Gulf Coast Community Design Studio partners with Boys and Girls Club

August 15th, 2017 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio partners with Boys and Girls Club

Elizabeth Englebretson of the MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and members of the Boys & Girls Club’s Hancock County Unit look on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at a model of the Magnolia Bayou watershed they made on display in Bay St. Louis. (credit: John Fitzhugh jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com)

Via Jeff Clark | Sun Herald.com

What hidden Hancock County gem inspired the work of these 60 Coast kids?

A “hidden watershed in Bay St. Louis” is getting a lot of exposure thanks to a partnership between Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and the Hancock County Boys & Girls Club. The project was a summer-long STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education program.

The Magnolia Bayou Watershed in Bay St. Louis was the subject of a multimedia art exhibition that included the activation of a storefront at 122 Blaize Ave. in the Depot District. Some of the participants in the educational program drew sketches of wildlife on the watershed and built a 3D model of the ecosystem. The exhibit opened to the public Friday.

The exhibit also featured a 5-minute documentary, “Magnolia Bayou: Bay St. Louis’ Hidden Watershed,” which documents what the students learned about the watershed.

It was written and directed by Steve Barney of the Bay St. Louis Creative Arts Center . It contains video footage of Magnolia Bayou as well as still photography of the watershed.

“We had 60 about kids ranging in age from 9 to 14, and we were able to work with them several times, and we were able to get really in depth, especially with the artwork,” Blarney said. “The activities started at the beginning of the summer and around the last week in July, we started working with the kids intensively on the art work to culminate everything we learned this summer.”

 Blarney said the project was was designed to to hit three educational targets.

“We had three objectives, which was to have an outstanding learning outcome for the kids, educate the people of Bay St. Louis about the conservation of the fragile ecosystem and the third objective was to have a model which could be used by other grant recipients across the country,” he said. “I think we hit all of our goals.”

The young filmmaker

The five minute short film, which features the music of former Bay St. Louis resident Pete Fountain, highlights the 772 acres of streams known collectively as Magnolia Bayou Watershed. It enters the Bay of St. Louis at the Bay Waveland Yacht Club. The documentary creates the hypothesis that the estuary is shrinking because of commercial development in Hancock County.

Nick Bearden, 15, of Pass Christian, said he has been involved with film making and video editing sine he was nine. Nick did the drone shots, videography and editing for the documentary.

“I’m self taught,” he said. “I learned a lot by watching and uploading Youtube videos,” Nick said. “I watched a lot of tutorials.”

He said he learned a great deal about the watershed and conservation from working on the project.

“I had never really paid much attention the Bays St. Louis watershed and economic development is impacting this area,” Nick said. “It was very much an eye opener.”

Off the couches and working outside

The art exhibit was the culmination of a summer program where its participants spent several hours outdoors studying the ecosystem, by taking water samples and monitoring the native species of the bayou.

“Every day the bayou is more and more degraded and we have to be the ones that are going to save it,” said Boys & Girls Club member Sabrina Hoyt, 15. “It was a really good leaning experience.”

Devonte Han, 15, said he saw the program as a good way to learn something new.

“I did more of the art on this project,” Devonte said. “ I learned that the bayou is not doing so well because of how people are treating it and we need to treat it better.”

Read more from The Shoefly Magazine and The Sea Coast Echo

MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio-led project receives $100,000 Knight Cities Challenge grant

June 14th, 2017 Comments Off on MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio-led project receives $100,000 Knight Cities Challenge grant

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is receiving a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a project that seeks to increase community engagement on the city of Biloxi’s once segregated beaches, the city’s primary recreation space. (Submitted photo/courtesy of David Perkes)

By Sasha Steinberg | Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is receiving a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a project that seeks to increase community engagement at the city of Biloxi’s primary recreation space.

Titled “Witnessing the Beach,” the project is among 33 winners of the foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge, which is designed to help spur civic innovation at the city, neighborhood and block levels through ideas generated by innovators from around the country.

Specifically, the challenge encourages applicants—nonprofits, for-profits and individuals, to name a few—to share ideas for making the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers more vibrant places to live and work. The challenge is made possible by The Knight Foundation, which supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. For more, visit http://knightcities.org.

