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College of Environment and Design

featured projects

CED is involved in a wide variety of outreach activities as part of our classes, studios and research.  Read below to learn how we are engaging our students in efforts that benefit a variety of community partners on the coast, in affordable neighborhoods and in high school.

dock at sunset on tybee island


CED faculty and students are working to increase coastal resiliency on Tybee Island, a barrier island 20 miles east of Savannah.  Tybee Island faces an uncertain future as it adapts to climate change, ecological depletion, increased tourism and overdevelopment. With an award-winning Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan in place – developed by UGA’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant (MAREX), the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government and CED – the island’s leaders and residents are committed to science- and data-informed growth strategies. 

In Fall 2016, Alison Smith’s undergraduate Region-Site-Place studio created a general master plan and site-scale design that sought to balance conservation, recreation, and development on Tybee Island. The project was informed by a sea level rise adaptation plan, existing conditions inventory, and GIS analysis. Later on, Doug Pardue’s undergraduate Urban Design studio used this analysis to apply a sea level rise strategy known as “adapt, retreat, protect” across the island region. They focused heavily on the triple bottom line (ecological, economic, and social impact) to facilitate their designs. Other major factors were changes over time and potential outcomes if another large-scale hurricane swept across the island. To read more about the studios' work, click here for a Georgia Landscape Magazine article written by our students. 

Professors Rosanna Rivero and Jon Calabria have engaged with Tybee Island through their Public Service and Outreach faculty fellowships.  Professor Rivero worked with MAREX and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government on the aforementioned Adaptation Plan to develop guidelines and performance measures for community resilience and planning for natural hazards.  Since 2015, Professor Jon Calabria has worked with MAREX and his Ecological Landscape Restoration class to construct a living shoreline at the Burton 4-H Center on the island. Living shorelines encourage higher ecological function and reduce harmful bacteria that threaten water-based recreation.  The project, completed over the course of two spring semesters, used bags of oyster shells to demonstrate how a living shoreline could be constructed for stabilization instead of armoring structures. 


CED students planting at CannontownCANNONTOWN

With help from the College of Environment + Design, Athens Land Trust successfully transformed a neglected parcel of land into a vibrant residential community for low-income, first-time homebuyers. The 15 unique homes are built to EarthCraft standards and designed for comfort, lasting quality, and visual appeal.

In early 2011, the Center for Community Design & Preservation hosted a three-day charrette with ALT board members, community stakeholders, potential homebuyers, and CED faculty and students. The meeting clarified the development’s purpose and generated a vision for its design.

More students and faculty have joined in throughout the past seven years. In Fall 2016, Professors Maureen O’Brien and Shelley Cannady co-taught an undergraduate landscape architecture studio focused on planting design. Their students produced six feasible designs for the lots at Cannontown, and personally installed them.  Learn more about ALT's Cannontown project here.


In Fall 2017, Professor Shelley Cannady’s planting design class produced recommendations for plantings to be installed at the Rocksprings Homes Community Center in Athens. Originally built on the site of a historic pecan orchard, the housing development's trees were a reliable source of food for the residents.  However age, drought, and storms had eliminated many of the trees. 

The second-year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture students presented their designs to the Athens Community Tree Council, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, and the Athens Housing Authority, who manages the property. Plants were procured with a public planting grant from Keep America Beautiful/UPS Foundation.

On Arbor Day (February 16, 2018), around 50 volunteers, including our students and faculty, helped install a wide variety of plants on the site, including oaks, pecans, figs and blueberries. The new plantings will provide more shade, a food source for low-income community residents, and a replacement for the existing trees that are reaching the ends of their lives.  Engaging students in local projects introduces them to our neighbors off campus and allows them to empathize with their needs, can inspire them to volunteer for other community projects around Athens, and can make them better citizens.  Arbor Day video | CED article


Balloon tower


This year, CED hosted four field trips for 560 local tenth-graders to showcase landscape architecture and environmental design through the “Experience UGA” program - a partnership between the Clarke County School District (CCSD) and the UGA Office of Service Learning which aims to bring every PreK-12 student to UGAʼs campus every year for a curricular-based field trip. Our trips were championed by the Georgia Student Landscape Architecture Association (GSLA), BLA coordinator Brad Davis and Outreach Director Jennifer Lewis.

A core tenant of design-thinking was used to develop the field trips - first, empathize with the user.  In other words, think like a tenth grader!  They are most interested in being with friends, being outside; they enjoy a little competition; have a new sense of independence in driving; and would like to hear from college students, not grown-ups. They would appreciate learning how an interest in art and creative expression could be a career.

hand graphicsUsing these guiding principles, three modules were developed that highlighted the best aspects of landscape architecture studies  – studio life and creative problem-solving in a team, hand graphics and improving outdoor spaces, and plant communities and campus design.  The high schoolers toured the Jackson Street Building studios and saw projects in progress, learned about the LEED features of the building, and participated in a team challenge to build the tallest, free-standing balloon tower!  In the fourth floor study room of the Main Library, they used the whiteboard-lined walls to practice plan-view hand-graphics and redesigned a neglected part of their high school’s campus. They also took a walking tour of UGA’s north campus to learn fun facts about plant species, campus quad design, architectural history and UGA campus traditions.

Teachers said that their students enjoyed “the hands-on activities, the casual and relaxed space they got to eat lunch in [JSB crit room] and enjoy being together, the expertise and engaging-ness of the student hosts, and the exposure to a field that combines so many elements of creativity and art with science and environmental considerations.” Another said, “I enjoyed watching my students work together to create the balloon structure [and] see students get along with students who they normally don’t talk with at school.”

The Experience UGA planning team would like to thank our amazing student volunteers and faculty that helped guide and support our inaugural trips!  

campus tour


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