Date of Award

Spring 6-1-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Tiago Torres-Campos

Second Advisor

Lara Davis

Third Advisor

Ann Kearsley


With global warming and rapidly rising sea levels, drowning marshes have become a global issue. Due to the critical ecological value of marshes, the phenomena of marsh migration (a horizontal shift in the salt marsh to the neighboring inland habitat) has attracted increased attention across different fields.

With its long coastal lines, the state of Rhode Island, in particular, has been supporting marsh migration for the past decades. Successful methods include but are not limited to Thin Layer Placement (TLP), marsh replanting, impermeable surface removal, fence building, and channel digging.

In Rhode Island, marsh migration has been supported mostly by methods related to water filtering and management, sediment building, land forming, and the creation of porous conditions. Based on the studies and integration of these effective methods, the straw clay technique was chosen as the primary construction method for the design exploration due to its flexibility and ability to achieve a large range of permeability. The flexible and porous nature of straw clay can flexibly inhibit tidal flux, allowing the marsh peat to grow progressively upland, making it a suitable building method to support marsh migration. What’s more, the building materials that are required for straw clay can all be sourced locally, which can reduce the carbon footprint of material transportation, making the whole construction process more sustainable.

Using a combination of straw clay with wattle frames, and dug channels as the main design language, this thesis investigates its application in Tillinghast Place, a coastal system in Barrington, Rhode Island, that shows a typical drowning marsh with a surrounding forest fringe.

The work investigates ways to enhance marsh migration by exploring design methods with site-specific issues and opportunities. It proposes a holistic and sustainable design system that can be applied to other drowning marshes in New England.



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