Boston Coastline: Future Past

Art & Design, Data Visualization, Walking

A walking data visualization exploring the past and future of sea level rise.

Boston Coastline: Future Past was a “walking data visualization” in which 30 participants traced a route from Boston’s historical coastline in 1630 to its predicted coastline in 2100, based on flood models published by climate scientists working with the Boston Harbor Association that estimate sea level rise due to extreme weather.

Walking was a way to physically and viscerally understand the future and past of a city that is changing at scales difficult to see and comprehend.

What might be possible if the effects of climate change on our bodies and our city were brought down to a human scale? Might residents of Boston take action to prevent it and prepare for these changes to our climate and city?

This piece was produced in conjunction with the DeCordova Museum’s “Walking Sculpture” exhibition. It featured several guest speakers– performance artists, scientific experts and policy makers who represent the future and the past.

The stencils that people wore during the walk and used in the project are the contribution of artist Andi Sutton.

Lead Artists

Catherine D’Ignazio and Andi Sutton


  • Boston Harbor Association
  • Emerson Engagement Lab


  • “Walking Sculpture 1967 – 2015.” Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Lincoln, MA, 2015.
  • “Big Bang Data.” The MIT Museum. Cambridge, MA, 2017.

Media References

  • “Climate Storytelling.” Public Art Review Magazine, Karen Olson, Spring/Summer 2016.
  • “Dots Are People Too: Learnings from Information+.” Thinking Machines Data Science Blog (blog), Mika Aldaba, July 12, 2016.


Boston, MA


DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park