CLEMSON, South Carolina – Clemson University, Ain Shams University of Egypt and Huazhong Agricultural University of China are partnering to address some of today’s most pressing environmental and cultural issues through design.

Image of five students along the edge of a cemetery drawing and collecting data for their research.

Students from the three universities broke into six groups to explore different areas of Charleston. For one group, St. Lawrence Cemetery served as an ideal location to examine flooding with close proximity to creeks and marshland.
Image Credit: Robbin Knight Photography

While the universities have participated in joint design projects in the past, leaders from the three institutions came together on Clemson’s campus Monday to formalize and advance their work together through the creation of the World Design Studio. This semester, participating students from each university will research how design can deter the implications of rising sea levels in Charleston, South Carolina.

Serving as 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 the semester-long studio to participate in real-world projects across three continents.

“The World Design Studio is the perfect combination of hands-on experience and international learning that typifies why Clemson is a leading 21st century university,” said Robert Jones, Clemson’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “We seek to provide unique learning opportunities that not only advance students’ education, but also have a positive impact in our great state, so we’re thrilled the Studio’s first project will address urban development and rising sea levels in Charleston.”

Another group convened on Charleston’s Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to overlook land prone to flooding from storm surge, high tide and heavy rain.
Image Credit: Robbin Knight Photography

Over the last several years, Charleston has experienced repeated flooding, a problem that would only be exacerbated by rising sea levels. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, it is possible that the city could experience almost 180 days of tidal flooding annually by the year 2045.

Fifty-two students and eight professors are participating in the first World Design Studio project this semester. Working together with the city of Charleston and its planners, they will tackle urban design, architecture and landscape architecture issues related to flooding and sea level rise in the east and west sides of The Peninsula and create design proposals that help mitigate the issues.

On Feb. 12, the students from the three universities met in Charleston to begin their research. They presented their findings at Clemson Monday morning and now will begin creating design strategies to be presented to the city of Charleston in the spring.

“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.”

Students sitting around table reviewing work.

After fieldwork, students met at the Cigar Factory in Charleston to review data and begin creating initial designs, which were presented earlier today on Clemson’s main campus.
Image Credit: Robbin Knight Photography

Nassar and colleague Robert Hewitt have spearheaded Clemson’s efforts with Ain Shams and Huazhong Agricultural universities from the start.

“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. “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.”

In 2016, the partnership between Clemson and Ain Shams universities grew with the addition of Huazhong Agricultural University. In time, the three institutions plan to work with partners in a wide array of disciplines, ranging from transportation, robotics and environmental engineerings.

For more information or to work with the World Design Studio, click here or email Hala Nassar or Robert Hewitt.