Author : Christina Shivers

University : Georgia Institute of Technology

Status : MArch, 2014

Advisor : Jennifer Bonner

Title : The Department of All Things Water

The Department of All Things Water is a critique of the many layers of bureaucracy surrounding the control and dissemination of [ WATER ] within the city of New Orleans.  New Orleans does not possess a natural outlet for water, and instead possesses a vast bureaucratic structure responsible for protecting the city from rain, storms and flood.  Water, however is a complex issue in the city and many other authorities ranging from disease control to real estate are involved in this [ power structure ].  Housing a collection of bureaus involved with water, disaster, and development, The Department of All Things Water is a bureaucratic skyscraper, situated near downtown New Orleans.

The many [ Pumping Stations ] of New Orleans are dotted across the landscape of the city. These discrete structures are architectural evidence of the need to [ control ] water in the city.  In order to keep the city from flooding, the pumping stations remove water through a network of underground and overground canals.  The practice of water control dates back to the days of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who attempted to build the first waterworks in the city to combat waterborne disease before he himself died of yellow fever in 1820.

The site of The Department of All Things Water is located between two of the oldest stations in New Orleans, both over one-hundred years old. Site drawings investigate the impact the skyscraper has upon the existing network of water control.

After investigating the many layers of bureaucracy, this network began to present itself as a [ labyrinth ].  In response, a series of labyrinth studies were conducted.  These studies were formal investigations marrying the  [ typology of the skyscraper ] with a [ series of different labyrinth forms in plan ].

Following the labyrinth study, a series of [ programmatic labyrinth ] drawings were developed in an attempt to populate theses studies for a future combination.  Based in narrative, these programmatic investigations each took an architectural trope and assigned it to a different fictitious bureau.  The fictitious bureaus are all involved in some direct or indirect way with the control of water in the city.  The bureaus all possess different personalities akin to actors in a play; alliances are made, and oppositions created and the skyscraper is the stage in which these interactions are acted out.  All of these fictitious bureaus, however have a real world equivalent.

The resultant design is an investigation into the manner in which these different, and often opposing organizations meet up, butt up,collide and interact architecturally.  The fragment like nature of each programmatic investigation is combined into a shell in which each fragment is connected by a thread.  The skyscraper is an [ interiorized world ], housing eight different bureaus and a pumping station in which the subject of water in the city of New Orleans is contemplated to a satirical extreme.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Christina Shivers_ This project is meant to be understood within the context of not only the political and bureaucratic structure of New Orleans but of the rest of the world. Processes such as water drainage have been so controlled by man and authority that disasters occur regularly simply due to the rejection of the the natural manner in which the environment functions.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
CS_ Philosophy, history, computer science and music.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
CS_ How to think for myself.

S//A : Describe your dream project
CS_ Anything that challenges me to learn something new.