FRESH WATER: Design Thinking for Inland Water Territories

September 13-15, 2018

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Landscape Architecture

Fresh Water: Design Thinking for Inland Water Territories is an interdisciplinary design symposium addressing regional, territorial, and continental water issues across inland North America. The geographic contexts and intellectual sites for the symposium—the major inland (non-coastal) watersheds of the Mississippi, the Great Lakes Basin, St. Lawrence, and the Nelson riversheds—remain under-explored in design research. The conference is hosted by the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture.

Water is not contained in lines; rather it comprises a vast spatiotemporal field. Yet for over a century, modern control of water has turned away from the fundamental principles of hydrology, geology, and human geography of water terrains, leading to false readings of sites as separate from their hydrological context. Large-scale urban, industrial, and infrastructural manipulations of water bodies, systems, and flows have constrained human-hydro relationships; critical questions now emerge about how to reverse the social and ecological deterioration within continental freshwater systems.

The Fresh Water symposium will reveal and address this legacy—of reversed rivers, urban sewersheds, regional canalization, industrial farming, flood control works, water diversions, and great lakes dredging—that signify an era of hyper-modernization, infrastructure development, and human-nature binary instrumentation. The impacts of these manipulations at first seem incommensurable through design. Yet, design researchers reframe these complex problems and forge collaboration among diverse areas of disciplinary knowledge to investigate these issues in new ways, closing the gaps among disciplines and sectors. In sharing new research approaches, we hope to uncover:

     How design makes entangled human-water systems legible,
     How research is undertaken by, through, and/or for design,
     How design transforms present conditions into desired futures, and
     How design research works through scaled-up strategies (site-to-territory relationships).

Another specific goal of Fresh Water is to identify how design research may target policies and key decisions needed to determine the fresh water future of our major inland watersheds. Containing 95% of the continent’s fresh water and 20% of the world’s fresh water, inland populations of North America hold stewardship responsibility through their decisions and actions. The symposium creates inclusive dialog about design and research processes that cross disciplines, methods, private and public sectors, academia, and practice.

In order to support action at multiple jurisdictional levels, we ask:

     What new policy implications and initiatives that address water at multiple scales can be
         initiated through design research?
     What are the questions we need to ask?
     Who should be at the table?

By bringing design research scholars together around these issues, we build a critical collaboration for our collective work and together we consider a range of new and urgent partnerships and projects this century.

Please see further into the website for information on our speakers and panelists as well as an outline schedule of the event.

We hope you will join us!

Mary Pat McGuire and Jessica M. Henson
Co-chairs for Fresh Water

Key Dates

September 20, 2017 Call for Abstracts opens
January 15, 2018 Abstracts due
April 1, 2018 Notification of acceptance
May 25, 2018 Registration opens
August 15, 2018 Early bird registration deadline
September 13-15, 2018 FRESH WATER Symposium