Approaching Climate Change - by Boat

Meet Mary Mattingly - the woman helping combat the effects of climate change one floating innovation at a time. Mary’s designs look to address the problems caused by climate change, both before and after they’ve happened. Go Mary!


'Swale' by Mary Mattingly. Source: Trust for For Governors Island 2018

For example, in 2009 Mary, under the guidance of Robert Mann Gallery, created her ‘Waterpod’. This device floated in New York Harbour, but it was no ordinary boat. In fact, the Waterpod was an eco-habitat which could stand strong against rising sea levels - a concern for many coastal areas as climate change progresses. This floating masterpiece had five living quarters, a public dome, a farm, animals, water collection and a self-directing power station. Talk about impressive!


To this Spinosaurus, it feels like being on the Waterpod is a holiday. He even brought his armbands!

Move forward to 2013, and Mary saw an opportunity in an area previously destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. On Pier 42 in Lower Manhattan, the designer opened ‘Triple Island’ - a self-sustaining floating mass which could grow food while also having living quarters for cooking, eating and sleeping. Much like the Waterpod, it too looked to find a solution to rising sea levels.

Rabbit Checking Crops

This rabbit is thankful for an area to grow his crops

Now, fast-forward to 2018, and Mary is part of a project called “Indicators: Artists on Climate Change”. As part of this initiative, Mary has transported tropical fruits, such as coconut palms, to New York, as a lesson in how to act if the prediction comes true, that is, that New York will get hotter by at least 4 degrees celsius as we approach the 22nd century. The designer stated that yes, the future may be scary and perhaps sad, but that it may also bring opportunities, such as being able to harvest a palm tree in update New York.  

Tropical Bird

Who knows, the heat may even bring along some beautiful tropical birds

And finally, fast-forward to real-time, and Mary is continuing to work on the biggest device she has ever established. The ‘Swale’ is a floating food forest, and that is no exaggeration. Set aboard a 5,000 square foot barge, the portable farm allows visitors from all around the state to harvest their own herbs, fruit and vegetables aboard. The vessel will also host teaching seminars on both art and environmental projects - our two favourite topics here at Koala Chess Art HQ!

Highland Cattle

This Highland Cattle lets everyone know when it's time to board

We are very impressed by Mary’s innovations - but we still keep our fingers crossed and hope that we won’t ever have to fully rely on them!

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