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The Climate-adaptive Design (CaD) studio is a research effort in partnership with Cornell Landscape Architecture, Cornell Water Resources Institute and the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program

CaD in the news

The CaD Studio along the Hudson River 

The CaD Studio links Cornell students in landscape architecture with flood-risk Hudson Riverfront communities to explore design alternatives for more climate resilient and connected waterfront areas. Community stakeholders are engaged throughout the studio to help inform the design process and support more usable results for the partner municipality.

The four-month design process begins with student design teams studying the community’s watershed setting, climate change projections, ecosystem context, and precedents for designing more climate-adaptive spaces, like floodable parks  and wet flood-proofed buildings. Each community presents new design challenges and opportunities for design innovation. Students infuse their designs with knowledge, opportunities, and challenges specific to each community that they uncover during site visits and interviews with local stakeholders.

View CaD community profiles and student designs on Professor Cerra's website Trophic.Design

Picture of a student showing a resident her architectural design poster
CaD student explaining her team's design to community stakeholder at the final open house in Piermont, NY

Key themes emerge from stakeholder input that inform the design concepts, for example:

  • Ecological resilience + marsh migration
  • Waterfront access and circulation
  • Economic development + historic preservation
  • Recreation + education
  • Industry + commerce

The CaD studio is led by Associate Professor Joshua F. Cerra at the Cornell Department of Landscape Architecture, in collaboration with Libby Zemaitis from the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, Liz LoGiudice from Resilience Communications and Consulting, Scenic Hudson, and other partners. After the CaD studio ends, the Estuary Program and its partners are happy to support the community to continue exploring design concepts and linking in potential funding and support.

Click here to download a one-page fact sheet on CaD

Click here to watch a webinar on CaD, with perspective from the City of Kingston

Town and Village of Ossining - Fall 2019

Image of a computer rendering showing a landscape architecture designed Park

This proposal elevates the existing rail line on a levee to reduce rail inundation and flooding risk while providing a measure of protection for inland waterfront locations. (Image by Z. Zhang, LA7010 Studio, Fall 2019 Cornell University.)


This third-year graduate design studio focused on flooding and other climate risks in the Town and Village of Ossining, NY.  This year’s design team was comprised of 11 graduate students in the LA7010 Design Studio and 11 engineering students in Cornell Professor Todd Walter’s Watershed Engineering course. The 11 proposed design concepts explored developing a buffer zone, elevating or submerging the rail line, inspiring citizen science, facilitating marsh migration and land contouring, while exploring the waterfront of Ossining.

City of Kingston III - Spring 2018 

Computer rendered image of a landscape architecture design viewed from high above
East Strand waterfront design proposal along the Rondout Creek. (Image by L. Li & X. Wan, LA6020 Studio, Spring 2018 Cornell University.)

Kingston III was our most recent Climate-adaptive Design studio in the City of Kingston. This project investigated planning and design implications of emerging municipal climate adaptation interests for the East Strand area in City of Kingston. Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2018 LA6020 second year, second-semester graduate studio developed eight design concepts for the East Strand area. This set of alternative design strategies generated options for climate adaptation addressing a range of interests including floodable open space, marsh migration strategies, nature-based shoreline interventions, community features, and development interests while seeking to link interventions to the ongoing growth of Kingston’s waterfront.

Village of Piermont - Fall 2017

Computer rendered image of a landscape architecture design showing two bridges connecting mainland to an island
Reimagining what it means for Piermont to be a waterfront by integrating water into the urban fabric of the village. (Image by T. Signorelli, E.Tou & C. UmaƱa, LA4010 Studio, Fall 2017 Cornell University)

Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2017 LA4010 fourth year, first-semester undergraduate studio focused on the Piermont municipal waterfront situated along the mouth of Sparkill Creek as it enters the Hudson River about 25 miles north of New York City. Historically the Piermont waterfront was the location of a paper mill and coal-fired power plant. It is now a regional destination for recreation and leisure. Five alternative design concepts were developed for the Village of Piermont. Each generated options for climate adaptation providing a combination of adaptation, reinforcement, and relocation approaches.

