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Architecture Design

Caroline Rettig ’23: The Design Discovery Program at Harvard

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2023

I received funding to attend the Design Discovery academic program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. I participated in the three-week program as a member of the Landscape Architecture cohort.

About the Experience

I received funding to attend the Design Discovery academic program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. I participated in the three-week program as a member of the Landscape Architecture cohort.

The program, set in Gund Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, followed a daily schedule of lectures in the morning and open studio time, student presentations, and or design critiques in the afternoon. In addition to hearing lectures given by faculty and recent graduates of the Master of Landscape Architecture program, I also had the opportunity to attend lectures given by influential design professionals, including J. Jih, a lecturer in architectural design at MIT, and Alice Brown, the Chief of Planning and Policy at Boston Harbor Now. The lecturers introduced me to the issues facing Boston and how they hope to address the issues with innovative, design-forward solutions. Similarly, Design Discovery participants were tasked with developing a solution to a problem we observed on our site visit to East Boston.

East Boston, a neighborhood built on a landfill in the mid-twentieth century, faces considerable social and environmental obstacles. For instance, given that East Boston sits on low artificial land, it faces a growing risk of repeated floods and damage to fragile habitats on the coastline as sea levels progressively rise. In addition, the neighborhood, known as the “Ellis Island of Boston” for its sizable immigrant population, is rapidly gentrifying with the construction of luxury waterfront apartments. In my final project, I attempted to address both concerns by replacing the newly-built apartment complexes with a living shoreline, a protected region of the coast that allows for unrestricted plant growth, erosion prevention, and greater adaptability to sea level rise. I then presented my solution to other participants and Harvard Graduate School of Design alumni using a series of graphic techniques I learned at the program, such as sections and axons created in Adobe Illustrator and Rhinoceros 3D.

The Design Discovery program undoubtedly furthered my knowledge and passion for the discipline of landscape architecture. I am so grateful to the Benenson Family for providing me this opportunity.