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Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

A professional service and outreach program of Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art + Design, GCCDS was established in Biloxi, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to provide design services to devastated communities throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has evolved to address long-term issues of equitable community resilience. Since its inception, the Studio has been led by David Perkes, a professor from Mississippi State.

Early in its history, GCCDS focused on providing permanent rebuilding and retrofits for residents of Biloxi. Immediately after the hurricane, Perkes realized the importance of getting homeowners involved in the redesign of their house. This differed from other agencies who were only offering two or three design options.

As the arc of recovery continues, the work of the Studio evolves. Its portfolio now includes projects focused on long-term sustainability and community prosperity. GCCDS has emerged as a national leader in best practices for its community-driven approach.  Through direct and continuous contact with the community over the long term, the Studio has functioned not only as a place to receive design assistance, but also as a genuine community hub. For example, the Studio hosts weekly gatherings, called “Friday Morning Serial” with a variety of community leaders telling the story of their work, so people can gather, chat and learn.

Overall, the Studio has completed 60 projects, including 230 new house projects, research initiatives, planning projects and environmental restoration.

Community and environmental resilience work means planning for acute disasters, such as hurricanes, as well as considering slow-change impacts such as sea level rise, urbanization, and economic inequity.  GCCDS addresses both aspects of resilience with the understanding that working on day-to-day issues such as storm-water management, strong and affordable housing, and community-driven decision making will prepare a community for the acute threats as well.

GCCDS works with historic, low-income communities that have been impacted by expanded flood zones, assisting with mitigation to houses and landscape projects to increase the capacity of flood ways with tidal marsh restoration.  Such projects not only increase infrastructure resilience but also lead to more community environmental stewardship.

Since 2017 GCCDS has expanded its multidisciplinary studio staff to include a public health professional in addition to the planners, landscape and building architects in order to more effectively address the social determinants of health.  The Studio works with the diagram of people changing place changing health changing people.