Water, energy, climate change, and urban design are inextricably linked. In the fall of 2011, professors Anthony Fontenot and Linda Taalman organized a design studio at Woodbury University that examined water as a means of revitalizing the urban landscape, while speculating on the idea of “soft infrastructure.” In contrast to the history of infrastructure as “hard” and fixed, “soft infrastructure” is more porous, flexible, and adaptive to its environment and, like a “living organism” that grows and changes, is capable of responding to a range of urban problems.
The management of rainwater, surface runoff, sewers, and drains, while practically invisible and largely unappreciated beyond their technical capabilities, constitute a network of vital resources for transforming the city into a more sustainable environment. Rethinking the relationship between water and the city can help instigate the irrigation of new ecologies and reimagine the role that urban agriculture, water parks, reservoirs, and wetlands can play in the creation of various hybrid “soft” civic spaces.
Based on the student work that came out of this studio, both Fontenot and Taalman were invited to the Urban Ecologies conference at Toronto’s OCAD University. The conference brought together the brightest minds in creativity from around the world to examine the future design of our cities. A book highlighting content and findings from this conference has just recently been released featuring an essay by Fontenot and Taalman as well as the work of three Woodbury students: Jesse Jackson, Patricio Davila, and Roderick Grant.
You can find the PDF version of Urban Ecologies here.
The book is also available in paperback format and can be ordered here.