This year, 4,500 applications were evaluated on the strength of the proposed project idea, its potential to advance talent, opportunity or engagement, and the plan to execute the project. Of those, 144 finalists were selected and evaluated on five criteria: impact, innovation, inspiration, learning and capacity. The Knight Foundation board of trustees chose 33 winners, including MSU’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio.

David Perkes, MSU professor and founding director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, officially accepted the award Monday evening [June 12] in Miami, Florida. He was accompanied by Bill Raymond, historical administrator for the City of Biloxi, one of the project’s co-sponsors. Other partners include the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP.

Perkes said the primary objective of the proposed “Witnessing the Beach” project is to create a culture of engagement on Biloxi’s once segregated beaches.

“Biloxi’s beach is the city’s most used public space, but it is typically not programmed and the public access is taken for granted,” he said. “The organized 1960’s wade-in protests challenged the segregation of Biloxi’s beaches. Programming the beach in the same places the wade-in demonstrations were organized will create a highly visible place for community engagement.”

 “Cities are the product of their place and culture,” Perkes continued. “Biloxi’s beach and its African American population are primary components of the city’s history and present condition,” Perkes continued. “The Wade-in protesters are now seniors, and their witnesses of work to overcome racial discrimination in 1960 are especially needed today.”

Perkes said the proposed project calls for the construction of movable platforms that will be positioned on the beach at several Wade-in protest sites. The movable platforms would be created by a large, roll-out surface on which chairs can be set up and shade from the sun can be provided.

Additionally, the platform will be designed to support exhibit panels, which will help create a pop-up gallery on the beach. This changing exhibit space will give artists and other storytellers a unique and very public venue to showcase and discuss their work, thereby advancing Biloxi’s creative culture, Perkes said.

“Creating a movable event and exhibit place with a surface that is accessible to people with mobility limitations will expand the beach’s use and bring heroic Civil Rights stories to life. The space will connect people of different generations and races with today’s artists and youth, so they can share past stories and discuss today’s concerns,” Perkes said.

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

Through close, pragmatic partnerships, GCCDS works with local organizations and communities in and beyond Mississippi’s three coastal counties, putting professional expertise to work in an effort to shape vibrant and resilient Gulf Coast Communities. Learn more at gccds.org or www.msstate.edu/videos/2015/08/we-ring-true-gulf-coast-community-design-studio.

For more information on the GCCDS’s Knight Cities Challenge project, contact Perkes at 228-436-4661 or dperkes@gccds.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Read the story in The Sun Herald.

 
 

News from the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

October 18th, 2016 Comments Off on News from the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

VERTICAL_WEB_maroonThe Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, a research center housed within the School of Architecture and the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University, has had a busy few months:

  • Recently, Professor David Perkes, AIA, director of the center, was asked to serve on the AIA Affordable Housing Design Awards Jury.
  • Perkes also presented an AIA webinar on flooding along with the executive director of the Baton Rouge AIA Chapter and Russell Davidson, AIA President.
  • Perkes then traveled to Colorado for the NIST Community Resilience Panel Meeting.
  • The center was one of eight MSU programs to host a table at the university’s Infinite Impact Campaign Celebration on October 7.  The event showcased research and exciting projects happening throughout the university.
  • Perkes was invited to participate in the White House “Frontiers” Conference on October 13.

Mississippi Museum of Art video features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

September 29th, 2016 Comments Off on Mississippi Museum of Art video features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

David Perkes, director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, was recently featured in a video by the Mississippi Museum of Art.

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio – a research center within in the School of Architecture and College of Architecture, Art and Design – was established on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 to work in communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. It has since evolved from disaster recovery work to addressing long-term issues of affordable housing, healthy communities and resilient landscapes and infrastructure.

The interview is part of the “When Modern was Contemporary” exhibit.

