Outreach Studios

Outreach studios provide an opportunity to involve students in hands-on service-learning projects. These projects involve local communities, clients and interactions with stakeholders and officials.  Students produce conceptual designs and visualizations of how things might be, which lead to discussions on how to improve sites for parks, campuses, streets and village centers.  Student work generates enthusiasm and excitement in the communities the students serve.

Examples of Outreach Studio Work

Misquamicut Beach Coastal Resiliency Project-Background and Summary

Page 1 Misquamicut-jpeg

For the past 5 years, the landscape architecture department has had an ongoing relationship with RI Sea Grant and RI Coastal Resource Center (CRC). Sea Grant has funded multiple studios and have enabled professionals from many disciplines to interact and guide the students as they expanded their learning about how to deal with complex coastal issues such as sea level rise and climate change.  Again with the support of RI Sea Grant and CRC, the spring 2017 senior design studio took this a step further.  The course was structured to integrate student generated data from Landscape Architecture, Ocean Engineering and Natural Resource Economics. This data focused on examining coastal hazard risk management in Misquamicut, RI from their 3 different perspectives.  This was a first experiment at integrating 3 different classes from 3 different colleges within the University of Rhode Island.

Each landscape architecture student prepared a report of the class analysis, and their personal concepts and solutions. Click here to access the report from Emily Condon: Misquamicut Beach Report

Easton Beach Project- Newport, RI

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In the Spring 2016, 18 students in the senior design worked on an Easton Beach project in Newport, RI. This studio addressed the Easton Pond Reservoir, off RI138A and Easton Beach. The students investigated storm water flow and drainage that contaminates the water source into Easton Pond and often creates closure of Easton Beach. They also looked at the dike at the south end which is potentially vulnerable to being eroded and breached by storm surge and sea level rise. This project provided design alternatives to minimize the problems using green infrastructure for filtration, roadway redesign and philosophy of complete streets. This was a complex problem due to the vulnerability of the dike, the major roadway and the entrance to the historic cliff walk.  The final report is titled “Building a Resilient Newport” and can be accessed by clicking here: Senior Capstone Project-Spring 2016.

Wickford, RI Parking Lot Project
page1 wickford parking lot-jpeg

In the Spring 2016, 16 students in the junior studio redesigned 3 parking lots in Wickford RI that are prone to flooding at lunar and king tides. These lots are also vulnerable during increasingly more frequent and severe storm events. Each student worked individually on each parking lot incorporating the historic and cultural nature of the New England town into their proposals. Sets of boards from 6 students were chosen to be shown at the North Kingstown Public Library for 2 weeks as part of community outreach. This studio was funded by RI Sea Grant and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Coastal Resources Center.  Click here to access their presentation titled “Parking in Wickford, RI With Green Infrastructure”.  As a note, the following semester, these students evaluated the effect of their designs by using ASLA Landscape Performance Measurements.

Galilee: A Vision for a Resilient Port
Pages from FINAL Galilee Report-image

Project Summary:
This interdisciplinary studio was funded by the Rhode Island Foundation and was a collaboration between the University of Rhode Island LAR 444 Design Studio, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the URI Coastal Resources Center.  The report followed a semester-long project focused on resilience and adaptation for the Commercial Port of Galilee.  Undergraduate and graduate students studied coastal precedents that dealt with sea level rise and applied methods and approaches to the port of Galilee under different scenarios of sea level rise.    The students evaluated existing and projected conditions, facilitated a public workshop/listening session, and developed alternatives that addressed land uses which included Commercial Fishing facilities, the Block Island Ferry, housing, recreation, circulation and parking, green infrastructure and other proposed uses.  Highlights included a boardwalk connector to parking, beach and a new Museum of Commercial fishing, improved bike connectivity and methods for raising docks in response to projected sea level rise and storm surge.   Students presented their alternatives to a group of offices, stakeholders and agency representatives.  The work was later edited and presented in five posters at a conference “Keeping Newport Above Water”.

Click here to download the project report Galilee Report

Westerly, Rhode Island Park Designs
December 1st, 2014
Credit: Joshua Bourgery

On December 1st, students from URI’s landscape architecture program presented their designs for a pocket park to the Westerly, Rhode Island town council.

Junior Studio students worked with the Westerly Town Planners office and Marilyn Shellman, a town planner and URI alumna, to examine a 2.5 acre site in downtown Westerly.  The area, which is near the Westerly Amtrak station, has experienced severe flooding from the Pawcatuck River in recent years.  FEMA grant money acquired by the town will be used to restore the site to a community open space.

Students analyzed the physical and ecological characteristics of the site using aerial and onsite photography, flood maps, and climate data.  They also considered future users of the space including local residents, Amtrak commuters, and summer tourists.  This research informed the overall site design.

Student designs were innovative and varied.  Many of the most notable features employed are listed in the table below. As a whole, students successfully integrated green energy sources and considered storm water management systems to create ecologically conscious designs that offer resilience against future flooding events.

The class’s work culminated with design boards presented at the Westerly town council. The designs will be used to showcase the site’s potential as the project moves forward.

Notable Student Design Features

  • Parking lots utilizing permeable paving and vegetated islands of native plantings
  • Storm water management bio swales and rain gardens
  • Riparian borders to prevent erosion of the riverbank
  • Innovative play structures
  • Boulder gardens
  • Boardwalks
  • Splash fountains
  • Food truck parking
  • Solar LED lighting
  • Kayak launches
  • Locally sourced granite and salvaged wood
  • Community vegetable gardens
  • Wind turbines
  • Open recreation space

Redesigning the Landscape for the RI State Offices

November 25th, 2014

Credit: Lucas Tucker
Credit: Lucas Tucker

As a part of their senior planting design studio, University of Rhode Island Landscape Architecture students were tasked with creating innovative, sustainable, and low-maintenance visions for the Rhode Island State Offices, located in the heart of Providence.

