Panel 12: Grounding Water: Rethinking Urbanism in Monsoon Landscapes
This session speaks to the following subthemes: 1. States, Cities, Governance; 2. Ecology and Environment; 3.Place, Belonging and Action.
Can water be the ‘ground’ for rethinking both the past and the future of urbanism and development? With climate change, water increasingly appears as a threat against which we must fortify ourselves through cement and resilience – in short, through a culture of keeping dry, rather than “soaking” (Cunha and Mathur, 2007). More than two thirds of the world’s largest and highly populated cities are coastal delta cities, or are situated on estuaries vulnerable to rising sea levels. Climate adaptation has become a central policy mandate across the board, where climate adaptations involves technocratic water-management. Water’s presence in our landscape is calculated as either too much, or too little, and understood as a threat to which we must adapt. The terms through which water is discussed as an object of crisis can broadly be divided into two: rising waters that threaten coastal ecologies, and drying rivers which threaten riverine economies.
While landscape architects are exploring the possibilities for designing on soft land (Busquets, Correa, Berman 2005), entrepreneurs are going forward with perilous and potentially exploitative experiments of floating cities in the Pacific (Floating City Project by Seasteading Institute). Such maritime-utopic-amphibious projects threatens the fragile land and seascapes in the region. How can our understanding of cities be enriched by engaging with the practices of living with water in deltaic cities where the line of separation between land and water is muddied, where landscapes are seasonal and the relation between land and water is defined by the phenomenon of soaking. This interdisciplinary panel asks the following questions: what tools will help us understand the specific urban forms, political constellations and modes of habitation that constitute delta urbanisms in monsoon landscapes? Through what modes can we read the hidden hydrologies of our cities and the traces of their long-forgotten waterways? Finally, can water also be the ground for thinking about the future of our cities, reorienting our visual literacy away from a land-based approach.
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Department of History
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