Patent and Place: Intellectual Property and Site-Specificity

Richard L. Hindle

Reviewed by Diana Balmori

21 Mar 2016


Among the more than 9 mil­lion U.S. patents grant­ed since the Patent Act of 1790, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al anom­aly exists in which intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and place con­verge in an evoca­tive yet con­found­ing hybrid at the inter­stices of tech­nol­o­gy and envi­ron­ment. For good rea­sons, known geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions are rarely rep­re­sent­ed in patent doc­u­ments. The speci­fici­ty of place pre­cludes the widest inter­pre­ta­tion of patent claims and is, there­fore, gen­er­al­ly omit­ted from texts and images that aim to pro­tect the broad­est inter­pre­ta­tion of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. Besides, direct cor­re­la­tion between the con­fig­u­ra­tion and func­tion of a nov­el inven­tion and a spe­cif­ic loca­tion, land­scape, or envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tion is atyp­i­cal — obvi­ous­ly. Yet, the schism between patent and place is not absolute, and a unique sub­set of patents grant­ed by the U.S. Patent and Trade­mark Office (USP­TO) includes texts and images that sug­gest site speci­fici­ty with­in intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty claims.

Patent, Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and Environment

Patents have oper­at­ed as an invis­i­ble land­scape-of-pow­er in the built envi­ron­ment since the Ital­ian Renais­sance, when the world’s first patent was issued to the emi­nent archi­tect Fil­ip­po Brunelleschi in 1421 for a machine or ship” and method of trans­port­ing mate­ri­als for his Duo­mo of Flo­rence, estab­lish­ing sem­i­nal legal and archi­tec­tur­al prece­dents.1 Brunelleschi’s patent pro­tect­ed his inven­tion of a new machine and method for trans­port­ing heavy loads by water, solv­ing one of three major engi­neer­ing prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with his nov­el dome con­struc­tion process­es.2 Although the patent’s legalese and the dome’s struc­ture oper­at­ed inde­pen­dent­ly on dis­crete legal and struc­tur­al prin­ci­ples, they formed togeth­er a high­ly inter­de­pen­dent and deter­min­is­tic mech­a­nism gov­ern­ing the form of the built envi­ron­ment. In this man­ner, the patent — west­ern civilization’s old­est legal and insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nism for incen­tivized inno­va­tion — has long mir­rored, defined, and shaped the built envi­ron­ment, yet failed to rep­re­sent it eidet­i­cal­ly in a way that is com­mon­ly recalled.3

Patents do par­al­lel the built envi­ron­ment and design think­ing. In his book The New Archi­tec­ture and the Bauhaus (1935), the mod­ernist archi­tect and the­o­rist Wal­ter Gropius fore­told the trans­for­ma­tion of archi­tec­ture and design through indus­tri­al process, and, true to form, he and his busi­ness part­ner Kon­rad Wachs­mann secured a U.S. Patent for a Pre­fab­ri­cat­ed Build­ing Sys­tem” (US2355192) in 1942, apply­ing Bauhaus prin­ci­ples to con­tem­po­rary hous­ing prob­lems.4 Just a few years ear­li­er, in 1938, Stan­ley Hart White, a pro­fes­sor of land­scape archi­tec­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois, uni­fied new steel struc­tur­al prin­ci­ples with advances in hydro­pon­ic tech­nol­o­gy to cre­ate a ver­ti­cal gar­den mod­el called the Veg­e­ta­tion Bear­ing Archi­tec­ton­ic Struc­ture and Sys­tem.” Cor­re­lat­ing mod­ern land­scape the­o­ry to U.S. Patent claims, White’s inven­tion was a tru­ly mod­ern accom­plish­ment in the con­text of aca­d­e­m­ic Beaux Arts.5 This coevo­lu­tion of patent devel­op­ment and the built envi­ron­ment can also be traced through oth­er com­plex infra­struc­tur­al and nat­ur­al sys­tems, such as rivers, coasts, cities, build­ings, and designed land­scapes.6

A patent is, in essence, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a spe­cif­ic inven­tion. U.S. patents have been accom­pa­nied by mod­els, draw­ings, and tex­tu­al descrip­tions since the Patent Act of 1790, which estab­lished Amer­i­can patent law and per­ti­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al stan­dards.7 The Patent Act states that grantees shall deliv­er to the Sec­re­tary of State, Sec­re­tary of War, and Attor­ney Gen­er­al a spec­i­fi­ca­tion in writ­ing, con­tain­ing a descrip­tion, accom­pa­nied with drafts or mod­els, and expla­na­tions and mod­els (if the nature of the inven­tion or dis­cov­ery will admit of a mod­el) of the thing or things, by him or them invent­ed or dis­cov­ered.” If the inven­tion was found to be new and valu­able by the cab­i­net sec­re­taries and the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, the patent was grant­ed and signed, bear­ing ulti­mate­ly the teste” of the Pres­i­dent him­self. In that man­ner, the gov­ern­ment and inven­tors coe­volved the tech­no­log­i­cal sub­strate of the arts” towards unfore­seen ends. Patent law places no restric­tion on what may be invent­ed or what might be deemed use­ful or valu­able among the arts, open­ing up a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties lim­it­ed only by the inge­nu­ity of the cit­i­zen­ry and the rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al stan­dards of the patent, which today is glob­al, ter­ri­to­r­i­al, nanoscale, atmos­pher­ic, and even astro­nom­i­cal in reach.

Fig­ures 1a‑b: Patents dis­close inno­va­tion across a range of scales, from nanoscale mate­ri­als to sys­tems for geo­engi­neer­ing and manip­u­la­tion of atmos­pher­ic sys­tems. Patent doc­u­ments are cur­rent­ly for­mat­ted on 8.5” x 11” sheets, with black and white line draw­ings and text, mak­ing issues of scale par­tic­u­lar­ly salient. The patents shown here oper­ate at the largest known scales for patent innovation.

1a: James Russell Baird, “Global Warming Mitigation Method” (U.S. 2010/0251789).

1b: Neil M. Brice, Cornell Research Foundation, “Method and Apparatus for Triggering a Substantial Change in Earth Characteristic and Measuring Earth Changes (U.S. 4,042,196).

Most patents relat­ed to land­scapes, rivers, cities, regions, coast­lines, and oth­er com­plex envi­ron­men­tal sys­tems are inten­tion­al­ly site-less, dis­tanc­ing intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty claims from any spe­cif­ic loca­tions. Patents of this sort typ­i­cal­ly use dia­gram­mat­ic or typo­log­i­cal draw­ings to dis­close inven­tions and pro­tect the widest pos­si­ble scope of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty claims while main­tain­ing ambi­gu­i­ty as to where the patent might be applied.

