The following design-research project prioritizes WATER as a transformative agent for the design disciplines, and at multiple scales -- what I define as “Way Beyond Bigness (or the need for a Watershed Architecture).”


As designers, it is our responsibility to APPRECIATE, SPECULATE and COLLABORATE possibilities of how the engagement with water ultimately impacts, 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, landscape, infrastructure, urbanism, policy, economy, ecology; 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:

1) The foundational primacy that a “watershed” offers design. More specifically, how can water-based design relate best to 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]


[WBB] realigns watersheds and architecture across multiple:

     Scales (site to river basin)

     Disciplines (ecologists to economists)

     Narratives (hyperbolic to pragmatic)

    Venues (academic to professional)


This necessary realignment is defined as “Watershed Architecture [WA].” Given our complex contemporary challenges -- specifically in relation to water -- 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, primarily from Washington University in St. Louis. 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.





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, and alumni talks in New York (2017) and San Diego (2016)

+ multiple presentations of work with collaborators



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

Chasing the City (forthcoming 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)

+ multiple publications of work co-authored with collaborators




+ multiple honors of work with collaborators



Creative Exchange Lab (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

Associate Professor of Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis

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

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


Ian Caine, Carmon Colangelo, Dan Etheridge, John Hoal, Brent Hoerr, Robbert de Koning, Stijn Koole, Bruce Lindsey, Han Meyer, Byron Mouton, Dale Morris, Elise Shelley, Chuck Theiling, Duong Van Ni, David Waggonner, Jane Wolff, Heather Woofter, Public Lab, Royal Netherlands Embassy Washington D.C., US Army Corps of Engineers, Audubon Center at Riverlands, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, my students and research assistants, + many others...