Climate Adaptive Design Project

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.

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

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

CAD is led by Associate Professor Joshua F. Cerra at the Cornell Department of Landscape Architecture, with help from Libby Zemaitis from the Hudson River Estuary Program, Liz Logiudice, Todd Walter from the Cornell Dept. of Biological and Environmental Engineering, and Nava Tabak and Jeff Anzevino from Scenic Hudson. After the CAD studio ends, the Estuary Program and its partners are happy to support the community to continue exploring design concepts and linking potential funding and support.

Waterfront Design Principles

To be resilient, waterfront designs should:

  • Meet the standards for receiving all applicable state and local permits and be justifiable as reasonable and necessary
  • Consider up-to-date maps and data (see links below for regional climate projections and mappers for flooding and tidal wetland migration, etc.) on current and future projected conditions
  • Adequately and cost-effectively withstand flood and erosion risk now and over the life of the project
  • Be cost-effective over the long term given operation, ongoing maintenance and replacement costs
  • Maintain and add ecological value to the site(s) by conserving or restoring existing natural features and their potential pathways to migrate over time (for example, wetlands moving upland with sea-level rise)
  • Improve or create water-dependent or water-enhanced uses and/or relocate water independent uses out of risk areas
  • Create new opportunities for public access, education and/or interpretation that can be enjoyed throughout the year
  • Address contaminated soils, brown fields, etc

Kingston III - Spring 2018 

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.

Kingston II - Spring 2017

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.

Kingston I - Fall 2016

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.


Melinda Herzog
Healthy Communities Issue Leader
845-340-3990 ext. 342

Last updated January 29, 2021