Fig­ures 2a‑f: The built envi­ron­ment is often rep­re­sent­ed in patent doc­u­ments as a site­less series of typo­log­i­cal con­di­tions, mate­r­i­al assem­blages, process­es, and method­olo­gies. The patents shown here dis­close inven­tions for (2a) chore­o­graph­ing earth mov­ing and build­ing lev­ees, (2b) con­struct­ing unique water/​terrestrial edge con­di­tions (U.S. 5,678,954), (2c) con­trol­ling the eco­log­i­cal flow of water and sed­i­ment (U.S. 20140042064), (2d) uti­liz­ing data for place­mak­ing (U.S. 20140324395), (2e) eval­u­at­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty (U.S. 20110047086), and (2f) gen­er­at­ing urban form (U.S. 20090070131). They are site­less, yet poten­tial­ly impact the built environment.

2a: Arsène Perilliat, “Method of Building Levees and Embankments” (U.S. 1,279,150).

2b: Lothar Bestman, “Ecological Coir Roll Element and Shoreline Protected Thereby” (U.S. 5,678,954).

2c: Chanwoo Byeon, “Ecological Biotope Water Purification System Utilizing a Multi-Cell and Multi-Lane Structure of a Constructed Wetland and Sedimentation Pond” (U.S. 2014/0042064).

2d: David Silverman, Salil Patel, and Anthony Frausto-Robledo, “Data Driven Placemaking” (U.S. 2014/0324395).

2e: Marc E. Heisterkamp, Guy H. Volz, Wayne Santos, Robert G. Becker, and Robin Alexander, “Evaluating Environmental Sustainability” (U.S. 2011/0047086).

2f: Lin Chen, “Standardized Urban Product” (U.S. 2009/0070131).

Those draw­ings cov­er a range of design think­ing and process­es — describ­ing work­flows, eval­u­a­tive meth­ods, detailed mate­r­i­al con­fig­u­ra­tions, gad­gets of one kind or anoth­er, and a dizzy­ing array of objects — ulti­mate­ly rep­re­sent­ing the envi­ron­ment as a series of typo­log­i­cal con­di­tions, tec­ton­ic assem­blages, data sets, and oper­a­tions often con­tin­gent on spe­cif­ic spa­tial or phys­i­cal con­di­tions yet, in essence, with­out spe­cif­ic sites.

The site­less qual­i­ty of envi­ron­men­tal patent doc­u­ments does not dimin­ish their poten­tial impact on large-scale com­plex sys­tems. Con­sid­er, for exam­ple, the design and con­struc­tion of Eads’ Jet­ties at the South Pass of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, near Fort Jack­son, a patent­ed sys­tem real­ized between 1875 and 1879 and cred­it­ed with sav­ing the Port of New Orleans by sus­tain­ing com­mer­cial activ­i­ties along the Mississippi.

3a: James Buchannan Eads and James Andrews, “Mattrass for Forming Embankment” (U.S. 170,832), sheet 1 of 3; prototyped, tested, and installed at the South Pass of the Mississippi River.

3b: James Buchannan Eads and James Andrews, “Mattrass for Forming Embankment” (U.S. 170,832), sheet 2 of 3.

3c: James Buchannan Eads and James Andrews, “Mattrass for Forming Embankment” (U.S. 170,832), sheet 3 of 3.

James Buchan­nan Eads and his busi­ness part­ner James Andrews pro­to­typed and test­ed their jet­ty sys­tem at full scale for four years before receiv­ing their fee for the main­te­nance of a nav­i­ga­ble chan­nel at the mouth of the Mis­sis­sip­pi, rad­i­cal­ly alter­ing the flu­vial geo­mor­phol­o­gy and ecol­o­gy at the Head of Pass­es.8 The patent grant­ed to Eads and Andrews was designed to suit the unique con­di­tions at the Heads of Pass­es, yet the doc­u­ment itself makes no men­tion of this spe­cif­ic loca­tion, ref­er­enc­ing only envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions com­mon to delta­ic land­scapes and a method of con­struc­tion. We know of the patent’s use through Eads’ peti­tions to Con­gress and detailed his­to­ries of the jet­ties, but the patent itself makes no ref­er­ence to a known geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion. Eads’ patent may be site­less, but its imprint on a spe­cif­ic land­scape is bound to the fab­ric of cul­ture and remains leg­i­ble today in the mor­phol­o­gy of the Mis­sis­sip­pi River.

Site Spe­cif­ic Intel­lec­tu­al Property

The anom­aly of site-speci­fici­ty in patents weaves a dis­tinct nar­ra­tive through geo­gra­phies of the Amer­i­can land­scape dat­ing back to the ear­li­est days of the Patent Office. In this nascent area of envi­ron­men­tal inno­va­tion stud­ies, I pro­pose Thomas Paine as the first per­son to sub­mit site-spe­cif­ic works to the patent office, though we may nev­er know for sure about that prece­dence as most of the ear­li­est Amer­i­can patents were destroyed in a fire in 1836. Paine nev­er built a steel bridge in Amer­i­ca, con­trary to what was sug­gest­ed in cor­re­spon­dence with Thomas Jef­fer­son. He did, how­ev­er, pro­pose bridges in New York, New Jer­sey, and Penn­syl­va­nia a short time after his book Com­mon Sense (1776) helped cat­alyze the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. Mod­els of Paine’s designs for bridges span­ning the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers were exhib­it­ed in France and Eng­land pri­or to being sent to the U.S. Patent Office for dis­sem­i­na­tion and safe­keep­ing, estab­lish­ing the ear­li­est known prece­dent for site-spe­cif­ic works curat­ed by the patent office.9

Although the mod­els men­tioned in Paine’s writ­ings were prob­a­bly destroyed in one of sev­er­al con­fla­gra­tions of the Patent Office, we can reflect on the con­found­ing inter­sec­tion of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and place, or real prop­er­ty, and trace a lin­eage to the envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges of today. Paine’s sub­mis­sion of bridge mod­els to the U.S. Patent Office was not an iso­lat­ed instance of site-speci­fici­ty with­in the annals of patent his­to­ry. In fact, many site-spe­cif­ic works have been premised on intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty of one sort or anoth­er. These pro­pos­als range in scale and scope from design patents that pro­tect the form and appear­ance of spe­cif­ic build­ings, such as archi­tect Wal­lace Harrison’s patent for mod­els of the Try­lon and Peri­sphere (New York World’s Fair, 1939 – 1940) and Apple Inc.’s patent for its store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, to util­i­ty patents for sys­tems that aim to recon­fig­ure the func­tion and per­for­mance of cities, regions, and ecosystems.

