explorations

So much London – and time to wrap up the comprehensive overview and move on to other things.  For the last post, similar to New York, I’ve compiled a fun summary of the maps, depicting hidden hydrology and others, that existing in London.  Some maps and mapping projects have already been discussed in the previous posts, either in the plethora of books, as well as some of the art & explorations.  The article from the Londonist entitled “The Best Old Maps of London” is a good starting point, which highlights the quintessential map, John Roque’s map of 1746

Close ups reveal the detail of this map, which is widely cited as a resource of locating lost rivers.  For locating these historic maps, there’s no better resource that Locating London’s Past, which “This website allows you to search a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London, and to map the results on to a fully GIS compliant version of John Rocque’s 1746 map.”

Going back a bit is a great Agas Map depicting “Civitas Londinum is a bird’s-eye view of London first printed from woodblocks in about 1561. Widely known as the “Agas map,” from a spurious attribution to surveyor Ralph Agas (c.1540-1621), the map offers a richly detailed view both of the buildings and streets of the city and of its environment. No copies survive from 1561, but a modified version was printed in 1633…”   An online version of the map, offers the ability to zoom in and highlight specific features.  An excerpt of the map shows the level of detail (and lots of boats).

And while not a historical map, this creation and update by the Londonist of Anglo-Saxon London take us in a time-machine “…showing the London area in Anglo Saxon times (roughly speaking, 500-1066AD). It’s pieced together from many resources, showing our guess at the roads, rivers, forests and marshland that characterised the region. The main purpose was to highlight the many villages, hamlets and farmsteads whose names are still part of modern London.”  A snipped below shows the idea, and a high-res download is also available.
And similarly illustrative, I really love this sketch (although I’ve yet to find what it is from) from a Twitter post by Poly-Olbion, captioned “Where the Thames and the Isis marry.”  Anyone help me out on a source, would be grateful.
A post on “London Maps You Should Know” from the London Historians’ Blog, has a long list of additional historic maps, including another old one, coming soon after the Agas map, by the Civitates Orbis Terrarum I by  Braun and Hogenberg depicts London circa 1560, published first in 1572.
The London Sound Survey has tons of great resources including their Sound maps, as well as amazing historical maps of London.  The 1849 Cruchley map has a pleasing aesthetic, as seen below:
This one via JF Ptak Science Books, is of “A Great Map of the “Other” London Underground: the Sewer System, 1990“, which shows the snarl of underground and some great history. “The map appears in the Report of the Results of an Examination Made in 1880 of Several Sewerage Works in Europe, by Rudolph Hering, in the Annual Report of the National Board of Health 1881 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1882), pp. 99-223.”

A fun and more clear version is this map Underground London, which does include items like “Underground River” and Sewer, takes a different graphical style.  “This light-hearted map, originally produced for Heritage magazine, charts the secrets under London’s streets in the style of Frank Beck’s famous tube map. It has since been taken up by Metro, the Independent on Sunday and thetube.com.  Illustrative rather than definitive, it includes the (now-closed) Post Office Railway, a selection of the capital’s buried rivers, Joseph Bazalgette’s sewer system and some of the curiosities of the Northern Line. In a similar style is a Beck-style map of London’s canals and navigable rivers, currently not publically available pending discussions between British Waterways and Transport for London.”

The hand-drawn versions are also fun, including this one of the Fleet River, via Londonist, shows a version involved “…a bit of research to trace the path of the lost River Fleet as it meanders under the streets of London. As you can see the map is completely hand drawn in pencil as well as the street indicators. The river is indicated by the rubbed out streets.”

As I’ve mentioned previously, the aerial perspectives are fun, and this on from the British Library of a “Balloon View of London, from the North” from 1851 provides a nice snapshot of the rapidly industrializing city.

Other locations for online maps come in a diversity of sources, including Subterranea Britannica,  Layers of London,  from the National Library of Scotland, (NLS) In the broader context, the Ordnance Survey (OS) is a great resource for modern and historic maps, and also check their GB1900 site that is an effort to “We need help in collecting all the names of places and features in Britain from the Ordnance Survey’s six-inch to a mile maps of around 1900”.  A version of London here from the NLS site, shows a highly detailed OS map from 1888-1913 timeframe, and below a 1:25000 version from the 1937-1961 range, depicting a similar level of detail as USGS maps.

And the realm of climate change would not be complete without one of Jeffrey Linn’s Spatialities view of sea-level rise inundated transformation of the Thames into “London Bay”.

A few outside the realm of hidden hydrology, but worth a reference, you can read about British maps and map-makers    as well as check out some other maps.  An interesting initiative for London National Park City, which is an interesting endeavor that hits on corridors and green spaces.  Some background via Geographical “‘The only difference really between a national park and a national park city,’ explains Daniel Raven-Ellison, Chief Exploration Officer of the National Park City Foundation, ‘is the acknowledgement that the urban environment, the urban habitat, the urban landscape, is just as important as rainforest, or polar regions, or a desert area. It’s not more important, it’s not less important, but we shouldn’t alienate ourselves from nature just because we are the dominate species within this landscape. “

Another that’s pretty interesting is London North/South, which shows a color coded split at the Thames, along with some reference points like stations. Not sure the usefulness, but it’s a beautiful map.

Another resource is the London Tree Map “This map is an initial attempt to visually present London tree data. The majority of the data is for street trees but also includes some park trees. The map shows the locations and species information for over 700,000 trees. The recent London iTree report estimated that there are over eight million trees in London, so the map is only a partial illustration of trees in London.”

An interesting bit of history, in terms of practical mapping, and a precursor to our handheld maps we use today, a post from The National Archives, a  “…leather glove painted with a map of London landmarks and was designed to help fashionable ladies find their way to and from the Great Exhibition held in London’s Hyde Park in 1851.”

 


HEADER:  The Agas Map of Early Modern London 

 

 

As January is quick turning into London month, we’re wrapped up on the summaries of available books on the subject, including works by Barton, Myers, Bolton, Talling, and Fathers, running a gamut of approaches to walking, studying, and mapping Lost Rivers.  I’d also be remiss if I failed to call back a 2016 post on another take on the subject, Iain Sinclair’s 2013 book ‘Swimming to Heaven: London’s Lost Rivers‘ which rounds out my collection on the subject.  The amazing amount of hidden hydrology literature provides a solid foundation, however, it is merely the tip of a massive iceberg visible layer of a vast and sprawling underground complex of content, and a starting point for discussing many of the other resources and discussion around the subject, including art, history, exploration, and maps.

A quick search of London and Lost Rivers or something along those lines yields plenty of material, including additional resource from the sources as diverse as London Geezer, which contains an extensive amount of information, to city specific hidden hydrology projects such as the Lost Rivers Project in Camden. A lot of ink (at least digitally) has been spent on this topic, with articles from BT like “8 of London’s lost rivers you probably didn’t know about” to BBC “The lost rivers that lie beneath London?“, the Telegraph (authored by none other than Tom Bolton, “The fascinating history of London’s lost rivers“, and perhaps the most prolific, the Londonist which covers this topic often, with titles like “The Secrets of London’s Lost Rivers” and info on specific rivers like “Counter’s Creek: In Search of London’s Unknown River” (authored by David Fathers) to a multi-part “Lost Rivers from Above: The Tyburn“.

Without going into extravagant detail and barrage you with too many links (there are over 100 I have at this point), it’s safe to say that London is by far the city with the most coverage, and it continues to emerge (such as this interactive virtual reality tour on the Guardian of London Sewers), showing that it’s a topic that continues to intrigue people.  For now, we’ll focus on some projects that work directly in the realm of these lost rivers, interpreting them directly through exploration and indirectly through art.

ART/EXPLORATIONS

Much of the interpretive work around hidden hydrology comes from art, in it’s various forms, and much of the art includes exploration, so I’m combining these two ideas in one here. We’ve previously featured artist Cristina Iglesias and her new installation Forgotten Streams in London as more of a site specific example, interpreting the Walbrook in water features outside of the new Bloomberg London HQ.

A spatial approach comes from Sandra Crisp, and her video project from 2010-2012 “Mapping London’s Subterranean Rivers”.  This work was “originally made as a site-specific installation for a group exhibition 2010 held in the semi derelict basement under Shoreditch Town Hall, London”  A soundtrack was added later and you can check out the full video at the link above.

A short blurb (with my one small edit) from the site: “The film allows the viewer to fly through a 3D map of London, revealing the sites of ancient and subterranean rivers based on research using old maps and books such as Nigel Nicholas Barton’s ‘The Lost rivers of London’. Evoking existing and long disappeared waterways that bubble unseen beneath our feet. Including; The Fleet, Tyburn, Westbourne, Quaggy, Counters Creek, Neckinger and more…..”

A detail shows the intricacy of the layering, in this case highlighting the River Wandle – but the stills don’t do it justice – check out the video for full effect.

Crisp also breaks down the research on the piece, where she shows a hybrid version of Barton’s map that was the basis for the piece, along with some of the ‘making-of’ info that’s pretty interesting.

Amy Sharrocks, a London based artist, sculptor and film-maker, created “London is A River City” from 2009.  As she mentions in her bioFor the last four years I have been making work about Londoners and our relationship to water, inviting people to swim across the city with me, floating boats to drift on swimming pools, lake and rivers, tying people together to trace lost rivers and re-create a memory of water.” 

