“Y” Shape Jetty System: A Sustainable Solution for Coastal Ecosystem Protection, Population Retreat, and Global Tourism Development

Award of Excellence

General Design

Yucatan, Mexico
Yi Song, Student ASLA
Faculty Advisor: Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, ASLA
University of Texas at Austin

"This substantial and multi-faceted plan, delightfully illustrated with nontraditional graphics, marries robust analysis with beautiful design interventions for the sustainable development within a lagoon community in the Yucatan Peninsula. The power of the plan, whose design elements focus on natural and human-made jetties in a lagoon, is comprehensive in of tackling eco-tourism, environmental protection, economic development, and community building. The jetty concept reduces development pressure on the fragile beach ecosystem and creates a framework connecting the coast, lagoon, and mainland in a way that not only fulfills sustainability goals but also helps foster the economic and social opportunities necessary to support an inclusive regional community."

- 2019 Awards Jury

Project Statement

"Y" Shape Jetty project, located the Rosada Lagoon in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, provides an alternative for the coastal development in Mexico. It establishes a new Coast-Lagoon-Mainland-based life circle instead of putting all stress on the narrow beach zone. This is not only a new circle of life but a circle of environment protestation and sustainable tourism development. The salt ponds industry, fishing, boating, eco-tourism, restaurant, hotels will be available around this jetty project in the middle of the lagoon, which serves as a transition joint connecting opportunities on the coast and mainland. Within this new stretched life circle, more local people, groups, and parties can be a part of it together contributing to the development of social justice.

Project Narrative

This program is a lagoon-based sustainable development between tourism, environmental protection, and inclusive communities. The location is in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and the lagoon name is Rosada, a 3000-hectare fragile natural topography with intense urban expansion pressure in the future.

The increasing global tourism industry is a major way to reduce poverty along the coastal zone at the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, but many of those valuable areas are developed to real estate resort destination for individual wealthy people from all around the world. In this way, the coastal development doesn't stimulate the poverty reduction but increase the social injustice because that individual estate cut off the beach, a public resource, from the public and cause a serious beach erosion as well. Therefore, how to relocate the tourism pressure and build an inclusive community for different social classes means a lot to the initial goal: poverty reduction and sustainable tourism development.

The design method is to enforce the existing fragile eco-system first and then install a sustainable lifestyle on it. "Y" Shape Jetty is a mixed jetty system by natural jetties and manmade jetty joint along the Lagoon Rosada. This jetty system can provide lagoon multiple spatial layers for multiple developments, like environment protection, community construction, tourism relocation, and urban development retreat.

At the lagoon Rosada, many resources are disconnected due to poor accessibility. Like the salt ponds industry only exist one side of the lagoon, the population can only settle down one side of the lagoon with flooding threat and poor social services, the tourist can only visit the Xcambo, an ancient Mayan site, even though there is wonderful flamingo habitat nearby it. All reasons for that disappointment are because people cannot get to the other side of the lagoon conveniently. Therefore, the "Y" Shape Jetty system's core is a transportation-based complex. It not only provides the transportation option but also an evident attraction at the middle of the lagoon which could serve as a transition and guide people to the other side, the inner side of the lagoon where has more opportunities in terms of urban development and tourism.

There are three big movements for the environmental restoration. First, are the new outlets on the barrier island to transit the sediments in the lagoon. This is specifically important in the lagoon system because the lagoon is shrinking due to the high sedimental rate. After opening the outlet, those sediments could be brought out of lagoon by the tidal effect and then go to the downside of the beach for the sand's replenishment.

Second is to soften the barrier island by cutting channels on it. By doing so, we can not only bring mangrove back, but also provide habitat for fish, shorebirds, and tiger shrimps which is the most important fish industry in Yucatan.

The last is to connect the natural jetty pattern by jointing the manmade jetty system. This continuous jetty barrier can protect the loss of the sediment for the mangrove growth and could serve as jetty road, a transportation system.

All those interventions are inspired by the local community near the project site and they are specific evidence for the feasibility and possibility of this project.

Because of the flat karst topography formed millions of years ago, the material of the jetty construction is available, and the new karst limestone is relatively soft. Therefore, the jetty construction is pretty feasible even though it will last several miles. The lagoon Rosada forms its own natural jetty pattern due the falling tidal so that we don't need to build a several miles jetty but to build a jetty joint to connect and enforce those natural jetty patterns. By doing so, the existing habitat can be preserved with low impact.

After this restoration, a new lifestyle based on this new ecosystem is proposed. "Y" shape jetty land is the new engine of this new lifestyle instead of the beach zone. "Y" Shape Jetty joint is not just a thin line but a jetty land with the capacity of house construction. Restaurants, shops, hotel, salt pond tourism, and lagoon boating, all those functions and activities can happen on the "Y" Shape Jetty land which opens a window to the people on the beach and tourism from the world: we have the sun and beach, we also have the lagoon with much more funs around you. Therefore, with development on the jetty land, the tourism pressure can transit from the coast to the lagoon so that the government and the local group can restore the beach ecosystem with less social and economic pressure.

Through the proposed jetty land and road around it, new towns could happen for the population from the barrier island and others works attracted by this new business from all around the world. Finally, there are three major components of this new lifestyle. The community-based life circle is the alternative towns which have higher space potential to support multiple social class than barrier island does. Then is the production-based life circle in which people could run their new business due to global tourism, like restaurant, shop, salt ponds and flamingo tourism, and local fishing industry. The tourist could stand on the jetty land and overlook and enjoy all those attractions. Comparing with the beach, lagoon now is more attractive and engagable. People could start their business here. The last is the ecology-based life circle where has less social and economic pressure than the past because lagoon and mainland share many of those pressures. With this new and flexible lifestyle, many parties have their own alternative to have a better life.

Ultimately, this project has two ideologies to share. One is to protect the natural resources for the next generation by learning from the local communities because they already test that intervention for many years which could help designers to evaluate the consequence. Second is that extending the life circle, instead of concentrating it in small space, could decrease the environmental pressure and let more people be a part of it, which does matter to the social justice development. "Y" Shape Jetty could be a typical module for further coastal sustainable development along the whole Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.


Plant List

  • Mangrove