The Representation of Stormwater Management in Design: Toward an Ecological Aesthetic
Calabria, Tamara G.
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Carefully planned stormwater management can help to mitigate the disturbance caused by urban development. Though landscape architects, planners, and urban designers acknowledge its importance, many generally regard stormwater management as necessary burden, another element of the elaborate infrastructure regulations that must be met, but would be best kept out of sight – literally and symbolically buried. This attitude toward drainage infrastructure as an unsightly but necessary intrusion – a hazard that must be “fenced off” from the rest of landscape – reflects a deeply entrenched aesthetic bias that must be questioned in light of the more balanced relationship between infrastructure and natural process made possible by sustainable design technologies today. This paper describes the existing gap between stormwater management technology and aesthetic expression and discusses models of contemporary environmental design that are beginning to bridge the gap. Design in this new aesthetic, rather than being a mask that screens the functional, becomes an integral part of the stormwater management system, completing the physical disinterment of the urban waters by making visible and comprehensible the complex relationship that exists between a natural process, the hydrologic cycle, and the city’s framework for it, the stormwater management system.