Landscape Architecture Students Helping Rebuild New Orleans

A group of LSU graduate students in landscape architecture is working to make a big difference in one needy New Orleans neighborhood: They’re collaborating with a local non-profit group to reinvigorate a nine-block stretch of St. Claude Avenue, one of the city’s most troubled thoroughfares.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to do this,” says landscape architecture professor John Harper, who is leading the second-year grad students in their semester-long effort. “I hope this will be something the University can stay involved in.”

Harper’s students, 10 in all, are working with the non-profit Renaissance Project to help clean up blighted St. Claude Avenue, a once-busy commercial corridor. Their goal is to make the avenue more user-friendly and visually appealing.

“We’re trying to transform this into a pedestrian-oriented space and turn St. Claude into a gathering place for the entire neighborhood,” Harper explains.

So far, students involved in the project have completed a case study of the area as well as an inventory and analysis of the many historic and architecturally significant homes and businesses along the street. They’re currently working collectively on a long-term strategy, and at the end of the semester will present their plan to the neighborhood, which will include a site-specific design by each student.

“One will work on the bus stop, for instance, while another may design a small gathering space,” Harper says.

For the Renaissance Project, having assistance from the LSU graduate students is a tremendous asset. The group is particularly pleased that students take so much time gathering information and input from neighborhood residents and merchants.

“Residents and business owners are excited to talk to the students not only because they’re accessible but because someone is actually asking them what they think,” says Greta Gladney, executive director of The Renaissance Project.

The St. Claude Avenue project is one of several post-Katrina rebuilding projects in which students and faculty of the College of Art and Design are involved. Other projects include the redesign of four New Orleans public schools, the rebuilding of dozens of flood-damaged homes in New Orleans and the reconstruction of a sewerage treatment plant near Bayou Bienvenue.