4a: Wallace K. Harrison et al., “Model of an Architectural Unit” (U.S. Des. 107,425), a patent limiting replication of the form of the Trylon and Perisphere designed and built as a central feature of the New York World’s Fair (1939-1940), sheet 1 of 2.

4b: Wallace K. Harrison et al., “Model of an Architectural Unit” (U.S. Des. 107,425), sheet 2 of 2.

4c: Apple Inc., “Building” (U.S. D712,067), a patent protecting the design of Apple Stores from replication, based on the flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Design patents protect form and appearance; utility patents protect the function and configuration of an invention.

Speak­ing gen­er­al­ly, the site­less qual­i­ty of patents has obscured an inti­mate rela­tion­ship between known places and spe­cif­ic tech­nolo­gies. One may eas­i­ly miss the rela­tion­ship between patent and place when sur­vey­ing mil­lions of doc­u­ments, which at first glance appear as a trea­sure trove of things — gad­gets, machines, and objects — but not of the envi­ron­ment as a whole, a place, or any known geog­ra­phy. Car­to­graph­ic forms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion with­in patent doc­u­ments quick­ly reori­ent the mind to the poten­tial inter­sec­tions of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and envi­ron­ment through the famil­iar imagery of maps.

Fig­ures 5a‑e: Patent car­togra­phies sit­u­ate tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions with­in known geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions. Exam­ples of envi­ron­men­tal and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion in patent doc­u­ments include (5a) Method of Clean­ing Har­bors,” sit­ed in Havana, Cuba; (5b) Device for Uti­liz­ing the Water Pow­er of Falls,” sit­ed at Nia­gara Falls, New York; (5c) Sub­ma­rine Wall,” sit­ed in Galve­ston Bay; (5d) a method of Obstruct­ing Ice in Rivers and Har­bors,” sit­ed in New York City; and (5e) Method and appa­ra­tus for coast­line reme­di­a­tion, ener­gy gen­er­a­tion, and veg­e­ta­tion sup­port,” sit­ed in glob­al man­grove ecosystems.

5a: John W. Parker, “Method of Cleaning Harbors,” sited in Havana, Cuba (U.S. 833,544).

5b: Christian J. Zeitinger, “Device for Utilizing the Water Power of Falls,” sited at Niagara Falls, New York (U.S. 442,000).

5c: Daniel Spangler, “Submarine Wall,” sited in Galveston Bay (U.S. 325,127).

5d: Peter Voorhis, “Obstructing Ice in Rivers and Harbors,” sited in New York City (U.S. 63,968).

5e: Keith Van de Riet, Jason Vollen, and Anna Dyson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Method and apparatus for coastline remediation, energy generation, and vegetation support,” sited in global mangrove ecosystems (U.S. 8,511,936).

Although patent car­togra­phies usu­al­ly lack the scale and gratic­ule of con­ven­tion­al map­ping, known loca­tions are some­times clear­ly demar­cat­ed with labels and iden­ti­fi­able bound­aries. Not only can those places be recalled, known, or vis­it­ed in the real world; they are also sites of tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion. As rep­re­sen­ta­tions, the maps range in speci­fici­ty from sys­tems dia­grams that sit­u­ate an inven­tion with­in a known loca­tion to detailed bathyme­tries that show the resul­tant geo­mor­phol­o­gy of a spe­cif­ic inter­ven­tion. Exam­ples include pro­pos­als for the removal of ice from New York Har­bor and the East Riv­er, a pas­sive dredge sys­tem for Galve­ston Bay, a hydro­elec­tric plant for Nia­gara Falls that pre­serves scenery and pro­duces pow­er, and even cur­rent infrastructure/​ecology hybrids designed to rein­force and cul­ti­vate man­grove ecosys­tems in Flori­da and around the world.10

What is the rela­tion­ship between patent car­togra­phies and known geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions? Site speci­fici­ty with­in patents rais­es impor­tant ques­tions about the extents and juris­dic­tion of patent law, in addi­tion to chal­leng­ing com­mon­ly accept­ed mod­els for inno­va­tion in com­plex envi­ron­men­tal sys­tems. Take, for exam­ple, the life work of Lewis M. Haupt (1844 – 1937), a pro­fes­sor of civ­il engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and, before that, a patent exam­in­er at the USP­TO.11 Haupt’s the­o­ries on the Phys­i­cal Phe­nom­e­na of Har­bor Entrances” earned him a Mag­el­lan­ic Pre­mi­um award from the Amer­i­can Philo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety in 1887, and, on the same day that he accept­ed that award, he was grant­ed a U.S. Patent for a Dike or Break­wa­ter,” which linked his design the­o­ries to known envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and spe­cif­ic loca­tions.12 Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Eads and oth­ers advanc­ing Amer­i­can infra­struc­ture through public/​private part­ner­ships, the Reac­tion Break­wa­ter,” as Haupt’s inven­tion was pop­u­lar­ly known, was to be pro­to­typed at Aransas Pass, Texas, by the Reac­tion Break­wa­ter Com­pa­ny using the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of his patent.

Fig­ures 6a‑c: Lewis M. Haupt’s patent for the reac­tion break­wa­ter,” sit­ed in Texas, Delaware/​New Jer­sey, South Car­oli­na, and par­tial­ly pro­to­typed at Aransas Pass, Texas. Pro­fes­sor Haupt received a Mag­el­lan­ic Award from the Amer­i­can Philo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety and a patent for a Dike and Break­wa­ter” from the Unit­ed States Patent and Trade­mark Office (U.S. 380,569). Pic­tures of the design mod­els show the before and after con­di­tions of Aransas Pass.

6a: Lewis M. Haupt, model for the “reaction breakwater” as partially prototyped at Aransas Pass, Texas. Image: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 38: 160 (October 1899): 139, plate VIII.

6b: Lewis M. Haupt, “Dike or Breakwater” (U.S. 380,569), sheet 1 of 2.

6c: Lewis M. Haupt, “Dike or Breakwater” (U.S. 380,569), sheet 2 of 2.

After a revi­sion to the con­tract, how­ev­er, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment ulti­mate­ly award­ed the bid for con­struc­tion to anoth­er com­pa­ny, which intend­ed to build the break­wa­ter per Haupt’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Dur­ing this process, Haupt’s patent was assigned to the U.S. Gov­ern­ment for use at Aransas Pass. In turn, the Sec­re­tary of War, respon­si­ble for over­see­ing improve­ments in rivers and har­bors, dis­missed Haupt’s research and patent as pure­ly the­o­ret­i­cal,” insist­ing that all of his dis­cov­er­ies were uncon­firmed by expe­ri­ence, and con­tain noth­ing not already well known, and which has a use­ful appli­ca­tion in the improve­ment of our har­bors.“13 The War Department’s attempt to dis­cred­it Haupt’s inven­tion also inad­ver­tent­ly cast doubts on the Amer­i­can Philo­soph­i­cal Society’s Mag­el­lan­ic Pre­mi­um, which Haupt defend­ed tire­less­ly in lec­tures to the Soci­ety and through pub­li­ca­tions.14 Haupt even­tu­al­ly peti­tioned Con­gress for pay­ment for par­tial use of his patent­ed inven­tion, but only after the deba­cle called into ques­tion the role of patent inno­va­tion in civic and pub­lic works under the juris­dic­tion of the fed­er­al government.