Gulf Coast Community Design Studio one of several from MSU making a difference in storm aftermath

January 5th, 2016 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio one of several from MSU making a difference in storm aftermath

Via Alumnus magazine | Mississippi State University | Fall 2015 | By Zack Plair

Storm Season: A decade after Katrina, continued research seeks to prevent devastation

Preparing to walk into her bridal shower in September 2005, Laura Buchtel McWhorter struggled to wipe the tears from her eyes and regain her composure.

A Metairie, Louisiana, native and 2003 graduate of Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast meteorology, she had evacuated her south Louisiana residence just days before Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic landfall on the Gulf Coast.

As she arrived to her shower in Tupelo, she received on her cell phone the first images of her parents’ home sitting in more than a foot of water. Her grandparents’ home, she later learned, was in the same shape.

Her family members, thankfully, were fine. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for everyone.

More than 1,800 people on the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi died after Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, made landfall as a Category 3 storm on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm laid waste to entire communities on the Mississippi coast, while the storm surge caused levees to fail and flood New Orleans, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.

McWhorter and her husband, Kelley, married on Oct. 8 that year at the Chapel of Memories on Mississippi State’s Starkville campus. Immediately after their honeymoon, she said they went to Metairie to help her family sift through the waterlogged rubble and start the process of getting them back on their feet.

“It was a happy time because of the wedding, but it was a trying time, too, because of the storm,” McWhorter said, recalling the upheaval. “It was definitely a crazy time.”

That December, McWhorter had the opportunity to fill in for the beleaguered chief meteorologist—who had worked months straight without a day off since Katrina—at WWLTV in New Orleans, a CBS affiliate where she had interned during her senior year at MSU. Her interim work led to a full-time meteorologist job at the station, where she’s worked ever since.

But when she and her husband moved to New Orleans in the spring of 2006, they faced a city still wounded from Katrina’s wrath and man’s failures.

“It didn’t even look like a city,” McWhorter said. “At night, it was so dark and the silence was deafening. Even in the day, everything was just so brown and gray. Nobody knew if New Orleans would come back. There was a period when we thought, ‘This is never going to be right again.’”

A REFUGE FROM THE LAST RESORT

More than 500 miles away, Michael McDaniel was appalled. He said it was the only word that came to mind when he saw the mess before him in early autumn 2005, and 10 years later, he still can’t think of a better one.

A graphic designer working in Austin, Texas, at the time, he saw firsthand what life was like for those living in Houston’s Astrodome after being moved from the Superdome in New Orleans­—the original “refuge of last resort.”

He said he vividly remembers instances where desperate people, who had presumably lost most of their worldly possessions, wandered around the stadium holding up makeshift signs with names of family members they couldn’t locate scrawled across the front. The chaos there was “mind-boggling,” he said.

And so, that’s what he’s trying to do—using a disposable coffee cup as a template.

A Centreville native and 1999 Mississippi State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art, McDaniel developed the idea for Exo, a portable emergency shelter. Reaction Housing, his Austin-based company, will soon begin full-scale production of the shelter, along with other emergency shelter products.

Built similar to a teepee using a lightweight, durable, proprietary material, McDaniel said the latest version of the Exo weighs about 375 pounds. The units can sleep two to four people, but there is also a model with desks and shelves that can be used as a mobile command center at a disaster-relief staging area.

All furniture and elements of an Exo fold flat, meaning four people can quickly set up, take down and carry the shelter without machinery. It doesn’t contain its own power source, but with 110-volt outlets, each unit can connect to an outside power source, such as a generator or a car battery with an inverter.

Exos use keycards, similar to those at hotels, but can also be accessed with a regular key. McDaniel explained Reaction uses a software system to control access to the units and track registered Exo users, which would allow people to more easily locate their loved ones if the product was employed during a disaster.

McDaniel started developing the Exo in 2007. He said he basically worked on the concept and design in his backyard at nights and on weekends for the first six years.

He started Reaction in 2013, after his product acquired its first angel investor. McDaniel said Reaction now has more than two months of orders to fill. Most of those are from commercial or individual customers who are willing to spend the roughly $12,000 per unit on recreation or other personal use.