“These new creative thinkers… opening the door to helping Piermont not only see the future, but to lead us into the future” - Vincent O’Brien, former village trustee, Piermont, NY

City of Kingston II - Spring 2017

Computer rendered image of a student's landscape architecture design featuring Kingston point Park
Climate-resilient programs and interventions, capitalize on the ecological and scenic value of Kingston’s waterfront. (Image by L. Kong, H. Gao, Q. Feng, LA6020 Studio, Spring 2017 Cornell University.)

This was the Climate-adaptive Design studio's second site project in the City of Kingston. The design teams investigated planning and design implications of flooding and sea level rise on Kingston Point Park, a popular waterfront recreational location for Kingston's inhabitants. Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2017 LA6020 second year, second-semester graduate studio developed ten alternative design concepts, with options for transitioning the recreational, ecological, and commercial assets of the area as sea level rise, flooding and other projected climate impacts shift the footprint of Kingston Point Park.

City of Hudson - Spring 2016

Computer rendered image of a landscape architecture design in Hudson New York
This design focuses on the intersection and overlap of urban, industrial, and wetland fabric in the South Bay (Image by A. Chirico and G. Smith, LA6020 Studio, Spring 2016 Cornell University)

The Climate-adaptive Design studio focused on the South Bay waterfront area of Hudson, New York as the basis for this planning and design effort. Located well inland from the mouth of the Hudson River as it exits into the Atlantic, the city was once a strategic port for America's whaling industry. Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2016 LA6020 second year, second-semester graduate studio developed eight alternative design concepts for the South Bay project area. Collectively the proposals generated options for floodable retrofit of historic buildings, floodable park spaces, maintenance of the rail connection to NYC with sea level rise,  assisted marsh migration as water levels change, and flood-adapted development alternatives in certain areas.

"Thank you so much for coming… the work that I saw has completely changed the way I think about waterfront development" - Mayor Hamilton, City of Hudson, NY

City of Kingston I - Fall 2016

Computer rendered image showing a zoomed out landscape architecture design in Kingston
Here, nodes of activity and a network of connectivity stitch the shoreline and the urban grid. (Image by M. Hirschbeck and I. Savin, LA4010, Fall 2016 Cornell University).

This was the Climate-adaptive Design studio's first time worked with the City of Kingston, New York. The design teams focused on the Island Dock/Block Park area for our adaptive planning and design effort. The site is situated along the Rondout River waterfront, a significant Hudson tributary and harbor as it enters the Hudson River. Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2016 LA4010 senior undergraduate design studio generated six alternative design concepts that sought to maintain the recreational, commercial, tourism, and ecological value of this part Kingston's waterfront as projected sea level rise and flooding increasingly impact the area over time.

Village of Catskill - Fall 2015

Computer rendered image showing a landscape architecture design for the Catskill Creek
Three major strategies guided this design concept: restoration of urban form to energize streets and spaces, elevation of program areas, and creation of wetland habitat. (Image by M. Gawith and G. Craig-Lucas, LA4010, Fall 2015 Cornell University).

The first Climate-adaptive Design studio studied the downtown area of Village of Catskill, New York. The downtown area has recently harbored a growing and vibrant art community composed of artists, galleries, and theater interests above the Catskill Creek waterfront. Cornell Landscape Architecture’s 2015 LA4010 senior undergraduate design studio developed five alternative design concepts for the downtown Catskill project area.  Collectively, the alternative design concepts proposed strategies to reintroduce Catskill's waterfront as a key asset to the Village by enhancing circulation and access between the waterfront and downtown, creating attractive waterfront features, and improving the ecological and recreational value of the shoreline itself.









CaD in the news continued

Photo Gallery

Picture of climate adaptive design Catskill planning team posing for photo
CaD Catskill Planning Team: Professor Josh Cerra, Libby Zemaitis, Liz LoGiudice and Nancy Richards

Click here to view the entire photo gallery

Next page: Advancing Climate-adaptive Design (Phase II)