Last month the Biophilic Cities team had the pleasure of hearing from Herbert Dreiseitl, Director of the Rambøll Liveable Cities Lab and founder of Atelier Dreiseitl, about the sort of projects that take site context to a whole new level by valuing all forms of water, and making them into flowing art which delights citizens. His webinar covered a breadth of projects he has worked on over the years, but an important theme to all his work is treating water not just as urban embellishment. Dreiseitl tries to impress a balance of water-as-art with water services, such as temperature control and low impact stormwater management, as well as increasing public awareness of the importance of water and its local history.

In the webinar, Dreiseitl showcases Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Oregon, sharing the importance of daylighting urban streams, while highlighting ecological and historical significance. He stresses the importance of public participation so that the community has ownership of the process and the waterscape. Partnering with Greenworks PC, Dreiseitl and his team welcomed input from over 300 Portland citizens on how to shape what became Tanner Springs Park.

Tanner Springs Park, Portland, Oregon
Source: Herbert Dreiseitl

Another project Dreiseitl mentions is the Litang Cultural Park in Tianjin, China. For this project the focus was on opportunities in a city center. Smart systems thinking for ways to use rainwater allowed construction of this urban park to be breathtakingly beautiful while making the area more habitable through evaporative cooling, both for humans and other urban inhabitants. He also spoke briefly about a new way of approaching stormwater management, after working with several engineering firms, which resulted in the ABC Waters Design Guidelines during the Singapore Central Watershed Master Plan and Pilot Project focused on the Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. This project dared, and has succeeded, in capturing water for re-use as a drinking source, among other uses.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore
Source: Julia Triman

When the issue of psychological aversion to recycled water comes up, Dreiseitl comments that all water is recycled on our planet. The journey of rainwater down an urban rooftop should be celebrated as much as other forms of water. To catch all of the inspiring images of Herbert Dreiseitl’s work, and his suggestions for crafting urban infrastructure that supports a resilient and beautiful urban ecosystem, watch the video here:

Dreiseitl’s work proves that it is possible to combine hard sciences such as civil engineering and water hydrology with the more emotive qualities of urban design to showcase the universal beauty of flowing water. Perhaps we just need to completely reconsider our relationship to urban water, as well as more distant relationships with watersheds downstream of where we live. What questions should we start with to rethink water in the city?

  • What are the largest sources of urban water, and where does it go?
  • How can open space be multi-functional to serve as infiltration points for stormwater?
  • What safety concerns are necessary for occurrences of large seasonal storms?
  • What educational and policy strategies need to be pursued concerning the use of recycled water for human use?
  • What would a multi-generational waterscape look like?
  • What flora and fauna could be brought back into the city if a waterscape was designed?

These are just a few of the kinds of questions we should ask ourselves when reframing the issue of urban water from an infrastructure problem, or a nuisance, to a viewpoint of valuing the precious resource that water is.

Post by Amanda Beck