While that might get the Exo noticed, McDaniel said he is still striving for his product to serve a greater purpose and create sales volume that will drive down the price. He said he hopes, in time, government agencies and private aid organizations will purchase Exos in advance of an emergency. That way, if a hurricane is headed for the Gulf Coast, for instance, the agency or organization could quickly stage a mass shelter area.

“We see this as becoming a tool for planning, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction,” McDaniel said. “A hurricane is the only disaster that you can see coming and plan for. And with these, people won’t be sleeping on Army cots in sports arenas. It’s a way to better keep the people and their belongings safe.”

MORE ACCURATE PREDICTIONS

Mississippi State University faculty and staff are also doing their part to improve disaster forecasting, response and recovery.

The university’s Geosystems Research Institute teamed up in 2014 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California-based Liquid Robotics to test the effectiveness of an unmanned ocean-surface vehicle in more accurately predicting the paths and intensities of hurricanes.

Associate research professor and meteorologist Pat Fitzpatrick, who is stationed among three GRI teams at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, said
institute researchers field-tested three Liquid Robotics-manufactured Wave Gliders last summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Wave Glider looks like it’s on a surfboard. Its main structure floats on the ocean’s surface tethered by a cable to underwater flaps that use waves for propulsion. The glider’s floating structure carries battery- and solar-powered instruments to measure wind, pressure, waves, currents, water temperature and more.

The data from the gliders is collected via satellite.

Weather buoys are the standard for reading environmental measurements of storms, but if a storm doesn’t cross over a buoy, storm path and intensity predictions can be inaccurate. With more study, Fitzpatrick said he hopes NOAA can one day deploy a fleet of gliders to fill in gaps where there are no buoys.

“All it takes is a little more information to completely change the predicted path of the storm,” he said. “NOAA was very pleased with our work last year, but I think this needs more study. We need to get one of these into an actual hurricane and see how it does.”

FASTER RESPONSE

Mississippi State’s Social Science Research Center is developing technology using “human sensors” that could make future emergency response quicker and more effective.

Sponsored by a $150,000 grant from NOAA, SSRC researchers have accessed Twitter’s archives and sifted through almost 5 million tweets posted from the New York and New Jersey areas during Hurricane Sandy in 2008. The majority of the tweets deal with the storm, including hundreds of thousands of photos of flooding and other storm damage, and each is geocoded to within 5-10 feet of where it was posted.

The team, which includes Fitzpatrick, John Edwards and Somye Mohanty, also surveyed 20,000 residents of the Sandy-affected area, to find out how they received information about the storm and how they responded.

“This data is as useful, if not more useful, than traditional survey data,” said SSRC director Arthur Cosby. “People were using social media during Sandy to ask for help and offer help, while others were organizing aid efforts.”

Using what they’ve learned about how people use social media to request and offer assistance, the team is now developing software that emergency management services can use during disasters to see tweets from the affected area. This will help first responders use Twitter to directly contact those who need help and respond more quickly to issues.

Mohanty said it would also allow emergency managers to more easily convey accurate information to the public during weather events or other disasters.

“The more information you have, the better decisions you can make,” Mohanty said. “The better decisions you make, the more lives you can save.”

SUSTAINABLE RECOVERY

The Biloxi-based Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, a Mississippi State research center, has taken charge of making the post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast better than it was before the storm.

Using a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as several regional partnerships and community volunteer hours, the studio’s professional staff has helped design and build more than 230 new homes and rehabilitate another 100 in Katrina-affected communities in Mississippi.

David Perkes, the design studio’s director, said the focus on resiliency rather than speed helped plot a better long-term vision for the coast. In other words, the studio doesn’t just want to build basic housing that would become rental property in five to 10 years, he said. Instead, the plan is to work with property owners to build homes that will stand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation.

“An important lesson we learned through this rebuilding work was the value of involving community members in the design process,” Perkes said. “In doing that, we hope we will instill in them a stronger sense of ownership.”

Perkes’ team of designers and landscape architects have earned American Institute of Architecture recognition for their home designs. Most recently, the studio won an Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award for restoring Bayou Auguste in east Biloxi, which Katrina devastated.