Accu­sa­tions of patent infringe­ment and the botched con­struc­tion process result­ed in a law­suit between Haupt and the Sec­re­tary of War, in which rul­ing the jet­ty was declared prop­er­ty of the U.S. Gov­ern­ment and, there­fore, not sub­ject to intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty infringe­ment. Haupt’s dif­fi­cul­ties propos­ing inno­va­tions for works under the juris­dic­tion of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the Army Corps of Engi­neers did not dis­suade him from fur­ther explo­rations, and he con­tin­ued to devel­op patent pro­pos­als for places such as the South­west Pass on the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, fol­low­ing in Eads’ foot­steps of twen­ty-five years ear­li­er at the South Pass.15

7: Lewis M. Haupt’s site-specific patent for a “Jetty or Breakwater” at the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River (U.S. 687,307) resulted from an adaptation of the “reaction breakwater” for the specific conditions of Mississippi. The design models show the resultant fluvial geomorphology of the patented design. Image: Lewis M. Haupt, "History of the Reaction Breakwater at Aransas Pass, Texas," Journal of the Franklin Institute 165: 2 (February 1908): 92, figure 5

In the lat­er years of Haupt’s career, he also con­sult­ed on the need for inno­va­tion in infra­struc­ture and helped for­mu­late a cri­tique of new patent law that attempt­ed to sup­press patent inno­va­tion in civic works.16 Inter­est­ing­ly, by 1920, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was involved in fif­teen mil­lion dol­lars of patent infringe­ment law­suits, and sev­er­al mil­lion dol­lars of suits relat­ed to improve­ments in rivers and har­bors.17

Irre­spec­tive of the shift­ing land­scapes of patent law, the ever expand­ing role of gov­ern­ment in large-scale engi­neer­ing works, or the lack of clear finan­cial incen­tives for works that pre­clude com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion, inven­tors and inno­va­tors attempt­ed to rein­vent the built envi­ron­ment and nat­ur­al sys­tems using the legal and insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nisms of the patent. Today, this record pro­vides an induc­tive view of envi­ron­men­tal design think­ing and a fruit­ful repos­i­to­ry for future inno­va­tion stud­ies. New tools may be need­ed to link patent inno­va­tion to place and the unique con­di­tions, dura­tions, and scales of com­plex envi­ron­men­tal sys­tems. For exam­ple, maps and oth­er car­to­graph­ic forms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion are not the only indi­ca­tors of site-speci­fici­ty in the patent archive. Known geo­graph­ic loca­tions are also some­times described in tex­tu­al claims and descrip­tions, even though the asso­ci­at­ed patent dia­grams and draw­ings remain site­less. Men­tions of known loca­tions are espe­cial­ly easy to over­look. More than 9 mil­lion patents have been grant­ed to date in the Unit­ed States, and each of those con­tains many words — even into the tens of thou­sands — mak­ing tex­tu­al search­es for known loca­tions dif­fi­cult. Nev­er­the­less, even with­in sur­fi­cial read­ings of his­tor­i­cal patent texts, we find evoca­tive envi­ron­men­tal design pro­pos­als, such as a pas­sive lev­ee con­struc­tion sys­tem for California’s Cen­tral Val­ley meant to bal­ance source/​sink sed­i­ment bud­gets dur­ing peri­ods of gold rush, a flood con­trol sys­tem along the south­ern reach­es of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er pri­or to the great floods of 1927, a method of con­struct­ing nav­i­ga­ble chan­nels at the Heads of Pass­es that poten­tial­ly sta­bi­lizes hectares of delta­ic land­scape, and oth­ers to be discovered.

Redraw­ing the Places of Intel­lec­tu­al Property

When think­ing of patents, one typ­i­cal­ly pic­tures some type of thing. His­tor­i­cal inter­re­la­tions among man­u­fac­tur­ing, indus­tri­al­iza­tion, and patents has result­ed in a dis­tinct thing­li­ness” (think cot­ton gins, plows, tie hold­ers, auto­mo­biles, toast­ers, etc.), though busi­ness mod­els, con­struc­tion process­es, chem­i­cal for­mu­las, car­to­graph­ic sys­tems, meth­ods of man­u­fac­tur­ing, and oth­er non-things” also have a long his­to­ry of patent inno­va­tion.18 Things and non-things alike may be grant­ed the pro­tec­tion of a util­i­ty patent, giv­en that the nature of their claims is non-obvi­ous, inno­v­a­tive, and dis­clos­es the func­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion of a spe­cif­ic art.” The hybridiz­ing of geo­graph­i­cal stud­ies with patent inno­va­tion stud­ies sug­gests a scale, scope, and ori­en­ta­tion for intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty claims that verge of the infra­struc­tur­al, eco­log­i­cal, and envi­ron­men­tal. Land­scapes are not things, cities are not things, and coastal zones are not things, yet each is sub­ject to the iter­a­tive and often deter­min­is­tic forces of human ingenuity.

In the fol­low­ing texts and images, I inves­ti­gate site-spe­cif­ic patents that func­tion at land­scape and region­al scales but with draw­ings and dia­grams that are site­less and scale­less. We know of each patent’s site speci­fici­ty through the inclu­sion of geo­graph­i­cal ter­mi­nol­o­gy and ref­er­ence to spe­cif­ic places and regions with­in the patent text, but the scale and impact of the pro­posed inter­ven­tion remains open to inter­pre­ta­tion. In one draw­ing per patent, I adapt claims and tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions to the geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion described in the text, syn­the­siz­ing his­tor­i­cal research and maps with the new” inno­va­tion dis­closed in the patent. The texts and images pre­sent­ed here are, in their sim­plest form, rumi­na­tions on the inter­sec­tions of place and intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. They pro­vide geo­graph­i­cal con­text to patents that may have rad­i­cal­ly altered the Amer­i­can land­scape, tran­scend­ing the object-ori­ent­ed his­to­ry of patents to sug­gest a new hybrid at the inter­sec­tion of tech­nol­o­gy and envi­ron­men­tal geog­ra­phy of innovation.

