Water is an element like no other. Its movement has shaped terrain and is shaped by terrain. It is a material that inherently traverses long distances while changing states, shapes, colors and tastes. It binds energy, minerals, substances. It vanishes from sight, infiltrating and evaporating, while regulating temperatures. It surfaces, disguised, in the air as fog or edible as fruit and vegetables. It takes space, seasonally, and with sea level rise also permanently. It is a threat and a source of joy. The care‐taking of water, its distribution and regulation, is essentially political and continues to organize societies.
Climate change – increasingly tangible as draughts and floods, urban heat islands, and rising but also contaminated seas – reminds us fiercely to dwell in a sphere characterized by a dynamic element found on, under, and above the surface: the hydrosphere.
This track not only acknowledges the hydrosphere as the very context of inhabitation but also its modification and construction through design. While the planning of cities and territories historically is tied to hydraulic engineering, and landscape architecture’s momentums are entangled with hydrology, this track urges architects to also contribute. Eventually – by means of the global and local water cycles – every building act engages, contains, forms, or builds water, and is actively part of a fluctuating flow regime including the sky and the ground.
With water as embedded material in any architectural, urban or landscape project, which are the beginnings to design? The hydrosphere poses irreversible demands on concepts of site, form and representation. Situated or upstream or downstream, design must open up to territorial questions. Placed within the shaping histories of water, design theory must carry forward form related to force. Given the shifting quantities and composition of the water cycle, design practice must assume its role in the cascade of slowing, storing, cleaning, use and encrustation. In face of changing water fronts design must provide adaptation principles of layering or retreat.
Thus, to incorporate the trans‐scalar, cyclic, dynamic and hybrid properties of water into our curriculums, must we not conceive a new Pedagogical Sketchbook as Paul Klee did to liberate the static line and infuse it with the motion of a walking dot? Which are the precedents, theories of form, design techniques, and allied experts required to empower the next generation of architects to become creative operators of the hydrosphere?
Sabine Müller, Elisabeth Sjödahl, & Giambattista Zaccariotto
Oslo School of Architecture and Design