With sea level and violence rising and threatening, with problems of floods, poverty and inequality persisting and worsening, it is not enough for designers to be grounded in ‘things’ that are known to exist and exist as known. They need to constitute new ‘things’ and test their possibilities, not just for a future but for another take at constituting a past and articulating a present. It is in this vein that we ask: is Mumbai an island or an estuary? Is Bangalore a city or a concentration of intersecting trajectories? Are coastlines necessary even if thickened with ecotones? Do rivers exist by choice and design? Is water everywhere before it is somewhere? Is urbanism in its many advocated versions, the new colonialism by design consent?… This is design beyond the facts and critique of empirical and critical research; it is design as imaginative inquiry. It assumes that people do not just see things differently; they see different things.
How do we undertake imaginative inquiry? What are the techniques by which we engage places in order to draw out new, possible or ‘other’ things? How can we initiate fresh beginnings beyond problem-solving, band-aiding, and simply innovating?
Dilip da Cunha is an architect and planner. He is coauthor of Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (Yale University Press, 2001), Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2006) and Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary (Delhi: NGMA and Rupa & Co., 2009), and, more recently co-editor of Design in the Terrain of Water (A+RD Publishers, San Francisco, 2014). Da Cunha, with his partner Anuradha Mathur, have focused their work on a concern for how water is visualized and engaged in ways that leads to conditions of its excess and scarcity. Their work also draws out opportunities that water’s fluidities and complexities offer for new visualizations of terrain and design imagination. It guides their teaching and design studios but also their research and practice. Da Cunha is Adjunct Professor at the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania and on the faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore.
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