The project included walks of lost rivers, which involved using dowsing as a methodology for walks of the Westbourne, Tyburn, Effra, Fleet, Walbrook, and Neckinger rivers.  Each of these are beautifully documented (with PDFs as well for download), and worth exploring in more detail.  Per her statement “Why I’m Doing it?“, she mentions:

“Tracing these rivers has been a process of layering: new stories over old, our footsteps over others, roads and railways over rivers. Uncovering a past of London I knew nothing about. Connecting to things submerged beneath our streets has uncovered a currency of the city, and enabled a kind of palm reading of London. 

The idea of walking is vital to this endeavor, coupled with the dowsing gives it a pyschogeographic slant. From her site:  “These rivers lost their claim to space in this city, long ago paved over, with their inconvenient tides and smells, to make way for faster roads and railways. These river walks have championed a human speed, that stumbles, stops to look at things, slows down when it is tired. There is a connection to the speed of water, a meandering dérive to battle the rising pace of modern life. We took the measure of London by our own strides, pacing out the city at our own speed.”   Flash-enabled website headaches aside, it’s a good project worth some time to dive in.  Read some coverage from the Independent on the Walbrook walk.  You can see more about some other work as well at SWIM .

Another project, this time with a poetic bent, comes from via ADRIFT, a project by poet Tom Chivers envisioned as a “…personal interrogation of climate through poetry.”, where he “sets out to explore climate as culture, mapping out the territory of climate science within urban space.”  The site has the full list of writings, and a nice archive of some related materials are also on the site.  It’s a project of Cape Farewell, which has a great mission of “bringing creativesscientists and informers together to stimulate a cultural narrative that will engage and inspire a sustainable and vibrant future society”, namely climate change.  An image from the ADRIFT site as part of a photoset “Walking the Neckinger: Waterloo to Bermondsey”

A graphic design work Hidden Rivers of London by Geertje Debets takes a different, more visual approach, as “A research on the letterpress technique, while developing the concept and design for the visualisation of the underground rivers of London.  London’s terrifying under half… Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of this underground life, but when you look better, you find the underground world everywhere, especially the underground rivers. The names of the underground rivers are used in street names, places, houses, companies, schools and orchestras. The locations of these places show you how the river floats.”

The work of Stephen Walter got a bunch of press a few years back, with this map of London that “…traces the lesser known streams, sewers, springs and culverts of the capital in intense, hand-drawn detail.”   Some enlargements of these maps, via the Guardian:

Another of Walter’s work that is worth seeing is the 2012  “London Subterranea“, which “…aims to shine a light on this clandestine infrastructure and it presents perhaps the first comprehensive map, open to the public, which places so many of its features alongside each other. It geographically tracks the routes of London’s Lost Rivers, its main sewers, the tube network and it’s ‘ghost’ stations including the Crossrail project. It also pinpoints archeological finds, ruins, known plague pits, secret governmental tunnels, the Mail Rail and the Water Ring Main tunnels. Epithets to the ‘underworld’ of crime, and the scenes of notable killings such as the acid-bath murders get a look in. So too does the site of the infamous Tyburn Tree and its many buried corpses that still lie in its wake undiscovered.”  

On the topic of the subterranean, photography as well plays a part, with many of the London area rivers featured in a National Geographic photo-essay, “11 Rivers Forced Underground“.  A book on the subject I’d like to pick up, Subterranean London: Cracking the Capitol (2014), is described via a blurb from Amazon:  “Bradley L. Garrett has worked with explorers of subterranean London to collect an astonishing array of images documenting forbidden infiltrations into the secret bowels of the city. This book takes readers through progressively deeper levels of historical London architecture below the streets. Beautifully designed to allow for detailed viewing and featuring bespoke map illustrations by artist Stephen Walter, this unique book takes readers to locations few dare to go, and even fewer succeed in accessing.”

The publication had some acclaim, with one of the images winning an architectural photography award, along with some controversy as noted in the CityLab article “The Photography Book London Officials Never Wanted You to See” which outlines some of the sticky issues of urban exploration, access, liability, and such. Content addresses more than just hidden waters, but does include some amazing photographs as seen below.

This resource on London sewers from 2011 that looks to no longer be actively maintained, is ‘Sub-Urban: Main Drainage of the Metropolis‘ which looks at the drainage via sewer exploration and photography: “Alongside more traditional study and research practices, such as access to archival materials and the use of other historic and literary resources, we apportion equal importance to the hands on scrutiny of our subject matter. Taking time to explore, investigate and photograph London’s sewers affords us a greater understanding of the often complex architecture and gives practical insight and knowledge that cannot be gained from any amount of time spent thumbing through books and documents.”  There’s a number of links on the site to other endeavors, as well as some great imagery, both current of their explorations, and some historical work, along with the timeless phrasing of the section “Close Encounters of the Turd Kind“.

And when you’re done exploring, you can always grab a pint at Lost Rivers Brewing Company and drink the range of available beers inspired by the rivers themselves, and perhaps peruse Ben Aaronovitch’s 2011 book “Rivers of London“, where he created a story around various water deities and river spirits on the Thames and areas of London.

HISTORY

The concept of hidden hydrology is intertwined with history, so threads weave through all of these art installations and explorations.  The history of the development of London is fascinating and overwhelming, but there are some great resources like British History Online, which has resources on the topic like the six volume “Old and New London” written in the late 19th century, to sites like Connected Histories, which provide timeline based search tools, or links from the London Historians’ Blog.

On the topic of Lost Rivers, the history of the Big Stink is pretty key historical moment, which was a vital impetus behind what became the modern sewage system and led to the demise of many urban rivers.  The idea of this also led to “a piece of Victorian science fiction considered to be the first modern tale of urban apocalypse”, William Delisle Hay’s 1880 novel “The Doom of the Great City”, which is covered in depth via this article in the Public Domain Review.

You can also access primary sources, such as  following along with Sir Richard Phillips as he explored the edges of London in 1817, in “A Morning’s Walk from London to Kew“.

Some visual history comes via ArchPaper “What a difference 400 years makes: Modern and medieval London contrasted in hand-drawn cityscapes” which takes historic drawing viewpoints and redraws them showing the current urban configuration.

A fascinating thread that came from some of the books was the legacy of Spas, Springs, and Wells that have been a long part of the history of London.  There are some good sites to engage with this history, such as London’s Holy Wells, or the resource Holy and Healing Wells, highlighting around around the globe, including London.  There’s some great documentation such as the book mentioned by Barton, Foord’s “Springs, streams and spas of London: history and associations” from 1910, and one mentioned to me by David Fathers, Sunderland’s “Old London’s spas, baths, and wells” from 1915, both great resources for hidden hydrology.  An illustration from Foord, showing a 1733 engraving of one of these places, Tunbridge Wells:

The history of the Thames River Postman is a bit more random but worth a read, outlining H.L. Evans who delivered mail along the Thames. “The Thames Postmen played an important role connecting people who lived on the river with the rest of the world. They also became something of a local celebrity being a constant in the fast changing landscape of the river. Considering that the job was not without its dangers, it was remarkable that the Evans dynasty managed to continue for over a century.”

A visual resource COLLAGE, is an image database of over 250,000 images from The London Metropolitan Archives and the Guildhall Art Gallery, and also includes a picture map so you can locate them spatially in London.  A quick perusal found me in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which showed this 1795 “View of Cheesecake House, Hyde Park.

The concept of the larger regional picture is the website Vision of Britain over time, which is full of great information, and specific to the landscape is the book ‘Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape‘ by Mary-Ann Ochota which helps decipher the immensity of history through interpreting landforms and other traces.  From a review in Geographical:

“There is so much history to the British landscape. What with its stone circles, hill forts, mines and umpteenth century cottages, the land is marked with centuries of use. This can make it hard to read, like a blackboard written on hundreds of times and never erased”

As you can see, plenty of great work has happened and is still happening in London.  This is not an attempt to be comprehensive, and there’s tons more out there on specific rivers and locations, so consider this a teaser of sorts and google away for more.  I’m trying to find a simple way to share the mass of my resources and links online for further reading and reference, so stay tuned there, and future posts will likely expand on this rich history around hidden hydrology.  As a last reference to London, the last post in the series for now, following the lead of New York City, will be on maps.

 


HEADER:  Hand drawn map of the Rivers of London by Stephen Walter.

Jumping forward a bit,  the most recent of the books on London from June 2017 is another slim, exploratory volume, London’s Hidden Rivers by David Fathers.  Dubbed as “A walkers guide to the subterranean waterways of London’, this small book is extensive in scope and graphics.  From Amazon: “David Fathers traces the course of twelve hidden rivers in a series of detailed guided walks, illustrating the traces they have left and showing the ways they have shaped the city. Each walk starts at the tube or rail station nearest to the source of the river, and then follows it down to the Thames through parkland, suburbia, historic neighbourhoods and the vestiges of our industrial past. Along the way there are encounters with such extraordinary Londoners as William Blake, Judy Garland, Paul Robeson, Terence Donovan, Bradley Wiggins, Nelson, Lenin, Freud, and the great Victorian engineer Joseph Bazalgette.  Hidden Rivers of London contains over 120 km of walks, both north and south of the Thames. Winding through the hills, valleys and marshes that underlie the city, every page is a revelation.”

Fathers is an illustrator and map-maker, with a strong focus on walkiing guides, so this is in line with the other tour-specific guides, however, he visual and exploratory nature is inventive and really works with large, illustrated spreads (even in a small book), that highlight key points, while remaining focused on the route and the relation to the former waterway.  Text fills these empty spaces, in Fathers’ distinctive style.

