Atlas Paddling A Manifesto
Part I of II
Not only is climate change real...
01 // A Beautiful Wall
No one knows how many of the Marbles
tell true stories, but they line the length of tallest
opening and the ensuing neighbourly chatter
wall you will ever see. Each one, lit by its own
reverberates against the high wall and meets your
scented brazier, talks of a city long gone, which
ear like a cloud of acoustic perfume.
can only be rebuilt and refurbished in your mind.
Like shards of broken glass, they are scattered
by the flames forever dancing in their braziers
in ways which follow no logical pattern, and
just above your head, as they share enough heat
can be rearranged into new formations each
to keep you warm for a summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s evening. If
time someone touches them. If shards can be
the moods are spirited, the stories you hear will
refashioned to form either a wine glass or a
outshine the ones set in stone, their preciousness
window anew, so can the Marbles tell multiple
enhanced by their impermanence. I have lingered
histories at the same time, one for every onlooker,
there many nights, listening to the old advising
each as valid and as true as the next. In their
the young, abandoning my thoughts to odd tales
intricacy, the uncarved spaces within the pieces
looking at the bas-reliefs through half closed eyes,
receive your anxiety about the current world: how
until all but the things around the fire disappeared
it will never produce any event remarkable enough
- I even forgot about the tumultuous roars of the
to be immortalised through marbles, braziers, or
sea which lies just beyond the wall.
the wonderfully strange plants lining the spaces between them - only then, their purpose is fulfilled. The Marbles are immortal and they stare down at our slow extinction.
Below the carvings, flames frantically
dance in the ornate braziers, each burning with an incense carefully selected by the carers specifically remunerated for this task. As this is the sight many see when they first enter the city, the smells of the past flood your nostrils, exposing our culture while simultaneously covering up the marine miasmas floating above.
If you ever find yourself meandering in
the area mid week, I recommend you find the time to visit the Marbles close to dusk, when the gib doors lie open, and locals are pouring through. What is meant to be a space of solitude and silent reverence is jolted into life by the dancing shadows of the ones who clean the walls, change the scents, or weed out undesirable vegetation growing in the gardens. As the sky darkens and
the work starts winding down, the sound of bottles
Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hesitate to approach and warm up
One of the Marbles shows the desolation of the landscape before the inhabitants arrived.
02 // The End of Conservation
The wall is a barrier between two different
conditions: one worth keeping, the other, not so
inhabitants new and old, swaying in a syncopated
much. It is also the catalyst for a metamorphosis,
rhythm, giving birth to a new city from a cloud
from a place of tall towers despised by many, to
of dust. Above shop, sports pitch, town hall and
an uncanny one of exoticism and attraction, where
house, a new shop, a new sports pitch, a new
soothsayer and savant, artisan and critic, thief
town hall and a new house arose, an inversion of
and jailor break bread together, whether by choice
the district’s old patterns.
or circumstance. An arrondissement of its own
authority, where those too many to be oppressed,
in earnest, struggling to see beyond wooden
but too few to make a change, linger on the sides,
catwalks, extensive hoarding and ladders. But
as history has always placed them.
you see, permanence or completion were never
ambitions here - the heavy foundations of the
When the waters came in and took the
‘When will it be finished?’ you might ask
derelict docklands with them, a voice was quick to
buildings which were supposed to make them
declare it was addressing two pressing ailments
stand forever, had made it certain that now they
of the City - floods and heritage. ‘For what is the
had to lie dozens of meters below the water. The
spirit of this metropolis if not one of equal love for
foundation of the new district will be change itself.
both our future and past?’
You will then realise, while looking at a floating
It was addressing the floods by welcoming them
street, or a house anchored in the side of the wall,
into the City, building gargantuan cylinders to act
metal supports clamping uncomfortably at the
as trepanation, directing the water towards the
brilliant white, that something cannot be destroyed
skies so that they would not spread horizontally.
if it stays unfinished.
But, within this decision, sacrifice was implicit, as neighbourhoods would now need to be be flooded - or, as some remarked, ‘conserved’ for posterity, a submerged Pompeii with starfish, coral and crabs as fresh citizens.
