Lauren Zahner

The Cal Poly Landscape Architecture Department started a week of events Monday morning devoted to ideas for regenerating the devastated city of New Orleans.

Students from the landscape architecture, architecture and city and regional planning departments broke up into groups that were assigned to seven different areas of the city. They were encouraged to make an effort and share their ideas because something they come up with this week could be used in New Orleans.

Government agencies do appreciate the students’ fresh ideas and some of them may come into use, said Ray Ladd, associate director of advancement for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. However, because rebuilding has already started, it may be too costly to start new proposals this late.

Design sessions and lectures by guest speakers will be held throughout the week. Lindsay Corica, landscape architecture senior, joined hundreds of other students sitting on the floor of the Berg Gallery Monday morning to hear a lecture for one of her classes.

“I came to collaborate with landscape architecture students for a redesign and to learn about how to rebuild a community after a disaster,” Corica said.

A group of 11 landscape architecture students went to Louisiana with assistant professor Joseph Ragsdale in late February to start planning for this week. They gathered information in Baton Rouge and took pictures in New Orleans. It was there that they started trying to figure out what needed to be done in New Orleans from the design standpoint. Lindsay Ringer, a sophomore student, was impacted by the death and destruction in the area when she went on the trip.

“It gave me more of a perspective and more of a passion for the world around me,” Ringer said.

One of the objectives of this week is to enrich students’ understanding of the implications of a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

“There’s a lot of learning going on, not just facts, but through design and speculation. Then they can do something with those facts,” Ragsdale said.

One landscape architecture student who went to the Gulf Coast with Ragsdale, Andie Garcia, a junior student, said she hadn’t expected what she saw in New Orleans and the whole process has been a learning experience for her.

“You can’t beat nature. It’s kind of inevitable. No matter how strong you build a wall, it can still fall down. So a city, no matter how strong you make it, there’s still the possibility that something will happen to it, that it will fall somehow,” Garcia said.

The public is invited to the events Monday through Wednesday and Friday afternoon in the hopes that they will become more aware that a lot still needs to be done. Dalton LaVoie, a senior who also went to New Orleans, said not much more than the streets had been cleaned when they were there over President’s Day weekend.

“Our experience in New Orleans helped us come to grips with what the reality of the situation really is,” LaVoie said. “This probably is going to help us appreciate landscape architecture design at a regional scale and help us work through all the scales, to really see the big picture.”

Monday’s lecture given by Don Ensign, a consultant from the firm Design Workshop, focused on the complexity of planning and on developing a sense of scale. His company participates in two university design weeks each year and he said it is a good place to recruit.

Another lecture by author, activist and ecologist Janisse Ray will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Philips Hall in the Performing Arts Center. There will also be a public presentation of student proposals on Friday from 12:30-5 p.m. in the Berg Gallery.

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