There’s also a story beyond the story, not trying to get too much technical knowledge, but looking more at storytelling, for instance the Serpentine in Hyde Park, part of the route of the River Westbourne.  Some snippets of history, along with significant modern features, make for an interest mix.

I had seen snippets of his other books on the The London Thames Path and The Regents Canal, and really enjoyed encountering his work for the first time from this Londonist post, “The Lost London River With A Musical History“, which recounted one of the stories that eventually made it to the book, that of the River Westbourne, which “…like so many London streams over the past few hundred years, has been press-ganged by the demands of hygiene into becoming a sewer, and buried for the needs of ever more living space. And yet despite all this, the stream alone seems to have a mysterious, magnetic quality of attracting musicians to its banks.”  He recounts the experiences of a number of musical talents over history that were related to the hidden river, including below, where Judy Garland lived in 1969 (Site E) and Site G, which was the “site of the former Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens where a young Mozart gave a musical performance in 1764”  

A review from the Londonist mentions: “Each river is mapped in some detail, allowing the walker to follow closely, looking for clues: here a sloping side-road, there a gushing drain. The real joys are the little puddles of trivia that accompany each walk. Who knew that Lenin often frequented a fish and chip shop in the River Fleet valley? Or that Van Gogh fell in love on the banks of the Effra?”  Fathers had written often for the Londonist on the subject, with some great weekend walks along the routes of the Wandle, Lea, and Ravensbourne, with the expected maps and sketches, such as this from Ravensbourne.

You can follow him on Twitter @TheTilbury, and he’s also got some great info on all the books on his website, as well as this poster of the Thames, which “This full colour, illustrated poster, is packed with information about the architecture, bridges and monuments that line the banks of the River Thames as it flows through the capital city from Putney to Tower Bridge.”  

Following the early publication of ‘The Lost Rivers of London’ by Barton, there emerged in 2011 a set of compact, exploratory volumes by Paul Talling “London’s Lost Rivers” and by Tom Bolton “London’s Lost Rivers: A Walkers Guide”   Based on how they are listed on Amazon, it looks like Tallings book came out in June,  and Bolton’s arrived later in September, so i’ll start with the first.

London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling is a small pocket guide offers information on 22 lost rivers, and assorted other canals and water infrastructure.  There’s a companion website as well at www.londonslostrivers.com, which has info on the book as well as more details.  Paul Talling is a photographer and tour guide, so the book adopts that vibe, with great imagery and narrative focused on storytelling and exploration. A few images from the sample chapter on the website show the general format.

The maps are small but clean, with key highlights that reference back to the text, and the size warrants easy access via walks.

A review from May 2011 in the Londonist gives a good synopsis, “The format is spot on. Short bursts of text describe the tell-tale signs (look for ‘stink pipes’, sloping roads, and the sound of gushing water beneath manhole covers). Each watercourse is accompanied by an excellent selection of photos taken by the author.”

The text highlights some stories around the history and use, along with timelines for when the rivers were.  They vary as much as the rivers themselves, with anecdotes on things like the origins of the name, in this case the Effra“There are two possible explanations for the name Effra. The first is that it is derived from the Celtic word for torrent (given by the pre-Roman tribes) and the second is that it comes from an old London re-pronounciation of Heathrow, as the river flowed through the Manor of Heathrow in Brixton.”

There are lots of info on the site, including recent photos as well as a link to the a poem by U. A. Fanthorpe – “Rising Damp”, which was the 2nd place poem in the 1980 Arvon International Poetry Competition, included below:

Rising Damp by UA Fanthorpe.
A river can sometimes be diverted but is a very hard thing to lose altogether.’ (Paper to the Auctioneers’ Institute, 1907)

At our feet they lie low,
The little fervent underground
Rivers of London

Effra, Graveney, Falcon, Quaggy,
Wandle, Walbrook, Tyburn, Fleet

Whose names are disfigured,
Frayed, effaced.

There are the Magogs that chewed the clay
To the basin that London nestles in.
These are the currents that chiselled the city,
That washed the clothes and turned the mills,
Where children drank and salmon swam
And wells were holy.

They have gone under.
Boxed, like the magician’s assistant.
Buried alive in earth.
Forgotten, like the dead.

They return spectrally after heavy rain,
Confounding suburban gardens. They inflitrate
Chronic bronchitis statistics. A silken
Slur haunts dwellings by shrouded
Watercourses, and is taken
For the footing of the dead.

Being of our world, they will return
(Westbourne, caged at Sloane Square,
Will jack from his box),
Will deluge cellars, detonate manholes,
Plant effluent on our faces,
Sink the city.

Effra, Graveney, Falcon, Quaggy,
Wandle, Walbrook, Tyburn, Fleet

It is the other rivers that lie
Lower, that touch us only in dreams
That never surface. We feel their tug
As a dowser’s rod bends to the surface below

Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe, Styx.”

The tours are still happening, a recent attendee posted photos of a Croydon Canal Walk, and the Lost Rivers Brewing pays homage to Talling as well in coaster (or shall I say ‘beermat’) form, via.

His other book/passion is Derelict London where he showcases his photography, which you can also see more of via the book of the same name. where he: “blending photographs with accounts of how particular buildings and sights fell into disrepair and what is likely to happen to them.:  He’s on Twitter @derelict_london


Tom Bolton (@teabolton) is a London-based researcher, walker and photographer, and his book London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide, is also a small format, aimed at an audience on the go.  As mentioned on the publisher’s site Strange Attractor, “London’s Lost Rivers takes the reader on a series of walks along the routes of eight lost rivers, combining directions for walkers with richly detailed anecdotes outlining the history of each river’s route, origins and decline. Tom Bolton reveals a secret network that spreads across the city, from picturesque Hampstead in the North to the hidden suburbs of South London, and runs beneath some of London’s most iconic and historic sites.”  A great quote also mentioned, from The Great Wen its, “a terrific mix of history, topography and practicality…”  

A foreword by Christopher Fowler sets the scene, as he explains some of the history and demise, summarizing the change in the mid 19th century from a city with vital, flowing waters to “…the water of the common sewer which stagnates, full of … dead fish, cats and dogs, under their windows” (vi).  He ends with the following:

“”This, in a nutshell, is the paradox of the lost rivers. Despite the fact that mere proximity to them eventually became enough to kill you, their mystical significance was once so strong that the Romans floated gods upon their waters. Now, with walking maps to guide us, the journal of the hidden rivers becomes clearer.”

Bolton’s introduction is more succinct, setting the scene by discussing the 50 tributaries of the Thames, and that “Of these, two thirds are partially or wholly lost, buried beneath houses and streets, channelled away in underground tunnels, their flows diverted away by the sewer system.  London lost most of its rivers in less than 100 years, testament to the wave of change that transformed it from a city of 650,000 in 1750 to an industrial metropolis with a population peaking at 8.6 million in 1939.” (vii.)

The rivers are the “veins and arteries” (vii), and were crucial for the development and growth of the city, but the growth led to the eventual demise and disappearance.  Yet, “Today the rivers have a strong symbolic presence, encompassing every aspect of human existence…” describing the connections with birth, healing, renewals, death, religion, and more, concluding (along with the Fanthorpe quote as well), “Such fundamental elements of culture and landscape are not easily dismissed, and do not disappear just because they have been culverted.” (viii)

A typical spread has a image and a pithy quote, followed by what amounts to turn-by-turn directions for a route.

These are complemented with some simple and effective maps, showing the river course as a meandering gray flowline, adjacent with a dotted path that shows the closest walking route.  Key areas are identified with symbols and context is kept pretty spare to aid in legibility.  Tough to pull off with all black & white, these work well, and the pages aligning with the adjacent text, rather than cramming it all on one map, works well.

The text and maps could, with little augmentation, become a GPS enabled tour app that directs you where to go while overlaying the experience with the voice over text, and perhaps some historic maps and photos.  A review of this book in the Londonist gives a summary as well as a comparison to its predecessor: “Tom Bolton’s handbook to the buried tributaries of the Thames offers a very different take on the subject, however. Where Talling’s book surveyed almost 40 watercourses with a punchy combo of colour photos and scatter-gun trivia, his confrere offers a more detailed geographic account of just eight rivers; broad and shallow versus deep and narrow, to put it in riverine terms.”

The review contines, mentioning that the 8 walks highlighted in the text are “…backed up with endearing home-made maps, which match the text’s precise directions. The text itself is more buoyant than your typical guide book, puddled with allusions to folklore and quoting everyone from Norwood News to Coleridge to the Book of Common Prayer. The cultural magpie approach reflects both the author’s sideline in leading tour groups, and the fondness of the publisher, Strange Attractor, for arcane, unusual and ‘unpopular culture’. This makes for a cracking read even if you have no intention of pounding the pavements. Fleet, Tyburn, Neckinger, Wandle…you’ll lap them up.”

The format is similar in nature to Talling’s book, and while the former included the authors own photos, this book includes photos by SF Said (@whatSFSaid), which were part of an exhibition in 2011.  Again from the Londonist “A collection of distinctive photos by SF Said captures the Westbourne, Walbrook, Effra, and others. The photographer pulls some clever Polaroid tricks to give his subjects a murky, subaquatic hue.”  The best resource a post here is this flickr set from Said, and some more pics are on the Time Out London blog Now.Here.This. There’s also a PDF of the gallery show at Maggs, which show these great images.

It looks like 2011 may have been a banner year for London lost rivers and hidden hydrology resources in general, as it was also the year that our next blog topic, ‘Walking on Water’ by Stephen Myers came out (also in June 2011).  Would love to know the unique set of conditions that was happening in London at the time to spawn three books on Lost Rivers in the span of a few month. Something in the water, perhaps?


