Mapping the Ganges

In his recently published Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River, Anthony Acciavatti (MArch ’09) describes—through maps, photographs, and texts—the dense world of the Ganges River. In discussing his process, he notes: “[I] sought to map how this space changes cyclically with the arrival of the monsoon. I had a suspicion that the choreography of the river and monsoons might proffer insights into the kinds of urbanization that was taking place here. After applying for a Fulbright Fellowship to India in October of 2004, in May of 2005 I learned that I had received the fellowship and I flew to Delhi a few months later. I’ve been working on the project ever since.”

Funded in part by his Fulbright Fellowship and by a Sheldon Fellowship from Harvard University and a grant from the Ford Foundation, this large-scale project took years of rethinking and reimagining the dynamic space of the river basin: “The river is never simply drawn as two parallel lines. Instead, I draw the layers of canals, wells, roads, rail, human settlement, agriculture, and topography. I think the maps and texts show how and why ‘soft infrastructures’ like wetlands are well suited for run-off; or using temporary structures made of bamboo to help keep the river at a navigable depth in the months leading up to the monsoon. Appreciating these rhythms and seeing how and where people and their environs mark time necessitates a different kind of atlas for the Ganges.”

Acciavatti is copartner with associate professor of urban design Felipe Correa of Somatic Collaborative; the book includes an introduction by chair and professor of urban planning and design Rahul Mehrotra.