And such is the story of this part of
the City - it began with an encasing wall, while displacement was running in parallel. The river then started growing within, foaming and meandering its course through what once were streets, now an extension of its muddy bed. Reflected in the swelling pool you could only see tall, lagan towers, a lonely clue of the city which once stood there.
When the sounds of the rushing waters
ceased, they were soon replaced by ones different in nature. Bandsaws, hammers, drills, chisels and
cutters were cavorting within the decisive grasps of
Proposals for integrating the incoming effects of climate change within urban life. Image 2 (right) shows a public baths with all the excess water, while Image 3 (below) shows the formation of a lacustrine village.
03 // The Gardens of Guilt
Few are the ones who remember that
our City used to grow once, when our appetite for
named after what an old woman once said, seeing
dwellings was as relentless as our imagination.
it from above.
Now, we have too many; our citizens, searching for
the high ground which would grant protection from
of eyes are watching us; we, the strange creatures
the rising seas, have left them behind, derelict and
who denied them their original habitats, who are
barren, the darkness in their windows like missing
now desperately trying to hold onto the diminishing
teeth in a crooked, well-meaning grin.
numbers of both ourselves and our planetary
family by inviting them into our homes. Their
In time, one by one, the empty buildings
From behind the exotic foliage, many pairs
started disappearing altogether, sometimes
gazes are not vengeful, but curious, as there is
leaving behind a door, a window, a cornice, or a
something germinating in the heart of the Mosaic,
fragment of wall; new piles of carcasses sitting
a most bizarre secret, which greatly confuses
atop old ones, of pine trees, rubbish, and plague
beasts large and small. When the inhabitants of
victims, all buried before anyone can remember.
the Mosaic tire of seeing a panther chasing an
Now cleared, the voids were appearing differently
antelope across the savannah, they need only
to anyone who looked at them - a mother saw
exchange house with the ones who are now bored
playgrounds for her unborn son, while a priest saw
of the penguins endlessly synchronising in their
a handsome spire, its sides encrusted with pious
diving, swallowing the plentiful fish whole. In this
words of devotion. Between all of the spaces,
way, the watchers always have a constant fresh
no idea remained unbuilt - a new City made of
supply of subjects, and vice versa.
pauses started to emerge, growing as the old one
shrunk, made only from the opportunities the latter
bears and birds of paradise, are species that have
already gone extinct, and are now replaced either
by highly sophisticated automata, or by humans
While these spaces became farms,
But the secret is that amidst lions, hyenas,
hospices, and inns, in the neighbourhoods
who, driven insane by the guilt of knowing the
of the fair and wealthy, gates with intricate
truth, have recreated the animalistic appearance
ornamentations of sea shells, acorns or mango
with their garb. They live on the pastures, grazing
fruit began to span the voids between the
and migrating with their quadruped step siblings,
sumptuous mansions. As you pass them by,
or in marshes with diaphanous fogs, swimming
through a door left slightly ajar, you might glimpse
with the alligators, eating frogs, and opening their
a wild goat running up the vertical side of a snowy
mouths to let the tickbirds clean their teeth. This
mountain, an elk quietly grazing in the middle of a
secret is so precious, and their guilt so intensely
tundra, a lion leading his pride through the empty
infernal, that even they are now convinced of their
wilderness, or a scarab beetle pushing a sphere of
own bestial nature.
dung while drawing long, undulating lines through glittering sands. These forlorn worlds have now found new life in the City, each on a different street according to their origins, echoes of ecologies
long gone; together they form the Great Mosaic,
The Mosaic, as that old woman once saw it.
Part II of II
... it has already happened.
04 // A Beautiful Wall II
After the founders held this City for
a while, we managed to buy it off them fairly
stopping us from choosing which one to save first
cheaply.1 A new City, a garden surrounded by
should disaster strike again. Sometimes sluice
spires of steel and glass, will erase and replace
gates, with advertising on them, other times an
old, shabby buildings, made of soil and timber.
embankment, with a hill and a sports pitch on top,
They will not be defined by the thousands of
this protection would never reveal its true purpose
people they host, the contorted forms they might
have, or the materials which make them up, but
by the millions of dreams and anxieties inspired in
has named it, will replace a few of the marshlands
anyone who looks upon them. They host myths of
we have previously taken, when we took the
success, desire, importance and capital, to replace
geological limitation of our estuary as a guideline
the ones about the First Mother, the Giant Spider
to be challenged. Even now, echoes of how
and Witch of the Whirlwind.
practical, advisable and profitable would be to
extend our City further into the ocean, building up
The chosen land would be surrounded
We hope that the Dry Line, as its architect
by waters so as to make sure that our dreams
the diminishing marshes with more filler and stack
would aim no lower than the skies. Change, we
rooms on top, can still be heard.6 In turn, other
thought, would thus be limited, but it still defines
voices talk of building up the seabed and leaving it
us - every moment you listen carefully, it makes
like that, soil offered as a sacrifice to the angered
someone yell ‘The City I know is dead!’, while
oceans. All speak about the temporary nature of
another simultaneously shrieks ‘The City has
our plans, and I have to ask myself about how
never been more alive!’, although they never seem
anything can be long-lasting in a City made of
to hear each other. As it became clearer that the
large island was not sufficient, divided in myriad
fragments as it was, and boosted in its height
from all the dreams our City is haemorrhaging into
as much as possible, we started taking from the
plains, marshlands, and even seabed; they all gave in to our touch like warm plasticine.4
As the accidental was replaced by the
concrete, and the light we gave made the stars impossible to see, we realised that our hubris was never meant to last. By the hot tarmac, in place of the forests we felled, tall rulers now stood in the mud, our fear growing along with the height of the dried algae after each tide. A barrier that is simultaneously a museum, a promenade, and a park should protect us from the storms that have taken lives, buildings, and walkways.5 We would share it, a patch of land bringing together
all of the neighbourhoods it passes through,
Somewhere else, the waters are swelling
Paper and concrete walls protect forests of steel and glass.
05 // The End of Conservation II
once again, separating the waters of our Lagoon
Rumour has it that once, our City was
described using fifty five different cities, and
from the surrounding seas.9 A long wall, honest in
I can see at least two: one is the place where
its appearance, will hide below the seabed, filled
most of the inhabitants live, constructed using
to the brink with salty water, emptied as needed
larch wood, brick, mortar and stone, while the
in high tides,10 and finally appearing as a slight,
other has been growing steadily for centuries,
lifesaving line just below our horizon.
and it is inhabited by those who, after visiting us,
became split themselves, living both here and in
a place where it did not belong, making all of our
their homes across the continents. In other cities,
histories increasingly supernatural. At first, nature
where you rush to make a meeting, you cannot
worked with us - sediments from the sea have
turn a corner without bumping into someone whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s
petrified the stilts upon which we built, but limiting
doing the same, and time refuses to fit within the
the flow of water around the Lagoon has allowed
minuscule box on that spreadsheet. Instead of
for very little refreshing exchange between the
people turning corners, here you see the trace of
two entities. Minuscule creatures now gnaw at our
a couple realising they are pioneers as they hit
piers,11 and we need to intervene again, creating
a puddle with the tip of their shoes. In place of
yet another history which should not have existed.
busy intersections, you have boats gliding over
Our narrative is one of decay, where we have
the surface of the Lethe, each hosting a local who
fallen apart for centuries while other Cities were
points at the rock where a famous merchant once
built in a day. The source of our anguish is planting
sold their exotic wares from around a world that
the seed of delight into the heart of those who
seemed much bigger. Unlike in other cities, it is
want to see us.
impossible to rush here, because on every canal,
bridge, street or square, you get stuck in the thick
Cities, we are caught between two distinct deaths
cloud of Memory our visitors left behind.
- that of our buildings and the end of our decay. If
As the second City continually grows, the
You see, as we are caught between two
our buildings survive, how long before the City of
first one shrinks, contorts, and eventually sinks.
Memory becomes more real than the one built in
How can our waterways help our movements,
larch wood, brick, mortar and stone?
when they are flowing inside our houses and squares? Increasingly, citizens have left the Lagoon we inhabit, and most of the people staying, move through here transiently, unfettered by the miasmas and dangers of a sinking City. It might not appear so, when our buildings look like relics arranged in a beautiful museum display, but we turned to machinery to keep us above the waterline. Using technology, we summoned a figure from long ago, described in a book of simultaneous self help and lies, to part oceans
From the beginning, our City was born in
Proposal by J. Inaba for treating Veniceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s historic fabric, while flooding parts as to encourage part of the decay.
