Design Strengthens Adaptation and Resilience for Coastal Louisiana

Amidst the backdrops of climate change, subsidence, and disasters, Louisianans live and work in a complex, dynamic, and potentially wet environment—one that associate professor of Architecture and director of the Coastal Sustainability Studio (CSS) Jeff Carney explores everyday through design.  The CSS combines the best practices of design, science, engineering, and planning in the hopes of improving people’s understanding of their environment; lifestyles and livelihoods; and community sustainability and resiliency.

“Design is a way to iteratively move the ball forward – it’s a narrative of problem solving and setting up a story for how you’re going to solve that problem,” said Dr. Carney. “The art displayed is informed by science and engineering.”

In 2015, the LSU CSS created a program called the Louisiana Community Resilience Institute to help communities and elected officials better understand the importance of planning and design in community resiliency. CSS faculty and staff work closely with community leaders to identify and begin to tackle local challenges and real world problems at the intersection of design, science, engineering and planning. One-on-one site meetings, field research, and follow-up workshops with peers and subject matter experts, better prepare community leaders to work with planning professionals to later implement projects for which they may not have the resources or capacity to do alone or without guidance.

In November 2015, the University Planning Committee (UPC) met to begin the process of developing a strategic plan to determine the focus of Louisiana State University going forward over the next five to seven years. Since then, more than 150 people including faculty, staff, students, alumni and business leaders have taken part in focus groups to offer face-to-face comments to help shape the plan. In addition, 2,100 faculty, staff and students participated in an on-line survey to lend their voices in helping formulate the goals and objectives utilized to develop the overall plan. Following the research phase, university deans, vice presidents, vice provosts, faculty and staff senate leaders attended a Strategic Planning Leadership Retreat to further shape the core of the plan. In addition to providing their opinions on the plan, this group confirmed a list of six values that underpin the ideals LSU Tigers value as a community. - See more at:


“People begin to see living and working in coastal Louisiana through a more comprehensive, holistic narrative.  They are then able to take advantage of the more complex view, appreciating the environment is ever changing, and hopefully better adapting and designing for the future,” said Carney. “We combine design and planning with coastal science and environmental engineering, making it relevant to them.”

To broaden and enrich Louisiana coastal outreach and communications efforts, The Water Campus is being developed in downtown Baton Rouge to address issues of protection, flooding, recovery, and response, as well as cultivate a water economy in Louisiana. Construction, north of LSU’s main campus, has begun with the first building opened this past August for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.  A second building is expected to open Spring 2016, the LSU Center for River Studies (CRS), for which the CSS designed all visual communication, narrative content, and educational components. The CRS will offer an experimental environment designed to develop models of physical and ecological processes, including a scale model the size of two basketball courts of the lower Mississippi River from Donaldsonville to the Gulf.

“The Center is intended to be a Coastal 101 crash course for visitors. It will show how we are working to solve coastal problems; it will have kiosks for scientist to showcase their work; displays will take big data and make it understandable to the broader public,” said Dr. Carney.