Water, Please

Cities move many resources to meet the needs of populations. Water is one of the most important. Many societies have developed unique relationships to water, but in the United States, that dynamic can be strained. While there are many reasons for this, this thesis is most interested in the issues of accessibility and the public conception of value created by separating public and private modes of engagement with water.

Historically, water was public. It was both a vital resource and an integral component of the social dynamics of a place. Today, the public face of water is more symbolic than accessible, and is noted by fixtures such as decorative fountains, water meters, and manhole covers. Much of the infrastructure individuals interact with - toilets, sinks, showers, and drinking taps - has been largely privatized. This is, in effect, a tax on the dweller of public space to access practical water infrastructure. These are issues of system, scale, and memory, and are particularly pressing in Savannah, Georgia, a historic port city in a critical marshland ecosystem, where this work is situated.

In response, this work seeks to reorient the public relationship with water by closing the public/private access gap and achieving two primary goals: placing infrastructures of water-based universal human needs in public places, thereby helping to restore social dynamics and connect seemingly disparate populations, and creating a more cognizant public by making water as a vital resource more knowable. By reorienting this interaction of people and resource, we can change our perception of water from one of pure utility, invisibly provided to those who can afford it in private settings, to one that views water as a fundamental component of life, and seeks to celebrate that attitude in its infrastructure and systems of public engagement, as was once common.
Faculty Advisor:
Malcolm McCullough