Could Venice-style floods become the future of Amsterdam, or could Markermeer - a former sea turned into a freshwater lake - become the future of the Venetian lagoon? With its project Shallow Waters, Bureau LADA explores the hybrid geographies of two urban deltas - Amsterdam’s Markermeer-Ijsselmeer and Venice’s lagoon - and the role of spatial planning and more-than-human biodynamics within those human-dominated territories.
The narrative unfolds around two spatial planning protagonists: the Dutch basalt-block dyke and the Venetian wooden bricola pole. One holds the water back while the other signals underwater channel boundaries and defines safe sailing corridors. Next to their infrastructural and juridical roles, these protagonists are also a home to an entire ‘community of interacting species’. Through processes of digging, colonising, cleansing, flooding, hosting, feeding and flowing, humans negotiate with more-than-humans, including the shallow water itself, and together with them constitute a dynamic social metabolism. This social metabolism, pressured by the prospects of rising waters and emerging bio-immunity policies, could benefit from reframing notions of ecology from the technological towards an inclusive system in which humans play a participatory role.
This research project sits at the intersection of environmental science, art and the humanities. It specifically combines the collaborative efforts of architects and benthic aquatic biologists. Challenging a prevailing perception that water is a blank ‘blue’ space, it reminds us of water’s multiple populations, agency and essential role in the cohabitation and immunity of this planet.
The project asks: how can we (humans and more-than-humans) live together in shallow waters? What are the muddy spatial practices native to this environment? And what role will multispecies’ knowledge and empathy play in such practices? Voices from the Dutch and Venetian urban deltas will be interpreted as text-image narratives and shared with the public in a magazine and online. Aiming to inspire conversations across disciplinary borders, the project questions the accepted hegemony of human dominance over other species. Seeking to visualise and emphasise the presence of shallow-water microspecies both in spatial practices and in caring for our planetary metabolism, Shallow Waters is a call for reflection and humility.
Shallow Waters is developed with a multidisciplinary team, including Bureau LADA, Dr Harm van de Geest from the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) at Amsterdam University, benthic biologist Camilla Bertollini and micro-photographer Wim van Egmond. Haller Brun is responsibe for the graphic design of the magazine.
Bureau LADA (Landscape, Architecture, Design, Action) is a multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on architecture. Established in 2010 by architect and educator Lada Hršak, and currently active between Amsterdam, Venice and Cairo, the practice explores the capacity for spatial thinking in design strategies, built interventions, artistic research and the future of education. Hršak teaches at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague (KABK). The Biennale team members are Juliette Gilson, Lada Hršak, Zoe Panayi and Simone Spiga.