Strategic Community-Level Green Infrastructure Planning for the Amite River Watershed

Project Goals:

CSS encouraged the development of Amite River site-specific design studios in Architecture and Landscape Architecture, promoting multi-disciplinary research and design thinking approaches for problem-solving in this important region.

Once research and studies are completed and ideas published, CSS will host a stakeholder workshop inviting approximately 25-30 residents and political decision-makers of the Amite River watershed in the hopes of creating a green infrastructure plan and developing community-level projects and partnerships to improve local quality of life. The charrette or workshop process will be based on a successful track record of data analysis, urban design, and engagement through the CSS Louisiana Community Resilience Institute.

The final report for the Lamar Family Foundation will include:

  1. A copy of all publications
  2. Summaries of research and input from stakeholders
  3. Project ideas and recommendations for next steps in the watershed

Direct + Broader Impacts:
Unmanaged storm water carries pollutants into rivers and streams, negatively impacting environmental quality. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality finds the Amite/Comite Rivers consistently unable to support designated uses due to extreme development and loss of riparian buffers. A strategically coordinated green infrastructure network could provide cleaner water, flood protection, and recreation at local and watershed levels. With funds provided by the Lamar Family Foundation, the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio (CSS) is working to identify ways to improve the quality of life in the Amite River Watershed through strategic community-level green infrastructure planning.

CSS-sponsored design studios combine (1) the expertise of seasoned faculty; (2) ample time (approximately three months) to conduct thorough site analyses, comprehensive research synthesis, and idea generation; (3) the focused energy and innovation of talented and supervised higher level undergraduate and graduate students; and (4) published results which can be carried forward in important next steps, especially related to recruiting and engaging regional stakeholders and decision-makers.


The water systems studio, named by participating students as The Hungry River, introduced participants to the design and restoration of hydrological systems. Dr. Brendan Harmon led the studio, which focused on the derelict gravel mines on the Amite River that have straightened the course of the river, increased erosion and sediment loads, and heightened flooding downriver. Students learned how to map and analyze hydrological systems, how processes and forms interact, how to design processes as well as forms, and how to design for disturbed landscapes.


Dr. Traci Birch taught this studio in the Fall of 2018. Sixteen students examined the Amite River basin as a surrogate for watersheds across the state, exploring linkages between architecture, urban form, community well-being, and environmental quality. Among considerations were impacts on transportation, energy, and water, as well as social and economic fabrics. The purpose was to approach architecture and landscape design as intertwined endeavors in the making of sustainable systems. Students worked together to conduct resource and contextual analyses of the Amite watershed to identify intersections and opportunities for architectural interventions that improve safety, health, and quality of life for the entire region. Concepts and designs were developed at the watershed, community, site, and building scale.


Kris Palagi is currently teaching this comprehensive high-level Architecture design studio, which draws from the extensive site-design proposals of the Harmon Master of Landscape Studio: The Hungry River, for the development of a Recreational / Disaster Relief Center. The program for the buildings has been adopted from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Built2Last Resilience Design Competition, which focuses on “the opportunity to design an environmentally responsible Recreation Center that integrates a secondary purpose of post-disaster neighborhood support for community continuity through the inherent attributes of concrete applications.”

The design process includes specific mandates. For example: architectural design decisions that demonstrate the integration of micro and macro ecological systems—natural, social, and economical—will be paramount for success.