About Me


My name is Nora Louise Schwaller. I am a planner and a licensed architect. My work focuses on hazard resilience and disaster recovery.

Research Focus

Mainly, I am interested in studying how disasters affect population movement compared to existing migration patterns. More specifically, my research focuses on two things; (1) on the contentious relationship between individual resilience, which is often enhanced by out-migration, and community resilience, which is eroded by overall population decline; and (2) on the impacts of minor hazard events, such as nuisance flooding, compared to major disaster events, such as hurricanes, on individual displacement and the likelihood of community collapse.

This contributes to multiple bodies of research, highlighting the interdisciplinary value of this area of study. First, it operates within the disaster management field, filling gaps in research about the transition between short- and long-term recovery, and the relative absence of studies into repeat events. Second, it adds to the environmental resilience field and migration studies literature in sociology by addressing the effect of shock events in migration systems. Finally, it, of course, operates within the city and regional planning literature, with a focus on the spatial dimension of social relationships.

Other Research Areas

Related to disasters and migration, I am also deeply interesting into the effects of climate change on established communities; the relationship between individuals and the built environment of their communities; and the relationship between individuals and the social environment of their communities. I am also interested in how space facilitates community engagement.


I have a Masters and Bachelors of Architecture from Tulane University School of Architecture’s 5-year Professional degree program. After graduation, I worked for almost four years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I got my feet wet at a small design firm with less than five employees. There, I took positions that built up from project support, to project design, to project management. I spent the following two years at BRW Architects’ San Francisco Office. There, I joined the Civic / Municipal Studio, and focused on the design of Essential Services Facilities. I worked with small project teams on multiple fire station projects and an Emergency Operations Center.

The typical understanding of an architect’s skill set is heavily involved with either art or mathematics. The truth is, neither are key to success in the field. Primarily, being an architect involves complex problem solving using an iterative development process. Beyond being the design lead, the architect is the project lead and manager. The most important skills we have are: being able to synthesize complex information from a variety of sources; transfer knowledge to people of dramatically different backgrounds; and organize hundreds of moving pieces in a logical and self-supporting manner. This has been invaluable as I have transferred into the field of city and regional planning.