Welcome To Black Creek: Re-Imagining Water as Life

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Project Team

Authors: Alex Sheinbaum, Evelyn Babalis, Agatha Molendowski, Natasha Raseta

Institution: University of Toronto

Instructors: Fadi Masoud, Megan Esopenko

Coordinators: Fadi Masoud, Michael Piper, Mason White

Studio: Integrated Urbanism Studio: A Prospective for Equitable Resilience in Toronto; Graduate Interdisciplinary, Fall 2020

Project Description

We are in a climate crisis. While we understand the normalcy of a fluctuating landscape, our urban systems and regions are built with static, unchanging infrastructure that can rarely withstand modern ecological disasters. The pressures faced by urban regions are compounded by human-related activities, such as urbanization. As impervious surfaces sprawl across formerly protected greenbelts and seep into old growth forests, we put localities at risk from urban heat island, pollution, and environmental degradation. Through the lens of the Green New Deal, cities grapple with how to adapt built landscapes to sustain severe climatic conditions. Capitalist modes of production, such as urban development, have marred our natural environment. These modes of production primarily occur through the ways in which land is managed, with the constant shaping and reshaping of our natural systems being at the core of urban design and planning. Ecosystem services, a capitalistic production of nature, is our current path dependency, leaving us entrenched in patterns of commodifying, exploiting, and dominating nature. Re-interpreting our relationship to nature as being mutual and interdependent bring new kinds of value to the blanket term 'urban resiliency'. As rivers around the world have been channelized and buried to support urbanization, the landscape cannot productively operate and sustain a healthy ecology. Reimagining water as life rather than understanding and treating water as infrastructure is by no means a no way of thinking, but it does challenge current trends of development.


Studio Description

At this moment two parallel conditions press the viability of cities. On one hand, the environmental costs of modern urbanization are now coming due as exemplified by the impacts of the climate crisis. On the other, the social liabilities of development led by private interests have produced inequities in terms of housing, services, and employment. In the past, addressing one has often meant sacrificing the other. Forces that intertwine social and environmental issues manifest themselves physically in the built environment. For example, new density to alleviate housing inequity can sometimes occupy land that might otherwise have sequestered carbon and absorbed storm water runoff. Robust green infrastructure for mitigating floods might inadvertently drive up land value and costs of housing resulting in a form of “climate gentrification”. This studio will negotiate these seemingly conflicting endeavours by providing a platform for students from the Daniels Faculty’s various design disciplines (MLA, MUD, MArch) to engage in common areas and sites of research and design. In this one semester, there may not be the time to synthesize all of our knowledge into a single project, rather each discipline will approach shared subjects of investigation from a lens appropriate to their field of study. The studio, as a platform, will provide a space for student to work from distinct disciplinary approaches that are ultimately shared through a common body of knowledge.