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2013 Award of Merit - Reclaiming the Lakefront: Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park
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Project Category: Open Space

Project Name: Reclaiming the Lakefront: Pontchartrain Beach and Lakeshore Park

Length of Design Effort & Date of Completion: September 2011 - April 2012

Student: Brittany Algero , University of Florida

Faculty Advisor: Lester Linscott


This project is a waterfront park design project located in New Orleans, LA, along approximately 4 miles of the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. There are three main components to this project: historical, recreational, and hydrological.             

Lake Pontchartrain has been an crucial part of New Orleans’ history since it was discovered by settlers in 1699. Within the project site, there are the remains of a Spanish fort, an historic lighthouse, important canals that have been used for centuries to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and the remnants of beloved, local amusement park and beach. The rich history of the site allows for interpretive signage and the repurposing of older structures as a museum and visitor center. The linearity of the site also allows for long and short walking paths that act as an educational trail, ideally informing both locals and visitors about the importance of this site in the city’s history.

Historically, this area was also a hub for various recreation activities for people of this city. All recreation activity ceased in the early 1980s, however, after decades of dredging and lack of proper water management resulted in the degradation of the water quality of Lake Pontchartrain, making it unsafe to swim or fish in the lake. Only a small, historic beach and lighthouse remains today but the area is extraordinarily underused due to years of poor water quality and public perception. The area provides beautiful views to the lake but little else. This project preserves the beach and lighthouse, utilizing a formal entrance plaza and staircase to emphasize it’s historical importance.

The site is very linear but is unified by it’s proposed recreation uses.  The stationary program elements, a commercial core, community recreation center, and a redesigned Pontchartrain Beach area, anchor the park. A promenade, trail system, and great lawn serve as connective tissue for more motion based activities. These two types of program elements are spread throughout the site, offering nearly unlimited recreation potential for every user group.

Interpretive hydrology is the third element of this design. The importance of the watershed of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin is overlooked by most residents in the area. The shores of the lake offer the perfect opportunity for people to see firsthand the interconnectedness of the water system that Louisiana relies so precariously on and where they fit in that system.  This is an ideal location in the city for this to happen as the site is bordered by the lake to the north and the levee to the south.

This design incorporates stormwater channels along the promenade and other major elements on the site. These channels collect the water and deposit it into larger channels throughout the site. These channels are planted with native cypress trees and other swamp vegetation, evoking the native ecosystems that were historically on this site. After the water has been filtered by this process, it is then deposited to the lake.

This shows visitors to the site that stormwater is not an issue so much as it is an opportunity, that it can be both functional and beautiful. In a city where people are historically separated from water by levees, pipes, and pumps, this park’s aim is to bring the people to the water, to remind them of what this place used to be and what it still can be, with their help.

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MISSION STATEMENT Leading, educating, and participating in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.