LIVING WITH WATER
Southern Fringe of Ljubljana
Living with Water Ljubljana / Exhibition opening on October 18, 2018
MAO Museum of Architecture and Design / Pot na Fužine 2 / 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Do you appreciate water?
How do we take care of our rivers, lakes and ground water? Do we know how to regulate wastewaterdischarge? How do we protect and maintain water sources? So-called development – industrialisation, intensive agriculture, urbanisation and population growth – represents a significant burden that has a huge impact on water pollution. Although we often know who the polluting culprits are, they are all too rarely punished.
Pollution changes through time. Today, the most critical water pollutants are endocrine disruptors, mutagenic and carcinogenic substances, micro- and nanoplastics, and alien organisms. We still haven’t decided what we want to do in terms of water bottling, which can seriously compromise groundwater levels. When is something in the national interest, and when is it simply in the interest of capital, be it personal or corporate? Are we aware just how threatened our water resources are by excessive exploitation? In this context, does having the right to water enshrined in the constitution really provide any good at all?
Nature has changed through millennia. In the last 650,000 years the Earth has seen several ice ages and warm periods. Our early ancestors had to adapt to those changes. In the grand scheme of life on Earth humankind’s life on it is largely insignificant, and it is virtually impossible to perceive major climate changes over the course of one’s lifetime. Science, on the other hand, can, and science has already determined that the human impact on nature is so significantthat the Anthropocene is soon to become an official geological epoch.
The 21st-century man has the means to determine the long-term impact of his/her doings more accurately. If ever, today we should no longer be taken aback by “catastrophic floods”. A comparison of geographic maps of built-up areas of the 19th-century Ljubljana Marshes with the Marshes of today reveals that colonialists on the Marshes 150 years ago built their homes along a narrow strip of land flanking the main road, on the outermost, driest edge of the land. The majority of the land was dedicated to cultivation, and while periodic flooding of the fields was something people knew how to live with, the flooding of houses was an extraordinary yet not entirely unexpected occurrence. Subsequent developments expanded deeper and deeper into the flood area. Ironically,legalised illegal buildings are among the most exposed to floods.
Once humankind was no longer considered part of nature and started to exploit it excessively, it assumed the dominant position. Most people now live in cities, in huge communities that make no room for one’s tendencies towards self-sufficiency. We largely depend on infrastructural systems. Water supply systems have to serve the needs of increasingly larger numbers of people here on Earth. One’s attitude and responsibility towards nature reside somewhere in the crowd. And it’s here somewhere that the awareness that we rely on nature for water is lost. Even when we buy bottled water in a store, this water has not been manufactured, but pumped out from underground.
Like many other cities, Ljubljana developed alongside a river. The Ljubljanica with its river basin was a traffic artery, a moat, a driving force and social space. As an intrinsic part of the Ljubljana Marshes and a drainage vessel for the wetland it was and remains at the centre of many regulations and as such presents a challenge for urban planners and architects alike.
The duality of nature and town, symbolically represented by the Ljubljana Marshes and the Ljubljanica, should be treated as an indivisible whole, where water plays the lead role. It can’t be ignored, neither as a natural phenomenon with extreme droughts and floods nor, and even less so, as a source of life – drinking water.
With this awareness, experience and knowledge, are we ready to establish a new way of co-existence, one in which man works with and for nature? The life we are living is anything but close to nature; it has given in to economy, and politics only benefits from this. It is anything but easy for the water management profession to fight this vicious circle on its own. It will take a great deal of effort, cooperation and support of both professional and civil society initiatives.
Is there anything that can still be done? Are people able to take a step back and give the floor to nature again? The architects participating in the European platform Future Architecture have offered several proposals as a response to the issues opened up by this exhibition.
Špela Šubic, Milan Dinevski, Nikola Pongrac, Damjan Kokalevski
Future Architecture participants:
SET-Architects, Phi, Maite Borjabad, SKREI, Miruna Dunu
Benja Pavlin and Some Place / Bika Rebek