In the Terrain of Water

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PennDesign, Philadelphia

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Water is everywhere before it is somewhere. It is rain before it is rivers, it soaks before it flows, it spreads before it gathers, it blurs before it clarifies. These are waters at moments in the hydrological cycle that are not easy to picture in maps or contain within lines. It is to this water that we turn to find innovative solutions to water scarcity, pollution, aquifer depletion and a myriad other crises that catalyze politics, dynamics, and fears.

Is this time of watery imagination a moment to re-invent our relationship with water? Is it a time to ask if in seeing water somewhere, rather than everywhere, we have missed opportunities, practices and lessons that could inform and transform the design project?

What is it to see water as not within, adjoining, serving or threatening settlement, but the ground of settlement? Could this be the basis of a new vocabulary of place, history, and ecology? And can the field of design, by virtue of its ability to articulate and re-visualize, lead in constructing this new vocabulary?

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