New MSU interdisciplinary design studio to explore the future of Mississippi’s coastline

Contact: Christie McNeal

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s College of Architecture, Art and Design is launching a new interdisciplinary design studio this fall for students to explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the ever-changing Gulf Coast.

The studio connects the well-established work of one of the college’s outreach programs—the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio—with students and faculty on the Starkville campus, including those in the School of Architecture and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Landscape Architecture.

Dubbed “The Gulf Coast Studio: The New Blue Economy Coastline,” the pilot studio is being made possible by a $189,000 grant from the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, Gulf Research Program, and will engage other university and non-university collaborators in related research and outreach activities.

Students will re-imagine the landscape, infrastructure and buildings on the coast to be more resilient and better support the changing economy. Abstract ideas and images will be presented to the public, potentially leading to real initiatives for the area that could impact its future.

The term “blue economy” refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem, according to the World Bank.

School of Architecture Director Karen Cordes Spence said exploring and addressing these environmental and economic issues is critical for Mississippi.

“One-third of our population is on or near the coast, and understanding how to advance in a resilient way is necessary for the state,” she said. 

“Design studios have the power to change people’s ideas and expectations by presenting innovative visions of the future,” added Director of MSU’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio David Perkes. “Such imaginative power is especially important with changing environments like the Gulf Coast.”

Perkes explained that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is in an especially formative phase right now.

“The Gulf is now seen for not only seafood harvesting and oil extraction but for more environmentally dependent enterprises such as aquiculture, eco-tourism, recreation, marine research and technology, fishery management and more,” he said. “The change in vision of the Gulf economy has the potential to shape the vision of land and building development along the coastline as the natural environment is now seen as an integral part of a diverse economy.” 

“We are excited about inviting a number of voices to the table and working collectively,” said Spence, who holds MSU’s F.L. Crane Professorship. “There are many groups and individuals who have an interest in creating a flourishing, resilient coastal community, and the Mississippi State University School of Architecture is happy to serve as the catalyst for this interdisciplinary endeavor.”

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is a professional service and outreach program of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design. The studio was established in response to Hurricane Katrina to provide architectural design services, landscape and planning assistance, educational opportunities and research to organizations and communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

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