Through that project, the team removed debris and repaired the bayou’s wetland habitat by building a neighborhood wetland park. Mississippi State students and community volunteers also engaged in educational programs about improving the bayou’s functions of restoring and improving the nursery habitat for fish and shrimp, reducing pollution and debris entering the ocean through the integrated bayou and storm water system, and creating a marshland to contain floodwater from extreme storm events.

“Resiliency is not just about becoming better prepared for a disaster,” Perkes said. “It’s about improving the day-to-day quality of life in these communities. We’re wanting to take the awareness that comes from Katrina, and use it to build a sustainable, resilient community mindset.”

MOVING FORWARD AFTER THE STORM

Back in New Orleans, despite McWhorter’s fears and those of many who trudged through the early post-Katrina days, the city has bounced back.

Neighborhoods organized after the waters receded, she said, and people, all bound together by crisis, started helping one another. The storm and its aftermath, it seems, became part of the New Orleans DNA.

“There was such a sense of community because we were all going through the same thing,” McWhorter said. “We all have our Katrina story, and we’re all connected by that bond.”

That bond the storm created in New Orleans, however, also brought with it a sort of hangover for residents, especially in dealing with the threat of severe weather, she said. And it’s changed the expectations for meteorologists in the area.

During the run-up to Hurricane Gustav’s landfall in 2008, which fortunately fell short of its “Katrina-like” force projections, McWhorter said a sort of weather-related post-traumatic stress became evident.

She explained that Gulf Coast residents have learned the storm terminology and want to see all the hurricane models, but most of all, they want meteorologists’ advice on how to stay safe.

“I don’t think I was prepared to be part meteorologist, part psychologist when I got into this business,” she said. “Here, you don’t just tell people what the weather is like; you actually have to coach them through it.

“People here are gun-shy about any storm. They want all the information you can give them, even what you would consider to be the more scientific stuff. They expect it.”

In the decade since the storm, she said, the city built back little by little—rebuilding houses, businesses and infrastructure destroyed by Katrina’s wrath. With better levees, better evacuation plans and more accurate weather forecasting, McWhorter said New Orleans is much better prepared if another Katrina hit.

What guarantees the city’s survival more than anything else though, she added, is the same force that pulled it through the pain Katrina wrought – its people.

“The storm toughened us up, and it taught us just to live our lives day to day,” she said. “If another Katrina hits, there’s definitely going to be damage. When the inevitable happens and a bad storm comes, we’ll survive and rebuild. If we made it through Katrina, we can make it through anything.”

David Perkes presents final fall 2015 Harrison Lecture

November 3rd, 2015 Comments Off on David Perkes presents final fall 2015 Harrison Lecture

David Perkes, founding director for Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, presented the final Harrison Lecture for the fall on Fri., Oct. 30, in the Robert and Freda Harrison Auditorium in Giles Hall.

Perkes discussed the work of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and how the research center got its start.

He then used seven social-ecological principals to talk about resilience: maintain diversity/redundancy, manage connectivity, manage slow variables, complex adaptive systems, encourage learning, broaden participation, and promote polycentric governance.

“The work of our time is to figure out how to make resilient communities,” said Perkes, who challenged students to figure out what that means to them and their future work as architects.

Joining School of Architecture students, faculty, staff and friends were MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw and and Associate Vice President for Research J.A. “Drew” Hamilton Jr.

A reception was held after the lecture in the Giles Gallery, which is currently showcasing work from both of the College of Architecture, Art and Design research centers – the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and the Carl Small Town Center – as well as undergraduate research.

Design studio director to present next Harrison lecture

October 27th, 2015 Comments Off on Design studio director to present next Harrison lecture

Gulf Coast Community Design Center (GCCDS) - Biloxi Katrina recovery architecture and landscape architecture - for Foundation Annual Report

David Perkes

By Zach Plair | Mississippi State University

David Perkes is looking beyond rebuilding and focusing more on resilience.

As founding director for Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, he plans to promote the studio’s forward-thinking design philosophy when he visits the Starkville campus Friday [Oct. 30] as part of the MSU School of Architecture’s Robert and Freda Harrison Endowed Visiting Lecture Series. He will speak at 4 p.m. in the Robert and Freda Harrison Auditorium at Giles Hall.