HEADER:  “Depth marker at (the now blocked) entrance to Hermitage Basin at the London Docks in Wapping”  From London’s Lost Rivers, Paul Talling

As I embark on the journey to document London’s hidden hydrology, it’s revealing how many books, websites, art installations, maps and more that have been created around lost rivers over the years.  To begin, I thought it prudent to start at the beginning, or at least the modern version of this, with The Lost Rivers of London by Nicholas Barton.  This may be considered the earliest version of a hidden hydrology publication I’ve seen, that is, exclusively focused on the disappearance of urban hydrological systems. This groundbreaking work was first published in 1962, with a subtext epitomized by the tagline: “A study of their effects upon London and Londoners, and the effects of London and Londoners upon them”.  Barton describes the endeavor:  “The purpose of this study is to show that these rivers, still silently flowing along beneath our feet though for the most part degraded into sewers, have played a considerable part in the development and history of London, and furthermore that their influence is still felt today… “ (14)

I purchased a copy of the 1962 book, and was excited about the inclusion of a fold up map which shows the the streams, which was a nice surprise, as I figured it would be missing  (also a snippet of this in the header of the map).  An image of this map I’d seen before online is this version, which can be found via this post from London By Gaslight from 2012, showing folds and all.  I ended up scanning version in the book and stitching it together (it’s about 20″x 17″) because I really like the simplicity and style of the map (Click for larger version).

If you zoom in, shows some of the great detail of what is a superbly crafted map from over 50 years back.   A zoom in shows a simple black and white line drawing with blue water (doesn’t get much simpler than that) along with some simple labels. The Westbourne, Tyburn, Fleet, and Walbrook wend through central London, and areas where it’s daylit such as the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

A further zoom shows the Rivers Walbrook and the Neckinger, along with Black Ditch, feeding the Thames on the east side.

The content of the book is organized around some of the main rivers on the north side, including the Walbrook, Fleet, and Tyburn, along with more geographically focused groupings to the west, south and east. There’s a fun section on ‘Dubious Rivers’ which questions some legends of these lost rivers.  The final section includes broader information on the uses of the rivers, and discussion of “Disasters, Diseases, and Drains” which includes analysis akin to John Snow’s mapping of cholera – in this case looking at incidence of bronchitis overlain with lost river paths to see if there’s a correlation.

It’s a pretty amazing book, especially when you think of when it was written, as it draws on a range of historical information that obviously was a bit less accessible in the mid 1960s.  I laughed when he mentions the following, in the Introduction, as it echoed what I feel most days: “For such a small theme, these lost rivers have been the subject of a considerable amount of literature, and an even greater amount of interest.  Nothing has surprised me more in studying them than the number of other people doing the same thing.  Yet in spite of this, there is only one book which purports to describe all the lost rivers (he’s referring to Foord’s 1910 ‘Springs, Streams, and Spas of London’) and even in this they are a secondary interest.” (14)

The sheer amount of rivers that ran through London leads to a number of interesting narrative opportunities, and the length of history of London adds to this potential creating an arc of time spanning centuries.  It also provides a partial story that is constantly in flux, as mentioned in 1962: “…there is no hard-and-fast distinction between those which are buried and those which are not… some of these streams are partly buried and partly not, and who can say that in a few years they will not be as much lost as their historically more distinguished predecessors?” (17)

The illustrations run the gamut beyond the map above which highlights rivers buried and open at the time, along with historical images such as woodcuts, here below of the Fleet River in 1825 and River Tyburn in 1750 (between pages 32-33)

More descriptive maps, such as the one below, showcase small scale concepts, such as the development of early sewers concurrent with development, in this case from 1679, highlighting sewers built by Richard Frith to alleviate problems from illicit sewers he had built earlier.  As mentioned by Barton: “This incident is only one of many clashes at this period between the authorities and the speculating builders who were so rapidly extending the fringe of London, and in tracing its consequences one gains a fascinating insight into this period of London’s history.” (52)

Another shows a much larger infrastructure intervention, the configuration of Bazelgette‘s 1858 interceptor sewers, which was driven by the ‘Big Stink’ and the need to ‘replumb’ the city to alleviate the health crisis created by the fouling of the rivers, as described by Barton: “Three large new sewers and the north and two on the south cross London from west to east, intercepting the old sewers on their way to the Thames.” (112)  The waste is then deposited at outfalls well downstream of the city, and the “old rivers are relegated to the function of storm relief sewers…” (113)  Thus a long-standing model for the transformation of many urban areas followed suit.

The book has an ample set of Appendices, including a good list of maps set in chronological order, and articles and books spanning back many decades.  The connection and historical use of the Rivers is a constant theme in the text, with stories of use and the connection of life and rivers for centuries.  This ideal is epitomized in this image from 1728, taken from Alexander Pope’s ‘Dunciad‘ shows the River Fleet, with the line:

“Here strip my Children! here at once leap in,
Here prove who best can dash thro’ thick and thin.”

As concluded in the original, Barton sums it up. “…despite the collective name by which these river are usually known and which forms the title of this book, they are not lost, but merely hidden: ‘a river can sometimes be diverted, but it is a very hard thing to lose it altogether’… The measure of the change is that today we need never stop to think about these streams, although they are still flowing silently along beneath our feet, ‘the ghosts of the rivers which once beautified Londong and the country round about…” (128)

FURTHER EDITIONS

This version was reprinted again in 1982 as the same text, and an official second edition shows up in 1996. The latter doesn’t mention any major changes, but does sport a new, color cover.  I don’t have a copy of either of these, so can’t vouch for any changes, but it is interesting to see the timeline from the original publication date, and at least a glimmer of interest that sustained multiple printings over the decades.

A reprint in the form of a third edition emerged in 2016 which, along with another author (Stephen Myers) and a tagline ‘Revised & extended with colour maps’.  It’s definitely an expansion of the original text, and it does incorporate ideas and parts of Myers’ 2011 book ‘Walking on Water’ which i will cover in a separate post, while including much of Barton’s original 1962 text, along with a new cover.

They do offer some new info, reported on London lost rivers expert Tom Bolton in this 2016 review from the Londonist, “Walbrook Stolen By Monks! New Lost Rivers Of London Has New Ideas” where he also refers to the original book as “London’s lost river bible”.    This update includes some specific route maps, which highlight the individual rivers, something that wasn’t part of the original text.  The route of the Fleet, shown below from headwaters to the Thames is a good example.

A more focused version shows the Tyburn flow around St. James Park, and the text allows for some visuals that were lacking in the original text about side channels and relationship of current conditions.

I also appreciate the sections showing the full route and overall elevations change, such as this for the Walbrook River below, with some modern reference points.

There’s a lot more imagery in this version, including more photographs and sketches, which is great, and they do cover a bit more in terms of history and context, adding chapters on development of London, and the key role of the rivers in defense, navigation, agriculture, fishing, mill-power and industry, as well as recreation.  They mention that, often prior to waterways being lost, they are manipulated for many of the purposes above, for instance, the story of the Fleet.  “After the Great Fire it was resolved to convert what had become a squalid nuisance into a beautiful asset. Under the direction of Wren and Hooke the lower 640 metres (2,100 feet) of the Fleet were deepened and widened, and an elegant canal created, 15.25 meters  (50 feet) wide, lined on either side by wharves… crossed with high bridges.”  (139) This modified Fleet is shown in the 1745 Rocque Map of London as the “Fleet Ditch”.

And while it was used for a time, in perhaps a refrain heard many times since, there “was not enough demand for a canal and too much demand for a street.”  After covering portions of it , “the wharves became roads and the central strip a long arcaded covered markets. The remainder of the canal was covered over in 1766, and the canal became a sewer.” (141)

Barton & Myers do get a bit speculative as well,with the last chapter Regaining an Asset, where they discuss the new visibility and popularity of lost rivers, and the desire to restore the physical and spiritual connections to these urban waterways.  They discuss a series of proposals for a number of of the rivers, including daylighting short stretches of the Walbrook, Fleet, Tyburn and Westbourne Rivers.  Beyond restoration, they do acknowledge “It is simply not possible to just open up long lengths of the Lost Rivers to the surface, particularly within the inner city, downstream. These stretches have been completely integrated into the sewer system.” (206)

The solution could be attained by tapping source waters high up in the watershed, stating that “The springs there may be the only source waters of the Lost Rivers which have escaped pollution and remain accessible.” (206)  An more expansive Fleet River Revival Project, seen below, would use gravity in “renewing a connection which existed before the rivers became polluted” (207) creating an abstracted system through the urban zones not following the exact route but taking advantage of current conditions to restore the general idea of the Fleet and other river corridors.

The update is a good exploration and adds a lot to the overall narrative, and the additional images, and the inclusion of the glossary is a nice touch.  They have, unfortunately jettisoned the fold-out map, and the internal maps, in my opinion, are not as effective, varying in scale, cropped and rotated weirdly, and overly detailed as to overwhelm the key hydrological information.  It’s funny to think of a book from 50 years ago actually having better maps than one published just a couple of years ago – but I guess it’s a case where color and detail isn’t always a positive, and this info in the hands of skilled mapmakers and graphic designers would make them more effective.

CONCLUSION

The book and its different editions provides a compelling history that is worth a deep dive.  Someone can prove me wrong, but I think the 1962 version, beyond some early tomes on springs and spas, is the oldest version of the hidden hydrology literature. And it still holds up today.  The updates add some technical rigor, and maps, but with the addition of the engineering co-author, it loses a lot of the original by trying to be too detailed and include too much explanation of routes, which is pretty boring reading.  If you are in London and at all interested, I’d look at a local bookstore or get online a track down a copy.  It’s worth a look.


