International Partnership Addresses Environmental and Cultural Issues

International PartnershipOver the last several years, Charleston has experienced repeated flooding — a problem exacerbated by rising sea levels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that the city will experience almost 180 days of tidal flooding annually by the year 2045.

In the spring term, 52 students and eight professors from Clemson, Ain Shams University of Egypt, and Huazhong Agricultural University of China tackled urban design, architecture and landscape architecture issues related to flooding and sea level rise on the east and west sides of the Charleston Peninsula. Working with the city of Charleston and its planners, they are creating design proposals that account for the effects of rising sea levels in the city.

The group is part of the first World Design Studio, a partnership of the three universities to address pressing environmental and cultural issues through design. While the universities have participated in joint design projects in the past, leaders from the three institutions met at Clemson in February to formalize their work together. A platform for international, multidisciplinary collaboration, the World Design Studio will allow architecture and landscape architecture students from the three institutions to sign up for a semester-long studio with projects across the three continents. The plan also envisions collaboration with disciplines such as transportation, robotics and environmental engineering.

“Through this partnership, our students will be able to go beyond what they thought possible while truly making an impact on the communities we work in,” said Hala Nassar, a landscape architecture professor at Clemson. “We are specifically focusing on areas in the peninsula that experience frequent flooding and road closures in conditions of heavy rain and tidal surge. We are eager to see what solutions the students create this semester and hope it can be used by other coastal towns along the East Coast.”

Nassar and colleague Robert Hewitt have spearheaded Clemson’s efforts with Ain Shams and Huazhong.

“Since we began working with Ain Shams University in 2007, we have been able to transform landscapes at some of the world’s most recognizable locations, like the city of Luxor and the pyramids of Giza Plateau,” said Hewitt, associate professor of landscape architecture; Huazhong joined the partnership in 2016. “We hope to continue building off these successes and incorporate new partners in the coming years to preserve, modify and strengthen existing locations for future generations.”