Ramblings for a Thesis III

Since we last spoke, I have been mapping Pittsburgh’s social, economic, and demographic data to understand which neighborhoods would be ideal to determine the location for drinking water fountains in public spaces across the city. From mapping everyday things such as parks, pools, playgrounds, hospitals, libraries, museums and so on, as well as socio-economic data such as race, median income, police arrests, and 311 data, it seems that the amalgamation of these falls under 3 neighborhoods – Homewood North, Downtown, and South Side Flats. Now, after overlapping the location of 46 existing public drinking fountains in Pittsburgh, I decided to eliminate downtown from the three neighborhoods due to prevalence of drinking fountains. So, I will be sticking to Homewood North and South Side Flats. Moving forward, I think I might need to narrow down locations within these neighborhoods through identifying vacant lots next to civic infrastructure (museums, libraries, hospitals, etc.) or maybe even use the topography of the area as a guide for where water flows and collects in these neighborhoods to have a specific location where I can implement stormwater infrastructure and drinking fountains as new public spaces in the city.

I have also been trying to identify the steps that would go into building a drinking fountain. I think my process would involve recommending the ideal location to the community, as well as recommend further steps into building a stormwater park with drinking fountains. The steps would be:

  1. Scout for a location and prepare it by checking the groundwork and surrounding area, moving unnecessary items and flattening the surface. This step will be done by me through intensive mapping and identifying ideal locations.
  2. Identify the location for the fountain on the site and plan for appropriate stormwater infrastructure and elements.
  3. When the stormwater infrastructure is underway, one can start laying down the pipe work for the fountain and test to see if it runs adequately.
  4. Build the base of the fountain once the tests run smoothly and add the outer components of the fountain. This can be done through an instruction manual that comes with components required to build the fountain.

The third site, apart from Homewood and South Side Flats, would be the Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant, and rethinking it as an urban design solution than an infrastructure solution. I am still unsure of how to approach this.


1. What are the shared resource(s) you are focusing on?

I am focusing on the knowledge of water in the city of Pittsburgh. Water is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that we take it for granted, despite all the local and global issues surrounding it.

2. Who are the community actors that participate in and benefit from the resource(s)?

The people who would participate in this resource would be the residents of Pittsburgh. However, I believe both the people as well as PWSA would benefit from this resource.

3. How could new cooperative structures, processes, tools, or spatial interventions help grow, sustain or manage the resource(s) and operationalize the shared benefits to the actors? (This is in effect your core design proposition.)

I believe that by incorporating the network of public drinking fountains, the residents in neighborhoods would be exposed to public spaces that incorporate water and implement signage and information about advocacy for public drinking water. Giving the residents a chance to build their own fountain gives them the opportunity to be involved in the advocacy and the public space design process that they would develop a sense of responsibility and ownership of the spaces. With regards to the treatment plant, I believe as there would be more regulations in the changes, it would rely solely on PWSA to adapt their plant and site to become a public space.

4. How do market forces relate to the resource/processes/tools? Is the resource removed, buffered or fully exposed to market forces? Is the market strong or weak? Is value from a changing market being captured or harnessed for community benefit somehow? Do the processes proposed somehow grow the resource by harnessing market forces?

I believe the market in my case is People’s Natural Gas, that is currently working to privatize water in Pittsburgh, essentially taking away PWSA’s responsibilities and “putting it out to pasture”. I think PWSA and Pittsburghers need to work together to make this series of interventions successful against the market. I am unsure if the processes will change when exposed to the market.

5. What is the proposal’s relationship to state based forces/actors/policies? Is the government a direct actor? Or is it external to the process? Is state action or power needed to enable the process, or can it use existing processes/policies? Is the process working with or against dominant current policy?

I believe the proposal aims to bolster and strengthen relationships between the public and state spheres. In this case, the state is PWSA, a currently struggling local government organization that has proposed a 1.2 billion dollar 2030 plan. The processes (both the implementation of drinking fountains and re-envisioning of the water treatment plant) will require some changes to current policies and thoughts of the PWSA.


For the exhibition, I aimed to break it down into PREMISE, PROCESS, & PRODUCT(S).


This would involve indicating the thoughts people have about water in Pittsburgh, the quality of water in Pittsburgh, and the lack of concern given to it by the residents. By conducting interviews and playing them for people to listen, and show selected quotes from these interviews on a screen, having samples of water from different neighborhoods/ the three rivers.


I feel like this would be best as a series of images of water as well as depicting the process for identifying locations through a series of maps. While I have only identified two neighborhoods to implement my proposal in, these maps will give a general idea of how to go about the site selection process for any neighborhood. This section could also have a CNC-Milled / 3D printed model of the city of Pittsburgh on which I will pour water and identify locations where water collects, as part of the site selection process.


This section would involve renderings of the stormwater parks in the 2 neighborhoods I selected with the water fountain. I might also try and implement a sample of a crowd-sourcing app, similar to Smell Pittsburgh here, as a PDF on a screen as well. This section can also have a “Make your own fountain” station, with the instruction manual here for viewers to come try and build the external structure of a water fountain.


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