06 // The Gardens of Guilt II
We are far, yet if you were to squint you
As we glimpse at the last few hilltops
would see a mirror, showing neither past nor
disappearing under the ocean, we know we
present. As far as we are, you can still hear us,
will have to leave soon, and there are whispers
and even if you might not know it, you have felt
about where we should go. Rumour has it that
our touch before. Our City, nested amongst three
as you walk on the side of the ocean, in every
rivers and the ocean, is faced with a tormenting
millimetre of growing tides you can hear the
choice - we could bank all our shores and stop
dreams, ambitions and achievements of someone
millions of citizens from suffering at high tide, or
who lives far away. Within every swollen wave, I
welcome the waters, let them wash over our thirsty
can hear an engine starting, a plane landing, a
crops, and let the sediment feed the soil. We
fracking operation at the same time as my other
know it will be complex - not all embankments will
ear picks up on an incoming landslide, the final
be the same, as not all the waters help us live.
breath of the last banteng, an albatross letting out
Sweet, clear rivers coming from the mountains
a curious shriek after coughing up a bottle cap.
meet in a great, flowing, life-giving sea, which
when no one looks, pours out of its bed. When
from behind a piece of cloth.17 Can you feel our
the mud dries, we take the market stalls out, and
touch while weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re drowning?
A journey made for millions of years is
now being disrupted - at high tide, the meeting point between ocean and river is shifting closer to the heart of our territory. Wells, crops and streets are accounts of how poisonous the oceans can be, their increasing salts flowering on the walls of our houses and in pools on our farms.13 Barrier after barrier gets built on the edge of our deltas to stop this tug, yet they return to mud before we can repair them, as despite the financial buttressing you have offered,14 our efforts were feeble and cannot anticipate the cyclones, droughts, and tides.15 Our trade is just as unpredictable, with no telling when we can return your generous investment so for now, we will sink our fingers in the mud and clay, push it in mounds on the riverside, build lacustrine villages awaiting their inevitable lakes, and raise our wells above the salts.16 On stilts, our City can again become green, even if for a short while.
To you, a thousand hands appear as one
From salted wells and stilted houses, we escape over trade routes that shift their course less than the Ganges.
Epilogue // Seas of Possibility
On a table there lies a slender candle,
its orange glow starting to give your hands a
the process. Perhaps you should mention how
soft shadow against the stack of messy papers
built cities tarnish the ambition of their unbuilt
below. Their corners bent, they sometimes stick
predecessors, where the loudest demagogue with
as you rest your elbows against them, but you
the most putrid heart shouts over the noise, and
barely notice it - your eyes are following the wax
the devoted preacher who promised deliverance
trickling down the sides, finally reaching the dark
doesn’t show up when it rains. You could also
mahogany surface on which the candle rests. A
share a dream, withhold specifics and stay your
small mound appears as it cools, catching the last
hand before it draws the blueprint, with the sole
pale rays of sun in its depths, although not before
instruction being to hurt or laugh only when
a few scatter just under the surface. Something
about the fragile warmth refracted through the
ochre reminds you of a conversation held long
at the benevolent, polite smiles lined below the
ago, in the terracotta churchyard of a warm city,
evening’s first timid constellations, and open your
your voice vaporous amidst the buzz of both
mouth to speak; much is to be decided when
people and bumblebees.
you’re lost in between oceans and the stars.
A gentle breeze, followed by a slight
movement catches your attention. The flame trembles as you stand and walk over to the balcony. Below the crystalline sky and the swaying tree canopies, filling the space between the crumbling remains of old buildings, an endless sea of faces is staring up towards you. Crammed like hens in a coop, some hug, while others peak over the crowd resting on their friends’ shoulders, all sharing an expression of curious anticipation, their courteous smiles softening the slightly worrying character of the scene. In the front, clutched in their eager hands, you can distinguish tools - screwdrivers, bandsaws, pick hammers, trowels.
You know what they are expecting, and
you are faced with a dilemma - how will you tell them where to find the Good City? For every city that is built, a thousand imaginary ones await their turn, so you weigh your choices carefully. You could talk about how difficult they are to construct, how some imagined cities are damaged from the
beginning, while built ones become damaged in
Walking out onto the balcony, you look
Amidst oceans, I finally had time to think.
