KIT-Logo Parodi, O. (ed.):

Towards Resilient Water Landscapes – Design Research Approaches from Europe and Australia
Proceedings of the International Symposium on Water Landscapes at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, October 2009

KIT Scientific Publishing. Karlsruhe: Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, 2010, 130 Seiten
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(Gini Lee, Henri Bava)

During the Australian spring of 2009 a group of researchers interested in constructed landscapes were brought together to cooperate in new design research, generated by concern for the critical need to identify, design for and manage water and water systems influenced by the possibilities unleashed by climate change scenarios. The first offering of this newly constituted research group is the publication of these proceedings, Towards Resilient Water Landscapes: Design Research Approaches from Europe and Australia; the contributions have been presented at an occasional symposium, hosted by the landscape architecture program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Encapsulated in the approaches taken by the writers are clues into how researchers and designers - who must engage with the complexities of the landscapes, infrastructures and ecologies of cities and their communities - can contribute to growing design knowledge and critical debate in these times of rapid environmental, spatial and cultural change.

The Sydney 2009 Symposium was held at a time when writing on wetness and the issue of managing too much water from the European perspective seemed far away from the condition of dryness that was currently being experienced in Australia. At the time many of us were unappreciative that the decade-long drought was beginning to break in some places across the continent. A number of themes and approaches to gaining awareness of concepts of resilience emerge from the presentations, yet an underlying sense of urgency around our collective need to work within the possibilities presented by extreme conditions pervades our research; which at this stage is based upon individual and propositional project based knowledge with the intent to negotiate an ongoing cooperative approach. The realisation that a multi-disciplinary approach is essential to gain knowledge and to propose new solutions based upon design thinking underpins this collaboration between academics and designers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Copenhagen University (UC) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The 2009 Sydney Symposium

Urban water landscapes are the key foci of concern for most in these proceedings, yet there are also offerings regarding waterformed and water-dependent landscapes remote from urban conditions. The first two papers set the scene for Towards Resilient Water Landscapes through presenting European and Australian conditions and projects. Lisa Diedrich’s review of European urban projects for water landscapes identifies new themes for landscape research through looking critically at the novel solutions demonstrated by collaborative design and technical teams in their realised projects. Diedrich suggests that ongoing design research is essential in order to effectively uncover and disseminate the techniques and tactics crucial to creating resilient future water landscapes. She also asserts that such research is necessary to stimulate an academic design discourse that is still lacking in continental European universities and should complete the outstanding contemporary built European oeuvre. The tendency for water plentitude in the European condition is contrasted by Julian Raxworthy’s essay on dryness and its influence on landscape design in Australia; in particular on the aesthetics of designed urban landscapes as response to issues of water shortage and sustainable water management. Expanding upon his concerns that the cultural desire for greenness in a dry country has resulted in the historical transplantation of inappropriate public landscape design, Raxworthy presents four perspectives where waterinfluenced design is contributing to new urban forms and processes, that in turn influence public perception and support for appropriate water based regimes.

Resilience is a concept that provokes varied reactions across the design and technical disciplines engaged in refashioning urban landscapes. Five papers present varying perspectives and languages drawn from engineering, landscape architecture, urban design, architecture, hydrology and philosophical practices, where resilience is either the primary focus or is implicated by association. One of the important outcomes of this cooperation seeks to address the meaning and relevance of resilience - as a conceptual guide or as a method - as it contributes to design, practise and the generation of new methods and techniques for transforming urban landscape conditions.

Through reflecting upon historical and cultural perspectives in constructed riverine systems Oliver Parodi presents models for future practise that embrace and capitalise upon both technical and cultural mores. He establishes a link between contemporary technology and the history of ideas of our occidental culture. Based on the shortcomings of contemporary hydraulic engineering in Germany he offers suggestions for future practices that propose a reasonable, more hermeneutical, culture-sensitive hydraulic engineering, with always perceptible buildings and technological constructions.

Torben Dam is a landscape architect interested in recording the character of places through attention to the detail, the materiality and the temporal traces found in urban landscapes. For designed water landscapes to approach desired conditions of resilience Dam draws our attention to the necessity to develop techniques to ‘read’ the complexity of such landscapes and for designers to embrace a multidisciplinary perspective through immersion in regional knowledge and detailed research.

An “urban landscape atlas”, Katrina Simon’s samples of her analytical work with UNSW students on intend to give insight into the ways urban forms and transformations are represented in relation to landscape conditions of cities and metropolitan regions in different continents and cultures; water being one of the major landscape conditions to look at. This atlas is a work in progress, not 11 Gini Lee, Henri Bava yet ready for publication, so Simon has contributed a work of art that constitutes the cover of the present publication. This work illustrates how relationships of water to land inspire artworks as forms of research by design.

