Semester of Graduation

Fall 2020


Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture

Document Type



The West Lake Pontchartrain region faces a number of long-term environmental challenges due to anthropogenic climate disturbance and landscape modification, including sea level rise, increased storm surge risk, shoreline erosion, and wetland degradation. In response, this thesis applies recent research in the fields of landscape architecture and civil engineering to propose a dynamic, natural-systems solution for wetland creation and shoreline protection. The project envisions a series of breakwater-like structures in western Lake Pontchartrain positioned to slow water released from the nearby Bonnet Carré Spillway, causing suspended sediment to settle and create self-building and self-sustaining wetlands capable of keeping pace with future sea level rise. This hybrid grey-green system would reduce erosion of the western Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, provide storm protection for the communities of St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes, create valuable wildlife habitat, and provide ecosystem services and cultural opportunities for local residents. This proposal seeks to contribute to the ongoing discourse regarding “Engineering with Nature” principles and explore the interdisciplinary potential suggested by their adoption.

The project’s design methodology embraces a wide range of tools used by both landscape architecture and engineering including field work, mapping, drawing, image-making, and model making. The research identifies physical and numerical hydrodynamic modeling as key tools for the design of coastal infrastructure and integrates their use into a recursive, non-linear design process typical of architectural practice. In doing so, it seeks to expand the range of tools typically used by landscape architects for design ideation and visualization and posit alternative interdisciplinary workflows for the conceptualization and design of large-scale infrastructure.

The resulting proposal complements the already-planned West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Levee and Maurepas River Reintroduction projects, providing a forward buffer in keeping with the “Multiple Lines of Defense” strategy promulgated by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. In contrast with conventional mono-functional infrastructure, the system proposed in this research offers multiple co-benefits for both human and non-human constituencies. Finally, the design strategies derived from this research represent a novel form of coastal infrastructure with potential applicability to a broad range of sites and scales along the Louisiana coast.

Committee Chair

Harmon, Brendan