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UT Austin Team Travels to Italy with Ideas for Rebuilding New Orleans and Environs A team of faculty and students from The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture (UTSOA) has been invited to contribute its research and design ideas for the revitalization of New Orleans to the Venice Biennale. The exhibition, organized under the theme “Cities, Architecture and Society,” will run from Sept. 10 to Nov. 19. With a concentration on urban infrastructure and social dynamics, the exhibition will focus on the potential of cities to contribute to a more sustainable, democratic, and equitable world. UTSOA is one of 12 international teams that will present urban concepts in the Biennale’s architectural category. In all, teams representing 74 nations will participate and more than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend. Comprising the UTSOA team are student members Rachel Brown, Clayton Fry, Frank Jacobus, Brett Koenig, Lindsey Moyer, Lynn Petermann, A g ustina Rodrig uez, A ndrea Schelly, Lee Ulmer, Aimee Weber, and Kristine Stiphany Weimer, along with faculty members Jason Sowell, Nichole Wiedemann, Frederick Steiner, Wilfried Wang, Kevin Alter, Larry Doll, and Barbara Hoidn. As both curator and contributor for its portion of the exhibit, UTSOA selected 13 universitybased projects from across the U.S., as well as work from several professional firms. This wide range of responses will occupy a room in the Italian Pavilion in Venice. The room will be divided into four themed areas by an armature wall constructed by the UTSOA team specifically for the exhibition. The four areas – Foundation, Proposition, Adaptation, and Projection – will provide detailed looks at New Orleans before, during, and after the city was devastated in September 2005 by flooding from Hurricane Katrina. The Foundation area will reveal the natural and cultural systems to which the design work must respond, such as the dynamics of the Mississippi River, regional infrastructure and morphology, house typologies, or social networks. The Proposition area will focus on plans suggested by professional firms for consideration or acceptance by New Orleans officials. The Adaptation area will demonstrate modifications of existing housing typologies intended to make them resilient to future flooding. The Projection room will present ideas for future urban reclamation as developed by the

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illustrations courtesy UT Austin School of Architecture

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New Orleans’ canal system currently restricts recreational activity. (above) The UTSOA team suggests redesigning canals and floodways to celebrate the city’s wetland environment. The sequence below demonstrates the transformation of the existing layout (top) in which adjacent residential areas sit as much as eight feet below the canal flowline. The proposed right-of-way expansion (center) shows the same area after removal of flooded houses, with widened zones serving as park and wildlife areas that double as storage for large volumes of water during major flood events. As the need for more housing arises, mid-density residential areas would abut the newly constructed levee edge (bottom).

UTSOA team based on current data and trends. To better understand the root causes of Hurricane Katrina’s damage and the magnitude of its impact, the team conducted mapping exercises to study the dynamic conditions of southern Louisiana’s natural and cultural systems as well as the myriad social and environmental problems that affect New Orleans and the region. Strategically positioned near the mouth of the Mississippi River as a center for economic and material exchange, the urban form of New Orleans developed as an accretion of infrastructural systems and fluvial processes. The region owes its geologic existence to annual spring flooding (which provided sediment and nutrients to the alluvial plain) and a natural process known as deltaic switching (the tendency of a river to change course to find the quickest route to an outlet). The lower third of Louisiana was built through these natural processes over a period of about 5,000 years. Modern responses to this dynamic environment inscribed a hydrologic network composed of walls (levees), conduits (canals), basins (wetlands), and controls (gates and pumps) onto a shifting terrain, such that settlement practices

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