Geographers make a distinction between site and situation as they consider the underlying foundation of a place. Few cities represent such a wide chasm between these two aspects as does New Orleans. The situation, or the answer to why does a place exist, was imperative. The Mississippi River was a major artery for the North American continent. As first the Europeans and then the Americans assumed control of the area, a port was essential at the mouth of this river. But the site, the response to where a city is placed, continues to confound. Few environments were or are more inhospitable to human habitation. Poor soil, disease, floods, and hurricanes are constant threats that have plagued the city for over three centuries. But the why trumped the where and hence the paradox of New Orleans persists.
New Orleans is the classic example to use to explain the difference between site and situation…lousy site, incredible situation. These maps are a nice introduction to the city.