A Medici Pro­pos­al for the Mis­sis­sip­pi – US Patent 658,795

Juan Bautista Medici was born in Pied­mont, Italy, in 1843 and died in Buenos Aires, Argenti­na, in 1903. While resid­ing in Italy, he worked as an engi­neer on domes­tic rail­road projects and the potable water net­work of Mon­te­v­ideo, Uruguay. After emi­grat­ing to Argenti­na in 1870, Medici became involved in the detailed sur­vey of Buenos Aires. Lat­er, togeth­er with the Argen­tine engi­neer Lavalle, he grad­ed 175,000 square kilo­me­ters of the province of Buenos Aires. The lat­ter was fol­lowed by the con­struc­tion of an exten­sive net­work of chan­nels to drain the area and the addi­tion of two nav­i­ga­ble chan­nels. This project was award­ed a gold medal at the Espo­sizione Ita­lo-Amer­i­cana in Genoa (1892).19 Dur­ing his illus­tri­ous career in Argenti­na, Medici was also involved in the lay­out, plan­ning, water­works, and con­struc­tion of the cap­i­tal of the province of Buenos Aires, La Pla­ta.20 At 57 years old, and after a lifetime’s work in civ­il and hydro­log­ic engi­neer­ing, Medici sub­mit­ed his patent to the USP­TO with the inten­tion of recon­fig­ur­ing the delta of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er.21 Medici intend­ed for his inven­tion to be a direct tech­no­log­i­cal retort, or inno­va­tion, fol­low­ing Eads’ Jet­ties at the South Pass of the Mis­sis­sip­pi. Medici claimed:

The sys­tem of jet­ties or arti­fi­cial islets formed of brush and earth employed, for exam­ple, in the delta of the Mis­sis­sip­pi [refer­ring to Eads’ Jet­ties] has fall­en short of desired results, owing to the rigid nature of the resis­tance thus offered to the tremen­dous for of wave and cur­rent, before which force such rigid bod­ies must even­tu­al­ly give way. I have there­fore sought to over­come the defects of such sys­tems in the man­ner which I will now pro­ceed to describe.

Medici’s patent involves the anchor­ing of a sub­sur­face for­est” or orchard” of large, cut trees with vari­able depths rel­a­tive to the sur­face to guide flow­ing water and cap­ture sed­i­ment. The field or matrix of ver­ti­cal trunks and branched canopy would alter the speed and direc­tion of water by estab­lish­ing a new bathym­e­try of tree canopies that define chan­nels, islets, and bars at the riv­er delta. The sys­tem invites us to imag­ine a vast delta­ic land­scape con­struct­ed on prin­ci­ples observed in nat­u­ral­ly dynam­ic delta­ic land­scapes, yet designed to meet human neces­si­ty for nav­i­ga­tion. Medici’s pro­posed struc­ture is expan­sive, poten­tial­ly extend­ing for miles, and would func­tion at a scale com­men­su­rate with the deltas of large rivers. When com­pared with con­ven­tion­al tech­nolo­gies for engi­neer­ing of nav­i­ga­ble chan­nels, such as jet­ties and break­wa­ters, Medici’s pro­pos­al neglects the sin­gu­lar object and, there­fore, pre­cludes object-ori­ent­ed descrip­tion, evok­ing instead var­i­ous con­di­tions found in nature or oth­er large-scale pro­duc­tive land­scapes such as field, for­est, orchard, plain, island, field, delta, etc.

8a: Richard L. Hindle, “A Medici Proposal for Navigable Channels in the Mississippi River Delta” (2015/2016), referencing Juan Bautista Medici, “System for Formation of Permanent Channels in Navigable Rivers” (U.S. 658,795). The drawing adapts the specifications of Medici’s patent to the Mississippi’s Heads of Passes, showing navigable channels created by artificial islets, and stabilization of the delta through a subsurface bathymetric bosque.

8b: Juan Bautista Medici, “System for Formation of Permanent Channels in Navigable Rivers” (U.S. 658,795), sheet 1 of 2.

8c: Juan Bautista Medici, “System for Formation of Permanent Channels in Navigable Rivers” (U.S. 658,795), sheet 2 of 2.

Pro­tect­ing South­ern Louisiana’s Ripar­i­an Lands from Over­flow – US Patent 488,422

Linus Weed Brown (18561910) was appoint­ed assis­tant engi­neer of the City of New Orleans in 1885 and chief engi­neer in 1892. In those capac­i­ties, he com­plet­ed detailed topo­graph­i­cal sur­veys of the city, includ­ing stud­ies of pre­cip­i­ta­tion and run-off and detailed pro­pos­als for a drainage sys­tem.22 He lat­er pub­lished a book­let sum­ma­riz­ing the com­plex engi­neer­ing works under­tak­en while he was a city engi­neer.23 Brown’s work on the drainage of New Orleans neces­si­tat­ed a com­pre­hen­sive under­stand­ing of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er lev­ee sys­tem and the topog­ra­phy of the region. In 1892, just as he was appoint­ed chief engi­neer for New Orleans, he was also grant­ed a patent for a Sys­tem of Pro­tect­ing Ripar­i­an Lands from Over­flow,” which advanced the art of flood man­age­ment by using out­lets or waste weirs” along the low­er Mis­sis­sip­pi. Locat­ed at pre­cise flood ele­va­tions along the river’s course, the weirs would car­ry flood­wa­ter to adja­cent lakes, where it would be dis­trib­uted nat­u­ral­ly through the vast delta­ic net­work of bay­ous and chan­nels drain­ing ulti­mate­ly into the gulf. Brown sug­gest­ed that his sys­tem be imple­ment­ed at Lake Brogne and Lake Mau­repas, and at as many riv­er bends as nec­es­sary to dis­trib­ute flood­wa­ters effec­tive­ly. Although the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of Brown’s inven­tion was to pro­tect low-lying lands from over­flow, it might also have facil­i­tat­ed sed­i­ment recharge in a delta starved by lev­ees. Boost­ers of the lev­ees only” pol­i­cy ulti­mate­ly dis­cred­it­ed alter­nate pro­pos­als, includ­ing designed out­lets such as Brown’s, even though crit­ics knew that a lev­ees only solu­tion to flood con­trol would to con­tribute to the col­lapse and sub­si­dence of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Delta.24 The weir plan was nev­er imple­ment­ed dur­ing the legal peri­od of Brown’s patent. Inter­est­ing­ly, the Bon­net Carre Spill­way, which employs a weir sys­tem to divert water to Lake Pontchar­train, was con­struct­ed after the dev­as­tat­ing floods of 1927 sub­merged thou­sands of acres of land. That event occurred 39 years after Brown’s patent was grant­ed and a decade after expert wit­ness­es argued before Con­gress in favor of waste weirs sim­i­lar to those Brown pro­posed for the Mis­sis­sip­pi.25

9a: Richard L. Hindle, “A Plan by Linus Brown to Protect Low-lying Riparian Lands of Louisiana” (2015/2016), referencing Linus Weed Brown, “System of Protecting Riparian Lands from Overflow” (U.S. 488,422). The drawing sites Brown’s patent at bends of the Mississippi River to facilitate in the discharge of floodwater to natural lakes and bayous in the delta upstream and downstream of New Orleans. The weirs and side-levees would alleviate rising floodwaters incrementally and allow for the recharge of sediment back into the deltaic landscape during periods of freshet.

