“A Landscape of Fluctuating Boundaries: A Case Study in the Influence of Geomorphology on Urban Morphology

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The flooding of New Orleans’ 9th ward during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was one of the most vivid instances in the recent public imagination where the effects of nature on cities and private land became tragically clear. However, settlements along the Mississippi River in Louisiana had been dealing with the river, and feeling its effects on land tenure, for a long time. The historical contradiction between land tenure and natural systems can be clearly seen in two popular maps that show the Mississippi River in very different ways: Adrien-Marie Persac’s Norman’s Chart of the Lower Mississippi River from 1858, which features land parcels along the river at that time; and Harold N. Fisk’s Ancient Courses, Mississippi River Meander Belt, Cape Girardeau, Mo.-Donaldsonville, La. from 1944. A comparison of the two shows that parcels present in the former were significantly affected by changes in the course of the river represented in the latter in the 100 years that followed. This has changed even more so since 1944. This paper concerns the effect of natural systems – specifically natural river and drainage systems – on land tenure. Starting by comparing and contrasting the Norman Chart to Ancient Courses, and then both to the current geographical information on the Pointe Coupee Parish, this dynamic relationship between land tenure and natural systems but also historical sovereignty and governance becomes visible. A case study site called “False River” in the Pointe Coupee Parish in Louisiana will be used to explore this contradiction, where I will compare historic administrative, political, and cultural & linguistic systems deeply imbricated with the Mississippi and its landscape systems. Yet, as I will show, its flux has caused problems for the fixity of those systems, since they chose to anchor static systems to a dynamic entity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ 2020)
Subtitle of host publicationWhat if? What Next? Speculations on History's Futures
EditorsKate Hislop, Hannah Lewi
PublisherSociety of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ)
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)9780646837253
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event37th Annual SAHANZ Conference: What if? What next? Speculations on History’s Futures - University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Duration: 18 Nov 202025 Nov 2020


Conference37th Annual SAHANZ Conference
Abbreviated titleSAHANZ 2020
Internet address


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