AMES, Iowa — Shelby Doyle, Stan G. Thurston Professor in Design Build and associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University, was part of a team of University Design Research Fellows who designed an installation for the fall 2023 Exhibit Columbus “Public by Design” exhibition in Columbus, Indiana.

Doyle and her teammates, Ohio State University landscape architecture faculty Tameka Baba, Forbes Lipschitz and Halina Steiner, created “PIPE UP!” to facilitate conversations about the future role of water in local riparian corridors and across the Mississippi River drainage basin. Their installation was on display from Aug. 15–Dec. 2, 2023, at the Hotel Indigo Columbus Architectural Center.

Interactive installation

Funded by the City of Columbus and a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant, this strikingly colorful installation consisted of a standing field of 150 pale green sewer pipes topped by 700 feet of undulating yellow agricultural tile drains. Three suspended “rain clouds” and 13 poufs representing toxic sediment made of fluorescent pink flagging tape were scattered across the site to help create a vibrant and tactile display of invisible infrastructure, Doyle said.

“PIPE UP!” was coupled with a “Where does your water go?” exhibition in the hotel’s lobby that diagrammed the interrelationships between urban and rural water systems, inviting conversations about the role of water in local riparian corridors and across the Mississippi River watershed.


“I think this project has reinforced, for me, the transformative influence of water infrastructure,” said Doyle. “We hope ‘PIPE UP!’ sparked curiosity about the importance of water and allowed visitors to explore the hidden tributaries that move water beneath our feet in a fun and playful way.”

Why water?

Columbus is a part of the Mississippi River drainage basin — one of the largest watersheds in the world, covering millions of acres of urban drainage systems and tile drains under agricultural land. Individually and together, Doyle, Baba, Lipschitz and Steiner’s research focuses mainly on water infrastructure. They were selected as 2022-23 University Design Research Fellows for Exhibit Columbus through a national competition open to full-time university professors whose work is deeply rooted in design research.


Doyle previously was a Fulbright Fellow in Cambodia from 2011-13 where her focus was on water, architecture, infrastructure and the floods of Phnom Penh. An alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Doyle’s master’s thesis explored the Caspian Sea as an overlapping space of political, ecological and transportation infrastructure. She was also a research fellow from 2013-15 at the Louisiana State University Coastal Sustainability Studio, where she worked on a permanent exhibition for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and River Authority at the LSU Center for River Studies. She joined the Iowa State faculty in August 2015 and was named the Stan G. Thurston Professor in Design Build in September 2021.


Shelby Doyle, Stan G. Thurston Professor in Design Build and Associate Professor, Architecture,
Lauren Johnson, Communications Specialist, College of Design,