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Coastal Rundown: The Landscape Architect

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WHAT: The Landscape Architect

A landscape architect is trained to design everything outside of a building — where pedestrians flow, where plants grow, seating, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, etc. Everything outside of the building is "landscape." This work includes the manipulation of spaces like grading and terrain modeling. The idea is to create outdoor spaces for people to use.

HOW it relates to green stormwater management and infrastructure:

Landscape architects have a significant background in site engineering. They care about drainage, and perform terrain modifications to deal with what happens with water once it hits a ground surface. They’re also design experts in plants, and green infrastructure uses plants and soils as main materials in "designing the outdoors."

WHY IT MATTERS: The city’s new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance

New Orleans is currently reviewing a new CZO, which includes, for the first time, a Landscape, Stormwater Management, & Screening ordinance (Article 23). Article 23 provides new landscape architecture requirements to developers looking to build or remodel a site over 5000 square feet. The purpose of this stormwater plan is to encourage/mandate sustainable practices for landscape design, construction and landscape maintenance, reduce urban runoff, conserve water resources, reduce the urban heat island effect, and "protect public health, safety, and welfare by preserving and enhancing the positive visual experience of the built environment, promoting urban forestry, providing appropriate transition between different land uses, preserving neighborhood character, and enhancing pedestrian and vehicular traffic safety."

This is where the landscape architects come in.


Credit Dana Brown
Dana Brown

There are a bunch of landscape architects in New Orleans, and we recently met two that we’d like you to meet, too.

Dana Nunez Brown is President and Principal of Dana Brown & Associates, Inc. Dana’s work in Louisiana has focused on community planning, ecological design, and public outreach along with leading various Louisiana projects.

Dana’s thoughts on Green Stormwater Management (GSI):

“We should be using GSI whether someone is making us do it or not. It is the standard best practice now to use GSI to manage water as much as you can, so whether it’s arain garden or bioswaleor some other feature, is dependent on the site itself — how much soil you have, how much space you have, how much water is running off into it, etc.”

Dana’s thoughts on why landscape architecture is important:


"We design spaces. Spaces aren’t objects, buildings are objects. We tend to think about our city as a series of objects, but really people experience the city in the spaces between buildings — along the road, in a plaza, in a park, along a sidewalk. When you’re in a building, you’re in that facility. But you experience the city in the space, the outdoor space between buildings. So the design of streets, parks, trails walkways, that’s what we do, and that really sets the experience that an individual has intimately with a city.”

THE ACTION: Dillard University's East Campus

Dana Brown’s got a slew of water management projects under her belt, but one that incorporates a lot of different types of green infrastructure has been in place for almost five years. The firm was commissioned to develop the design of the landscape for the new Professional Schools Building at Dillard University (which achieved LEED Gold certification). DBA designed the stormwater management systems, rainwater harvesting system, pedestrian circulation, green roof, public plazas, and pervious concrete parking.

The details:

Credit Dana Brown
Stormwater management practices explainer for the project.

WHO ELSE: Elizabeth Mossup 

Credit Elizabeth Mossop
Elizabeth Mossop

Elizabeth Mossop is another local landscape architect with wide-ranging experience in both landscape design and urban planning. She is the director of Spackman Mossop and Michaels office for landscape architecture and urban design. Her practice concentrates on urban infrastructure and open space projects.

Elizabeth's thoughts on her work:

"Our work is to design beautiful places that function ecologically, socially and economically. Water management is an important part of that in New Orleans, and we are at the cutting edge of effective stormwater design, but our scope is much greater than that. We lay out infrastructure for roads and water, we do site plans to locate buildings most effectively, we select plants that will perform, we work with communities and individuals, we select materials and design green infrastructure, and so on."

Elizabeth’s thoughts on the importance of tree canopy:


“What we need to do in New Orleans is slow the water down. We need to prevent the water from getting into the drainage system underground, and there’s a whole range of ways we can do that. With stormwater, you always get the most bang for your buck the higher up the catchment you intervene. The best thing you can do is increase the amount of tree canopy you can have, because that intercepts the water before it even gets to the ground, and slows down the rate at which the water is even hitting the ground.”

THE ACTION:Press Street Gardens

Credit Elizabeth Mossop
3-D image of Press Street Gardens. It is under construction currently and will be completed early 2015.

Press Street Gardens is a half-acre urban farm and outdoor applied learning laboratory serving the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts as well as the FaubourgMarigny, Bywater and 9th Ward neighborhoods. It’s a project of NOCCA’s culinary arts program, and will give the students an opportunity to see how food is grown. It will have the school’s food truck, Boxcar, as a stationary cafe on the side of the garden when it’s not cruising the streets. Most of the site will be a commercial production garden growing flowers, vegetables and fruit for use in NOCCA’s kitchen, as well as for sale. At the lake end of the site there will be an outdoor classroom and a demonstration garden of Louisiana plants, which will also be tied to NOCCA’s teaching curriculum.

Mossop’s firm designed the garden. What that means is they’ve done a site plan that has helped them organize the various components in the most effective layout on the site. They also designed shade structures, the outdoor classroom, fences, the paving and the planting design.

Throughout the build, Mossop’s team will remain involved to help the contractors interpret their drawings and make sure things get built accurately. Their job during production is to look after the client’s interest, making sure that little things happen, like the right amount of plants gets planted, and that everything happens according to plan.

That’s all for now, but surely you’ve seen (and heard) our Coastal Glossary, the stories about Austin, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee'swater management systems, and a report back from Jesse and Eve’s trip to Saigon. Lots happening over here at the Coastal Desk... more soon!

Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Kabacoff Family Foundation.

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