9b: Linus Weed Brown, “System of Protecting Riparian Lands from Overflow” (U.S. 488,422).

Source/​Sink Lev­ee for­ma­tion in Cal­i­for­nia Delta – US Patent 235,967

On Decem­ber 28, 1880, New­ton Sewell (1821 – 1902), a coun­ty asses­sor and landown­er in Yuba, Cal­i­for­nia, was grant­ed U.S. Patent 235,967, which describes a pas­sive hydraulic method for lev­ee for­ma­tion through the con­struc­tion of check dams with­in sed­i­ment-laden rivers. The dams would divert accu­mu­lat­ed sed­i­ment to a series of set­tling enclo­sures that in turn would become a lev­ee. Sewell’s patent for a Method of Reliev­ing Riv­er-Chan­nels of Sed­i­ment and Form­ing Lev­ees” uti­lizes the ener­gy of rivers, local topog­ra­phy, and riv­er sed­i­ment of the gold rush to build lev­ees in California’s Cen­tral Val­ley. The design is topo­graph­i­cal in nature, cor­re­lat­ing the slopes of rivers, dam sequences, and sed­i­ment enclo­sures to the loca­tions of lev­ees. Sewell’s inven­tion was con­ceived in the lat­er years of hydraulic dredg­ing prac­tices for gold min­ing in the upper reach­es and trib­u­taries to the Sacra­men­to and San Joaquin Delta (aka the Cal­i­for­nia Delta) — a min­ing process that almost choked the delta and San Fran­cis­co Bay with sed­i­ment. Dur­ing this peri­od, an esti­mat­ed 300 mil­lion cubic meters of sed­i­ment were moved by rivers and creeks from the Sier­ra Neva­da Moun­tains into the Cen­tral Val­ley and San Fran­cis­co Bay — enough mate­r­i­al to cov­er 380 square miles at a depth of one foot. Sewell’s design is note­wor­thy not only for its engi­neer­ing of the intrin­sic flu­vial process­es of rivers and for link­ing lev­ee for­ma­tion to topo­graph­i­cal change in riv­er sys­tems, but also for its mas­tery of region­al source-sink sed­i­ment bud­gets in riv­er sys­tems by uti­liz­ing the sed­i­ment gen­er­at­ed upstream, in the dis­tant reach­es of the Sier­ra Neva­da Moun­tains to build lev­ees down­stream in the pro­duc­tive allu­vial plains of the val­ley. Sewell also sug­gest­ed that the sys­tem might be used to reclaim,” or raise, low lying areas through the addi­tion of sed­i­ment — an inter­est­ing and far­sight­ed pro­pos­al giv­en the mas­sive sub­si­dence in the delta today result­ing from exten­sive lev­ee con­struc­tion, agri­cul­ture, and oxi­da­tion of rich organ­ic soils. The process is quite sim­ple, uti­liz­ing a series of low-crest­ed check-dams to raise the lev­el of water and divert sed­i­ment-laden water into set­tling enclo­sures, allow­ing for lev­ee for­ma­tion at an increased height rel­a­tive to the orig­i­nal ele­va­tion of the riv­er. Once the lev­ee has formed and the dam is removed, the riv­er ele­va­tion recedes to nor­mal and the lev­ee remains ele­vat­ed. When envi­sioned seri­al­ly along the reach­es of a riv­er sys­tem, a mosa­ic of lev­eed lands can be envi­sioned, sim­i­lar to the nat­ur­al bars and high­lands formed intrin­si­cal­ly by migrat­ing rivers. Impor­tant­ly, the sys­tem was devel­oped for imple­men­ta­tion along the rivers of cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia, between the gold rich lands of the Sier­ra Neva­da and agri­cul­tur­al­ly pro­duc­tive lands of the Cal­i­for­nia Delta, a statewide sed­i­ment man­age­ment plan dis­closed in patent.

10a: Richard L. Hindle, “A Sediment Management Plan for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley Deltas, and San Franciso Bay” (2015/2016), referencing Newton Sewell, “Method of Relieving River Channels of Sediment” (U.S. 235,967). The drawing envisions the potential scale and reach of Newton Sewell’s invention, adapting the patent to the conditions of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during the California Gold Rush, when millions of cubic feet of sediment were displaced by hydraulic mining. The drawing and patent explore methods for the creation of a regional sediment management plan and levee system balancing source/sink sediment budgets for vast river systems.

10b: Newton Sewell, “Method of Relieving River Channels of Sediment” (U.S. 235,967).


Patents have indi­rect­ly mir­rored and defined the built envi­ron­ment since the Ital­ian Renais­sance, when the first true patent was issued to the archi­tect Brunelleschi. As the founders of Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy pon­dered inno­va­tion and patents cen­turies lat­er, they cre­at­ed a sys­tem to pro­mote inven­tion, lim­it monop­o­lies, and expand the pub­lic domain of shared intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly build­ing a new nation. The poten­tial for envi­ron­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion implic­it in new tech­nolo­gies was well under­stood by Jef­fer­son and oth­ers, yet the future per­mu­ta­tions of tech­nol­o­gy and envi­ron­ment remained inde­ter­mi­nate and unfore­seen. Impor­tant­ly, the authors of the Con­sti­tu­tion (1787) and the sub­se­quent Patent Act of 1790 put few lim­its on what may be patent­ed,26 which lib­er­at­ed the cre­ative spir­it of a cit­i­zen­ry to evolve all sec­tors of the arts,” includ­ing the less­er-known envi­ron­men­tal arts. Many impor­tant ques­tions are raised by the curi­ous reci­procity between patents and the built envi­ron­ment, includ­ing the poten­tial for inno­v­a­tive new ideas to trans­form places. The anom­aly of site-speci­fici­ty with­in patents is only one rhetor­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal frame­work through which to explore the envi­ron­men­tal arts. With­in this nar­row sam­pling, or inno­va­tion study, we can trace a lin­eage from Thomas Paine’s bridges for the Hud­son and Schuylkill Rivers, to the unre­al­ized delta­ic inno­va­tions pro­posed by Juan Bautista Medici at the Mis­sis­sip­pi, to the built works of Lewis M. Haupt. They are linked not only by their inte­gra­tion of known geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions with spe­cif­ic tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion, but also through the prece­dent they estab­lish for inno­va­tion in the envi­ron­men­tal arts — work as rel­e­vant and for­ma­tive today as it has been for centuries.


