Professor’s Research Visualizes the Lasting Demographic and Landscape Implications of Slavery

Kevin RiskLSU’s Kevin Risk presented his paper, “Cotton River, Market Town: Preserving/Interpreting the Landscape(s) of Slavery at Forks-of-the-Road,” at the 2016 Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The theme of the conference was Preserving Heritage with Tomorrow’s Technology.

Risk, an associate professor of the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, applies his research on the cross-cultural transmission, hybridization, and adaptation of garden forms and ideology from Old to New World landscapes on the preservation of regional cultural landscapes, emphasizing the roles of myth, memory, and historical narrative in the interpretation and design of multilayered historic sites.

As part of the Cultural Landscapes: Patterns and Palimpsests track at the 2016 APT conference, Risk discussed the work conducted in his 2013 graduate-level studio, which focused on research and interpretive planning for Forks-of-the-Road, the historic slave market site in Natchez, Mississippi. Historically the second largest slave market in the South after New Orleans, slaves were brought in for sale via overland routes along the Natchez Trace as well as by boat from New Orleans. Through mappings and visualizations, the studio sought to interpret the complex web of the site’s connections at the local, regional, and national scale. Risk and his students worked with community activists and personnel from the Natchez National Historical Park to develop a range of multi-scale interpretive and conceptual design strategies that present and interweave narratives of slavery at the regional, city, and site scale, focusing on the natural and cultural resources associated with the site as well as the broader intersecting (or nested) narratives within the local urban and rural agricultural landscapes.

The resulting research demonstrates the possibilities for interpreting the landscape of slavery in a richer, more complex manner by focusing not just on the individual site of controversy but on the complex and shifting web of landscape associations: urban and rural, local and national, designed and vernacular, public and private, familiar and contested. Through ongoing mappings and visualizations, Risk continues to expand the research and interpretive potential of the original studio work and the “nested narratives” methodology in visualizing the lasting demographic and landscape implications of slavery in Natchez, the Forks-of-the-Road site, and—more broadly—the Southern landscape.

Visit for more about Risk and his research or for information about the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.