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Cityscape: Volume 10, Number 3


Design and Disaster: Higher Education Responds to Hurricane Katrina

Volume 10, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Design and Disaster: Higher Education Responds to Hurricane Katrina

Guest Editors: Kathleen Dorgan, Michael Monti, and Kinnard D. Wright


Guest Editor's Introduction

Kathleen Dorgan
Dorgan Architecture & Planning

Michael Monti
Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

Kinnard D. Wright
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

As with the articles in this issue, this introduction reflects the views of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The symposium in this issue of Cityscape surveys the work of architecture, engineering, and planning schools in conducting advocacy research and service-learning projects in connection with rebuilding in the Gulf Coast region. A common thread connecting the articles is the approach that each university took to engaging the community in the processes of planning and rebuilding. As described in this volume and elsewhere, college students and their mentors were among the first to step forward to facilitate rebuilding. This commitment has been sustained despite the many challenges of working in the Gulf Coast. The resulting improvements are visible throughout the region.

The projects undertaken by university partnerships appear to us to be contributing to the education of students and faculty, building local capacity, and increasing our collective knowledge of effective strategies for community development, but much remains to be done, both in rebuilding in the Gulf Coast and in studying how to most effectively provide planning and architectural services to communities. The purpose of this symposium is to document some of the initiatives undertaken to date and to begin the process of critical inquiry that will elevate and expand such practice..

Engaged Education in Design Schools

The history of design schools studying and participating in solving the real problems of real people in working and low-income communities begins with the founding of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development in 1963. Davidoff's article (1965) and the challenge issued by Whitney Young at the American Institute of Architects' 100th anniversary celebrated in 1968 1 were important to shaping the community design movement that informs most community-based projects sponsored by design schools. Although we are approaching a proud half century of

To foster a critical dialogue in this field, the first article included in this symposium offers a framework that the reader is encouraged to apply to each engagement described in the subsequent articles, which were collected in response to a call for papers and are described later in this introduction. This first article, "Principles of Engagement: (mis)Understanding the Community-Design Studio," by Kathleen A. Dorgan, explores the advantages and challenges of undertaking engaged studios within professional design programs. An ethical framework is proposed for shaping and evaluating each engagement.

Understanding the development of university partnerships within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leading up to the occurrence of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina provides further context for the articles in the symposium. University partnerships have been an important element in the response to the disaster caused by the storms in 2005.

HUD's Role

In 1994, HUD established the Office of University Partnerships (OUP) to encourage and expand the efforts of colleges and universities that are striving to make a difference in their communities.

The initial impetus for the office was to breathe new life into abandoned and blighted areas, including housing, commercial, and retail districts. Institutions of higher education (IHEs), or universities, are major economic forces within their regions. Typically one of an area's largest employers, universities also regularly purchase large amounts of goods and services. Faculty, staff, and students generate demand for housing near the university and represent spending power for various retail goods and services beyond what is offered on campus. The university population living near campus has a personal interest in protecting its investment and living environment. IHEs can also help communities leverage additional resources for community efforts, bringing both additional credibility and visibility to local projects.

In many instances, community residents and local not-for-profit groups that work on their behalf have had a healthy skepticism of the motives of their local IHE because of the university’s acquisition of real estate and perceived wealth, power, and arrogance. Residents have long complained about the lack of dialogue and consultation with IHEs about issues of common concern. The OUP has sought to bridge the gulf between IHEs and their communities by helping universities fulfill their urban mission in a number of ways:

  • As a catalyst, creating a dialogue through which colleges and universities, the professional associations that represent them, and community leaders can learn from one another about promising partnership activities and opportunities.

  • As a broker, linking universities more strongly to HUD’s mainstream programs, as well as connecting them to other potential national and local partners and to resources that will enable them to revitalize distressed communities in more significant ways.

  • As a funder of HUD grant programs that help harness the immense energy, expertise, and resources of our academic communities.

