Gloria Chang (MDes R&R/MArch II 2019), Dení López, (MDes R&R/MAUD 2019), Susanna Pho (MDes R&R 2019), and Isaac Stein (MDes R&R/MLA II 2020) received several awards to conduct research over the summer. We hereby give you a breakdown of their work and promise to keep you posted with their results!

Isaac Stein

Penny White Project Fund & MDes Research and Development Award

Located along a 200-mile stretch of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast Barrier Islands are at the forefront of contemporary debates surrounding climate change and land-use in the United States. These precarious landforms, which have borne the brunt of repeated hurricanes and whose shorelines migrate some 30 meters a year, exist in tension with land-use and environmental laws and private property. Their project will address how these island landscapes are continuously formed by three conflicting factors: land-use regulations, apathy towards the environment, and the dynamic processes of water, sand, and their living systems. They will examine three states—Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—where differences between local governance have resulted in different island ecologies. Finally, with a specific focus on Alabama’s Dauphin Island, their research will track the history of, and imagine future scenarios for, the paradoxical landscapes of Gulf Coast Barrier Islands. This collaboration between Isaac Stein (MDes R&R/MLA II) and Maggie Tsang (MDes ULE) is funded by the Penny White Project Fund and the MDes Research and Development Award.

Dení López

Penny White Project Fund & David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Research Grant

With support from the Penny White Project Fund and the Summer Research Travel Grant of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Nadyeli Quiroz (MLA I AP), Betzabe Valdés (MDes CC), and Dení López (MDes R&R/MAUD) will conduct a site investigation over the summer to study the Los Perros riverbank. Following the devastating earthquakes of 2017, the riverbank became an improvised and unprotected rubble dumpsite to serve as a barrier against periodic floods. The research will consist of a community needs survey, a thorough mapping and ecological study, and interviews with key actors within and outside the local population. In conjunction, these processes will help us find prospective rubble deposits, understand the towns on the riverbank along with their pre-and-post disaster underlying power structures, and synthesize a proposal that has the potential to strengthen the local sense of place.

The intention is to develop an environmentally conscious project-based plan for incremental action that serves as a foundation to deal with inevitable upcoming disasters and one that has the ability to negotiate between the local community, institutions, and other development experts. In other words, this is the first step to create a comprehensive flood-control project and community-led public space along the river. They aim to advance emerging expertise about urban, social, and geophysical conditions in similar global settings. The project will initiate their year-long thesis, set a precedent for a different kind of preemptive intervention in rural areas, and hopefully contribute to a community-led design project.

Gloria Chang

Community Service Fellowship Program

The US Naval War College produces research and educates within a single field: strategy. Within Gloria’s host program, they analyze current methods and technologies to develop emergency and disaster response strategies and run simulations to train leaders and practitioners in the government, military, humanitarian and private sector in coordinating action laterally. Much of the methodology that is being disseminated (including at HHI, HKS, and HSPH) for disaster response is produced here, and like their fellow programs which run war games on a frequent and regular schedule, the methodology is constantly being tested through mock implementation with a wide variety of participants. As a Community Service Fellow, Gloria (MDes R&R/MArch II) will be working towards public safety in the face of future climate crises and conflict alert conditions, contributing to the training of others, and showing the value of spatial and design thinking in alternative fields.

Susanna Pho

Edward M. Gramlich Fellowship in Community and Economic Development

This summer, Susanna will be a conducting research as a Gramlich Fellow. The Edward M. Gramlich Fellowship in Community and Economic Development is co-sponsored by JCHS and NeighborWorks®America. Gramlich Fellows spend a summer investigating policy and practice challenges faced by public and nonprofit sector organizations in real time, in partnership with NeighborWorks®America, a national practitioner network, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard’s nationally recognized housing research center.

Through the fellowship, Susanna will be researching the ways in which community-based organizations bridge access and knowledge gaps in disaster risk management structures through the cultivation of long-term trust and the support of local self-organization in response to community hazard exposure.