MSU established the design studio in Biloxi as an outreach program of the College of Architecture, Art and Design in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Its staff of professional designers has worked with communities, non-profit organizations and residents to rebuild or repair hundreds of homes, as well as reclaim landscape along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. Through a thoughtful, design initiative that closely involves stakeholders, Perkes said, the center aims to promote community sustainability.

The studio has earned numerous regional and national awards, and has been named a National Resilience Design Studio by the American Institute of Architects and Rockefeller foundations.

“The focus isn’t just on rebuilding after Katrina,” Perkes said. “It’s about making strong, resilient coastal communities.”

Started in 2009 with a gift from the Harrisons, the visiting lecture series invites architects, academics, artists, makers and theoreticians from the U.S. and around the world to the MSU campus to present their work and interact with students, said Michael Berk, School of Architecture director and F.L. Crane Professor. The series typically hosts about 10 lecturers annually, he added.

“The intention of the visiting series is to bring cutting-edge ideas from around the world and the academy to our students and faculty in Starkville,” Berk said. “These inspiring presentations have an amazing impact on our students — it opens their eyes to the possibilities beyond the horizon. These visitors also get a glimpse of the amazing work our students and faculty are doing, helping to enhance our external reputations.”

A former director for the Jackson Community Design Center, where he taught fifth-year architecture students, Perkes won the Latrobe Prize in 2011 and served as Loeb Fellow in 2003-04.

Perkes said he hopes his lecture gives students at MSU’s Starkville campus a better understanding of the design studio’s work and inspires them to become involved.

Check out the recent video featuring Perkes and the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio.

Katrina documentary features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director

August 24th, 2015 Comments Off on Katrina documentary features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director


The director of Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is part of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s new documentary about Hurricane Katrina, its impact on the region and the 10-year recovery process.

MPB interviewed David Perkes about the center’s work for its special, “Rising Above the Surge: The Post Katrina Coast.”

The documentary will air on Wednesday [Aug. 26] at 7 p.m., and again on Saturday [Aug. 29] at 7 p.m., as part of MPB’s special coverage of Hurricane Katrina 10 years after it made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is embedded in Biloxi, and provides planning and architectural design assistance to communities and nonprofit organizations following Hurricane Katrina. Since Katrina struck in August 2005, the design studio work has led to over 150 new houses and redevelopment plans for neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast.

For more information, please visit www.gccds.org or contact Perkes at 228-436-4661 or dperkes@gccds.msstate.edu.

Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director featured in Sun Herald

August 21st, 2015 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director featured in Sun Herald

A better blueprint: Jackson architect’s post-Katrina studio helped homeowners rebuild

Architect’s post-Katrina studio helped homeowners rebuild

Gulf Coast Community Design Center (GCCDS) - Biloxi Katrina recovery architecture and landscape architecture - for Foundation Annual Report

David Perkes

When Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left thousands without homes, an architect from Jackson saw an opportunity to help residents rebuild homes they could be proud of.

David Perkes realized the need for architectural expertise in the aftermath of Katrina while he was working in Jackson at a Mississippi State University architectural outreach program.

“It was pretty obvious work was desperately needed on the Coast,” he said. “I was commuting from Jackson to Biloxi immediately to offer as much assistance as I could.”

After a few months, Perkes found an office in Biloxi and formally opened the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio.

“All we could do at the beginning was give homeowners a professional opinion,” he said. “We presented them with options so they wouldn’t feel hopeless.”

Perkes said he didn’t want to build houses just to get them up.

“I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and say we could have done better,” he said. “I was terrified of the houses being labeled as just another temporary Katrina house.”

Perkes quickly realized the best way to get homeowners to enjoy their houses was to get them involved in the design process.

“Most agencies present people with two or three floor plans,” he said. “We opened it up to endless possibilities.”

Homeowners were encouraged to build what they truly wanted and to use the opportunity to remedy any issues they had with their old homes.

“Wider bathrooms, handicap-accessible utilities, larger bedrooms, it was completely up to the person who would be living in it,” he said. “People fell in love with the finished product.”

