The following design-research project prioritizes a double-meaning of WATERSHEDS as a transformative agent for the design disciplines, and at multiple scales -- defines as “Way Beyond Bigness: The Need for a Watershed Architecture.”


As designers, it is our responsibility to APPRECIATE, SPECULATE and COLLABORATE the possibilities of how the engagement with watersheds ultimately impact, and potentially prioritizes, our design decisions. These global fundamentals must reinstate an understanding of the complicated built environments we and all other species share. These are ones we cannot continue to dominate with hard-line and static interventions, but rather ones we should begin to design with adaptive and dynamic negotiations. To do so, designers must become better aware of design’s trans-scalar relationships -- spatially, temporally and geo-politically. This is not just for design’s sake, but also more importantly for design’s multi-scaled integration of architecture, engineering, landscape, infrastructure, urbanism, policy, economy, ecology, hydrology, etc.; and ultimately, the larger distribution context of watersheds that all designs inhabit.  In other words, the inevitable, and hopefully smarter, next step in the cause-and-effect networking of human manipulated built environments.


[WBB] prioritizes two approaches, the double-meaning of a watershed:

1) The understanding of the larger-scale effects of “watersheds” for design decisions. More specifically, how can designing with water integrate best with the built environment? 

2) The inevitable, yet resilient, need to adapt to contemporary, tipping point “watershed” events in time.  


[WBB] proposes a simple, adaptive framework that utilizes an integrative design-research methodology structured as:

     Appreciate + Analyze [A+A]

     Speculate + Synthesize [S+S]

     Collaborate + Catalyze [C+C]


Woven throughout the three parts, [WBB] attempts to realign watersheds and architecture across multiple:

     Scales (site to river basin)

     Disciplines (ecologists to economists)

     Narratives (hyperbolic to realistic)

    Venues (academic to professional)


This necessary realignment is defined as “Watershed Architecture [WA].” Given our complex contemporary challenges -- specifically in relation to water and tipping moments in time -- current design-research cannot be accomplished by one author, or for that matter, by one architect, landscape architect or urban designer. Rather, it requires collaborations that oscillate inside and outside typical design disciplines’ definitions and that break down typical professional and academic dichotomies. 

The body of work presented in this site represents a selection of efforts, most of which are on-going, that have been conducted with amazing professional colleagues, along with wonderful faculty, research assistants and students from Washington University in St. Louis, in addition to institutional collaborations with University of Toronto, Tulane and M.I.T, and unique efforts with the US Army Corps of Engineers, among others. Since my primary home and workplace reside in St. Louis, along with prior and continuing work in New Orleans, the work begins, prioritizes, and ends, in the Mississippi river basin. But this work is critically understood comparatively with two other major river basins, the Mekong and the Rhine.

I do hope the following work offers a template for such a challenge, or at the very least, serves as a platform to debate the merits of such work.




Presentation Venues

University of Texas San Antonio CACP Speaker Series (San Antonio, TX, 2019)

River and Coastal Urbanism Dialogue (Tulane School of Architecture, New Orleans, LA, 2019)

Mekong River Commission Secretariat (Vientiane, Laos, 2019)

A Forum for Chasing the City (Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, 2018)

River Cities Colloquium: Tulane School of Architecture (Treme Market Hall, New Orleans, 2018) 

Landscape and Art Exchange (The Luminary, St. Louis, 2018)

STARS (Students and Teachers as Research Scientists) program (University of Missouri-St. Louis, 2017+18)

At the Edge of Everything Else | St. Louis (Blank Space, St. Louis, 2017)

RRAT (River Resource Action Team), USACE annual "Pathfinder" barge trip (Mississippi River, 2017)

AIA, CSI and USGBC continuing education seminars (St. Louis, 2016+17)

ACSA International Conference (Santiago, 2016)

ACSA National Conference (Toronto, 2015)

EDRA National Conference (New Orleans, 2014)

World Delta Dialogues (Ho Chi Minh City, 2013)

EAAE/ISUF International Conference (TU Delft, 2012)

Washington University in St. Louis lectures + symposia, in addition to alumni talks in New York (2017) and San Diego (2016)

+ multiple presentations of work with collaborators



Way Beyond Bigness: The Need for a Watershed Architecture (forthcoming book, 2019, Applied Research + Design Publishers)

Chasing the City (chapter, 2018, Routledge Publishers)

Archeworks Chicago Expander (essay, 2018)

Scenario Journal (essay with Ian Caine, 2017)

Palmyra Spectator (press, 2017)

Hannibal Courier-Post (press, 2017)

Archinect (press, 2017)

Landscape Architecture Magazine (photography, 2016)

ACSA International Conference (paper, 2016, Santiago, Chile)

ACSA Annual Meeting (design project with Ian Caine, 2016, Seattle)

New Panel Layout for Competition (design projects, 2016, DAMDI Publishers)

Urban Design Studio Shanghai v2: Memory and Morphology (essay, 2015)

New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning (chapter, 2014, Verso Publishers)

ACSA Annual Meeting (session chair, 2014, Toronto)

Metropolis Magazine (photography, commentary, 2013)

ACSA Annual Meeting (design project, 2013, San Francisco)

New Urban Configurations (paper, 2012, TU Delft)

DIDI Design Idea Dictionary (design projects, 2012, DAMDI Publishers)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (interviews & op-ed’s, 2009, 2013, 2015)

+ multiple publications of work co-authored with collaborators




+ multiple honors of work with collaborators



Art + Landscape STL, Granite City Arts & Design District (group show, Granite City, IL, 2019)

Creative Exchange Lab (group show, St. Louis, 2015)

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts (St. Louis, 2015+16+17+18)

+ multiple exhibitions of work with collaborators




Project Team

Principal Investigator:

Derek Hoeferlin, AIA, Principal, [dhd] derek hoeferlin design, St. Louis, MO, USA

Associate Professor of Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis

www.derekhoeferlin.com   derek@derekhoeferlin.com   hoeferlin@wustl.edu

Instagram: @derek_hoeferlin_design

Research Assistants (2010 to present):

Jess Vanecek (primary, 2017-), Lex Agnew (animations, 2015), Caroline Amstutz (drawings, 2018-), Rob Birch (drawings, 2017-), Andy Lee (website, 2015), John Monnat (fieldwork/website, 2011), Nate Smith (photo/video editing, 2011), Paul Wu (drawings, 2018-)

Washington University in St. Louis Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts design studios, in particular:



Washington University in St. Louis International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (InCEES)  

Washington University in St. Louis Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts Creative Activity Research Grants


First and foremost, my students, research assistants and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis from 2005-present, Ian Caine, Marcus Carter, Carmon Colangelo, Dan Etheridge, John Hoal, Brent Hoerr, Fredrik Huthoff, Michael Kokora, Alex Kolker, Robbert de Koning, Stijn Koole, Gavin Kroeber, Bruce Lindsey, Annebeth Loois, Han Meyer, Byron Mouton, Joshua Nason, Jeffrey Nesbit, Dale Morris, Elise Shelley, Chuck Theiling, Duong Van Ni, Jesse Vogler, David Waggonner, Jane Wolff, Heather Woofter, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (InCEES) at Washington University in St. Louis, Public Lab, Royal Netherlands Embassy Washington D.C., US Army Corps of Engineers, Audubon Center at Riverlands, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, International Center for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR), Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR), Gulf Restoration Network, Mekong River Commission (MRC), The Water Institute of the Gulf, LSU Center for River Studies, Heartland Barge, National Maintenance & Repair, and of course my family, friends + many others for support and encouragement...