Water enables life and throughout history, civilizations have developed unique imaginaries around it. Water is central to the traditions and mythologies that shape culture and local identities, the emergence and decay of cities and their hinterlands, our daily routines and most basic bodily needs. Designing water across temporal and physical scales, while addressing its changing materiality, fluidity, and cultural meanings, is one of the most inspiring challenges of our time.
As climate extremes grow, water is becoming a central matter in the narratives of sustainability and resilience and once more, the development of larger and more costly infrastructures remains the only solution. Restructuring water landscapes in the interest of urban prosperity continues to inform contemporary government agendas at the scale of the city, the state, and the nation. While in cities this approach materializes in mega projects like riverfronts addressing flooding while spurring development, the environmental and social impacts of the construction of dams, reservoirs and endless canals in the distant hinterlands remains little acknowledged by architects and urban designers.
Building on this agenda, the studio “Designing Water Infrastructure for Civic Expression” investigates the many natures and scales of water, and develops an approach to documentation, representation and design techniques to render visible a new collective imagination around water in the city of Ahmedabad and its hinterlands. Class participants work incrementally to establish multi-scalar relationships, from the scale of the building, to the city fringes and the territory; addressing temporality, socio-cultural layers and political agendas. Strategically selecting a scale and typology of intervention, students instigate novel approaches to the design of infrastructure as a medium of civic expression and public life.