Isle de Jean Charles Living Resource Center

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Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, USA

Starting in the mid 1950’s, The Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw have lost 98% of their land due to a combination of threats, including rising sea levels, coastal erosion, lack of soil and sediment renewal, and dredging for oil and gas pipelines. The community now must migrate in response to continued rising sea levels. Within the larger resettlement plan, the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe sought opportunities to preserve their cultural heritage and regenerate new lifeways, identifying a site on which to build a museum and resource center.

MASS provided architecture and landscape services for the Tribe, designing a site that integrates the wetland to facilitate a responsive and resilient relationship between the community and natural ecology. Our collaboration sought to empower the Tribe, modeling a relationship between Native and non-Native actors that increased agency and self-determination. The Living Resource Center will house classrooms, an exhibition space, and  greenhouse, and will provide space for weaving, farming, and fishing to help facilitate cross-generational cultural exchange. The center will also provide educational programming around issues related to coastal ecology and climate change.

To preserve the ecological identity and sovereignty of the Isle de Jean Charles community’s ancestral land, the design includes a communal seed bank and seed-cutting library. The seed bank will host the botanical island species critical to the traditions of the Tribe, while a network of trails will provide processing space for planted seeds to be cultivated and replanted, creating a naturalized landscape that regenerates the tribe’s ecological environment. 

These initiatives will develop a replicable model for cross-disciplinary collaboration, generating innovative solutions to address the many complex problems facing coastal communities worldwide and building capacity within the Tribe to preserve their cultural resilience.

Project Details

29.398278, -90.489199

Location: Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, USA

Year: 2017

Status: Completed

Size: 15,000 sq ft

Program: A model for a sustainable network to generate solutions related to coastal ecology and climate change for the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw.

Services: Conceptual Design, Architectural and Landscape Design, Project Accompaniment

Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw

Lowlander Center, ByWater Institute at Tulane University, Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative