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2006 Bangladesh RURBAN AGGLOMERATIONS fatou Kine dieye Much like blood, water’s hydrologic cycle ensures the health of man and the growth of civilizations around the world. Throughout history, large cities have always relied on water as a pivotal element in their development. Water is not only an essential resource for human development but also often considered a primary factor for economic prosperity and a guiding force in determining the rituals of everyday life. Due to climate change, population growth, and increasing urbanization, our most important resource is now being threatened.

are dispersed elements that could support today’s different activities connected to an extended use of the territory, to new forms of collective representation and free time. They are not related to an idea of center and periphery but to the construction of a field of horizontal conditions for contemporary practices and ecology. About isotropy and modernity: some provisional conclusions The projects described above are part of wider research that observes the Veneto region and its emerging paradoxes starting from its main infrastructural layers: water and asphalt. They define isotropic conditions inside the territory. The hypothesis is that the hydraulic regime and the road system must be invested with new relationships and meanings: The great image of isotropy is here considered a fundamental element for the design of a contemporary territorial support. Although the territory is not perfectly isotropic, and certainly not homogeneous, isotropy remains a reference, an extreme and ideal goal.

The first element supporting the hypothesis of a new Modernity comes out of the territory itself: Some of the transformations we read through deep insights and descriptions innovate the vocabulary of space and coexistence; they show original paths to modernization that are not a banal reproduction of traditional ones (Viganò, 2001, 2004). Often these situations elaborate, as has been the case in many territories of dispersion in Europe, specific conditions of development, in contradiction with the project of Modern Urbanism, mixing what had to be separated; dispersing where things had to be concentrated; using heterogeneity as an absorbing tool, instead of homogeneity; being incremental instead of planned. Especially in the beginning, at least in the Italian case, this new territory has been the condition and the support for a soft and diffused economic growth; social and economic mo-


Our main research question is threefold: What remains contemporary in the past process of rationalization? Is isotropy a figure of contemporary and future rationality (in other words, is isotropy a useful condition inside a process of modernization)? Which new conditions have emerged to make it possible to conceive a new project of isotropy? I am conscious of the emphasis put on loaded terms as rationality or modernization and the need to clarify them: The project of isotropy is, at the same time, the acknowledgement of territorial specificity (the Venice metropolitan area); a scenario to be investigated in its manifold consequences; and a design hypothesis that can be concretely elaborated: It puts forward a new possibility of being Modern.


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RURBAN AGGLOMERATIONS fatou Kine dieye The idea behind the project is to think of water-resource management as the determining factor in urban and community development, viewing water as a cultural symbol and a primary force in human development. This proposal introduces a new type of urbanism, one in which resource management and social networks are the driving force behind economic prosperity. Using the model developed by Muhammad Yunus for Grameen Bank, the proposal relies on a microfinance structure as a means of organizing new type of “rurban” development. 1 It takes a village... 2 Sample superstructure 3 Arial view of Bangladesh’s largest cities 4 Flow 5 Cost of Water Filters and Pumps 6 Ganges Delta


bility have been high, much higher than in traditional urban conditions. An entire territory has changed, superposing a new layer on the old structure that is not contradictory to it but more intense. Where dispersion was a phenomenon of long duration the dispersion simply became more evident and society changed radically. A second element of my hypothesis of a new Modernity is related to the important infrastructural changes we are now facing: The rethinking of the water system in the cases presented above is only one of the possible events. In the recent past, with very few exceptions, the realization of hard infrastructures has always been divided into separated fields (civil engineering and hydraulic engineering, for example), following a full set of distinct paradigms and often invoking the supposed neutrality of technique. A new alliance is today urgent among different fields of knowledge and technology; the change in paradigms is crumbling the modern plaster and designing new possibilities of sharing images and visions of the future. The micro histories of the redesign of PrĂ dei Gai and of the Merotto gravel pit are one of the possible results.



The third and final element, related to the previous one—the important infrastructural transition we are passing through—concerns the need of a new and collective project in which a change in paradigms and concepts can be used to reach a shared vision. In the case of the dispersed territories of the Veneto region, the paradox of isotropy can be reversed into a new project starting from the water support: investing in infrastructures both on the local and the general level, starting from the complex water system and reconnecting it to the rest of the territory, to the contemporary practices. 5

New forms of modernity, inspired by a shift in paradigms, by new conceptualizations, and by a different form of rationality (Dryzek, 1987) are one possible consequence of the deep modernization processes occurring in our epoch.


MAnAGinG And ModELinG fLuviAL sysTEMs: onGoinG PRojECTs AT ThE uRBAn dEsiGn LAB Richard Plunz + Kubi Ackerman The Urban Design Lab (UDL) at the Earth Institute at Columbia University offers a unique approach to helping communities develop sustainably within the framework of their distinct needs. This approach is driven by applied design research—including conceptualizing and prototyping alternative proposals—that can act as a catalyst for projects that advance sustainable development in New York City and the metropolitan region. While the core focus of the UDL is the physical design of cities, i.e., physical structure and physical change, its approach recognizes that a range of expertise is needed to make urban design relevant and sustainable in its unique and dynamic environment. Urban environments must be understood within the context of regional geophysical and infrastructural networks, and cities such as New York are intimately reliant on their peri-urban and rural surroundings. In this spirit of interdisciplinarity, the UDL has embarked on two projects that have sought to understand and address the development issues facing the great fluvial systems critical to the future of the New York Area: the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. 2006 Bangladesh

RURBAN AGGLOMERATIONS fatou Kine dieye With a surface area equivalent to the size of Utah and a population equal to nearly half the population of the United States, Bangladesh is seriously threatened by the prospect of globalization and rapid urbanization. As the urban populations of Dhaka and Chittagong grow at an alarming rate, so too do the threats and consequences of severe potable-water shortages. The threat to rural populations is just as great. While the Green Revolution has drastically increased the number of hand wells in use in rural areas, the increased number of wells has tainted the groundwater with arsenic. In 2005, nearly half of Bangladesh’s population was threatened by this deadly substance. Ironically, Bangladesh’s water crisis is in part a result of having too much water. As the watershed for an entire aquifer system, the Ganges delta is the confluence of three major rivers that flow through parts of Asia and Southeast Asia. With rising temperatures, the threat of severe weather catastrophes continues. Waterborne diseases are recurrent in water’s history. In the developing world, the threat of contamination poses additional challenges to already scarce water resources. Typically, diseases such as cholera and diarrhea are transported through unsanitary water.

