Multidisciplinary Project Involving LSU, Princeton Personnel to Debut at Venice Biennale

Digital rendering of project for Venice Biennale

A collaborative project of architects, landscape architects, engineers and coastal scientists from LSU and architects from the Princeton University School of Architecture will be unveiled this week at the Venice Biennale, the largest and most prestigious art and design exhibition in the world.

“The Mississippi Delta: Constructing with Water” project is included in the themed exhibit “Workshopping: An American Model of Practice,” at the American Pavilion during the three‐month exhibition and will demonstrate how a multi‐disciplinary approach can be used to address issues of coastal sustainability in two high‐profile coastal communities: New York City and southeast Louisiana.

“This is really significant for LSU, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” said Jeff Carney, project manager for the Coastal Sustainability Studio at LSU. “The Venice Biennale is the largest international arts exhibition of the year focusing on design issues so for us to be a part of it really puts us on the map.”

The project was selected from among hundreds of applicants from around the world to represent the American Pavilion, and was a collaborative effort of Princeton engineer Guy Nordenson and architect Catherine Seavitt and the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, which includes representatives from the College of Art & Design, School of the Coast & Environment and College of Engineering. Together, they expanded on an earlier project of the Princeton team that looked at what would happen during New York City during sea level rise.

“They asked us to build on that and bring in issues as it relates to the Mississippi Delta in south Louisiana, and to ask the question, ‘What would really happen if we opened the river back up to the delta?’” Carney said.

In its conceptual approach to answering that question, the team proposed opening up the river in five spots and creating diversions or basins that would fill with sediment and eventually rebuild central wetlands, taking into account what that would mean not only for the landscape but for the inhabitants who currently live there.

Their designs include visualizations of new paradigms for building communities, changing infrastructure to support more sustainable and resilient living and three‐dimensional maps of the coast with new land‐building capacity. More detailed speculative designs were undertaken for the Lower Ninth Ward and the restoration of Bayou Bienvenue as well as parts of St. Bernard Parish.

“The bottom line is this is an area that is going to flood,” Carney said. “So how do you build and live in an area like that? That was one of the big challenges we faced with this project.”

The Venice Biennale exhibition comes on the first anniversary of the Coastal Sustainability Studio, and epitomizes the kind of work the studio was designed to produce, namely projects that are community‐driven and influential in real ways for the future development of coastal Louisiana. The studio, supported by the America’s Wetland Foundation with a grant from Chevron, uses an approach that incorporates political and economic realities as well as research‐based investigation into possible scenarios.

The Coastal Sustainability Studio is also multi‐disciplinary in its approach to addressing coastal issues, recognizing that the problems of land subsidence and rising sea levels, for instance, are too challenging for a single discipline to address but require a collaborative effort. Throughout the first year of work, the studio has consulted with multiple LSU faculty members, graduate students, state agencies and non‐profit entities to develop a knowledge base and capacity to address the complex issues involved in this approach.

The Venice Biennale project represents that kind of effort, which is one reason Carney and others at LSU are so excited to have an international stage from which to showcase it.

“It’s also particularly relevant that LSU is a part of it because of the problems we have here with the coast,” Carney said.

The exhibition opens Sunday, Aug. 29, and runs through November. Carney will be in Venice for the opening, along with LSU School of Architecture Director Jori Erdman, LSU Landscape Architecture Professor Elizabeth Mossop and Coastal Sustainability Studio Director Robert Twilley.

For more information on the Venice Biennale, visit