Too Big: Rebuild by Design’s Transformative Response to Climate Change

Book launch hosted by LSE Cities

How will society confront climate change? Faced with rising sea levels and more powerful storms, what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future.

Too Big tells the inside story of the American federal response in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The late 2012 storm that ravaged the New York-New Jersey region revealed the true physical and social vulnerabilities that all coastal cities face from sea level rise and extreme weather events. It underscored the need for fundamentally different approaches to create more resilient cities and coastlines.

President Obama took on this challenge through an innovative, inclusive design process called Rebuild by Design: confronting established federal, state and local practices, championed by Henk Ovink, the Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs who joined the American recovery effort.

In this book, Ovink and Jelte Boeijenga, together with Rebuild by Design’s key partners, give a firsthand account of this process: building coalitions and creating innovative solutions by running an intense international design effort in the aftermath of a devastating storm. Analysing the competition’s groundbreaking formula for bringing all stakeholders to the heart of resilience planning, Too Big presents governments and communities an approach to become more responsive, more effective and more prepared in the face of climate change.

Photo courtesy: New Jersey Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen

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    Henk Ovink

    Henk Ovink is the first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, a position he was appointed to by the Dutch Cabinet in 2015. As the Ambassador for Water, he is responsible for advocating water awareness around the world, focusing on building institutional capacity and coalitions amongst governments, multilateral organisations, private sector and NGOs to address the world's needs on water and help develop innovative solutions. Henk is also Sherpa on the UN & World Bank High Level Panel on Water. Henk is also Principal for Rebuild by Design, the resilience innovation competition he developed and led for the US Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force where he was Senior Advisor to the Chair. Previously, Henk was Director General for Planning and Water Affairs and Director for National Spatial Planning for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.

    Philipp Rode

    Philipp Rode is Executive Director of LSE Cities and Associate Professorial Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. As researcher, consultant and advisor he has been directing interdisciplinary projects comprising urban governance, transport, city planning and urban design at the LSE since 2003. The focus of his current work is on institutional structures and governance capacities of cities, and on sustainable urban development, transport and mobility. Rode is co-directing the cities workstream of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and has co-led the United Nations Habitat III Policy Unit on Urban Governance. He is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

    Jo da Silva

    Jo da Silva is a Director at Arup where she leads Arup International Development, which she founded in 2007. Having studied engineering at the University of Cambridge, she began her career working in central India before joining Arup as a graduate engineer in 1989.