Tourism has been for many years a central part of the economy of the Bahamas. The growth of tourism development has been important in providing jobs and improving living standards, but has often led to the overuse of resources, destruction of natural ecologies, and the marginalization of local cultures.
New Providence Island, the most urbanized region in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, faces constant tourism growth that has been increasing development pressures on its natural resources and local culture. The Bahamas Ministry of Environment & Housing’s Forestry Unit expresses the challenge of educating locals and tourists on the basic understanding of the importance of their precious natural environment, fragile ecosystem, and protecting rapidly shrinking forestland and agricultural land. The Ministry invited Professor Ebru Ozer and her Landscape Architecture Graduate Design 3 Studio students to the New Providence Island of The Bahamas to develop urban design strategies and vision for the protection and better utilization of the forestscapes and agroscapes of the island.
During the fourth week of fall 2016 semester, 11 Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design students traveled to the New Providence Island to examine present site conditions and to sketch and document their site observations. Throughout their weeklong trip, the students visited national parks, primeval forests, agricultural landscapes, beaches, and museums; listened to the lectures on island’s history, culture, land-use, hydrology, and ecology by government representatives and college professors; and participated in workshops on island’s ecology, plant species, and streetscape with the local design students of the College of Bahamas.
The students then spent the rest of the fall semester investigating environmentally conscious landscape and urban design strategies for the island. They structured a number of regenerative proposals that reimagine island’s under-valued forestlands and agricultural lands by enhancing their recreational potentials to elevate the level of consciousness among the Bahamians and visitors.
During the final week of the semester, two representatives from the Ministry of Environment & Housing traveled to FIU to participate in the final studio reviews as jurors. They listened to the findings and proposals of the LAEUD students and applauded their effort, offering to work on a Comprehensive Master Plan for the Island by incorporating student visions.
The Department of Landscape Architecture is extremely grateful for this opportunity. Many thanks to the Ministry’s Forest Unit Director Christopher Russell, Forest Officer Danielle Hanek-Culmer, and Assistant Forest Officer, Amanda Newbold, for this extraordinary studio-abroad experience and for their generosity and support during our travel and afterwards.
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