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11 CONSTRUCTING LANDSCAPE BY ENGINEERING WATER Antoine Picon Source: Institute for Landscape Architecture, ETH Zurich (ed.), Landscape Architecture in Muta- tion: Essays on Urban Landscapes, Zitcich: gta Verlag, 2005, pp. 99-113. Introduction Water is very present in the urban milieu, from seafronts and rivers to the water supply and sewage systems. With the increasing scarcity of this resource, one may even wonder if it is not time to consider cities as complex hydraulic systems, as a series of watersheds that must be managed with the greatest care. Hydraulic engineering thus represents a fundamental dimension in the construc- tion of the urban landscape. In this paper, I would like to propose a few reflections on the modalities of this construction. I will start with historical considerations. Indeed, the relation ship between cities and water has changed considerably throughout history. Besides the monumental heritage left by the past, the long history of the relation- ship between cities and water has shaped our attitudes. Inthe second part of this paper, I will turn to some contemporary themes and Present some realisations that deal with them in a stimulating way. I have of Course no claim to being exhaustive. Hydraulic engineering and the construction ofthe urban landscape is an immense and multifaceted subject. Rather than entering into technical details, I would like to address one key issue, Today, urban landscape issues seem to call for global interpretations and Strategies, especially when they deal with technological problems in a world saturated by technology. Whereas each problem usually has its technical solu- tion, and multiple techniques are usually available for each category of question, itis this strategic level that is often missing or unclear. Today, landscape issues ‘equire first and foremost a visionary quality of the designer. Cities and water in history Uni the 18th century, water was the primary source of energy as well as the ain means of transportation. In France, for instance, waterways constituted the ‘aor arteries of transportation until the 18th century, Hence, the recurring 257 There agai, tt multiplicity of the activities taking place along the seashore contrasts with tk lack of sensitivity to landscape values, ‘Among the reasons accounting for this lack of sensibility with respesto ie scape, we find the fact that unlike territorial water, urban water was usually nol 258 CONSTRUCTING LANDSCAPE BY ENGINEERING WATER Aen emcees | — eertemcen ones Ly | Medieval Water Networks, after André Guillerme. domain for designers, engineers or architects. The only exception was fortifica~ tion: urban water was engineered chiefly for defence purposes. ‘My intention is not to provide a detailed account of how urban waters gradu- ally came to be perceived as landscape. 17th-century Dutch painting already represented a significant development with its views of urban waterfronts along fivers and the sea, In many European cities, the 18th century was marked by the construction of embankments. Walls also encased the rivers. As a result, the river was trans- formed into a space presented to the view. In many cases, the city realigned itself in relation to the river. In Paris, for example, this is illustrated by Gabriel's project for the Place de la Concorde. An even clearer example is the subsequent realisation of the rue de Rivoli, where the facades face the river. The riverbank space eventually came to be reserved for specific uses, such as ‘Tatsportation. In the case of Paris, the historian Isabelle Backouche has described bow various professions that had settled along the river and used it were gradually ¢xcluded from its banks. Urban water was becoming a respectable sight. Its trans- ‘omation into a decent landscape was synonymous with the impoverishment of its \ses, Water was offered to the eye, but at the same time denied to the body. This was of course a gradual process. By our modem standards, 19th-century tiban river scenes still appear very picturesque. Nevertheless, the riversides ere quite empty compared to what they had been earlier. 259