Endnotes R. Koolhaas, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan (New York, 2014), p. 39.
Gill, D. Sam, I. F. Sullivan, Dictionary of Native American Mythology (USA, 1994), pp. 57-60.
L. Freeman, F. Braconi. “Gentrification and displacement New York City in the 1990s.” Journal of the
American Planning Association, No. 70 (2004): pp. 39-52. T. Steinberg, Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon and Schuster, 2014),
pp. 89-90. O. Wainwright, (2015). “Bjarke Ingels on the New York Dryline: ‘We think of it as the love-child of Robert
Moses and Jane Jacobs’” in The Guardian [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/ mar/09/bjarke-ingels-new-york-dryline-park-flood-hurricane-sandy [2017, May]. T. Steinberg, Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon and Schuster, 2014),
p. 112. I. Calvino, Invisible cities, trans. William Weaver (London: Vintage, 1997).
M. Portanova, (2015). “Mose, in dieci anni 1,3 miliardi di costi in piu. E allarmi inascoltati” (Italian) in
Il Fatto Quotidiano [Online]. Available: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/06/06/mose-in-dieci-anni13miliardi-di-costi-in-piu-e-allarmi-inascoltati/1015136/ [2017, May]. F. O’Sullivan, (2016). “Venice’s Vast New Flood Barrier Is Almost Here in The Atlantic Citylab [Online].
Available: http://www.citylab.com/tech/2016/09/venices-vast-new-flood-barrier-is-almost-here/498935// [2017, May]. lbid.
J. Inaba, et al. “Learning from Venice.” Perspecta, Vol. 41 (2008), pp. 140–143.
H. Brammer, “Floods in Bangladesh: II. Flood Mitigation and Environmental Aspects.” The Geographical
Journal, Vol. 156, no. 2 (1990), pp. 158–165. lbid.
H. Brammer, “Bangladesh’s dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise.“ Climate Risk Management, Vol.
1 (2014), Pages 51–62. lbid.
M. R. Ratal, “The Bangladesh factory tragedy and the moralists of sweatshop economics.“ in The
Guardian [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/29/bangladeshfactory-tragedy-sweatshop-economics [May, 2017].
Image references Image 6: Inaba, J. et al. “Learning from Venice.” Perspecta, Vol. 41 (2008), pp. 140–143.
Bibliography Brammer, H. “Bangladesh’s dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise.“ Climate Risk Management, Vol. 1 (2014), Pages 51–62. Brammer, H. “Floods in Bangladesh: II. Flood Mitigation and Environmental Aspects.” The Geographical
Journal, Vol. 156, no. 2 (1990), pp. 158–165. Calvino, I. Invisible cities, trans. William Weaver (London: Vintage, 1997). Freeman, L., and Frank Braconi. “Gentrification and displacement New York City in the 1990s.” Journal of
the American Planning Association No. 70 (2004): 39-52. Inaba, J. et al. “Learning from Venice.” Perspecta, Vol. 41 (2008), pp. 140–143. Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan (New York, 2014). O’Sullivan, F. (2016). “Venice’s Vast New Flood Barrier Is Almost Here in The Atlantic Citylab [Online]. Available: http://www.citylab.com/tech/2016/09/venices-vast-new-flood-barrier-is-almost-here/498935// [2017, May]. Portanova, M. (2015). “Mose, in dieci anni 1,3 miliardi di costi in piu. E allarmi inascoltati” (Italian) in Il Fatto Quotidiano [Online]. Available: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/06/06/mose-in-dieci-anni13miliardi-di-costi-in-piu-e-allarmi-inascoltati/1015136/ [2017, May]. Ratal, M. R. “The Bangladesh factory tragedy and the moralists of sweatshop economics.“ in The Guardian [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/29/bangladeshfactory-tragedy-sweatshop-economics [May, 2017]. Sam, D., Sullivan, F. Dictionary of Native American Mythology. (USA, 1994). Steinberg, T. Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. (Simon and Schuster, 2014). Wainwright, O. (2015). “Bjarke Ingels on the New York Dryline: ‘We think of it as the love-child of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs’” in The Guardian [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/ mar/09/bjarke-ingels-new-york-dryline-park-flood-hurricane-sandy [2017, May].