Students had the opportunity to speak with clients and frequent site visitors in order to understand the function of the space, its issues, and its opportunities. The main focus of the project was a green roof central plaza area, surrounded by three office buildings and situated on top of a subterranean parking garage. When finished, the project encompassed the entire property, fostering a sense of unity across the complex.

The class suggested drought-tolerant, shallow-rooted plant materials that could tolerate harsh growing conditions, while minimizing or eliminating the need for constant maintenance.

Final Design Presentation Ron Renaud, Executive Director RI Dept of Administration (center), Professor Richard Sheridan (far right), client group (back left) and LAR students. Students met with the client group to present their final designs and to discuss the future of the project.
Final Design Presentation
Ron Renaud, Executive Director RI Dept of Administration (center), Professor Richard Sheridan (far right), client group (back left) and LAR students. Students met with the client group to present their final designs and to discuss the future of the project.

Each student produced a comprehensive master plan for the campus, expressing visions of self-sustaining landscapes that could improve the form and function of the site, while providing for storm water management, biodiversity and minimizing heat stress.

Going forward, these designs will be used to showcase the site’s potential. The students’ projects will be on display later in the year at the Rhode Island Department of Administration building to inspire interest and demonstrate the state’s dedication to green design and sustainable development.


Richmond Recreation Center, Developing a Community Vision


Project Summary:
The report was prepared following a ten week project focused on a challenging 48 acre parcel of land located on a busy state highway in the center of town. The donated land was designed to offer recreation facilities for a range of users extending from the very young to the elderly and to those seeking active and passive activities. The vision was to provide alternative uses that were identified as priorities through a public workshop. Students included a building with parking; ball fields and trails; areas for viewing nature, picnicking and listening to music. As important, this centrally located parcel of ledge and wetlands, fields and forest provides a unique opportunity to create a central district where an existing golf course, elementary school and ball field, farm fields and a town hall and green could be woven into a recognizable recreation district. Plans and images illustrate a variety of activities all of which incorporate sustainable practices and materials.

Click here to download the project report (PDF, 48.8MB)

Livable solutions for dale carlia corners

Project Summary:
Dale Carlia Corners is a high traffic commercial center in the heart of Wakefield, RI. It is both a destination and throughway to Narragansett and points to the north and south. For this project URI students conducted a site analysis, ran a public design charrette, and developed three thematic master plans illustrating concepts for a safer and more sustainable village center. Buildings were reused and relocated, gathering areas were designed, and circulation improvements with new plantings and green infrastructure were proposed with the goal of improving the visual, functional and ecological qualities of the busy area.

Click here to view the project report online (Adobe Flashplayer required)
Click here to download the project report (PDF, 56.4MB)

Re-Visualizing The Rebels: A University of Rhode Island Landscape Architecture and South Kingstown High School Collaboration

Project Summary:
South Kingstown High School is a 15 acre campus with buildings and parking areas covering a large portion of the property. The concept of clean-up days led to this collaboration aimed at creating a vision for a greener, less impacting high school environment. Students from the high school, teachers, officials and members of the community met with the landscape architecture students, to share their views about what was important and needed for the densely developed property. The design class developed 5 master plans that illustrate a range of ideas for creating a greener, more connected South Kingstown High School.

Click here to view the project report online (Adobe Flashplayer required)
Click here to download the project report (PDF, 46.3MB)

A Vision for a Sustainable Narragansett Bay Campus, URI:

Project Summary:
This senior landscape architecture design studio focused on providing two master plans for the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus. A stakeholder group that included faculty, researchers, staff and administrators from the GSO and other Bay Campus facilities participated in a work shop, an open charrette and public meetings in order to develop a coherent low impact campus. The students focused on introducing green infrastructure, improving circulation, maintaining views and developing a sequence of spaces and connections highlighting the site’s history, its missions and unique location.

Click here to view the project report online (Adobe Flashplayer required)
Click here to download the project report (PDF, 40.7MB)

The Greene School:  A Comprehensive Design Manual, W. Greenwich, RI

Project Summary:
The Greene School, located in West Greenwich, RI is a proposal for a charter school which develops the culture of personal, community, and global stewardship using a curriculum centered on direct experiences with environmental science, and the technology that affects the natural world.

Click here to see the final report: The Greene School

Fishermen’s Memorial, Narragansett, RI

Project Summary:
This studio project focused on ecologically responsible design approaches incorporating low impact development methods through the utilization of best management practices for an RV campground located in the coastal community of Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Click here to see the final report: Fishermen’s Memorial

Student Profiles


Kelvin Huang ’17
Hometown:  Westerly, RI

With a passion for art and design Kelvin’s big idea is to one day make a difference in changing the world to be a better place.  He has been a strong contributor in the outreach senior design studios where he has focused his attention on climate change, its impact and creating innovative solutions for resilient landscapes.  He has engaged in two summer internships both in the field and also in a professional office.  His first internship was spent working at Fleurs Inc.  Fine Gardens and Landscapes.  His second internship was at Cummin Associates, Inc.  This experience has influenced his career goals and professional outlook.


Zachary Driver ’17
Providence, RI

Zach is a renaissance student with outstanding skills which range from action sports (surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding) to musical performance and digital technology.  With a combined interest in the arts and sciences Zach has had a life long fascination focused with the way things work, look and feel an also how they make an impression on people. He has spent two summers serving as an intern at Sakonnet Garden in Little Compton, RI and also as an intern at Birchwood Design Group in Providence, RI.  Zach is looking forward to a career in multidisciplinary design setting where he will help make a difference.