Out of sight, out of mind. For better or worse, it’s often the case. Consider, for example, the underground systems of a city: the electrical, gas, water, and sewer lines that power, hydrate, and, er, relieve our lives. Tucked away below the grid of streets and sidewalks, they are easily taken for granted by urban dwellers. Yet the systems are strongly linked with the health of the city.
Portland, like most older US cities, is working to clean up combined sewer overflow (CSO) pollution. During heavy rains, it is possible for the combined flow of storm water and untreated sewage to surpass the capacity of older pipes, causing an overflow into the Willamette River. The infrastructure needed to solve the problem is underground and not easily understood by the ratepayers footing the bill.
A Visual Explanation
Last fall, we worked with the City of Portland to create a video showing the extent of the stormwater system, how it works, and how it developed over time. Using David Macaulay’s Underground as inspiration, and public sewer records as a base map, we modeled the storm, sanitary, and combined drainage systems of a Northwest Portland neighborhood. The resulting illustrations remove the layers of dirt between us and the system, making it easy to see (but thankfully not smell) what’s happening down there.
Are you developing systems that would be better understood if brought into plain sight? We can help. Contact us at 503-465-4533 to learn more.