Discovering the Aesthetic of Flood Control Infrastructure

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Virginia Tech


Infrastructure plays an instrumental role in the shaping of the landscape across many scales and is a critical human component within the landscape, yet these systems have tended to ignore the function of appearance and aesthetics in their design. Consequently, the relationship between our infrastructure, the environment, and us has become increasingly opaque. The majority of the vast infrastructure systems that weave throughout the landscape promote a mono-functional agenda which is relegated to the background of our everyday experiences. By investigating the traditional methods of designing infrastructure, we can begin to understand how to integrate aesthetics into the design of infrastructure. This is explored through one of the largest infrastructure systems in the United States; flood control. Flood control infrastructure in is an extensive system that has formed a protective barrier between human and natural processes for over 200 years. Its largest component, the levee, is an elegantly simple structure that contains many layers of significant cultural and historic aesthetic narratives. This thesis focuses on the levee as an infrastructure that mediates between natural processes and human development and studies how it can perform aesthetically to convey new meaning and value. What is the potential of the levee to become expressive in our lives, and be designed in such a way to move us? This new infrastructural paradigm explores the implications of utilizing aesthetics as an expressive and significant function of levee design that can inform and inspire the public and define a new dialogue between man, nature, and technology.



infrastructure design, levee, floodwall, landscape architecture, flood control, green infrastructure, infrastructure, aesthetics