Visualizing Information: Hydrofield, by Travis Bost

“The Pig Goes Down the Python” — Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Summer 2011

Making information digestible is an art and sometimes the outcome actually is art.  Travis Bost is a graduate student in landscape architecture and the author of an installation that shows the fluctuations in the levels of the Mississippi River, over one year from November 2010- October 2011.  He gathered data from the US Army Corpos of Engineers for every day of that year, for multiple points along the river and programmed microcontrollers to allow balloons to rise and fall with the water levels.  As the water level increased, lights shining on the balloons turned red, and as it decreased, blue.

Lights are more blue than red, water level is still low, but rising.

This installation was done as part of Des Cours, New Orlean’s annual architecture and art festival, with 10 installations located in somewhat obscure spots around the city.  Travis’ was located in Stephen’s Parking Garage on Carondelet, an old Chevy dealership.  The existing metallic cloud wallpaper was quite a fitting backdrop.

The crest rises north of New Orleans, never reaching the city.

Major cities along the river are noted on cards placed at the base below the balloons.  From New Madrid, the river flows south through Memphis, Arkansas City, Vicksburg, Natchez, Baton Rouge, and ends with New Orleans for this installation.  The flood of the 2011’s Spring was quite heavy, and the installation shows the crest of the river peaking as it flows south.  The level in New Orleans constantly remains low because the river is diverted into the Atchafalaya Basin northwest of the city.

I found Travis’s work very interesting, and a clear way to see the water levels rise and fall during the yearly floods, and in particular 2011.  One of the fascinating things about New Orleans is that when you are there, you hardly ever see the water.  The city was built on the Mississippi River, and is currently below sea level, yet in our current era, the water has never been embraced.  There are current designs and plans underway to reinvent New Orleans’ stormwater management system, largely influenced by the Dutch and their ideas of how to embrace water.   For more info on Travis’ work go to:  and for more info on New Orleans and designing to handle increasing floods and hurricanes, check out


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