Designing alternative strategies for nutrient management within the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin and the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

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Studio: Option Design Studio

LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, 2015

Instructor: Forbes Lipschitz

Collaborators: Dr. John Westra,  Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

Dr. Kehui Xu, Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Grants: CSS Small Projects Fund:

This design studio and workshop explored alternative strategies for nutrient management within the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The continental scale of nutrient loading, coupled with the often conflicting needs of agricultural production and coastal ecologies, cannot be addressed by a singular technological solution. A design framework that addresses coastal eutrophication (when excess nutrients in a waterbody lead to algal blooms that deplete oxygen) requires coordination across multiple disciplines spanning distant regions.

Advanced students in landscape architecture began the project by mapping existing systems and nutrient dynamics at multiple scales. Their visual research work provided varied yet comparable layers that were overlaid and shaped as part of an interdisciplinary design workshop. Bringing in researchers from across the Basin and the Gulf, the workshop produced innovative and feasible designs to combat hypoxia. The design and management strategies attempted to minimize nutrient runoff while achieving the best outcomes for agriculture, ecosystem services, and sustainable community development.  While the results of the two-day workshop were simplified and schematic, they provided frameworks for the individual projects the students developed in more detail over the remainder of the semester.

The final projects varied from site specific interventions to systems scale designs. Proposals included constructed wetlands designed to support valuable, water-loving commodity crops, levee alterations to accommodate a floodable wildlife conservation park in the lower Mississippi, a precision model for grass-based ranching to reduce corn-based feed production, and in-situ oxygenating turbines installed on oil rigs in the Gulf. Though far from comprehensive, each project represented a potential springboard for further design investigation.


The LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio provided financial for this course as part of the small projects fund .

Coastal Sustainability Studio

The challenge of sustaining the ecological, settlement, and economic framework of the coast is one of the Gulf South’s most pressing issues. The mission of the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio is to address this challenge. The Coastal Sustainability Studio (CSS) is a trans-disciplinary program of the College of Art & Design, College of Engineering, and the School of the Coast & Environment. At CSS, scientists, engineers, and designers come together to intensively study and respond to issues of settlement, coastal restoration, flood protection, and the economy. CSS brings together disciplines that normally work separately to respond to critical coastal issues in a comprehensive way. The CSS approach centers on supporting resilient human communities in the dynamic Gulf of Mexico environment. These communities face tremendous challenges, many of which are not being solved because the various disciplines alone cannot cope with the complexity and enormity of the problems. CSS was created as a trans-disciplinary institute for this reason and works to envision and design sustainable systems that reduce vulnerability to increased storm strength, coastal hazards, habitat degradation, and global environmental change.