HEADER:  Image from Barton’s original 1962 Map of London’s Lost Rivers.

A recent article from the Global South Studies Center online publication Voices, as part of the issue on Social Water, discussed a unique project in São Paulo, Rediscovering Rivers in A Brazilian Megacity by Douglas McRae, a PhD Candidate in History at Georgetown University.  The focus of the article was on a project “Rios Des.cobertos” (Rivers Un.covered, or Dis.covered). which is “a collaborative installation between researchers and designers has sought to reignite these questions in the minds of their fellow Paulistanos, imparting a vision of the city’s hydrological reality through an exhibition combining history, geography, ecology, and visual art.”

The work emerged from a collaboration between “…geographer Luiz de Campos and architect José Bueno have coordinated the Iniciativa Rios e Ruas (Rivers and Roads Initiative), raising awareness of the city’s forgotten rivers through educational and community activities.”  The group has been working since 2010 with an aim to “Deepen reflection on the use of public space and bring back to the city the underground and submerged rivers.”   The methods are also outlined below, which includes research, field work, storytelling, and tours, all of which engage in the hidden hydrology of the city.

A map of the over waterways developed by Rios e Ruas shows many of the streams, and as mentioned in an article in the Guardian, “São Paulo has nearly 300 named waterways, says de Campos, and probably closer to 500 in total. A collective map used by Rios e Ruas shows the city looking like a vital organ, encased in a blue web of waterways – a network of mostly buried rivers and streams totalling more than 3,000 km. “There’s plenty of water in São Paulo,” says de Campos. “It’s just very badly managed.”

McRae continues: “In addition to leading walking tours in neighborhoods around the city seeking to uncover its forgotten courses of water, Campos and Bueno also organize educational sessions with students, and in general raise awareness regarding aquatic nature in the city. Another important aspect of their work has involved “reclamation” activities: physically uncovering and rejuvenating submerged headwater springs of forgotten or hidden rivers and streams. “Even the smallest improvement makes a big difference,” Campos told me in an interview, and such improvements can lead to the revival the plant and animal life in neighborhoods otherwise enveloped in concrete and asphalt.”

Some context on the interactivity, via McRae: “In selecting a program on the control panel, visitors trigger an animation of this fluvial drainage in motion, illuminating the component parts that contribute to the Upper Tietê watershed, the region where the Tietê’s headwaters are located. The formerly sinuous curves of the Tietê and Pinheiros in particular vanish with the passage of time. Other rivers are highlighted: for example the Sapateiro River, which flows south of the Espigão into the Pinheiros, feeding the lakes in the city’s sprawling Ibirapuera Park. Another, the Verde River, is artificially split into two different courses, and occasionally causes massive floods in the lower areas of the Vila Madalena neighborhood. One can observe how the city developed at first bounded by these rivers, later growing over them and causing them to fade from both sight and mind. Campos often reminds audiences that Paulistanos are rarely more than 300 meters from the course of a river. “Most Paulistanos have a vision of a city with three or four rivers” Campos explains, when in fact, any stream of water above or below ground can signify a forgotten river.”

I was struck by the use of technology to enliven the story of water, particularly as an installation.  Some more images from Estudio Laborg co-creators of the exhibit “…in partnership with the Rios e Rutas (Rivers and Roads Initiative), the exhibition Rios Des.Cobertos – The Rescue of the Waters of the City is made up of exhibition boards and a model with an interactive map projection that allows the public to discover the rivers and complexity of the relief of the municipality of São Paulo.”

The videos of the display really bring it to life, such as this one Caminho das aquas (Waterway or Water path), is stunning:

The use of a simple topographic relief model is augmented with projected imagery to show additional layers of information like water flows, basins. elevation, and other features.  Seeing it transform seems a powerful way to engage audiences, another here:

MORE FROM SÃO PAULO

A project of a similar nature is documented in this article Project Aims to Uncover Hundreds of Buried Rivers in São Paulo, Brazil which documents Cidada Azul (Blue City) “…implemented in a single week to bring attention to a part of São Paulo, Brazil that has been buried for a long time. In order to bring the smells, sounds, and freshness of the hundreds (yes, really) of rivers that cut through the city”  In addition to audio tours, they

“the blue city that transform our relationship with water in urban environments; for centuries the cities have treated their rivers and lakes as sewage channels and the result is that we can not enjoy their presence or enjoy their water”

The platform provides an awesome map a snap shown here, with their description: “São Paulo is a huge city built over more than 300 rivers. Today they are buried and polluted. Anywhere in the city you are, there is a creek flowing under your feet not further than 200m. Discover!”

There are also interactive audio guides, developed alongside Rios e Ruas, which are described as such. “The best way to discover São Paulo’s rivers is to walk the city. We are developing audio-guides that help you find and follow the river trails. Put on your headphone, choose a river and follow instructions.”  Stops along the way are highlighted by signage and blue paint.

The blue paint also comes up in other ways, with painted manhole covers, and streets to alert passersby of the routing of the hidden streams.  An image via their Facebook page shows one of these installations.

A couple of videos “The Blue City: The Meeting of Three Rivers” and the one below ‘”The Blue City: Green River” shows these endeavors in action.

An article in the Guardian ‘The river hunter of São Paulo – a life devoted to finding its lost waterways” delves into similar territory, following Adriano Sampaio, an “urban explorer who knows all of its hidden rivers and springs”.  Posting on Facebook as Existe aqua em SP, he documents these explorations, augmented by maps.  As mentioned: “He and his friend Ramon Bonzi, an urbanist, use 1930s maps laid over modern-day street maps to track down hidden and forgotten waterways, peering over walls, lifting manhole covers and climbing about in the undergrowth in search of rivers, streams and springs. “We always find something,” says Sampaio.”

Another article from Camila Cavalheiro is The Hidden Rivers of São Paulo, which provides some context for additional activities in the community. A few links are not working, as I’d love to find more about the “Rios (In)visíveis” project, but it seems to be not linked and the map leads to a blank page..  One that’s really interesting is Aqui passa um Rio (Here flows a river) has a more exploratory and performative nature, a project that is a Coletivo Fluvial (Fluvial Collective) which exists “…to generate actions of cartographic-performative character that rub on the surface of the city the awareness of submerged questions, like its waters. We work with multiple languages, actions and investigations in urban space, theoretical research practices, cartography, intervention, stencil, performance, music, space activation and meetings. We call for participation and open dialogue and free expression in the public space.”

Marking the spaces provides a permanence to the locations of the hidden rivers and engages the broader population.

A more studio based but no less beautiful artwork also comes in the form of  RIOS [IN]VISÍVEIS DE SÃO PAULO an installation by Clarissa Morgenroth, Isabel Nassif and Renata Pedrosa as part of a show ‘Connections’.  This interpretation using twine and nails maps the rivers and provides a nice aesthetic for hidden rivers.

A final project mentioned is Entre Rios, a documentary film that “…tells the story of the city of São Paulo from the perspective of its rivers and streams. Until the end of the 19th century, these waterways were the great sources of the city. Today, hidden by the pipes, pass unnoticed by most of Paulista. But in the rainy season, the city stops when floods show the buried face of local nature.”  In Portuguese only, it’s still pretty informative to one who doesn’t know the language.

ENTRE RIOS from Caio Ferraz on Vimeo.

NOTE:  Apologies in advance for any awkward translations, but wanted to distill the gist of info as most of the text is in Portuguese so I’m relying heavily on Google Translate here. (so please correct anything inherently wrong),


HEADER:  Installation from Estudio Laborg – RIOS DES.COBERTOS – EDIÇÃO SESC PINHEIROS – 2017

A follow-up to the previous post allows for a bit more expansion on the fundamental sources for New York City.  This includes the Welikia Project and it’s beginnings as Mannahatta, as well as the comprehensive book by Sergey Kadinsky on the Hidden Waters of New York City.  We delved deep with Steve Duncan’s sewer explorations and blog Watercourses and Undercity,  Together these make up a solid fundamental base of hidden hydrology work in New York City.  This also complements some of the projects I’ve covered, including the project Calling Thunder, which evoked the power of historical ecology via animation, the explorations around hidden infrastructure of photographer Stanley Greenberg, and some of the walks and installations focused on hidden streams with artist Stacey Levy.

That said, there’s still much more, so a postscript is in order to provide a bit of additional context to even claim to be a passable (although not even close to comprehensive) review of some of the city, with a focus on including some tours, art, history, and more.

SOME TOURS

One aspect of any place is explorations, and there is no shortage of tours around hydrology in New York City.  The group NYC H2O is a great resource for this, with a mission “…to inspire and educate New Yorkers of all ages to learn about, enjoy and protect their city’s local water ecology.”  They’ve hosted some great events in the past year alone, including tours with Steve Duncan, Sergey Kadinsky, and artist Stacey Levy as well as many others. City as a Living Laboratory (evolved out of the work of artist Mary Miss) also provides some great events, include walks, such as this one exploring the past and future of Tibbetts Brook with Eric Sanderson and others.

There are some less formal characters as well, like local activist Mitch Waxman, featured here in a NY Times article from June 2012, “Your Guide to a Tour of Decay”.  The article shows how he discovers, teaches and advocates about the hidden history of Newtown Creek in Queens, where, as quoted in the article: ““You have these buried secrets,” he said, explaining the thinking behind the occult conceit. He’s spotted early-19th-century terra-cotta pipes protruding from bulkheads, antique masonry sewers connected to who knows what. He added: “There really is no telling what’s in the ground there.”

