A whole systems approach to spatial design
RECLAIMING WATERSCAPES: WATER AS URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE
Urban water management and flood deterrent measures for Kochi City.
Kochi, Kerala, INDIA
CATEGORY: Flood Management, Community Spaces, Surface Water Management, Inner City Revival
KOCHI: The Estuary City
The erstwhile colonial port and maritime trade city of Kochi exhibits the characteristics of an estuary; a unique topographical paradigm that has progressively been stripped of its natural hydrology network due to ill-planned land reclamation, unchecked growth, urbanisation and the subsequent diminishing of its several water networks like canals and marshlands. Over the years, this situation has worsened and resulted in floods, destruction of infrastructure and ultimately, stability and resilience.
Water as Infrastructure proposes resilient urban systems that has a renewed and active relationship with water.
Reclaiming Waterscapes: Wetlands, canals and green networks act as agents supporting bio-diversity and livelihoods, resulting in safe, inclusive, walkable public spaces. adaptable inhabitation of spaces. These give rise to well-knit communities where residents and users take pride being stakeholders in the management of the immediate built and natural environment. Mutually benecial and productive water and landscapes are generated that break down the hard edges of the terrain and facilitate an adaptable inhabitation of spaces.
Water as an agent is fundamental to the inquiry, taking several forms and weaving its way in and out of the city’s life and activities, cementing its existence within the urban infrastructure. The practice of building with water leads to a resilient terrain that can sustain the city and its dwellers in the face of emerging climate change issues, depleting socio-economic apparatus and loss of an enduring identity and collective heritage. The strategy focuses on three main tenets of Hydrology and Ecology, Mobility, and Community. This metamorphoses into design interventions at action sites responding to the specificities and needs of the demographics prevalent in the context.
The scheme finds firm grounding in the political discourse of equity and accessibility of city infrastructure for its inhabitants across ethnic backgrounds, gender, economic class and castes. In order to sustain the democratic use and upkeep of the water infrastructure, all active and passive users are brought together in varying capacities as stakeholders. From community infrastructures such as sewage disposal and recycling systems to learning and vocational centres, accessible open ‘kund’-like water bodies for rest and recreation to productive urban forests, the built interventions respond to the emerging needs and inequities faced by people. Not only do these civic amenities disseminate knowledge and raise awareness, but they also empower and train the citizens to become active guardians of the wetland infrastructure. During the course of the year, the built architecture adapts from economically viable urban forests and tourism opportunities during the drier months to large water reservoirs for flood mitigation and water retention in the rainy season. The ecosystem is planned to boost self-sustaining and mutually beneficial human-nature assemblages as neighbourhoods that can help the inhabitants tide through the challenges and constraints of a sensitive coastal city.