Public Lab River Rat Pack ∙ Derek Hoeferlin ∙ SP16

The Public Lab River Rat Pack Seminar was an interdisciplinary seminar focused on studying the characteristics and fluctuations of the Mississippi and other bodies of water in the St Louis region. Thousands of images were collected via a camera rigged to a large helium balloon or kite. These were then stitched together to form panoramas of the site in focus at a given point in time. Analysis was further conducted by the class, analyzing particular access and control measures on the river, and how those changed based on the river stage level. The class collaborated with the US. Army Corp of Engineers, the Audubon Institute at Riverlands, among others in an effort to gain access to restricted areas as well as learn further information about each of the areas in focus. The information collected was displayed in an exhibition at the end of the semester, open to students, faculty, and the general public. The map on the left was completed with a fellow student, and compiles the areas mapped during the class and overlays further information on river control measures, flood extents, hydrology networks, and land ownership.

Many of the issues that had been brought up in other ecology, biology and architecture classes became abundantly clear through the course of the semester. This was evident through seeing the gradients of vegetation and occupation throughout the city, and the changing river levels at each site, mapped multiple times. The DIY aerial mapping demeanor and anti-drone nature of using a large balloon rigged with a small camera generated social interest and amusement with the public in proximity to the class on each trip. This is definitely a new step in the right direction of how, architecture or landscape architecture students (and even for those in practice) can document their terrain in which they are working within for any given project, as well as the surrounding context, in a non-invasive manner.