The initial program created by OUP was the Community Outreach Partnerships Centers (COPC). COPC programs combined outreach and research activities to address comprehensive, multifaceted community problems. Examples of successful COPC initiatives included, but were not limited to, the following activities:

  • Job training and counseling to reduce unemployment.

  • Local initiatives to combat housing discrimination and homelessness, encourage the development of affordable housing, and help consumers navigate the process of buying and maintaining that housing.

  • Mentoring and educational programs for neighborhood youth.

  • Financial and technical assistance for new businesses.

  • Training or technical assistance that builds the capacity of community groups and increases the leadership skills of neighborhood residents.

  • Planning activities that help local residents develop a vision for their community and a plan for implementing that vision.

  • Projects to fight disease, crime, and environmental degradation.

  • Activities that increase a community’s access to information and applied research.

  • University coursework that encourages students to engage in activities relating to the community.

By initiating the COPC program, HUD facilitated hundreds of partnerships that addressed the most critical social and economic issues that the United States is facing in urban areas—poverty, education, housing, and local neighborhood capacity building. The program also promoted learning and exchange, and it contributed to a growing body of literature that has accelerated the transformation of higher education and town-gown relationships. Although the program's last year of operation was 2005, clearly this modest grant program made tremendous strides in helping to change higher education from an academic culture into a force for societal change and public good. In addition to boosting the nation's interest in community engagement, COPC had a personal impact on those who were involved in it.

OUP continues to promote university-community partnerships and participatory scholarship through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities program, the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Assisting Communities program, the Alaska Native /Native Hawaiian Institutions Assisting Communities program, the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and the Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant program.

Although OUP is tasked with transforming entire institutions and their projects in partnership with the community, some efforts have been specifically directed toward the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, and engineering.

In 2003, OUP created the Community Futures Demonstration Grant Program (CFDGP), a 1-year effort that funded schools of architecture, planning, and construction engineering at five universities. This program enabled grantees to develop both case study housing plans and designs that addressed community housing needs and long-range plans for local communities that were addressing future growth and development needs in metropolitan areas and/or regions.

The results of CFDGP have been encouraging, with the design of structures as diverse as migrant housing in the state of Washington, affordable single-family and multifamily housing in Philadelphia, and storm-resistant structures in Louisiana (built by the Louisiana State University School of Architecture and featured in this symposium).

The devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 led HUD to create the Universities Rebuilding America Program Community Design (URAPCD). This program combined existing departmental resources to fund schools of architecture, planning, and construction engineering to develop planning, design, and/or construction projects in partnership with community organizations. Several projects described in this issue of Cityscape were funded by URAPCD. More information about OUP appears on

Articles in This Issue

The guest editors of this symposium requested submissions from faculty and practitioners documenting work conducted by university-based architecture, landscape architecture, and planning programs to aid in the Gulf Coast region's disaster recovery process. The call specified that articles address built or substantially completed projects, such as homes, parks, and other community development projects, rather than unbuilt or classroom projects. Authors were encouraged to describe both the products and processes by which faculty, staff, students, and professional partners worked with local residents in addressing the residents' needs and concerns. The guest editors placed a premium on articles that critically evaluated the work.

The call was circulated in the fall of 2007 through Cityscape and OUP networks; academic channels, such as the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, which represents nearly 250 professional and preprofessional architectural education programs; and architecture and planning channels such as ACD, ArchNewsNow, Planetizen, and others.

The editors received 18 manuscripts by the deadline, 16 of which were placed into a double-blind peer-review process, with authors and reviewers not knowing each other’s identities. The editors removed information identifying universities and, to the extent possible, specific project sites, from the manuscripts. As guest editors, we invited a group of reviewers from the architecture and planning fields with expertise in practice and publication. Three reviewers assessed each manuscript using a standardized form that posed several questions, including whether the manuscript was appropriate based on the call for submissions, the extent to which the authors made a coherent argument, and whether it drew from existing literature.

