HYDROSOCIAL:  a socio-natural process by which water and society make and remake each other over space and time. (Linton and Budds. 2013)

HYDROSOCIAL TERRITORY: socially, naturally and politically constituted spaces that are (re)created through the interactions amongst human practices, water flows, hydraulic technologies, biophysical elements, socio-economic structures and cultural-political institutions. (Boelens etal. 2016)


The work conducted in Phase 1 research establishes the foundation of your initial understanding of the Mississippi River hydrosocial contexts. Research though critical mapping opened new ways of thinking about and seeing the hydrosocial systems and process that exert influence on the landscape. The studio research efforts now move to the landscape itself, where we will critically examine the hydrosocial conditions and territory of the Mississippi River. This field-based research will be conducted through an Anthropocene-based hydrosocial critique.

Project research through travel and direct observation/documentation provides an opportunity to critically examine the physical, spatial, ephemeral and social contexts of the hydrosocial landscape.  This mode of research requires deep listening so as to record the contributing qualities of a place; to identify potential spatial or visceral opportunities or challenges; to verify technical or infrastructure limitations; and to simply document common and unique landscape conditions.

Ultimately, your research will have significant influence on the subsequent identification of a potential project opportunity and program (Phase 2) and that will be the basis of your subsequent design proposal (Phase 3 and 4).  By listening and examining the landscape carefully, one can start to assemble the input and detect patterns, discrepancies, opportunities and potential obstacles within the project. This ‘fact-finding’ period is critical to the success of the project as it is often here where opportunities emerge to reframe the project in creative ways, to question assumptions and ask questions that no one else is asking.

PART 02:  WATERlog

During your travel-based research, you will intentionally focus your attention to seek out, discover and document a variety of river-related hydrosocial landscapes that embody and express evidence of the “socio-natural processes by which and society make and remake each other”.  As hydrosocial landscapes, these are territories where past and present political, social and ‘natural’ forces intermix to shape the physical dimensions of the landscape. Hydrosocial evidence may be obvious (such as locks, dams, levees and others); in other instances, the evidence may be hidden or obscured, either intentionally hidden/obscured (for political or other reasons); unintentionally hidden/obscured (disappearance of a river town due to repeated flooding, etc); or sometimes its blatantly obvious but we have been culturally influenced/conditioned to not see it or recognize it (willful blindness). The reconnaissance is also a time to experience the project site and its visceral and spatial qualities. Your travel research will be guided by the following submittal requirements, all of which will comprise a WATERlog.

The WATERlog will consist of a mixed-media assemblage of your choice, and may include: photos, sketches, painting, written narratives, diagrams, maps, video, audio, and other relevant materials that describe and contextualize each moment. For each, you should use the most appropriate means of documentation, both while traveling, and after your return to the studio. Selected saturated moments, with accompanying mixed-media and vials, will be displayed in the end of semester exhibition. Note, the work required is not limited to those locations where we stop. They may be places you experience while traveling but investigate in more depth later:


// Identify and document four saturated moments, which can be thought of as visceral experiences where you are inspired, influenced, or shaped by the phenomena of water. Where these moments are located and what the experience consists of is only yours to determine, but each moment should be significantly tied to the phenomena of water. Be sure to record and reflect upon why each experience with water was significant. In addition to the required multi-media methods, you will be provided four, 4oz glass vials. Use one vial to collect and keep a small record of one moment in glass vials. What goes in the vial is up to you- may be liquid, or other materials that capture the saturated moment. At the end of the trip you should have 4 vials.


// Identify and document a minimum of ten symbolic experiences that create a narrative and identity of the river. In its most simplest form, this identity could be town slogan, business name, park, etc, but they need not only be landscape places. Think critically about each symbolic experience. What is the overall narrative of the river that is being portrayed and what is the identity of the river in this portrayal? What is the intent of this narrative and the symbolism- what is the meaning and what is the intended message?  Are specific aspects of the river abstracted and symbolized? Who is the intended audience of this symbolism? How does this symbolism and identity influence cultural values and meanings of the river or influence social perception of the river?  What image of the river is portrayed? Does this identity communicate ? Why? What  of the river is being portrayed abstracted and symbolized in the landscape. T


// Identify and document a minimum of ten hydrosocial territories. Aim for a diversity of territories and limit yourself to no more than two lock/dam or levee territories. Ask yourself: how is the landscape part of the territory? Which actors/co-constituents have privilege and power; which actors/co-constituents are marginalized?  How is political power exerted? Is there a central paradox of the territory?



Final presentation of research findings will be on Monday, October 8th. You will present your work to a panel of guest critics. Your presentation should include an updated and revised critical map. The map updates should be based on the peer review and instructor comments during your previous presentation as well as new information your have collected. The presentation will also include all four of the the 1) river saturated moments, as well as representative selections of Items 2) river identities and 3) hydrosocial territories. Additional presentation information will be discussed in class on MOnday, October 1st. Between your efforts in Research Part 1 and Part 2, you should begin to have a general, conceptual sense of what may be some paradoxical issues that are appropriate for further design exploration later in upcoming phases. In addition, selected portions of both research phases may be utilized in the end of semester exhibition.