The separate challenges facing the Hudson and Delaware watersheds are unique, yet their positions relative to the most densely populated regions of the nation allow for some commonality of approach. Both are “natural” geographic features that have been heavily inscribed by human activity and development, and both are vital infrastructure, water supply, and transportation corridors for the region and its inhabitants. The significance of these two rivers to natural and human systems is continually changing as the demands and pressures on rivers inexorably increase. In particular, the saturation of human population and development is becoming a critical issue for these two very different areas. In both projects, the UDL attempts to address the concept of a regional “carrying capacity” as part of an understanding of the limits of natural and constructed environments to sustained expansion. In order to address this issue effectively, it is necessary to transcend the physical boundaries of towns and districts that have hampered integrated planning efforts as well as disciplinary boundaries between designers, scientists, policymakers, and the public. Rivers and watersheds, with geographies of their own, are the perfect sites to explore and start to break down the disjunctions between continuous, ever-changing systems and imposed territorial and political boundaries. The two projects described below are re-

lated but distinct approaches to addressing the pressures of development in economically and ecologically complex regions. The first project, centered in the Delaware River watershed, focuses on specific case study development proposals and creates a new model for enhancing citizen participation in regional planning, including analysis and information about the planning process in an easily accessible format. The second project, encompassing the entire Hudson River estuary, seeks to develop a data-driven, multivariate computer model to assess the impacts of development across the region. These projects are part of an ongoing effort to address these disjunctions to create the progressive urban-planning tools that will be necessary in an age of increasing economic and environmental uncertainty. The Citizen’s Guide to Residential Development: Western Sullivan County and the Upper Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River watershed runs on a north-south axis that begins in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State and terminates in the estuary of the Chesapeake Bay in the states of Maryland and Virginia. The river itself divides the states of New York and Pennsylvania. The river naturally flows from north to south. Four main tributary watersheds feed the main Upper Delaware basin. The protection of the Upper Delaware as a Wild and Scenic River, designated by the federal government in 1978, is in part a recognition of its crucial position within the whole river basin. In a region experiencing exponential growth like western Sullivan County, which lies in the heart of this watershed, any change or impact in this upstream area will have a significant impact to neighboring communities downstream. The entire region is also under threat from the effects of rapid climate change, with projections indicating that temperatures in the Upper Delaware valley will rise by 3.2° C by 2020, with unprecedented and unpredictable effects on regional ecology and hydrology. The Citizen’s Guide was produced as a response to the past decade of unprecedented subdivision planning and construction within the Upper Delaware River basin. In part, this

The Upper Delaware Region represents many things to many people. Most elementally, it is a natural watershed basin, and its future lies with recognition of this fundamental geographic condition for both its natural and social ecologies. Until recently, it has been a region dominated by agriculture and riverrelated transportation and enterprise. Even as the East Coast metropolises grew larger and larger, the Upper Delaware maintained a coherent physical identity and distinct social character. For much of the 20th century, as local economic development steadily atrophied, the basin became more insular— often described as “a place that time forgot.” More recently, it has been the promise of this potential idyll that is proving to be both the attraction and the root of the potential demise of the region as it is being rediscovered and faces the pressures of increasing urban expansion. Residential development has grown along with associated environmental impacts. The Citizen’s Guide reflects the growing need within the region for a public understanding of the complexities of the residential development process within the watershed of the Upper Delaware River basin. The project presents an overview of issues related to the effects of residential development on the natural and social ecologies of the region. One can also find an explanation of the official review processes and public recourse related to development projects. The document includes five detailed case studies to illustrate these processes and assess the pros and cons of specific development proposals. These are drawn from western Sullivan County, where the recent rate of population growth has been highest. In one way or another, however, the same issues will apply elsewhere within the Upper Delaware basin. Before the real estate boom of the last decade, many newcomers noted that the Upper Delaware region was the last inexpensive refuge within a two-hour radius of New York City. The Chapin Estate subdivision complex in Bethel, for example, advertises itself as a “sanctuary” only “two hours from Mid-


The Citizen’s Guide to Residential Development is a document that assesses the impacts of new and proposed subdivision developments in the Upper Delaware River basin. The document also articulates and visually diagrams the planning and approval process to make it more accessible and transparent to the general public, whose involvement will be critical if planning decisions are to be responsive to a wider range of public concerns.

work is intended to augment the initiative of the Upper Delaware Roundtable, which has recently produced a GIS mapping of large approved development projects in eight counties bordering the Upper Delaware. This study provides a more detailed study of western Sullivan County, where development pressure has been particularly intense. This Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition initiative is a sequel to a similar research seminar conducted last year that resulted in the publication A River Endangered: Proposed Power Transmission and Its Impact on Cultural History along the Upper Delaware River1.

W7: Rurban Agglomerations  

by Fatou Kine Dieye

W7: Rurban Agglomerations  

by Fatou Kine Dieye