LSU Team Selected for Landscape Architecture Foundation CSI Fellowship

Greenway plan aerial map

Jean Lafitte Greenway, image courtesy of Design Workshop.

Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) has selected LSU landscape architecture team Sasha Mathieu, MLA candidate, and faculty mentor Nicholas Serrano, assistant professor of landscape architecture, for the highly competitive 2021 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. LSU landscape architecture alumni and firm Design Workshop are also project team members, bringing field experience to the research collaboration. The project, investigating the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans, seeks to study and improve the publicly accessible greenway.

The LSU team is among ten research fellowship projects selected for LAF’s 2021 CSI program. “This is the first project in Louisiana involved with this series!” Serrano said.

Watch webinar Measuring Landscape Performance: Findings & Insights from LAF’s CSI 2021:

“Our research sought to understand the landscape performance benefits of the Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile linear park extending from the French Quarter north towards City Park in New Orleans,” Mathieu said.

“Previously an industrial shipping and rail corridor, the greenway started as a grassroots effort and was one of the first landscape revitalization projects following hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our research demonstrates that the Lafitte Greenway mitigates 63% of a 10-year 10-hour rain event, sequesters 12,002 lbs of atmospheric carbon, reduces average air temperatures by 5 to 10 degrees, reduces average vehicular speed by 15%, and contributes to a 60% increase in residential property values, among other benefits. This is the first landscape in Louisiana to be studied as part of the LAF Case Study program and provides a local precedent to advocate for the value of sustainable landscape design.”

Design Workshop’s goals for the project included:

(1) conversion of an abandoned rail corridor into a publicly accessible greenway, currently 2.6 miles long, which connects different neighborhoods and increases open greenspace for residents—including those visiting for festivals and other visitors—within the heart of New Orleans; (2) decrease impervious surfaces to increase the capacity for stormwater retention and reduce the urban heat island effect; (3) incorporation of a diversity of 100% native plantings and increase the habitat for wildlife; (4) preservation of historic features to maintain and build upon the cultural heritage in the surrounding area and within the site; (6) expand opportunities for physical activity and recreation, promoting community health while improving pedestrian safety; (7) catalyze economic investment in surrounding areas; and—last but definitely not least!—(8) support public art.

“While there were many project goals, we [primarily] assessed, resulting in the following benefits: (1) mitigation of average annual rainfall for a 10-year, 10-hour storm event through absorption and evapotranspiration; (2) sequestration of a significant amount of atmospheric carbon annually; (3) reduction of ambient temperatures compared to adjacent areas; (4) increase in urban wildlife habitat; (5) promotion of community health; (6) increase in publicly accessible greenspace; (7) contribution to a decrease in average vehicular speeds through the greenway; (8) increase in residential real estate values and commercial investments; (9) initiate catalyzation for investment in public infrastructure; (10) attraction of funding for public art,” Mathieu said.

About the CSI LAF Program

Case Study Investigation (CSI) is a unique research collaboration and training program for faculty, students, and practitioners. LAF-funded faculty-student research teams work with designers to document the impacts of exemplary, high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify the environmental, social, and economic benefits of built projects and produce Case Study Briefs for LAF’s Landscape Performance Series.

The selected projects cover a wide range of project types and geographies with several that explicitly address climate adaptation and diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. These include a New Zealand residential community designed by and for indigenous users, a climate resilient New York City tech campus, a fully accessible trail on the University of Toronto campus, and a linear park developed in partnership with an underserved Los Angeles community. Other selected projects are a University of Miami mixed-use student housing complex with 25 green roofs, a unique rooftop park atop a multi-modal transit center in San Francisco, an art-filled conservancy and agricultural restoration project in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a cutting-edge landfill rehabilitation project in Montreal, and a riverfront park and greenway in downtown Columbus, Ohio.