Patent No. 452,989, “Method of Constructing Levees” (1891)

Levees That Might Have Been

At a time when regional levee systems were not yet consolidated under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, inventors were experimenting with diverse ideas for modifying American rivers. A tour through the patent archive provides a remarkable view of innovation in landscape infrastructure, as well as models for future intervention.

A history of forgotten inventions that would have produced a very different landscape along American rivers.




  • gabrielle-esperdy
  • Barbara Penner
  • Simon Sadler
  • shannon-mattern-new2

Gabrielle Esperdy

Gabrielle Esperdy is a columnist for Places. She is associate professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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Barbara Penner

Barbara Penner is a columnist for Places. She is Senior Lecturer in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

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Simon Sadler

Simon Sadler is a columnist for Places. He teaches the history and theory of architecture, design, and urbanism across several programs at the University of California, Davis, where he is a professor in the Department of Design.

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Shannon Mattern

Shannon Mattern is a columnist for Places. She is Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York.

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