Design Week 2009

January 14, 2009

Louisiana State University | Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture

Matthew Bradbury (far left) was invited to be a visiting Critic for Design Week 2009 at the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture. Matthew ran a week long design workshop for vertically integrated graduate and undergraduate students. The topic for the workshop was to design the Baton Rouge Riverfront.



How should we approach the design of a riverfront? We all know the standard approach, collections of typological conventions, the promenade, the park, the cultural building and apartments.  Can we re think the riverfront by looking at this critical part of many cities in a different way?

This project looks at the riverfront of down town Baton Rouge. While a number of projects have been put forward to develop this site, this project will ask you to re think how a riverfront could be made to work in a different way.  There are different social constructions that occur around the world’s old riverfronts, giving us insights into the ways different waterfronts work. We can also view the city as a dynamic environment, a collection of landscape conditions, topography, hydrology, and horticulture.

By speculating freely on the implications of social models in conjunction with new landscapes, students are asked to put forward a number of scenarios for the Baton Rouge Riverfront. These scenarios will incorporate concepts relating to landscape, architecture, and urbanism. By reframing the city of Baton Rouge as a fluid landscape of social and environmental possibilities the conventional urban solution can be temporarily suspended while students can explore, without prejudice, the consequences of there investigative work.

Students responded enthusiastically to the challenges of the project by considering the intersection of the Mississippi and Baton Rouge as a topographic and hydrologic inter-relationship.  Students chose sites ranging from the State Capitol to the I-10 interstate and everything between.

Taking advantage of the natural level of the Capitol, group “Smeller Time” reoriented the Capitol to the river, opening up a number of possible landscape and architectural interventions.

Groups “Party of Three” and “Uncontained” worked with the topographical difference between Lafayette Street and the top of the levee by spanning River Road and the existing railway.  This artificial datum took various guises, a pedestrian deck linking the city to the levee with parking underneath, or in the “Party of Three” proposal, a multi level experience with shops, bridges, towers and walk ways making an independent urban form that belonged neither to the river nor the city grid.

The project by “Nature [re]Called” found a site just south of the I-10 bridge. A GIS analysis was utilized to understand the complexities of the site including: the meeting of two flow paths, the town sewage treatment plant, and the ‘waste’ space under the I-10 bridge.  The group proposed the restoration of the local swamp ecology and a building program based on the vernacular swamp ‘camps’.

The last three projects ventured onto the edge of the river. The first group, “What the Flux”, proposed a series of barges that would contain different kinds of social and horticultural spaces that could be configured in different ways. The second group, “Los Palos Rojos”, used a combination of artificial piers and the natural processes of the river, sediment deposition and horticultural succession, to create a new city arboretum.  The third group, “Potam 10”, proposed using the river to provide new energy sources for the city in the form of an algae farm and water turbines.

All groups demonstrated a high level of presentation skills, which, given the tight time constraints, were very successful in conveying the conceptual engagement with the project and the material consequences of the design decisions.