MATHUR / DA CUNHA : Terrain of Water

(Guest Lecture, 01.2.2011, 17:30, Arch Dept Auditorium; Bezalel Historic Bldg. 1st. Bezalel st. Jerusalem)


Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha are focused on cultural and ecological issues of contentious landscapes. Their investigations have taken them to diverse terrains including the Lower Mississippi, New York, Sundarbans, Rio Grande, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Anuradha is an architect and landscape architect. She is Associate Chair, Landscape Architecture Department, University of Pennsylvania. Dilip, an architect and planner, is faculty at Parsons School of Design, New York and the University of Pennsylvania.

Mathur and da Cunha are authors of Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (Yale University Press, 2001) that looks beyond objectifying the Mississippi as a river, and draws out a more dynamic and layered landscape that demands negotiation more than control. Mississippi Floods also took the form of a public exhibition that traveled extensively in the US and London. Mathur and da Cunha’s next book, Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2006) also followed a public exhibition held in the Glass House of Lalbagh, Bangalore, in October 2004. The book and exhibition brought together a unique and extensive documentation of Bangalore’s history and landscape agency, and was directed toward an innovative design strategy for Bangalore. Their most recent work, Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary (Delhi: NGMA and Rupa & Co., 2009), was released in conjunction with an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai in June 2009. Initiated in response to the flood of 2005, SOAK presents a new visualization of Mumbai’s terrain – Mumbai in an estuary, a fluid threshold between land and sea, rather than Mumbai as an island in the sea. Through a range of demonstrative projects SOAK advocates design solutions that support this visualization.
An underlying thread in Mathur and da Cunha’s work is a concern for how water is visualized and engaged in ways that lead to conditions of its excess and scarcity, but also the opportunities that its fluidity offers for new visualizations of terrain, design imagination, and design practice. It is in this context that they approach Jerusalem situated on the hills between the Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea where valleys begin and waters from rain have the possibility of becoming flows or being held in aquifers, cisterns, and pools. Along with architect and urban designer Ron Louis Gross they ask if waters and valleys can be starting points for a design strategy that recalibrates a terrain toward a new public realm, one that works from the bottom up, allowing for the negotiation of differences and an open-ended and fluid process of design.