In the Terrain of Water

Fri. 1 April (All day) - Sat. 2 April (All day)
Meyerson Hall, Upper and Lower Galleries

For a full information and schedule:

Water is everywhere before it is somewhere. It is rain before it is rivers, it soaks before it flows, it spreads before it gathers, it blurs before it clarifies. Water at these moments in the hydrological cycle is not easy to picture in maps or contain within lines. It is however to these waters that people are increasingly turning to find innovative solutions to the myriad water-related crises that catalyze politics, dynamics, and fears. Is it not time to re-invent our relationship with water -- see water as not within, adjoining, serving or threatening settlement, but the ground of settlement? Could this be the basis of a new vocabulary of place, history, and ecology? And can the field of design, by virtue of its ability to articulate and re-visualize, lead in constructing this new vocabulary?

The symposium will be structured around a series of dialogues, exhibits, workshops and talks, enlisting contemporary thinkers who are willing to go beyond addressing water simply as a design opportunity or an environmental challenge. Participants will come from across disciplines and the globe – joined in their intentions to re-imagine our relationship with water, challenge current visualizations, and probe projects and design thinking that constitute water, its visible and invisible presences, in fresh ways.

Symposium at PENNDESIGN: April 1 – 2, 2011
Conversations and presentations will be organized around three themes:
design ACTIVISM / ADVOCACY in the Terrain of Water
design STRUCTURE / INFRASTRUCTURE in the Terrain of Water
design IMAGING / IMAGINING in the Terrain of Water

Participants include: Teng Chye Khoo, executive director of the Centre for Liveable Cities; Mihir Shah, co-founder of Samaj Pragati Sahayog, one of India’s largest grass-roots initiatives for water and livelihood security; film-maker Peter Hutton; UNESCO consultant, Pietro Laureano; Diébédo Francis Kéré, winner of the 2009 Global Award for Sustainable Architecture; Ila Berman, architect and founding director of New Orleans URBANBuild; landscape architects Kongjian Yu, Anne Spirn, Elizabeth Mossop, and Tilman Latz; biologist and applied ecologist John Todd; and many others.

This symposium was conceived and shaped by Anuradha Mathur, and organized with the assistance of Catherine Bonier.

Exhibition at PENNDESIGN: March 28 – April 4, 2011
design IMAGING / IMAGINING in the Terrain of Water
A gallery exhibit coordinated with the symposium with feature drawings and other works by Narendra Juneja, Ian L. McHarg, Louis I. Kahn, Lawrence Halprin, through works by current Penn faculty, including James Corner, Dilip da Cunha, and Jenny Sabin.

Gallery Talk + Reception at PENNDESIGN: Friday, April 1, 4 – 6pm
design IMAGING / IMAGINING in the Terrain of Water
This exhibit provides an opportunity to ask questions and draw connections between these works and our current issues, challenges, and aspirations. We expect to explore a number of themes including observation, notation, and appropriation -- as well as the ways in which these practices inform and transform design.

Conversations will include David Brownlee, Charles Waldheim, Anne Whiston Spirn, Alison Hirsch, and others.

Student Work Conversation at PENNDESIGN: March 31, 2 - 5:30pm
design RESEARCH / PEDAGOGY in the Terrain of Water
In the week leading up to the symposium, PennDesign will be mounting an exhibition of current student work and hosting an afternoon session on research and pedagogy.

To register for the symposium, please follow this link.
For additional information, please contact

CEU credit will be available for registered architects and landscape architects.

We appreciate the generous support of PennDesign, as well as the University of Pennsylvania's Provost's office “Year of Water” grant program. We are very grateful to the Centre for Liveable Cities for their presenting sponsorship, as well as to OLIN, James Corner Field Operations, Penn Institute for Urban Research, Center for the Advanced Study of India, and Penn Design Black Student Alliance for their support. Our media partner, Places, has been instrumental in promoting this event. We are especially grateful to the following donors for their substantial support: Barbara van Beuren and Stephen L. Glascock, Bonnie and Gary Sellers, Barbara and Gary N. Siegler, and Ed Friedrichs III.