To date, GCCDS has built 230 new homes and rehabilitated 100 others for residents all along the Coast.

“It’s encouraging to see,” he said. “Being so close to the recovery of this community is why we’re still here.”

Perkes and his studio have shifted their main focus from housing to landscape development.

“We’re a direct reflection of the community,” he said. “Everyone is moving from housing concerns to the environment.”

The studio, on Howard Avenue, has brought in specialists to help plan for better wetland habitats and irrigation systems.

“I guess if you really sum us up we just want what’s best for the people of the Gulf Coast,” he said.

“Fulfilling their interests and needs is what keeps us going.”

Gulf Coast Design Studio director, Mississippi AIA discuss lessons from Hurricane Katrina

August 21st, 2015 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Design Studio director, Mississippi AIA discuss lessons from Hurricane Katrina

AIA Architect: Lessons from Katrina

Seven Gulf Coast-area architects speak about what they’ve learned in the decade since the hurricane

By Scott Frank

To coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we reached out to a cross-section of architects for their first-hand and varied insights on any positive developments in terms of design approaches, public policy changes, client attitudes, and still-remaining gaps and vulnerabilities for the Gulf Coast region.

Based on what has been learned in the years following Hurricane Katrina, what are the most important considerations for communities in disaster-prone areas?

Mark Ripple, AIA: In New Orleans, we have spent the last century living under the delusional idea that we could keep pumping our city dry, building higher and higher floodwalls, and that ultimately our engineering acumen would keep us safe. We ignored basic principles which were clearly understood by our urban forerunners of the 18th and 19th centuries—that flexible, adaptable design approaches which embrace and engage our environment is the optimum long-term approach.

Allison H. Anderson, FAIA: Communities need to accept that an event is not a once-in-a-lifetime event and plan for the next one—one that will be stronger and more damaging to life and property. If they understood that there was a 10-year timeline, and that they had 10 years to prepare for the next storm, it would have changed the recovery substantially.

David Perkes, AIA: When disasters occur, it is almost automatic that FEMA will expand its flood zones. This catches homeowners off-guard and presents real challenges from insurance and building code standpoints if they decide they want some design elements to better protect their home against future storms. The change in flood zones actually changes the entire notion of being a homeowner, where their residence can go instantly from being an asset to a financial liability.

Ann Somers, AIA: To have a delineated plan in place for evacuation, and a plan in place for those that do not leave in time but need shelter; then have contacts with all the groups that can help after a disaster, so cleanup and getting home- and business-owners back as soon as possible to start re-building. A lot of structures were further damaged following Katrina because they had no cleanup effort until long after the storm.

Judith Kinnard, FAIA: The loss of life and property is typically the result of bad policies and decisions by the public and private sectors. Disaster events are often predictable; they can and must be managed in advance.

Have you noticed any positive changes in design approaches, government agency protocols, and/or public awareness? If so, what are the most compelling?

Steve Maher, AIA: After Katrina, the insurance companies took a big hit and the Louisiana State Legislature had to respond quickly in order to convince insurance companies to stay in the state. TheLouisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council was founded, and [it] established wind-design requirements based on certain areas of the state. These increased wind-design standards have proved to be prudent, as shown by how newer buildings fared in light of hurricanes Gustav [2008] and Isaac [2012].

Perkes: Almost immediately, the [Mississippi] governor’s office changed the policy regarding casinos in Biloxi that had been built and floating in the water. Not only did it get these structures out of the Gulf of Mexico and harm’s way, but they are now far better integrated into the urban fabric and a more natural part of the community. Mississippi is also leading the country with programs through the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety that provides financial incentives to design and build beyond code. A $500 spend when fortifying a roof can result in a 20 percent insurance reduction. At the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security is exploring a “Resilient Star” standard, which would make a big difference to advancing fortified building.

