Off the Shelf: Betsy Roettger

Betsy Roettger, editor, School of Architecture, "Building After Katrina: Visions for the Gulf Coast"
University of Virginia Press
preface by Karen Van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture
William Moorish, Robin Dripps and Peter Waldman, School of Architecture, contributors

After the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the fall of 2005, entire towns, neighborhoods and ecologies were destroyed. What remains is a complex web of social, economic, environmental and cultural issues that demand new strategies for inhabiting this land.

During the spring semester of 2006, the University of Virginia School of Architecture took on a school-wide initiative to incorporate these issues into the research and course work of the school. For a school of architecture devoted to learning through public service, this disaster and the resulting collaborative work in the school marked a strengthening of its long-term commitment to incorporating “urgent matters” into the curriculum. The intention of the collection is to communicate pedagogical values, to contribute case studies for applied design research and to present innovative strategies for rebuilding Gulf Coast communities.

While this is a critical time for the future of the Gulf Coast communities, the work in this publication is applicable to global design problems. How does one design an intervention for a specific culture, ecology, and time? How do we respond to both disaster relief and long-term restoration? How does the design profession advance work at the intersection of disciplines? How do we propose designs that improve the environmental underpinnings of a place while serving the many cultures that shape public space?  And how can the role of the design professional become an essential voice in shaping policies that affect our physical and cultural landscape?