In addition to stated work products, it is expected that you will be actively recording the landscape through photo, video, audio or other means. These materials will be shared with the class via Google Drive so they may be referenced by others in future desing phases. Note- When photo-documenting an area, it is important to develop a large quantity of site images, particularly images from different viewpoints and important viewpoints or viewsheds. The images can then be used as backgrounds for project visualizations or they can be used as references later on in the project to understand existing site conditions in more detail and that may otherwise be hard to ascertain (i.e. indicating where a river edge is concrete versus steel, etc.). In addition to recording a site through photos and sketches, it is important to have a running list of potential questions or items that require follow-up and more information


0921 - 0930: Travel-based Research

1001: Trip Debrief and Work Session

1003: Work Session

1005: Work Session. Open studios for Alumni visits.

1008: Presentation of Findings

PHASE 01_READINGS and references

REQUIRED- Readings correspond to each day of the planned itinerary. Therefore, it would be beneficial to read each prior to or during travel that day.

0921 BROWN and MORRISH_The 4th Coast: An Expedition of the Mississippi

MEYER_The Formation of a Mississippi River Urban Landscape Morphology -- Louisiana, MO; Quincy, IL; Burlington, IA; Dubuque, IA (1996)

0922 ANFINSON_The River We Have Wrought - The Fourth River (book chapter)

0923 MORTON and OLSON_Birds Point- New Madrid Floodway- Redesign, reconstruction and restoration (2013)

0924 BILES_Cotton Fields or Skyscrapers (1988)

0925 KING_I've Been To The Mountain Top (April 3 1968). I recommend the audio version.

0926 Selections from:

Bessie Smith “Backwater Blues” (1927)

Alice Pearson “Greenville Levee Blues” (1927)

Sippie Wallace “Flood Blues” (1927)

Lonnie Johnson “Broken Levee Blues” (1928)

Charley Patton “High Water Everywhere, Part 1” (1929)

Robert Johnson “Crossroads Blues” (1936)

John Lee Hooker “Tupelo” (1959)

0927 McPHEE_Atchafalaya (1987, essay from The New Yorker)

0928 CAMPANELLA_etal_Sustainability, Survivability, and the Paradox of New Orleans

0929 RUSKEY and UPHOLT_Free Flowing Waters- A Vision for a Lower Mississippi River Wilderness (2018)

0930 N/A

SUGGESTED- These are suggested readings that correspond to each portion of the trip. These readings, and others, provide more depth and/or breadth of daily travel-realted, landscape subjects. These are suggested for your own benefit and the readings here do not preclude additional research of your own design interests.

Upper Mississippi Suggested Readings:

DeJager, Nathan “Landscape Ecology of the Upper Mississippi River System: Lessons learned, challenges and opportunities” (USGS.2016)

NUNNALLY_In the Quad Cities-Reconnection to the Riverfront is in its Fourth Decade (2018)

St. Louis Suggested Readings

BAIRES_The role of water in the emergence of the pre-Columbian Native American City Cahokia

McANALLY_The Fate of the Landscape

WOODS_Population nucleation, intensive agriculture and environmental degradation- The Cahokia Example (2004)

Cairo and Birds Point/New Madrid Floodway Suggested Readings

Birds Point-Water Gone, Scars Remain (Farm Journal)

DOROTHY and NUNNALLY_The New Madrid Levee- A New Take on an Enduring Conflict (2015)

MORTON and OLSON_Birds Point- New Madrid Floodway- Redesign, reconstruction and restoration (2013)

OLSON and MORTON_The effects of 2011 Ohio and Mississippi river valley flooding on Cairo Illinois Area

SORVALIS_Victory on the Mississippi and the Role of Landscape Architects (2017)

Memphis Suggested Readings

RYAN_Beale Street Blues:Tourism, Musical Labor, and the Fetishization of Poverty in Blues (2011)

Memphis Riverfront Concept Plan (Studio Gang)

Shelby Farms Park Master Plan (James Corner Field Operations)

Mississippi/Yazoo Delta Suggested Readings

BARRY_ RIsing Tide The 1927 Flood - pp173-209 and pp399-426 (book chapters)

GIOIA_Delta Blues- Dockerys Plantation pp 45-74, Hellhound on my Trail pp 149-189, Riding with the King pp309-345 (book chapters)

MIZELLE_Backwater Blues- The 1927 Flood in the African American Imagination pp 1-50 and pp 123-160 (book chapters)

WHAYNE_What is the Mississippi Delta_ A historian's perspective (1999)

River Controls Suggested Readings

ALEXANDER etal_A Brief History and Summary of the Effects of River Engineering and Dams on the Mississippi River System and Delta

CHERAMIE and PASQUIER_The Lost Graves of the Morganza Floodway (2013)

KLEIN and ZELLMER_ An Unnatural River-How we got here

MADRIGAL_What We've Done to the Mississippi River (2011 The Atlantic)

NOLA and Delta Suggested Readings

BLUM and ROBERTS_The Mississippi Delta Region- Past, Present, Future

CAMPANELLA_Delta Urbanisms-Lessons From New Orleans

Changing Course Design Competition- Finalist Project Summaries

KEMP etal_Adapting to Change in the Lowermost Mississippi River- Implications for Navigation, Flood Control and Restoration of the Delta Ecosystem

LEWIS etal_Socioecological disparities in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina

MUTH_The Once and Future Delta

RUSSELL_ Entrusting the Surreal Mississippi

THOMPSON_The Long View from the Levee (2012)

Return Suggested Readings

KONDOLF LOPEZ-LOMPARTT_National-local land-use conflicts in floodways of the Mississippi River

McGINNIS__Mississippi River Networks- Headwaters to the Gulf (2017)

MORRIS_Disturbing the Mississippi- The Language of Science, Engineering, and River Restoration

OLSON and MORTON_Agricultural Lands- Flooding and Levee Breaches