Following the peer review, the guest editors accepted nine manuscripts as full-length articles and conditionally accepted two others as illustrative pieces because they focused primarily on built projects.

In several cases, the guest editors requested substantial revisions on manuscripts to bring them closer in line with the call for submissions and broader Cityscape readership. The guest editors thank the authors for their quick and responsive efforts to revise the articles for publication. They also thank the following individuals for their reviews: Jody Beck, Brandy Brooks, Connie Chung, Elizabeth Debs, Roberta Feldman, Avi Friedman, Joan Goody, Bradford Grant, Abe Kadushin, Alex Salazar, and Jess Wendover.

Participatory Planning

The following articles explore the complexities of the relationship between universities and the communities to which they provide professional planning services.

  • "Citizen Engagement in Post-Hurricane Katrina Planning in Harrison County, Mississippi," by Jennifer S. Evans-Cowley and Meghan Zimmerman Gough, describes an empowerment planning process conducted by Ohio State University's City and Regional Planning program in Mississippi. It describes the methodology used to engage citizens in post disaster planning. The authors also discuss the challenges "outsiders" faced in building trust, and they address student collaboration.

  • "Building Local Capacity: Planning for Local Culture and Neighborhood Recovery in New Orleans," by Jacob Wagner, Michael Frisch, and Billy Fields, describes a planning partnership between University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Urban Conservancy. The authors discuss the challenges of balancing emphasis on long- term heritage tourism planning with the community's immediate needs for business recovery support. They also address the way in which the partnership balanced university and community interests..

  • "Equity Planning in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans: Lessons From the Ninth Ward," by Kenneth M. Reardon, Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, and Andrew J. Rumbach, describes the Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning partnership with a grassroots advocacy group and other universities. The authors discuss the strategy employed to integrate this partnership with its pedagogical mission and the lessons learned from the partnership

Affordable Housing Models

Two articles describe research applied to the design and prototyping of appropriate single-family homes intended to address the Gulf Coast region's need for producing large numbers of new, affordable homes with a limited pool of available skilled labor.

  • "Rebuilding Community Block by Block," by Marsha R. Cuddeback and Frank M. Bosworth, describes a community-based methodology undertaken by the Louisiana State University School of Architecture’s Outreach Office to design and develop an affordable housing model that can both be built by workers with minimal training and be responsive to local residents' preferences. A local not-for-profit developer constructed two model projects using the labor of design students working side by side with community construction trainees.
  • "A Sustainable Housing Response to Hurricane Katrina," by John Quale and Kristina L. Iverson, describes a partnership between the University of Virginia School of Architecture and Habitat for Humanity to design and test a model for a green single-family home that responds to the climate of southern Mississippi. The authors describe how a house can be prefabricated at a remote location and erected on site by volunteers.

Structuring Community Practice

One of the greatest challenges of engaged research or service-learning in community development is reconciling the long-term needs of communities with the episodic character of students’ participation. The final set of articles describes alternative structures for addressing this challenge and projects facilitated by such structures.

  • "Working With Experience," by David Perkes and Christine Gaspar, profiles the partnership between Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and the East Biloxi Coordination and Relief Center to establish an office that provides services that range from municipal planning to the design of individual homes, using a combination of full-time staff and curricular studios.
  • "Biloxi Treehouse Project," by Vincent Baudoin, describes a single-family home designed and constructed by the Mississippi State collaborators.
  • "URBANbuild: Architectural Networks of Real Urbanism," by Ila Berman, describes an initiative by the Tulane School of Architecture to launch an interdisciplinary center to support research and innovative design with the goal of implementing real urbanism in the reconstruction of New Orleans.
  • "Rebuilding for the Seventh Ward's Cultural Life," by Rob Corser and Nils Gore, describes a series of design-build projects undertaken by the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design in collaboration with CITYbuild.
  • "Rebuilding New Orleans With Affordable, Hurricane-Resistant Residential Construction," by James Goedert, reviews efforts by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans to rehabilitate 10 heavily damaged homes and to provide a publicly available manual and extensive documentation that will facilitate reconstruction efforts elsewhere in the city.