By Diana Balmori

Giv­en the con­tin­gency of land­scape, it is shock­ing to see patents propos­ing envi­ron­men­tal solu­tions to large geo­gra­phies — deserts, rivers, coast­lines — with no indi­ca­tion of place what­so­ev­er, in either draw­ing or text. Richard Hindle’s account of patents with­out place offers a rare look — at once reveal­ing and sur­pris­ing — at the patent process in rela­tion to land­scape. Hin­dle does include exam­ples where loca­tion is men­tioned in the text or indi­cat­ed on a map, but one catch­es on quick­ly that leav­ing place out sup­ports a paten­t’s claim to uni­ver­sal applicability.

Even more shock­ing is just that fact: that patents would deal with large geo­gra­phies and pro­pose envi­ron­men­tal solu­tions. One imag­ines a patent to be an object that is a new inven­tion, a machine of some kind, not a large-scale land man­age­ment strat­e­gy for­mu­lat­ed in sin­gu­lar circumstances.

For read­ers not famil­iar with these patents and their sig­nif­i­cance for land­scape, two fur­ther obser­va­tions war­rant con­sid­er­a­tion. The first is that inven­tive respons­es to com­plex envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems with which we are wrestling today began appear­ing in patents two cen­turies ago. For exam­ple, James Buchan­nan Eads — the design­er and builder of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, among oth­er impor­tant works — offered solu­tions for the man­age­ment of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er. A most cre­ative engi­neer, Eads engaged in a long bat­tle with civ­il engi­neer Andrew A. Humphreys and the US Army Corps of Engi­neers (USACE) about the treat­ment of the Mis­sis­sip­pi and pro­posed solu­tions more in line with present-day envi­ron­men­tal under­stand­ing than the lev­ees-only approach that the USACE adopt­ed in win­ning that bat­tle. Inter­est­ing alter­na­tives are described in two of the patents illus­trat­ed by Hin­dle: Eads and James Andrews’s Mat­trass for Form­ing Embank­ment” (U.S. 170,832) and Linus Brown’s Sys­tem of Pro­tect­ing Ripar­i­an Lands from Over­flow” (U.S. 488,422). In the lat­ter of those, Mis­sis­sip­pi flood waters are devi­at­ed to low-lying ter­rains and marsh­es, restor­ing them with the silt need­ed to main­tain their ecosys­tems. This is close­ly relat­ed to Eads’ pro­pos­al of cut­offs in his long bat­tle with Humphreys.

The sec­ond obser­va­tion is that land­scape-based patents with a loca­tion are more con­vinc­ing and under­stand­able, at least to an engi­neer, envi­ron­men­tal­ist, or land­scape archi­tect, than are those with­out. But to those read­ing patent appli­ca­tions — not engi­neers with envi­ron­men­tal train­ing, one imag­ines — loca­tion could not have count­ed for much, at least then. The spread of envi­ron­men­tal knowl­edge and pub­lic air­ing of the prob­lems with past solu­tions make the task of the patent office a more informed one today.

In the end, a ques­tion hangs in the air as to the valid­i­ty of patents torn from the sites that elicit­ed them. Con­tin­gency and place are cen­tral to land­scape: A land­scape, like a moment, nev­er hap­pens twice. This lack of fix­i­ty is land­scape’s asset.”{endnote-27} With that in mind, Hindle’s Patent and Place” calls for a new look at patents — both old and new — propos­ing envi­ron­men­tal solu­tions for large territories.



See Frank D. Prager, Brunelleschi’s Patent,” Jour­nal of the Patent Office Soci­ety 28 (Feb­ru­ary 1946): 109 – 135.


Ibid., 109.


For a dis­cus­sion of eidet­ic images and land­scape rep­re­sen­ta­tion, see James Cor­ner, Eidet­ic Oper­a­tions and New Land­scapes,” in Recov­er­ing Land­scape: Essays in Con­tem­po­rary Land­scape Archi­tec­ture, ed. James Cor­ner (New York, NY: Prince­ton Archi­tec­tur­al Press, 1999): 153 – 169.


See Bar­ry Bergdoll, Peter Chris­tensen, and Ron Broad­hurst, Home Deliv­ery: Fab­ri­cat­ing the Mod­ern Dwelling (New York, NY: Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, 2008).


See Richard L. Hin­dle, A Ver­ti­cal Gar­den: Ori­gins of the Veg­e­ta­tion-Bear­ing Archi­tec­ton­ic Struc­ture and Sys­tem (1938),” Stud­ies in the His­to­ry of Gar­dens and Designed Land­scapes 32: 2 (2012): 99 – 110.


See Eli­jah Huge, Sav­ing the City,” Prax­is 10 (2010): 120 – 127; Richard L. Hin­dle, Lev­ees That Might Have Been,” Places (May 2015)


Kendall S. Dood and Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, Patent Draw­ings (Wash­ing­ton, DC: Pub­lished for the Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion by the Nation­al Archives Trust Fund Board, 1986). N.B.: Mod­els were only required by law until 1870, though the Patent Office accept­ed mod­els with appli­ca­tions until 1880.


E. L. Corthell, A His­to­ry of the Jet­ties at the Mouth of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er (New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons, 1880).


Thomas Paine, Daniel Edwin Wheel­er, and Thomas Clio Rick­man, The Life and Writ­ings of Thomas Paine: Con­tain­ing a Biog­ra­phy, vol. 10: Essays, Let­ters, Poems (New York, NY: Vin­cent Parke and Com­pa­ny, 1908), 238 – 239


See Peter Voorhis, Improved Method of Obstruct­ing Ice in Rivers and Har­bors,” US Patent 63,968, pub­lished April 16, 1867; Daniel Span­gler, Sub­ma­rine Wall,” US Patent 325,127, pub­lished August 25, 1885; Chris­t­ian J. Zeitinger, Device for Uti­liz­ing the Water-Pow­er of Falls,” US Patent 442,000, pub­lished Decem­ber 21890.


Leland M. Williamson, Richard A. Foley, Hen­ry H. Col­claz­er, Louis N. Megargee, Jay H. Mow­bray, and Will. R. Anti­s­del, Promi­nent and Pro­gres­sive Penn­syl­va­ni­ans of the Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry (Philadel­phia, PA: Record Pub. Co., 1898).


Lewis M. Haupt, Dike or Break­wa­ter,” US Patent 380,569, pub­lished April 31888.


