Rising Seas and Storm Surges: Climate Change and the Future of Coastal Heritage

An On My Watch Event

Coastal zones are among the most dynamic and volatile environments on the planet. They also include some of our most treasured heritage sites. As the rate of climate change accelerates, addressing its impacts–from rising sea levels to coastal erosion–poses the greatest and most complex challenge that coastal heritage sites have ever faced. 

But while these challenges are exceptional, they are not unique. Coastal processes have shaped shorelines and communities around the world for millions of years. By sharing their experiences and knowledge, the people and places who face similar challenges can improve their ability to adapt, learn, and build resilience. From New York City, USA, to Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania, this event will consider the tools and principles that can be developed to guide the future of coastal heritage around the world–including the construction of sea defenses, citizen science initiatives, digital storytelling, and more.

Guest speakers will feature Vanessa Keith, registered architect and the Principal of Studioteka, Dr. Rohit Jigyasu, Project Manager, Urban Heritage, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management at ICCROM, and Rob Woodside, Conservation and Estates Director at English Heritage. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Alexander J. Kent, WMF Britain Coastal Connections Lead. 

Time: 11:00 am ET
Date: Thursday, December 7, 2023

This event has already taken place.

Pictured above: Waves from Storm Ciarán near Folkestone, England (Roger Stanger Photography)

About the Speakers

Vanessa Keith

Founder and Principal, Studioteka

Vanessa Keith, MArch, MIA, is a licensed architect and the Principal of Studioteka, an award-winning design firm she founded in 2003. Based in New York, Studioteka approaches design through a multidisciplinary lens spanning architecture and technology, economic and social development, and urban and environmental concerns. Keith's work has been featured in design publications such as Metropolis, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Frame, Hinge and more, as well as in numerous print and media interviews. She is also the winner of a 2023 Sachs Program for Art Innovation Grant at the University of Pennsylvania, where she will lead a series of workshops as a visiting artist in residence.

Keith is especially interested in visionary solutions to the issues faced by cities as they adapt to climate change, as well as in design-oriented technical and engineering responses to environmental challenges. Her book, 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, develops case studies of 14 cities around the world in 2100, employing emerging tech and innovative techniques to tackle the climate crisis. Her passion for climate action and research interests in eco-, Afro-and Indigenous futurism have led her to harness the immersive power of VR and AR to create life-affirming, socially just, and sustainable tomorrows. Year 2180, a VR game in-development inspired by the book, is featured on Netflix, The Future of Skyscrapers and recently won the 2023 Sundance Stars Collective Imagination Award. 


Rohit Jigyasu

Project Manager, Urban Heritage, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management Programme Unit, International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) 

Dr. Rohit Jigyasu is a conservation architect and risk management professional serving as Project Manager on Urban Heritage, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management at ICCROM. Jigyasu previously served as UNESCO Chair at the Ritsumeikan University Institute for Disaster Mitigation of Urban Cultural Heritage in Japan. He was elected President of ICOMOS-India from 2014–2018 and of ICOMOS’s International Scientific Committee on Risk Preparedness from 2010–2019. A Member of ICOMOS’s Executive Committee since 2011, he served as its vice president from 2017–2020. Rohit previously worked with organizations including UNESCO, UNISDR, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the World Bank.


Rob Woodside

Director of Conservation and Estates, English Heritage

Rob Woodside is Director of Conservation and Estates at English Heritage, responsible for the conservation and maintenance of the National Heritage Collection, which includes 420 of the most significant historic properties in England. He has a strong interest in climate change issues and the implications for heritage conservation, and initiated the Coastal Connections project in partnership with World Monuments Fund Britain. Woodside has also advised the British Council, ICCROM, Global Heritage Fund, Turquoise Mountain, and the Centre for Historic Houses of India.


Portrait by Tom Keenan.

Alexander J. Kent, Ph.D.

Coastal Connections Lead, WMF Britain

Alex joined World Monuments Fund Britain in 2023 to lead the Coastal Connections Project, a joint venture with English Heritage to share expertise and best practice in addressing impacts of climate change on coastal heritage sites around the world. A geographer with a global profile in geospatial sciences and cartography, he brings over two decades of interdisciplinary experience in university teaching, publishing and research. A Fellow of the British Cartographic Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Society of Antiquaries, he is also Senior Research Associate at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (University of Oxford) and Honorary Reader in Cartography and Geographic Information Science at Canterbury Christ Church University.

About Coastal Connections

Established in 2023 following the inclusion of Hurst Castle, UK, on the World Monuments Watch, the Coastal Connections program is a joint initiative between World Monuments Fund (WMF) and English Heritage to form a global network of coastal heritage sites by bringing together communities and organizations to share their knowledge and expertise. 

Global in scope, the project will enable custodians of coastal heritage sites around the world to learn from each other. You can get involved by visiting wmf.org/coastal-connections.