The study of building, planning, and design undertaken in the public interest must be increased if we are to develop the skills and strategies necessary to most effectively invest public and private dollars in rebuilding. Those individuals involved in the design, planning, and building of communities lack knowledge of the most cost-effective ways to plan in order to create sustainable, long-term value for residents and neighbors. The relevant disciplines must engage in far more fundamental and applied research. As described in this symposium, university partnerships in community design hold great promise for bridging this gap and helping the fields of architecture and planning move toward evidence-based practice. The permanent establishment of programs such as COPC and Community Futures could be a first step toward this goal.

The guest editors and the authors hope that our nation never again has to face the type of destruction that Mississippi and Louisiana faced because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but history tells us that we must be prepared to address such disasters. When the next generation of leaders in government, community, and professional practice face a call for a large-scale planning and building response, some of them will have prepared for their roles through active engagement as students in the Gulf Coast. By studying under the tutorship of faculty and community leaders, they will be better prepared to manage the complexities of community development to accomplish something extraordinary.


Davidoff, Paul. 1965. "Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning," Journal of the American Institute of Planners 31(6): 331–338.

Young, Whitney, Jr. 1968. "Keynote Address by the Executive Director of the National Urban League." (accessed July 11, 2003).

1 "You are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights,” said Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young to the 100th Convention of the American Institute of Architects in 1968. "I am sure this does not come to you as any shock….You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance….You are employers, you are key people in the planning of cities today. You share the responsibility for the mess we are in—in terms of the white noose around the central city. We didn't just suddenly get in this situation. It was carefully planned" (Young, 1968).


Principles of Engagement: (mis)Understanding the Community-Design Studio

Citizen Engagement in Post-Hurricane Katrina Planning in Harrison County, Mississippi
Jennifer S. Evans-Cowley and Meghan Zimmerman Gough

Building Local Capacity: Planning for Local Culture and Neighborhood Recovery in New Orleans

Equity Planning in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans: Lessons From the Ninth Ward
Kenneth M. Reardon, Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, and Andrew J. Rumbach

Rebuilding Community Block by Block
Marsha R. Cuddeback and Frank M. Bosworth

A Sustainable Housing Response to Hurricane Katrina
John Quale and Kristina L. Iverson

Working With Experience
David Perkes and Christine Gaspar

Biloxi Treehouse Project
Vincent Baudoin

URBANbuild: Architectural Networks of Real Urbanism
Ila Berman

Rebuilding for the Seventh Ward's Cultural Life
Rob Corser and Nils Gore

Rebuilding New Orleans With Affordable, Hurricane-Resistant Residential Construction
James Goedert

Refereed Papers

Vehicle Carbon Dioxide Emissions and the Compactness of Residential Development

The Spatial Evolution of Casino Gambling
Michael Wenz


Data Shop

Measuring the Drivers of Metropolitan Growth: The Export Price Index
Michael Hollar, Anthony Pennington-Cross, and Anthony Yezer

Graphic Detail

High-Risk Loans and Increasing Vacancy Rates
David E. Chase

Industrial Revolution

Plumbing Manifolds: Circuit Breakers for Water
Dana Bres

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Subscriptions are available at no charge and single copies at a nominal fee. The journal is also available on line at http://www.

PD&R welcomes submissions to the Refereed Papers section of the journal. Our referee process is double blind and timely, and our referees are highly qualified. The managing editor will also respond to authors who submit outlines of proposed papers regarding the suitability of those proposals for inclusion in Cityscape. Send manuscripts or outlines to

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of HUD or the U.S. government.

Visit PD&R’s website,, to find this publication and others sponsored by PD&R. Other services of HUD USER, PD&R’s research information service, include listservs, special interest and bimonthly publications (best practices and significant studies from other sources), access to public use databases, and a hotline (800–245–2691) for help with accessing the information you need.


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