Kinnard: There is a fundamentally different approach to the way we think about the ground and the landscape. Designers are using many creative strategies to link raised building levels to public streets and sidewalks. The city’s longstanding approach to stormwater pumping has, unfortunately, increased the risk of flooding and property damage from land subsidence. Policies are changing, however, and our recently adopted Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance requires most projects to retain a significant quantity of rainfall on-site while including landscape to mitigate the heat-island effect and sheltering pedestrians from the sun.

J. Scott Eddy, AIA: Adaptability, being able to change based on immediate needs or circumstances; and diversity, planning to reduce the risk of loss of any one type of service/utility within a city/town/municipality due to a single event. In Collins, Miss., there were underground gasoline storage tanks. So gas was available, but due to Katrina there was no power to pump it.

Anderson: The level of familiarity with design, a result of charrettes, has given citizens a new language with which to demand change. Although recovery didn’t happen exactly as envisioned, residents understand the value of walkability, mixed uses, historic preservation, and green spaces. Now, because of the strong community engagement, these are the people and groups that are empowered to make things happen.

How have general public and architecture client attitudes to resilient design approaches evolved in recent years?

Anderson: After Katrina, there was so much confusion about the base flood elevations that many people rushed to rebuild at their previous elevation the same footprint they lost. Many of these rapid rebuilders suffered additional damage from Isaac and Gustav. Because of these recent storms, and changes to the flood insurance subsidies, they are dismayed to discover the price tag that accompanies this decision. There will always be the holdouts that say, “I want what I had before the storm,” but we need to share this message: It comes at a higher cost.

Eddy: Based on the impact of Katrina, I’ve seen more client requests for diversity in building systems to increase redundancy, and requests for more proactive planning to address the “what if this or that happens?” Still very much a cost consideration, but it is being talked about.

Ripple: The implementation of resilient practices has been no different. People may not understand how the city works, but we recognize its failures and shortcomings more than ever in the 10 years following the storm. Resilient design has been a way to bridge those shortcomings, by keeping communities in place and intact while preparing them with an appropriate architectural response, to confront a significant disaster or emergency and pick up the pieces thereafter.

If you had a magic wand to make one change from an official policy or regulatory standpoint, what would it be?

Anderson: No “grandfathered” structures: If there have been repetitive losses, people must relocate away from unsafe sites. Allow higher densities on safer ground to receive these housing units.

Maher: We have to make coastal conservation a top priority at the local, state, and especially the federal level. The Gulf Coast is our first line of protection against hurricanes, and we’re losing an area the size of a football field every hour! The coast has to be preserved in order to protect our communities.

Eddy: Within the past few years, Mississippi has adopted a statewide building code, but it contains language which allows municipalities to opt out. I would like to see a mandatory statewide building code as a means of establishing a minimum standard of design and construction regardless of where you are located in the state.

Ripple: To require every Corps of Engineers capital project to include robust involvement by architects. It is quite dismaying to see the massive new flood protection work being executed without any urban design or aesthetic considerations. One need look no further than the Netherlands to see that urban-scaled infrastructure projects can be beautiful as well.

Perkes: What has been frustrating is that if a family wants to relocate to a safer area following a disaster there is not an equitable way for families to be bought out. The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs are extremely complicated—it’s like they almost discourage families to seek a relocation buyout option by making the application process so cumbersome. There needs to be some readymade programs that are user-friendly and make it economically feasible for families to have their homes bought out at fair and reasonable prices.Kinnard: I would still like to see higher-density development on higher ground as a prudent strategy, without forcing residents out of the lower areas.Somers: That is easy: a statewide building code.

  • Allison H. Anderson, FAIA, unabridged Architecture, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
  • J. Scott Eddy, AIA, Barlow•Eddy•Jenkins, P.A., Jackson, Miss.
  • Judith Kinnard, FAIA, Professor of Architecture and Harvey-Wadsworth Chair of Landscape Urbanism, Tulane University
  • Steve Maher, AIA, Ritter Maher Architects, Baton Rouge, La.; Member of AIA Strategic Council, Regional Representative, Gulf States
  • David Perkes, AIA, MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Biloxi, Miss.
  • Mark Ripple, AIA, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans
  • Ann Somers, AIA, Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Jackson, Miss. (MSU School of Architecture: BARC Dec1981)

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