And, for a somewhat related example, there’s always the amazing precedent of Safari 7, a self-guided subway based audio tour and map that highlighted “…urban wildlife along New York City’s 7 subway line”.  A map of the guide is found below.

SOME ART

In terms of some hidden hydrology based art installations, there are many that span permanent to ephemeral.  In the site specific realm, is Collect Pond Park, which was located in Manhattan historically as “…a large, sixty-foot deep pool fed by an underground spring” that was filled in the early 1800s.  A post here by Kadinsky & Kevin Walsh on Forgotten New York discusses the project and includes this rendering that highlights the interpretation of previous pond in the design of the new park. This includes a “…footbridge spanning the pond’s waist hearkens to the original pond’s shape, providing a historical link to a pond that has had such a huge role in the city’s history, before and after its burial.”

Another site is a fountain at Albert Capsouto Park, which references some hidden hydrology. From the Parks website:  “The centerpiece of Capsouto Park is a 114-foot long sculptural fountain by SoHo artist Elyn Zimmerman. This fountain bisects the interior space. Water spills from an 8-foot tower into a series of stepped “locks” evoking the canal that once flowed along the Canal Street. A sunning lawn rises up to meet the fountain from the south and granite seat walls adorn the fountain to the north.”

Capsouto Park Water Feature, 2009 – Elyn Zimmerman & Gail Wittwer-Laird

We discussed previously some of the hidden hydrology art of Stacey Levy, which was the tip of the iceberg of vibrant art scene in NYC interpreting hydrology as the medium.  One larger effort worth noting is Works on Water, which is “…an organization and triennial exhibition dedicated to artworks, theatrical performances, conversations, workshops and site-specific experiences that explore diverse artistic investigation of water in the urban environment.”  Their mission statement by the team sums up the potential:

“New York City has 520 miles of coastline. Its waterways are often referred to as “The Sixth Borough”. We are artists and curators dedicated to working with water to bring new awareness to the public of the issues and conditions that impact their environment through art.”

The sum of work there is worthy of it’s own future post.  In the interim, a few of the key contributors to Works on Water have their own complementary endeavors, such as Liquid City, a water based project by artist Eve Mosher, a self proclaimed “…water geek, urban enthusiast and playworker in training”, whom is “…fascinated by our waterways, the space they inhabit the roles they play in our daily life and finding ways to create a greater engagement across disciplines and a greater awareness in the public narrative.”

Liquid City: Currents (Eve Mosher)

Her project aims to be the following  “1. A research database of collected resources and video stories of people working on the urban waterways. An open source compendium for creative inspiration,  2. An interdisciplinary floating think tank/lab working on creative interventions about the urban waterways, and 3. A traveling think tank/lab sharing resources, traveling the Great Loop’s urban waterways.”   A fascinating work on her site is the Waterways System Map below (click the link for the fully interactive version) which involves “mapping the existing system of the waterways” in extraordinary detail.

Below is another of Mosher’s project, from  exhibit: “As part of Works on Water, I collaborated with Clarinda Mac Low to create a large scale floor painting of the NY waterways. Intended to ground people in the specific site of water as material within the exhibition, the waterways acted as a guide into the exhibition space.  Overlaid on the waterways was a video in which I represented the historic waterways and Clarinda imagined the future…”

A different project led by Kira Appelhans, adjunct assistant professor, Integrated Design Curriculum, Parsons The New School and Richard Karty, postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Studies, from 2011 is entitled Waterlogged. The endeavor “…explores the process of mark-making in the landscape from glacial to hydrologic to human.  We will examine the existence of remnant waterways and their relationship to the city’s organizational patterns and forms.   Using printmaking, restoration ecology, public space design we will explore the ecological impact of the intersection of historic waterways and urban infrastructure.”  The diverse artworks are captured in a video as well as a booklet ‘Remnant Waterways‘ (pdf) which showcases the work of students, including prints inspired by buried streams.

Iteration 3 – Eve Neves
Print by Mikaela Kvan

In the realm of photography, the work of Stanley Greenberg and Steve Duncan show two sides of underground New York City, and photographer Nathan Kensinger, who investigates “The Abandoned & Industrial Edges of New York City” shows a third.  He has an ongoing series entitled “New York’s Forgotten Rivers” where he has been documenting “New York City’s last remaining aboveground rivers and streams, in all five boroughs.”  An image below shows one of these photos.

Another recent exhibition “To Quench the Thirst of New Yorkers: The Croton Aqueduct at 175” that just completed it’s run at the Museum of the City of New York, offers a similar theme, with the tag line: “Uncover the hidden history of New York’s original water source, buried beneath the city”, it features “…newly commissioned photographs by Nathan Kensinger, tracing the aqueduct’s route and revisiting sights that Tower had sketched nearly two centuries before.”

Shifting from the visual to the literary, I previous mentioned the great Robert Frost poem covered in Hidden Waters blog, focused on Minetta Creek.  Another literary reference worth a look is this 1998 poem by Jim Lampos “Gowanus Canal” about the partially hidden and very polluted waterway in Brooklyn.  The whole thing is worth a perusal in detail, but I was struck by this passage, which evokes some of the history of place so acutely:

“I’ve come with a notion 
Old Gowanus, to recollect 
the splinters of dreams 
and severed fingers 
you’ve tucked away, 
the stolen pistols 
and sunken treasures 
you’ve saved 
the piss, tears 
dreams and sweat 
you’ve claimed. 
Recollect–shitty Canal 
stinking to the heavens– 
that you were once a river 
and hills rose from both 
your banks.  Brooklyn Heights 
nourished you as it returned 
your borrowed waters sweetened 
with the blood of revolution. 
A city was built 
all around you– 
a city of pizza parlors, churches and 
Whitman.  A city of pigeons, 
ice factories and hit men.”

SOME HISTORY

Tons of possibilities to cover in the history genre, as New York City has a million stories, In picking a few, I decided to focus on the ones that rose to the top due to their sheer uniqueness.  The one that was amazing to read about comes via Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG, referencing a complicated series of posts about Fishing in the Basements of Manhattan that goes back to the NY Times blog ‘The Empire Zone’ and eventually a post link to a comment from 1971 Letter to the Editor, which mentions this potentially tall tale:

“”…We had a lantern to pierce the cellar darkness and fifteen feet below I clearly saw the stream bubbling and pushing about, five feet wide and up-on its either side, dark green mossed rocks. This lively riverlet was revealed to us exactly as it must have appeared to a Manhattan Indian many years ago.  With plum-bob and line, I cast in and found the stream to be over six feet deep. The spray splashed up-wards from time to time and standing on the basement floor, I felt its tingling coolness.  One day I was curious enough to try my hand at fishing. I had an old-fashioned dropline and baited a hook with a piece of sperm-candle. I jiggled the hook for about five minutes and then felt a teasing nibble. Deep in the basement of an ancient tenement on Second Avenue in the heart of midtown New York City, I was fishing.  Feeling a tug, I hauled up in excitement and there was a carp skipping before me, an almost three pounder. I was brave enough to have it pan-broiled and buttered in our upstairs kitchen and shared it with my brother…”

Going way back, a few folks referenced what seems an interesting resource, “Springs and Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx, New York City: At the End of the Nineteenth Century” by James Reuel Smith, in 1938, in which “…he reflects on the rapidly changing city and on the practical and aesthetic pleasures offered by the remaining springs: “In the days, not so very long ago, when nearly all the railroad mileage of the metropolis was to be found on the lower half of the Island, nothing was more cheering to the thirsty city tourist afoot or awheel than to discover a natural spring of clear cold water, and nothing quite so refreshing as a draught of it.” 

A photographer as well (see more in this collection “Photographs of New York City and Beyond” , his images are great documents of these sites which I’d imagine are mostly gone, although recently noted is a new discovery of a well in Brooklyn that dates back to the Revolutionary War era.

James Reuel Smith. Unidentified woman drinking at Carman Spring, on W. 175th Street east of Amsterdam Avenue, New York City. undated [c. 1897-1902]. Glass plate negative. New-York Historical Society.

Some more recent books note I’d love to delve into include the recent “Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City” by Catherine McNeuer (2014), Gotham Unbound: An Ecological History of Greater New York,  (Steinberg 2015) and Water for Gotham: A History. (Koeppel, 2000) all of which paint a portrait of historical ecology that complements the inquiry of hidden hydrology.

Other short reads include Thomas J. Campanella’s essay in Terrain.org, “The Lost Creek”, and a great article connecting west to east worth from Nathan Kensinger, “What Can NYC Learn from San Francisco’s Last Wild Creeks?” where he looks at Islais Creek (and of course includes some amazing photos) as a model for how aboveground creeks can be a model.  He summarizes: “Flowing through an increasingly gentrified city,…this historic stream offers up a refreshingly untamed landscape. Though it travels just five miles from its headwaters in Glen Canyon to its mouth in the San Francisco Bay, and is bisected by a three mile underground segment, Islais Creek provides critical support to two radically different natural environments, both of which are currently undergoing extensive renovations. It also illustrates several approaches to urban planning that are unfamiliar to most New York City waterways.”

