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Fresh Water: Design Thinking for Inland Water Territories

Posted: 9/26/2017 (Conference)

FRESH WATER: Design Thinking for Inland Water Territories September 14 & 15, 2018
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Landscape Architecture

The FRESH WATER design symposium invites designers and researchers, across academia and practice, to convene, debate, and discuss the inland water territories of North America. Inland cities, communities, and territories contain hydrographic stories related to industrialization, urbanization, agriculture, and commerce, where significant manipulation of land and water systems has created a legacy that continues to degrade the performance of the major watersheds. Disturbances such as river channelization and diversions, earthwork and sediment transport, overdrafted aquifer and groundwater depletion, hydraulic fracking, industrial irrigation, urban and overbank flooding, combined sewer systems, cross-continental pipelines, and federal deregulation present entangled design questions concerning regional urbanization, shared water infrastructures, freshwater economies, agricultural practices, and climate adaptation. All are deeply consequential for ecosystem and human health, social equity, environmental democracy, and the future of fresh water for the continent. The purpose of the symposium is to investigate design research that can transform these adverse conditions to desired ones, and to define the future resilience of our major inland watersheds.

The symposium asks:

  • How should design contextualize deep ecological, social, cultural and economic concerns within this large, complex scale, across real and perceived boundaries?
  • What new water design partnerships will be most effective, and why is this the case?
  • What new design research projects can be identified and initiated as experimental testing grounds? How should we actively engage the public in making them happen?
  • What would it take to move beyond linear problem-solving, toward creative reframing and inventive design thinking for these water territories? 

The primary territory in question comprises the major watersheds draining northward to the Arctic through the Hudson Bay and southward through the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. This large figure of land in North America, embodying the Nelson, Mississippi, and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence riversheds, is the site of important hydrologic activity that has profound impacts on the quality of continental fresh water and surrounding oceans. However, in contrast to urbanized coastal territories, the inner continental hydrographic area lacks equal attention as a space for water design. Yet there are acute opportunities for designers to propose territorial interventions, and localized interventions with territorial implications, that address unique human-hydrologic relationships in this fresh water space. Further, the fact that water is a complex territorial issue suggests that we expand our spatial and temporal understanding of water and think of it not as a natural system but as a constructed and living performance. To do this, we need new ways of describing, identifying, and representing the major manipulations and control of these territorial water systems, and of systems-based design approaches to address both the unique and the shared issues throughout this territory. Design-thinking methods and processes that open up and invent new approaches to these issues are urgently needed.

This symposium is relevant to designers and design-collaborative scholars and practitioners from a wide array of disciplines including: landscape architecture, architecture, urban design and planning, environmental design, geography, landscape ecology, river hydrology, urban hydrology, infrastructure and environmental engineering, environmental law and water policy, soils and geological science, forestry, agricultural science, mining and resources management, environmental economics, cultural history, and social and environmental justice. We are interested in a range of projects that bridge disciplinary and jurisdictional boundaries, wherein the issues and actions are consequential at a territorial water scale, and that need a diverse body of knowledge and methods to address them.

Keynote speakers and panel moderators will be announced during Fall 2017.

Key Dates

Call for Abstracts opens: September 20, 2017
Abstracts due: January 15, 2018
Notification of acceptance: April 1, 2018
Registration opens: TBD
Early bird registration deadline: July 15, 2018
Regular registration deadline: August 31, 2018
Conference: September 14 & 15, 2018

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Deadline: 01/15/2018

Location: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign