Marrin, Elizabeth Glass
Master of Architecture
Within the fluvial landscape of Louisiana, the levee is the means by which absolute lines are drawn upon unstable territories. A natural landform in origin, the levee historically operated as the high ground and collective refuge in times of flood. Through artificial fortification, the levee has become a normalizing and militaristic construct, protecting one place at the expense of another. Morgan City, Louisiana operates in the shadow of a regional infrastructure engineered to support a global economy. Located at the terminus of the Atchafalaya Floodway, Morgan City is surrounded by a 17-foot concrete levee wall that segregates an industrialized riverfront from the city as a whole. While currently these infrastructural constructs produce limits without formal or cultural intent, this thesis aims to reclaim the levee wall as an urban device, civic interface, and common ground. This ambition is explored through a riverfront master plan for Morgan City. The architecture is articulated as a system of elevated streets, vertical residential towers, and horizontal vocational campus blocks. While these elements operate as an infrastructural system to protect the existing city from seasonal floods, the architecture generates a tension between monumental expression and the everyday. The programmatic organization repositions the citizens of Morgan City in relationship to the region’s bureaucratic and corporate institutions. The plan’s formal relationship to the cartesian grid generates an edge condition that operates as an integrated element within the existing city form. These architectural moves aim to reintroduce the river into cultural consciousness.