Islais Creek – photo by Nathan Kensiger, via Curbed NY

SOME MISCELLANY

With any discussion of hidden hydrology, the concept of daylighting always emerges as certain projects seem to lend themselves to this approach.  A presentation by Steve Duncan is worth a read as it covers this topic in depth, and the project with the most traction is Tibbets Brook, in the Bronx.  Located in Van Cortland Park, the daylighting push garnered a fair amount of press (here, here) and also a petition, with a detailed coverage in Untapped Cities from 2016 which shows an image from a report “Daylight Tibbetts Brook” (PDF file – from Siteation).  A figure from the report shown below identifies a potential route of the daylighted creek.

Before and After views of daylighted creek

Another final item worth discussing, albeit removed from hidden hydrology explcitly, is the image of climate change on the city.  We cover this in the context of modern New York via Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York: 2140, which imagines a flooded, post-catastrophe New York with, a narrative of New York as a “SuperVenice”, rife with political upheaval, class warfare, and and salvage operations referencing historic maps — setting the stage for a new geography that is equally fantastical and plausible.  As mentioned in the New Yorker:

“Another narrator—a nameless urban historian—tells the story of New York from a bohemian point of view. America’s boring losers all moved to Denver, he says, and so the cool kids took over the coasts. “Squatters. The dispossessed. The water rats. Denizens of the deep, citizens of the shallows.” The abandoned city becomes an experimental zone—a place where social innovation (“submarine technoculture,” “art-not-work,” “amphibiguity”) flourishes alongside “free open universities, free trade schools, and free art schools. Not uncommonly all of these experiences were being pursued in the very same building. Lower Manhattan became a veritable hotbed of theory and practice, like it always used to say it was, but this time for real. . . . Possibly New York had never yet been this interesting.”

The connections between this fictionalization and the changing climate that could lead to more frequent flood events, seems a timely connection between history (past) and what it means now and into our our future.  The story told by Robinson may be a bit lacking in places, but the details and context is compelling.

The vision of a flooded city in “New York 2140,” a science-fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, is surprisingly utopian. via New Yorker

As you can see, there are literally hundreds of links for particular creeks, art, history, explorations, tours, and other discussions around New York City.  My original goal was to also include maps in this post, but as you can see it’s already bursting at the seams, so I will conclude New York with one additional post focused on the cartographic as to not overwhelm.


HEADER:  Bronx River, image by Nathan Kensinger as part of his New York’s Forgotten Rivers series.

As we’ve seen in the Welikia Project and the book Hidden Waters of NYC there’s multiple ways to approach the investigation and documentation of hidden hydrology in the same city.  Next is a hybrid photography, infrastructure history and adventurous drainer in the form of Steve Duncan.  Since the 2010s, he’s been featured often, the theme similar to these stories from NPR “Into The Tunnels: Exploring The Underside Of NYC” as well as the New York Times (here “The Wilderness Below Your Feet” with Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge).

Duncan, here smiling after the third night camping underground, is a graduate of Columbia University and is working on his doctorate in urban history at the University of California. via NPR

His photography is pretty stunning, (links to the original photography site seem down, but you can buy a print here) and more than a few articles feature his explorations and work, including this New York/London feature in the Daily Mail, “A tale of two underground cities: Urban explorer’s stunning photographs of the subways and sewers of New York and London”  Here’s Duncan at work:

His photos are featured as well in National Geographic “11 Rivers Forced Underground” which include New York as well as other cities around the world.  A few of the shots:

Sunswick Creek, New York City (Photo by Duncan)
Tibbets Brook, New York City (Photo by Duncan)
River Sheaf – Sheffield, England – Photo by Duncan)

My favorite below as the idea of canoeing this hidden streams is a bucket list dream for me.  This one is of the Park River in Hartford Connecticut.  From the NatGeo article: “Today, a few intrepid urban explorers paddle canoes down the buried river. John Kulick of Huck Finn Adventures, who has guided float trips through the subterranean section, told the New York Times he has seen eels, carp, and stripers in the dark water. Kulick joked, perhaps at least half seriously, that a burst of water gurgled into the river because “someone flushed a toilet.”

Park River, Hartford Connecticut (Photo by Duncan)

The site Watercourses provides the more academic side of this inquiry, dating back to 2008-2010 with a goal of “Looking for the lost streams, kills, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, burns, brakes, and springs of New York City.” As much of it isn’t regularly maintained, it’s still great repository of info, maps, photos, and lots of good links.  Organized into regions and sites, with a sidebar around “Named Streams, Ponds, & Springs” it’s a wealth of info to dig into and some great, NY specific info.  As mentioned in the introduction:

“Almost all of the the streams, ponds, swamps, tidal inlets, flood plains, springs, etc that once dotted the fertile land seem, at first glance, to have disappeared underneath the tide of New York City’s urbanization. This is not completely true. In many cases, the city retains the imprint of these features; in the shape of a road, for example, like Water Street in lower Manhattan, that used to follow the edge of a stream or river; or sometimes just in the name of a neighborhood or street.”

For instance, one of the posts on Minetta Brook yields a snip from the Viele Water Map (more on this in an upcoming post) showing the course:

Plus this great 1901 article from the NY Times on excavating the creek.

Undercity is the other side/site of Duncan with posts ranging from 1999 through a sporadic fits and an end in 2015 with a focus on the “Guerrilla History & Urban Exploration” side of things.  These posts offer a great array of topics, like how 9/11 impacted urban exploration, the lives of the Mole people, and even a blurb in the difficult to reproduce on black pages local NW Design mag Arcade.

Like many websites of a certain vintage, there’s plenty of broken links (unfortunately the Explorations tab being one of them) but still lots of great info – also a gruesome shot of Duncan’s hand and after story when he slipped and sliced it open during one of his explorations.  Sifting through the links, there are some really hidden gems, inlcuding a book link I’d not seen before for New York Underground: Anatomy of a City, and some great posts about England and Rome around March 2009.

My hands down favorite is this link to a Life Magazine story from November 7, 1949 on ‘Underground New York’, which featured some amazing cutaway images like this one on the complexity of subsurface infrastructure:

For some additional reading by Duncan himself, there’s a thoughtful essay on Narrative.ly from 2012 “An underground explorer discovers his city’s lost lifeblood” in which he discusses the importance of the historic streams in New York, their eventual destruction:

“With further development came the burial of Tibbetts Brook, and many of the other streams. In some cases, putting them underground was merely a way to create more buildable land above. In others, the streams that once supplied drinking water or fish were converted into sewers and drains. Today, the lineage of many of the major sewer lines in New York City can be traced back to streams and rivers that flowed unfettered for centuries and even millennia before the city matured around them. Today, their past is all but forgotten.”

He continues the essays through some exploration of Tibbetts Brook, and discussion of the Canal Street sewer, New York City’s first, discussing many of the creeks, through actually following their current form. Many of them as he mentions, are too small to explore underground, being only a few feet wide, but “it is impossible to completely parse out the old “natural” Minetta Brook, or the Tibbetts or the Sawmill, from the urban landscape and sprawl of the modern-day “Big Apple”—but that doesn’t mean they’re gone. Far from it.” 

There’s also a great video by filmmaker Andrew Wonder from 2010 called UNDERCITY which follows Duncan underground.

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

Some great background on a pioneer in the urDuncan on Twitter @undercitysteve where he’s giving tours around the city.  He’s also on FB, which i am not but probably easy to find via a search. There’s a link on Twitter to another site undercity.org but it wasn’t working for me.


HEADER IMAGE:  “A self-portrait taken by Steve Duncan in New York City’s Croton Aqueduct, 2006” Photo By Steve Duncan, via NPR

Another fine resource that adds to the hidden hydrology knowledge base in New York City is Sergey Kadinsky’s Hidden Waters of New York City, which “serves as a guide to the stream by tracing their development along their courses” (xiii).  The book takes a different yet complementary direction than the Welikia project and other efforts I’ve mentioned and will follow up on.  Publishes in March, 2016, the book summary via Amazon provides some context: “Beneath the asphalt streets of Manhattan, creeks and streams once flowed freely. The remnants of these once-pristine waterways are all over the Big Apple, hidden in plain sight”

Kadinsky’s day job is at the New York City Parks Department, has experience as a tour guide, also teaches and contributes to Forgotten New York, all of which provides a good context for open spaces, as well as a forum for the stories of hidden and forgotten waterways of the area.  As he mentions in the brief introduction:

“The city’s waterways have become a place where the public is reminded of nature’s presence in the city.”  He continues mentioning specifically that inland areas, where “…waterways are not as visible, having been buried beneath the streets and concealed behind building. If one searches carefully, one can hear sounds of hidden streams churning beneath manholes and see traces of them in street names that recall a water past.” (xiii).

Covering Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island in different sections, the breadth of the book is it’s major take-home.  Any New Yorker would be doing themselves a favor by picking up a copy and being surprised to find out that you don’t have go far to find an interesting historical place you probably didn’t know about.  The short blurbs about each area come with a variety of factoids, as well as good local destinations and options for travel via bus, subway, and bike.

The content is great, albeit brief as the book covers, as mentioned on the cover, “101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams”.  The typical post gives a tour of the place, some history, and delves into some specific topics, for instance the early chapters on the Collect Pond, Harlem CreekMinetta Brook, and Canal Street (all links to the blog) provide great anecdotes about infrastructure, geology, cultural history, and the forces that led to the eventual burial of these places.  Some are hidden, others are brought back metaphorically or through places names, and many still remain hidden.  Others are more brief, with the history of the place and some brief info suffice.