Haupt, His­to­ry of the Reac­tion Break­wa­ter at Aransas Pass, Texas,” Jour­nal of the Franklin Insti­tute 165: 2 (1908): 81 – 9782.


See Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers, Trans­ac­tions of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers (1905): 435 – 451


Haupt, Jet­ty or Break­wa­ter,” US Patent 687,307, pub­lished Novem­ber 261901.


Unit­ed States Con­gress House Com­mit­tee on Patents and William Allen Old­field, Old­field Revi­sion and Cod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Patent Statutes: Hear­ing Before the Com­mit­tee on Patents, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, on H. R. 23417 (Wash­ing­ton, DC: US Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Office, 1912).


See Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Jus­tice, Annu­al Report of the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States (Wash­ing­ton, DC: Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Office, 1917), 433; The Wash­ing­ton Law Reporter, ed. Richard A. Ford (Wash­ing­ton, DC: [The Law Reporter Print­ing Co./Powell and Ginck], 1909): 79 – 80; and Illi­nois Attor­ney General’s Office, Bien­ni­al Report and Opin­ions of the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the State of Illi­nois: 1914 (Spring­field, IL: State Print­ers, 1915): 1328


See Gre­go­ry A. Sto­bbs, Busi­ness Method Patents (New York, NY: Aspen Law & Busi­ness, 2002).


Dion­i­sio Petriel­la, Los ital­ianos en la his­to­ria del pro­gre­so argenti­no (Buenos Aires, Argenti­na: Aso­ciación Dante Alighieri, 1985), 267 – 268.


Ofic­i­na de Estadís­ti­ca Gen­er­al, Min­is­te­rio de Gob­ier­no, Argenti­na, Anuario Estadís­ti­co de La Provin­cia de Buenos Aires, ed. Emilio R. Coni (Buenos Aires, Argenti­na: Imprenta y Fundi­cion de Tipos La Repúbli­ca, 1883), 2 vols.


Juan Bautista Medici, Sys­tem for For­ma­tion of Per­ma­nent Chan­nels in Nav­i­ga­ble Rivers” US Patent 658,795, pub­lished Octo­ber 21900.


See Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers, Trans­ac­tions of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers (1910): 470 – 472.


Linus Weed Brown, Illus­tra­tions of Drainage & Har­bor Work: City of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA: T. Fitzwilliam & Com­pa­ny, 1900).


Elmer Lawrence Corthell, The Delta of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er,” Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Mag­a­zine 7: 12 (Decem­ber 1897): 351 – 354.


Unit­ed States Con­gress, House Com­mit­tee on Floods, The Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Floods: Hear­ings Before the Com­mit­tee on Flood Con­trol, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Six­ty-Fourth Con­gress, First Ses­sion, on Floods of the Low­er Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, March 8,9,10,13,14, and 15, 1916 (Wash­ing­ton, DC: U.S. Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Office, 1916.)


Among the excep­tions were laws of nature, philoso­phies, and uni­ver­sal math­e­mat­i­cal equations.



Richard L. Hin­dle is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Land­scape Archi­tec­ture and Envi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, where he teach­es cours­es in eco­log­i­cal tech­nol­o­gy and plant­i­ng design as well as site design stu­dios. Hindle’s research focus­es on tech­nol­o­gy in the gar­den and land­scape with an empha­sis on mate­r­i­al process­es, inno­va­tion, and patents. His cur­rent work explores inno­va­tion in land­scape-relat­ed tech­nolo­gies across a range of scales, from large-scale map­pings of river­ine and coastal patents to detailed his­tor­i­cal stud­ies on the antecedents of veg­e­tat­ed archi­tec­tur­al sys­tems. Hindle’s writ­ings have appeared in Land­scape Archi­tec­ture Mag­a­zine, Places, and Stud­ies in the His­to­ry of Gar­dens and Designed Land­scapes. In 2012, he received a Gra­ham Foun­da­tion Award for the recon­struc­tion of Stan­ley White’s Veg­e­ta­tion-Bear­ing Archi­tec­ton­ic Struc­ture and Sys­tem” (patent­ed 1938). As a con­sul­tant and design­er, Hin­dle spe­cial­izes in the design of advanced hor­ti­cul­tur­al and build­ing sys­tems, from green roofs and facades to large-scale urban land­scapes. He has worked with such promi­nent firms as Michael Van Valken­burgh Asso­ciates, Steven Holl Archi­tects, Rios Clemen­ti Hale Stu­dios, and Ate­lier Jean Nou­v­el. Hin­dle holds a B.S. in Hor­ti­cul­ture from Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty and a MLA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Email: rlhindle@​berkeley.​edu

Diana Bal­mori is found­ing prin­ci­pal of Bal­mori Asso­ciates, a land­scape and urban design prac­tice rec­og­nized world­wide for design­ing sus­tain­able infra­struc­tures that serve as an inter­face between land­scape and archi­tec­ture. In 2006, she cre­at­ed BAL/​LABs with­in Bal­mori Asso­ciates to push fur­ther the bound­aries of archi­tec­ture, art, and engi­neer­ing. Bal­mori is an active voice in nation­al pol­i­cy and deci­sion-mak­ing per­ti­nent to land­scape design, archi­tec­ture, and urban plan­ning. She has served as a mem­ber of the US Com­mis­sion of Fine Arts, a Senior Fel­low of Gar­den and Land­scape Stud­ies at Dum­b­ar­ton Oaks, a board mem­ber at the Van Alen Insti­tute, and chair of the Civic Alliance World Trade Cen­ter Memo­r­i­al Com­mit­tee, among oth­er dis­tin­guished appoint­ments. She is the author of numer­ous books — most recent­ly, Draw­ing and Rein­vent­ing Land­scape (2014), Ground­work: Between Land­scape and Archi­tec­ture, with archi­tect Joel Sanders (2011), and A Land­scape Man­i­festo (2010). Writ­ings by and about Bal­mori have appeared in a wide range of media, includ­ing Dwell, Mon­o­cle, El País, PBS, Design Observ­er, and Utne Read­er, which named her one of fifty Vision­ar­ies Who Are Chang­ing Your World” (2009). In 2013, she was ranked #3 on Fast Com­pa­nys list of The 100 Most Cre­ative Peo­ple in Busi­ness” and one of ten AD Inno­va­tors” by Archi­tec­tur­al Digest. Bal­mori stud­ied archi­tec­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tucumán, Argenti­na, land­scape design at Rad­cliffe Col­lege, and urban his­to­ry at UCLA, where she was award­ed at Ph.D. with high­est hon­ors. Since 1993, she has been a Crit­ic at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty in both the School of Archi­tec­ture and the School of Forestry and Envi­ron­men­tal Studies.