DredgeFest Louisiana is a symposiumfield expedition, and speculative design workshop about the human manipulation of sediments.

This is a big topic. Our object of study ranges from the infrastructural control and constraint of the Mississippi River — landscaping at a continental scale — to bright orange erosion control fences bulging with wet mud in a spring downpour on a suburban construction site. It is an encounter between government agencies, designers, theorists, academics, corporate practitioners, industry experts, students, and the public.

DredgeFest Louisiana runs Jan 11-17 2014. There are a wide variety of activities and you are invited to participate in part or all of the festival.

Symposium Saturday, January 11-Sunday, January 12 in New Orleans
Intensive Workshops Monday, January 13-Thursday, January 16 in Baton Rouge
A Tour of Dredge Landscapes Friday, January 17 leaving from New Orleans

Click here to buy tickets for DredgeFest Louisiana.

DredgeFest Louisiana is organized by the Dredge Research Collaborative with assistance from our partners, including the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University, the Coastal Sustainability Studio at Louisiana State University, Gulf Coast Public Lab, and Scenario Journal. Dredgefest is a roving conference and workshop series. The first Dredfest was held in NYC, one month before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. DredgeFest Louisiana is the second.


The Terrain
Geographer Richard Campanella called the Mississippi River “the land-making machine.” It is North America’s largest river, discharging more than three times as much water as the next largest river in the United States. Historically, this is what the Mississippi River did: it made land, building its enormous delta—the southern half of the state of Louisiana—over the course of a mere five thousand years. It accomplished this by carrying approximately 400 million tons of sediment out of the center of the continent every year and spraying that sediment around the edges of its mouth. Even today, constrained by levees reinforced with articulated concrete mattresses, locked into a single course at Old River Control, and starved of sediment by upstream dams, the Mississippi River retains potent land-making power. This is readily evidenced by the growth of the Wax Lake Delta, a new delta southwest of New Orleans formed as a by-product of the reorganization of river flows for navigation and flood control. Nearly 200 million tons of sediment still flow every year down the Mississippi and its primary branch, the Atchafalaya.

At the same time, south Louisiana is shrinking. Sea-level rise, salt water intrusion, canal excavation for industrial purposes, and flood control along the edge of the Mississippi River have altered the balance between deposition, subsidence, and erosion. As a consequence, Louisiana has lost over 1700 square miles of land (an area greater than the state of Rhode Island) since 1930. Without a change in course, it is anticipated to double that loss in the next fifty years. Settlements from Lake Charles to Bayou LaFourche to New Orleans are endangered by this loss, both directly—as the land itself disappears—and indirectly, as the loss of barrier islands and coastal marshes exposes settlements to storm surge, while heralding the loss of the terrain that extractive industries, from oysters to oil, depend upon for harvesting resources.

This is the terrain that DredgeFest Louisiana enters into.

The Topics
DredgeFest begins with dredging, the linear industrial activity of uplifting sediments and transporting them to new locations. But DredgeFest is about much more than dredging. We believe that dredging is a key component of a much wider cycle of human practices that accelerate, decelerate, transport, and materially alter sediments. We are interested in how the full range of technologies, practices, and organizations operating within that wider cycle collectively alters sedimentary balances, both eroding and generating landscapes.

DredgeFest will investigate topics such as dredging methods, sea-level rise, the beneficial uses of dredged material, habitat restoration, marsh terracing, land loss, barrier island reconstruction, invasive species, revetments, spillways, floods, hurricanes, river flow models, advanced geotextiles, landscape robotics, novel ecosystems, feedback cycles, and turbidity curtains. We are curious about the instruments of public participation within the dredge cycle: grassroots organizations, volunteer efforts, environmental health and justice, the political economy of dredge. We are interested in the choreography of sediment along the length of the Mississippi, from Corn Belt farms to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sediment is foundational to Louisiana, playing a more obviously active role in the lives of Louisianans than in the lives of any other American state. We’re excited to hold DredgeFest in Louisiana because we believe Louisiana is living in the future: experiencing the aggregate consequences of human activities for coastal regions sooner and faster than perhaps any other part of the nation, and experimenting with the tools, methods, and practices that will be required to cope with those consequences. We think that more people should be aware of these things, so we are putting on a festival, open to the public.

For media inquiries, general questions, or other matters besides sponsorship, contact Tim Maly (

The Series
DredgeFest is a roving event series. The first DredgeFest was held in New York City on September 28 and 29, 2012. DredgeFest NYC was organized in partnership with Studio-X NYC, an arm of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; sponsored by Arcadis, TenCate, and TWFM Ferry; and featured speakers and content from agencies including the US Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and New York City Economic Development Corporation. The event was covered in The Atlantic MonthlyWired DesignUrban Omnibus,Dredging TodayScenario JournalLandscape Architecture Frontiers China, and Landscape Architecture Magazine. A full description and video archive of the event can be found here.