New Orleans and its swampy environs constitute one of the most distinctive cultural, geographic, ecological and urban sites in the world. Surrounded by lakes, rivers, and wetlands, the city is suspended in a web of extreme artificial and natural conditions. This specificity has inspired highly creative architectural, urban and engineering responses as well as caused unimaginable difficulties. The peculiar relationship the city formed with its environment over time moved from building successive layers upon existing natural processes to imposition. The natural levees which formed along the river eventually became built and fixed. While developments of the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen as a series of infrastructure interventions provoked by the city's precarious connection to its specific environment, today there is a new and urgent need to reevaluate (and perhaps reinvent) the relationship between infrastructure, the city, and the larger ecological context in the 21st century. The multiple layers which constitute this bewildering engineering of the landscape, produces a virtual Life Support System for the city, on the one hand, while threatening its very existence on the other. Like a patient dependant on its machine, its survival and sustainability depends on constant maintenance and manipulation of complex mechanical and natural systems.