illustrations of trees and people. Labels include: hip hop art, community structures, maintenance, cultural events, marsh habitats, ecological magnetic education.

Black-and-white photo collage of residential city buildings and people in various activities, with an image of Yankee Stadium in the middle under the handwritten words, “Keepin’ It Bronx.”

Diagram showing map of The Bronx, NY, overlaid with a timeline of development history from 1870 - present.

Aerial map of The Bronx, NY showing locations of specific historical events.

Black-and-white photo collage and flow chart of historical events and challenges in The Bronx, NY.