PennDesign studios tackle disaster recovery planning in Puerto Rico

To begin planning hurricane disaster recovery for Puerto Rico, PennDesign faculty members recognize that the disaster began unfolding long before hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall. Master’s students in four studios in the City and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture programs have been collecting research on Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the deadly 2017 hurricane season. Their goal is to plan long-range, systems-oriented thinking to the ongoing environmental, economic, infrastructural, and spatial problems that were exacerbated by the hurricanes.


Two studios, one in planning and the other in landscape architecture, are focused on three overlapping sites on the island. A third studio in planning is focused on the 75-acre Luis Llorens Torres public housing project in San Juan, and a fourth planning studio is looking at the Puerto Rican diaspora in Philadelphia, which has grown as residents have evacuated or been displaced from the island over the last year. 

“When you’re redeveloping after a storm and the situation before was so bad, what are you really redeveloping to?” says assistant professor of city and regional planning Allison Lassiter, who is co-teaching one of the planning studios with Associate Professor of Practice David Gouverneur. “You don’t actually want to restore the previous conditions. So you have to figure out how to grow into a better condition.” 

After an initial research phase, all four studios will travel to Puerto Rico. Students in the studio led by Lassiter and Gouverneur will focus on interrelated aspects such as socio-economic drivers, biophysical systems, economic diversification, infrastructural risk and failure, effects of sea-level rise, secure energy, food security, and disaster response. Lecturer Nicholas Pevzner’s studio is focused on energy infrastructure and the promise of more resilient landscape-driven development frameworks. Students in lecturer Nando Micale’s design studio will be studying a possible mixed-income redevelopment of the site, taking into account the housing needs of its existing residents, and a Philly-based studio will be seeking ways to provide housing for Puerto Ricans displaced from the island. 

Read more at PennDesign.