Helmut Lehn, an expert in sustainable urban water management, works in diverse geographical locations to provide water systems advice to developing countries. He stresses that safe and reliable water systems are essential components of sustainable development programs. The provision of effective, accessible and water sensitive infrastructure is key to achieving access to good quality as affordable water is everyone’s right. His technological approach to the design and management of such regimes also recognises the importance of a multidisciplinary methodology to providing both resilient delivery systems and also constructed projects that facilitate the cultural and social qualities of - and access to - water in the landscape.

Towards identifying and gaining understanding of the impacts of future change on climatic, economic and social systems, Andreas Kron reflects upon the relationships between local scale and knowledge and the development of effective management regimes. He suggests that perspectives for future water landscapes must derive from interdisciplinary cooperation to ensure that the range of issues and conditions and their imagined impacts are identified, debated and planned for. Four conditions are posited to inform the management of responses to extreme conditions - preparedness, prevention, protection and resilience.

Ian Weir lives, works and practices in the south-western zone of Australia in a landscape of great physical beauty and of high biodiversity. His presentation on the Fitzgerald Biosphere catchment describes his practise of making speculative works as conceptual landscapes of resistance that are constructed over time. This work is a subtle response to a highly complex natural environment - one that is rich with cultural association even if only sparsely occupied - through the design processes of tuning, reading and representing.

An important driver in the intent to cooperate between countries, environments and practises lies in the impetus and opportunity for research and collaboration on new projects driven by developing new scenarios for working in urban and other water landscapes. Gini Lee and Henri Bava describe current design research projects and recent works of landscape architecture that involve a range of collaborators, albeit in widely differing contexts.

Lee’s WaterFieldWork project is an account of an ongoing multidisciplinary project involving scientists and landscape architects in fieldwork; recording, assessing and proposing scientific and design management scenarios for a critical river system in central Australia. This arid water landscape project records landscapes from many dualistic perspectives; insiders/outsiders, science/ design, tradition/progress, indigenous/ settler culture, so as to negotiate future expectations, lives and landscapes towards a resilient strategy for resources development and occupational longevity. An associated element presents a photographic account from the air in order to commence a lexicon for critical water landscapes for this remote land.

Henri Bava explores his oeuvre as practising landscape architect and partner in Agence Ter in order to examine where and how landscape architecture becomes the vector for the development of urban water landscapes. Through presenting various urban, intercity, and transregional projects Bava develops the concept of “urban water landscapes of resilience” contextualising project sites as “large scale territory in motion”. His realised projects demonstrate how ecology in general, and hydrology in particular, can be integrated into - and even sustain - an urban strategy. With resilience as the main objective, these projects seek an innovative outcome through involving interdisciplinary research and practises that encompasses government, infrastructure and ecological aspects that operate within and influence the dynamic structures of urban systems.

The Symposium’s speakers focused on finding scenarios for ways to address resilience in water landscapes through altered disciplinary perspectives; landscape architecture, engineering, urban planning, architecture and hydraulic engineering, towards forming multidisciplinary groups interested in developing future scenarios. Discussions around potential projects and implications for research often seemingly appear as studies in contrasts – between urban and remote, wet and dry, settled and unsettled, material and ephemeral and practiced and raw. Such works of practice and/or research operate within diverse agendas. From landscape design leading to constructed water landscapes, to landscape systems monitoring, through traversing and representing landscapes – with such agendas often leading to reworking destroyed water-formed places through engaging in collaborative design processes.

Critical aspects arising from this publication in relation to resilience in the face of climate change range from the very local to the universal. In particular the concept of resilience is up for question. The need to approach water landscape projects with a multidisciplinary eye and suitable methodology is also seen as critical. Perspectives gained from drawing upon a range of expertise in order to evaluate projects that uncover new themes and theoretical underpinnings for landscape research are tied to establishing appropriate methods for representation and dissemination of such knowledge. What is clear is that there is a great deal to be learnt from immersion in familiar and unfamiliar landscapes across hemispheres, climates, ecologies and territories. Through collaborative and negotiated application of design thinking and scenario-based principles, the collective aim behind this publication is to facilitate, design and document projects for water landscapes that aspire to both ameliorate current challenges and to demonstrate technically effective and aesthetically pleasing solutions.

The present book unites the papers of the 2009 Sydney Symposium and has been produced by KIT Publishers in Karlsruhe as a special edition of the publication series of KIT’s Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, edited by one of its members, the engineer and philosopher Oliver Parodi, who is centrally involved in the process of construction of the collaborative research project between KIT, QUT and UC.


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