College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Landscape architecture students tackle environmental and ecological threats in The Bahamas


Any mention of The Bahamas evokes images of sparkling waves and white-sand beaches. Now, Clemson students are part of an effort to preserve the natural beauty of that iconic landscape.

Clemson University landscape architecture students recently worked with the local government of Tarpum Bay to create a master plan and design for the Tarpum Bay Waterfront in Eleuthera.

A studio comprised of undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture students, led by Professor Hala Nassar, used community feedback to develop a master plan and design for the Tarpum Bay Waterfront that directly reflected the needs of the Tarpum Bay area.

“Dr. Nassar and I met last year to discuss how the community and particularly the waterfront of Tarpum Bay could be developed,” explained Shawna McCartney, community relations and special events officer at One Eleuthera Foundation and a local government official. “During Dr. Nassar’s visits to Eleuthera, she always admired the Tarpum Bay Waterfront, noting the potential it had to develop as a cultural, economic and social center without losing its laid-back island charm.”

Engaging the community

Nassar, McCartney and Professor Lane Glaze hosted a community engagement session in Tarpum Bay earlier in the year, where the community came together to conduct a mapping exercise, provide feedback on community needs and pinpoint essential locations along the Tarpum Bay Waterfront.

The feedback the community provided directly informed the work produced by Nassar’s class.

“The students were able to take this information and translate it into what they thought was best suited for the community,” explained McCartney. “The designs allow the exploration of what can potentially happen in terms of development, and it definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities; as a matter of fact, the presentations exceeded my expectations.”

Developing community-conscious plans

The town of Tarpum Bay is located on the archipelago island of Eleuthera. According to a 2010 census, the town has a population of 766 people, with the waterfront central to the community’s life.

Tarpum Bay is a small community, and the level of detail in our class’s collective analysis and design covered a large chunk of town,” explained Kai Koopman, a first-year Master of Landscape Architecture student.

To assist in promoting access, increasing safety and working to preserve a sense of place and identity for the town, studio projects ranged from the creation of bungalows to a coast park and community center and even the revitalization and restoration of Tarpum Bay’s cemetery. 

Koopman’s project celebrates the center of Tarpum Bay’s community life by creating a new marina, increasing water-related economic opportunities with a fish market, a sea-to-table restaurant and rentable vendor stalls. Additionally, Koopman’s design focused on increasing accessibility to the waterfront through a fully redesigned main street and floating boardwalk that connects the marina and businesses to intentional spaces for community members and groups.

“My design focused on the marina, beach and main street areas, and, in each case, space was very limited,” shared Koopman. “There were additional things to account for, such as community feedback and environmental and ecological factors. We were challenged to really distill our ideas into designs that fit these parameters.”

Koopman also created a design that enhanced the community’s cherished cemetery, redesigning access to the cemetery and restoring the beach alongside it. His design ensured a long-term solution to fluctuating water levels during sea rise.

“Because this was my first studio project, it was the first time I worked through the entire design process for a site,” explained Koopman. “One of the biggest things I learned was how different elements of the design process fit together and influence one another.

Each student’s project incorporated community feedback and was designed based on the community’s needs. An example is Alexandra Ugan’s “Coastal Revival” project, which focused on community-centric design.

“The projects this semester were some of the most impressive and most detailed that I have seen from undergraduate or graduate landscape architecture students,” said Nassar. “Not only did they design visually gorgeous places, but their work reflects the community’s needs and helps shine a light on all that is possible for Tarpum Bay.”

For McCartney, these projects are just the beginning. As a government official, she and the OEF will present the student’s designs to the community at a special town hall meeting.

The town hall is expected to have in attendance members of the Tarpum Bay community, the island of Eleuthera, local government officials, community leaders, and Central Government officials, including the members of Parliament and government ministers.

“I am excited for the designs to be displayed, allowing exploration of the development of this beautiful community,” explained McCartney. “I am hopeful that these ideas spark interest among residents of the community, governmental agencies focused on cultural and economic development, and fostering public and private partnerships to help propel Tarpum Bay towards its full potential.”

Nassar plans to take a group of students to Eleuthera during the Summer semester for a new faculty-directed study abroad. The interdisciplinary study abroad will not only focus on the needs of the Eleuthera community from a landscape architecture perspective but will also involve the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and the School of Nursing.

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