Architecture's Landscape | Designing water: Berlin’s first municipal water infrastructure (1874-1900)

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Date and time 29.03.2021 16:3017:30  
Online https://epfl.zoom.us/j/99758098828
Speaker Laila Seewang is assistant professor in the School of Architecture at Portland State University where she teaches design studios and architectural and urban history and theory. She also sits on the Board of Directors of Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative. She is a registered architect and an architectural historian and theorist whose research uses infrastructure as a lens through which to study environmental and urban design, in particular during the nineteenth century. She is currently working on a book manuscript that looks at the role that public water infrastructure played in Berlin’s nineteenth-century municipal development, and researching the infrastructure of timber modernism in the Pacific Northwest. She is the co-editor of a special double issue of Architectural Theory Review, Timber Constructed: Towards an Alternative Material History (2021) and has also written about German architectural historiography, public toilets in Berlin, brick manufacturing in Brandenburg, and rapid sand filters in central Massachusetts.
Category Conferences - Seminars
Architecture’s Landscape examines different environments created for and by architectural production in order to broaden the notion of design as practice that extends beyond the building.  Architectural history and theory are increasingly concerned with the impacts that the construction industry has on the environment, from extraction to carbon footprints to waste production. These lectures analyse the specific nature of these impacts by using infrastructure as a lens through which to view architectural production as a flow of materials across multiples scales, from environment to network to building to detail. It simultaneously challenges the narratives that are used to describe these architectures. This work unravels a series of material flow chains to reposition the building as only one part of the designed flow of wood, water, and clay.

While questions about the relation of architecture to its environment are increasingly prevalent among architectural historians and theorists in general, materiality offers a very tangible way of making visible architecture’s complicity in larger environmental issues. These lectures are a methodological proposition: can we, as architectural theorists, designers, or historians, resituate architecture into an expanded narrative about design whereby materiality is both the built (building) and unbuilt (landscape), but also the visible (structures) as well as the invisible (through policies and institutions)? By looking at design in this way, can we understand the choices made within the assemblage as design choices that paired infrastructure with narrative? Together, these lectures offer a new approach to understanding architecture by focusing on design—environmental design, technological design, building design, and the design of material flows.

Designing water: Berlin’s first municipal water infrastructure
In combatting urban epidemics, many European cities in the late-nineteenth century installed municipal water infrastructure. This lecture looks at the example of Berlin and tries to understand the design of water supply and waste water removal infrastructure as a project that also designed an environment for the first time. By regulating the hinterland through its hydrogeological resources, the project also changed what the countryside meant and represented, it redefined urban public and private space, and designed an entirely new commodity: water itself.

This lecture is the second of three given within the frame of the ALICE y1 programme.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free

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