A review of the book by Eric Sanderson and Christopher Spagnoli via The Nature of Cities from November 2016 entitled  “Where did all the Streams Go?”  offers a bit more context on the book from folks that are admittedly more local in viewpoint.  As mentioned: “Kadinsky’s descriptions of waters invoke the flow of time” and provide the following, which capture the nature of the stories held within the book:

“Perusing Hidden Waters is fun for both the armchair historian and the modern urban eco-adventurer. Without sermonizing, there is a distinct historical rhythm to these accounts. Most begin with a colonial description of a typically beautiful, formerly long-lasting, watery feature of the environment, many of which formed during the last Ice Age—that has been co-opted for industrial purposes. Nineteenth century New Yorkers largely regarded waterways as places to get power, launch vessels, and/or dispose of sewage and garbage. Once these ponds, streams, and other waters were fouled, the city government and private actors, on the hunt for more land to develop, filled and paved them, a process that played itself out in fits and starts from the late 19th century through most of the 20th century. The natural waters we have left now are largely the result of neglect—so little time, so many streams to fill—until the environmental movement of the late 20th century finally created the legal and regulatory tools to stop their destruction.”

Perhaps a case where the blog is better than the book as the “companion blog for the book ‘Hidden Waters of NYC’ provides more room and allows Kadinsky to venture beyond the format the book constrains him to both geographically and visually.  For me the depth of information in the book pales in comparison and seems lacking in what Kadinsky covers in the blog, with more informal stories and visuals.  As a field guide, it seems a bit too text heavy, and lacking in really good contextual maps where one could follow along and tour through the narrative in a way that allows the story to unfold. This may be more a personal preference, however, the the overlay of new/old is fundamental to engaging with this type of historical ecological information, perhaps best addressed by the compelling map visuals of the Welikia Project.  Although it’s available on the blog, it is the one thing sorely missed in the book.

The notable narratives that I’ve read on the blog are many, but include a fascinating account of Robert Frost’s 1923 poem ‘A Brook in the City’ which recounts Minetta Creek,  a post recounting some Map Oddities, some cool examples of interpretive paving on Broad Street, the many posts about Central Park, many more I’ve bookmarked.

He also includes a two part reading list with some great additions to the local and broader context, including connections to Stanley Greenberg and others beyond the realm of water.  In highlighting the book I’m aiming to showcase what i think is a great contribution, namely writing about hidden hydrology, and also to provide some thoughts about what works in curating and narrating these stories of place.  It’s hard to capture in book form, the spirit of what is lost, the history of then, erasure, time and what is still there (a dilemma faced by much of the hidden hydrology literature).  In the end any text that endeavors to do so needs maps,  and lots of them, to support this effort.

Read the blog and follow him on Twitter @SergeyKadinsky and you’ll see more of this great example of a passion for place and hidden hydrology that connects people to their home places, Kadinsky’s book and blog aid in this.  He mentions this connection in the intro, and his work helps make true that “inland waterways today have resumed their role as vital elements of the city’s identity; providers of a sense of place.”

 


Header image: 1994 Greensward Foundation map of Central Park from this post here.

 

A brief aside to contemplate the concept of hidden hydrology, both as a subject of study and as an agent for change.  While I’ve been inspired by the concept for some time, I’ve only recently tried to formalize this, collecting information and starting this blog in September 2016.  Call it my doctorate in Urban Studies that I never finished, happening over the web, with little to no outside supervision, mostly in my free time from 10pm to the early hours of the morning.

I get mixed reactions when I mention the project, spanning a sort of incredulous ‘Why?’ to an excited “Wow!” with all variations in between. This concept is indicative of the root of my own journey and sometimes my struggle, being simultaneously inspired while trying to figure out what to do with information.  On one hand, is just endlessly fascinating (others would agree), and my information gathering, generalist nature wants to find every detail there is to find. And while having an extensive collection of notes, images, maps and resources on my computer is satisfying in a way,  it does lack a certain sense of purpose.  On the other hand there’s sort of a perceptual disconnect with why any of this matters amidst the plethora of contemporary issues, and my productive landscape architect, designer, urbanist, cartogaphic, activist & ecological nature wants to connect this historical ecology to the greater issues of regenerative strategies of place.

Thus the tagline I originally came up with is a shorthand for both a duality that hints at both potentials, and I think still inspiring:

Exploring lost rivers, buried creeks & disappeared streams. Connecting historic ecology + the modern metropolis.

Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out what an end game can look like, and you have to dive in and see where it takes you.  I’m calling this, in the spirit of hydrological study, the Meanders, as I’ve titled this post, and it’s been fun to see it played out in presentations, dialogue, and writing with not really a set purpose or goal.  I’ve had in my mind, beyond the blog, a book or series of books, perhaps which could be historical, design or urbanism or something spanning all.  Also I have toyed with the idea of online atlas, an exploratory video game, a series of historical images superimposed on modern scenes, art installations, tours, and much more.  I’m still working on the specifics of where it may lead, but realize it’s not one destination, but many.

At a foundational level the study will focus on Seattle and Portland, as a locus of study and between the two, a venue for comparative analysis and places I live and know well (and have easy regular access to).  While both are Pacific Northwest cities that were founded around the same time (1850s), their evolution and histories diverged much due to geography, topography, and hydrology, with Portland built around rivers and Seattle shaped as a city tied to the oceans and lakes.  Beyond this obvious dichotomy, there are a number of differences which will be part of, and perhaps fundamental to, the study.  One of which is notably politics, which tends to shape place as much or more than those ‘natural’ forces, played.  Maps of the two show the unique differences, and the ‘blank’ slate to be filled with oh, so much potential.

PORTLAND

SEATTLE

Thus the core will expand around these cities, and include a continual focus on Explorations, walking, recording, and connected with the experiences of what is gone and what still exists.  The goal is to walk/map/explore every hidden stream in each city, and use this along with mapping and history to provide a documentation of hidden hydrology.  While the focus will be on these two cities, there is so much information to bring from the wider base of knowledge that allows the analysis to be well informed.  Seeing the immense depth and breadth of information that exists and all the forms it can take (which hopefully you’ve seen in these posts), there are ample bends and side channels for us to navigate – but the focus on these two places allows for focus energy for generation specific to place.  This hopefully alleviates the danger of just continually searching and compiling information without acting.

In that vein, as precedents, in the past year, I’ve posted summaries of many cities focusing on hidden hydrology, including posts that study the inner workings of cities like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Rome, Vancouver, Toronto, as well as both Portland and Seattle. to varying degrees. These are the the dozen or so “core cities”, which, along with New York City and London you’ll see in a bit, which have the most fully expansive studies ongoing for hidden hydrology.  Each have activities and viewpoints that are specific to place, but all are tied together with connections between water, then and now.

Image of Rome – via Katherine Rinne, Aquae Urbis Romae

I’ve also touched on other areas around the globe, including Boston, Lexington, Munich, MontrealMexico City and Venice, and will continue to offer smaller snapshots of other communities, as there are literally hundreds of fascinating stories to tell.  These studies show a wide range of activities these projects take on, including art, tours, literature, advocacy, history, ecology and more, as well as the broad geographic reach of the concept of exploration, in its many forms, of hidden hydrology.

There will be many more posts to come come from all of this, but I wanted to add the two cities that have by far the most expansive and inspiring hidden hydrology efforts I’ve discovered to date: New York City and London.

New York City is one of the inspirations I’ve mentioned, with the Mannahatta project a lofty goal of mine to apply to my own home places, and the work done by others to document the hidden hydrology of the New York region is phenomenal.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of this.

Mannahatta Visualization

And London, perhaps more than any other city, has been so well documented in terms of hidden hydrology, with countless books, maps, ruminations, explorations and more, each with a unique viewpoint and much rich history to draw from.   Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to take multiple posts to sum this up with New York, as there’s a lot to cover.

A Balloon View of London, as seen from the north – via the British Library

Additionally, beyond continuing to document places as precedents, there are a bunch of fascinating topics which enrich these spatial stories, and also inform my own activities.  I’m constantly inspired by artists using hidden hydrology as a medium, so will continue to include more examples, both site specific, and including techniques around soundscapes.

Light Meander – River based sculpture in Nashville by Laura Haddad & Tom Drugan

The literary connections of historical waterways is worthy of discussion also, as another of the key inspirations come from both David James Duncan and Anne Whiston Spirn.  The connections to language and place names that span cultures, and a thorough acknowledgment of colonization and appropriation is an important aspect of any historical endeavor. Mapping as a subject is vital to this study, including historical ecology and methodologies for mapping that uses new technologies to connect old and new and display these connections in inspiring ways.

Rectangular world map from Fatimid treatise, Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes, copy of manuscript originally written in the first half of the 11th century

The ecological and the hydrological are at the root of rivers, creeks, streams and watershed, providing a context for understanding the past and the present in terms of something this is ever changing, blending soils, geology, climate, ecology and understanding of aquatic systems to infer the historic and investigate opportunities for historical baselines as a metric for regeneration.  This requires understanding the potential to restore, but also moving beyond ideas of daylighting as the only option we have, with a more nuanced and historically informed continuum which integrates, culture & art, ecology & habitat using design and science– restoring the key functions of urban streams in a form that evokes, mimics, and celebrates, but doesn’t rely on pure restoration for the original creeks.

Stories of place and process, maps and images, people and words, all aggregate, some sifting through and precipitating in eddies, others taken downstream by the force of the flow.  Then again, all this could change.  A meander overtopping its banks and connecting with another flow, carving out a new channel, or disconnecting and spinning idly in a lonely oxbow, driving via gravity in tension against rock, all the while creating life at its margins.  Not a bad metaphor for a creative process.

The flow may have some direction now, but the nature is still, always, to meander.