LSU Team Places in International Design Competition

designing resilience in asia

Dean of the College of Art & Design Alkis Tsolakis and the two teams of students visited the project site and met with community organizers in Manila in early 2016.

A team of LSU architecture students led by Professor Jori Erdman received honorable mention in the 2016 Designing Resilience in Asia international competition. Ten universities were invited to design architectural and urban planning solutions to help improve the resiliency of a seven-kilometer area of the Polo River, located on the outskirts of Manila, Philippines. Each university could submit up to two proposals.

The annual competition promotes innovation in building technologies to insure a community’s resiliency, particularly prior to and during a disastrous water-based event such as flooding. The speculative proposals can engage design, technology, and policies that connect the physical and social aspects of a community.

LSU first entered this competition sponsored by the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment in 2015, and for the second consecutive year, was the only university in the United States invited to participate.

“We were selected because of the focus on coastal resilience and sustainability that the School of Architecture developed along with the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio,” said Erdman.

Two LSU teams worked on the competition throughout the spring 2016 semester as part of Erdman’s studio (ARCH 4202). Dean of the College of Art & Design Alkis Tsolakis and the two teams of students visited the project site and met with community organizers in Manila in early 2016. Erdman and the teams traveled to Singapore in June to attend the annual Designing Resilience in Asia symposium and to present their proposals to the competition’s jury.

“Competitions are a great way for students to learn a variety of skills including teamwork and presentation,” explained Erdman. “Our studio had the additional challenges of responding to a site with intense environmental challenges literally halfway around the world. The students realized that Louisiana faces many of the same challenges.”


Master of Architecture candidates Barry Holton and Ana Orosco and Bachelor of Architecture candidates Patrick Raymond and Thomas Woodard received honorable mention for their proposal, “Community Connection,” which rethinks civic engagement, reuses wasted assets, and reconnects the Polo community with large public spaces known as community nodes. These nodes support the Polo River area by providing basic needs such as water treatment and management, housing, healthcare, material recovery, and entrepreneurship in centralized locations. A ferry and bike path system integrates the new nodes into the surrounding context and transforms the Polo River into a place for the community to reconnect. Individual trades taught by each community node secure the future of this system and pass it into the hands of the Polo community. The jury noted that they appreciated the team’s “focus on social resilience through community linkages, healthcare, and entrepreneurship.”

“Visiting the Polo River region allowed me to see the potential architecture has to help others and the resilience of comradery,” shared Raymond. “To see a community go through such disaster and continue to rebuild—together—is a testament to the human spirit.”

“As a young Baton Rouge native, being able to travel across the world to represent my city and school is something I wish everyone could experience,” said Woodard.

“The competition gave me insight into how people in the profession think outside of our school and state,” added Holton. “I am using that experience as I go forward in my career.”

The other LSU team—BArch candidates Allison Keppinger, Margaret Long, Isabelle Grizinski, and Molly Johnson and MArch candidate Yi Tao—introduced a master plan, “From the Ground Up,” proposing a canal system in which runoff drainage would pass through purifying plants as it cascades into the canals.

“I’m extremely proud of the work done by our students,” stated Erdman. “The two proposals were bold and innovative while also being thoughtful and sensitive to the people who would be affected by their designs. The teams represented the best of LSU and the School of Architecture. We are extremely grateful to the LSU College of Art & Design for supporting this project as well as the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio for contributing their expertise through lectures, workshops, and critiques throughout the semester.”

Visit for more information about the annual competition and symposium and for more information about the LSU School of Architecture.