I'm designing a coastal city (called Bruxport), and I'm wondering what types of materials and techniques would be used to help combat erosion, water damage, and salt build-up from damaging buildings?

I was thinking of the inhabitants using sandstone bricks and mortar, with painted/plastered exteriors for their walls.

Once it gets past that I'm lost.

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    $\begingroup$ There are lots of historical cities that meet your criteria. What have you looked at? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 18 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @JonCuster, there are lots of real-world examples to draw from. Sandstone bricks and mortar could be appropriate, depending on the details of the setting. You may also want to look into the use of cement and concrete in medieval Europe: in terms of your city being coastal, it has the nice advantage that it can cast underwater. See: web.uvic.ca/~jpoleson/ROMACONS/Baia%202006.htm $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ "Help combat erosion, water damage, and salt build-up from damaging buildings": That's why they never built their buildings right on the beach of the sea. A few hundred paces inland from the high-water line the salt problem disappears and the water damage is the same rain water-damage as anywhere else. Basically, they looked at the local vegetation and noticed where ordinary trees and shrubs were growing, as a sign that the salty spray did not reach that place. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 18 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ What sort of ocean? Venice was largely build on wood piles, but I doubt that would work outside the Med. $\endgroup$ Apr 19 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP there are plenty of harbour cities where they really did build up to the sea. One nice example is St Malo - see the top picture, essentially castle walls rising from the beach, well below the high tide line $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Apr 19 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


Whatever is local. Shipping (literaly, use ships for transport) is wildly expensive in medieval times so only the rich merchants will be able to use exotic materials. And use "exotic" in a wide sense here, ideally everything the city is built out of comes from within a day of slow sailing. Most of the city will be built of wood, as that is relatively cheap and versatile. Pine in scandinavia, oak is preferred further south but is relatively expensive, beech or ash are also usable.

Foundations and lower walls will be built out of any local stone. The richer the inhabitants the more stone will be used. Sandstone is possible but it'll be in a sandstone area. If you are in a river delta it gets a bit easier: you can ship in stone from higher inland and fire bricks from the local clay.

As for "dealing with salt and erosion": you don't. Hope to build up high enough and offer some votive offerings to your deity of choice. Occasionally the lower classes will drown but that's life (and death) in that era. If you look at the history of many medieval cities there will be many stories about "and then the harbor silted up and the city stopped being a local hub" or "and then (neighboring city)'s harbor silted up and traders from there flocked to this city because it had a good harbor"

If you are building a city it'll be on good anchorage (see Cadiz) or in a river mouth (see Kampen) and they often command strategic locations near straits like Messina.

  • $\begingroup$ And then of course there's the lagoon of Venice $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Apr 19 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ Which is interesting because it's not that great for anchorage or marine strategy but it is very useful when most foes you face come from inland. The lagoon in this case functions like a very wide moat. $\endgroup$
    – Borgh
    Apr 19 at 12:35

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