After the Storm: Restructuring an Island Ecosystem

Hurricanes Irma and Maria left many islands throughout the Caribbean utterly devastated. These cataclysmic events caused by climate change deeply disrupted the lives of the islands’ inhabitants—completely destroying homes, schools, businesses, and infrastructure, and stripping vegetation and tree canopy habitats bare. What is needed now is both an urgent humanitarian response as well as a thoughtful analysis of how to rebuild going forward.

Over 43 million people live on the Caribbean Islands today. What will the future of life on these islands be, now that it is well understood how a changing climate and rising seas will disproportionately impact their communities?

Located on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the studio’s site exemplifies the resource constraints that are a fact of life for island dwellers worldwide. It also serves as a microcosm of our planet Earth, where resource limits are less obvious but increasingly apparent.

The studio’s objective is to approach this island site as an ecosystem where relationships between inhabitants, visitors, and their environment are examined on both macro- and micro-scales. Through the design of a sustainable living center and ecotourism venue, a number of crucial design topics will be addressed. These topics include site history, design strategies, material sourcing, energy production, resilient architectural form and detailing, resource reuse, and cycles of water and waste. Program refinement and adjustments are expected to be part of the proposals.

Research is a central component of the design approach and architectural drawings representing the research topics will be required. The outcomes of the studio will include these research contributions as well as the final design for the site and its architecture.

Class meetings will be held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, on alternating weeks. A site trip is tentatively planned for the week of Spring Break to join the rebuilding effort and gain hands-on experience. A willingness to camp for the duration of the trip is a requirement for those who plan to travel with the studio. Evaluation will be based on attendance, participation, and quality of design production.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Jeanne Gang will be in residence on January 18, 19, and 31, February 1, 14, 15, and 28, March 1, 28, and 29, April 11 and 12, and April 30, May 1, or May 2 for Final Reviews.

The instructors will also be available via Skype to account for “off-week” missed time.


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