The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is a nonprofit organization providing architectural design and neighborhood planning services to communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. This Spring, GCCDS offers its second service-learning semester of study in East Biloxi. This is the blog of their planning studio, a description of which follows.

The Spring 2008 Studio. In its architectural and community planning work in East Biloxi, the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio has identified low-lying areas of the peninsula as presenting special challenges. Base flood requirements are directly related to topography such that houses in low areas may be elevated as much as 17’-0” above the ground, increasing the costs and difficulty of construction, and presenting challenges to neighborhood design. Low-lying areas also present increased risk of future damage during even mild storm events. The low-lying areas historically absorb the overflow of nearby wetlands during storm events, and development in these areas hinders that function, ultimately intensifying storm impacts.

2007_figuregroundtopo-10.jpg

Responding to similar concerns, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is predicated on the idea that destroyed buildings on high-risk sites should not be rebuilt. Instead the land should become open space, protected from future development. However, without a comprehensive planning process, mitigated properties would become a haphazard set of vacant lots and would not create community benefits, either socially or ecologically. The Planning Studio will create a carefully considered mosaic of three well-defined land uses:

preserved wetlands connected to the Gulf which would be large enough and have enough continuity to be ecologically complete;

programmed public space such as walking trails, playgrounds, and meeting places that would create a connected landscape that would be well-used and well-loved by the community; and

complete neighborhoods of elevated buildings taking full advantage of the nearby open space.

The semester’s work will be focused around the Auguste Bayou in East Biloxi, a waterway extending from Biloxi’s Back Bay into the heart of residential neighborhoods in which the GCCDS is working.

The Participants. This semester, students from the College of Architecture, Art + Design at Mississippi State University and the College of Design at University of Minnesota will spend the semester in Biloxi. A group of students from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT will take part in a parallel studio in Cambridge.

Advertisements