Hidden Hydrology Projects, Precedents, and Resources from around the Globe
♦ Aquae Urbis Romae: The Waters of the City of Rome is a cartographic history of nearly 2800 years of water infrastructure and urban development in Rome. Water is a living system that includes natural features (springs, the Tiber River, etc.) and hydraulic elements (aqueducts, bridges, fountains, etc.) that are linked through topography. Learn about the structure, methodology, and pedagogical goals of the project. Project by Katherine Wentworth Rinne.
♦ Aqui Passa um Rio: (São Paulo, Brazil): (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.”
♦ The Blue Road (Drachten, The Netherlands): Artist Henk Hofstra art piece, a road in Drachten, The Netherlands, is painted blue to symbolise the water. It is 1000 meters long and 8 meters wide. It was created to form an urban river and recreate the path of a waterway that used to be where the road currently runs. The text WATER IS LEVEN is written on the blue road. The water will bring back life again in the centre of Drachten
♦ Brescia Underground (Brescia, Italy): The Brescia Underground Association, officially born the 1st of June 2006, main goals are the research, exploration and documentation of the underground rivers of Brescia. Most research is devoted to the exploration and documentation of underground rivers and hidden canals beneath the old town, such as the Garza river, Bova, Celato, Dragone, Molin del Brolo, Garzetta, and many others with not official maps. Up to three centuries ago these rivers streamed in the sunlight, serving water to the cities numerous residents, artisans and factoring. Today they are waiting to be explored and documented to allow a better understanding of the innermost part of the urban core that is often forgotten and abandoned in its historical memory.
♦ Charting Pogue’s Run (Indianapolis, IN): Artist Sean Derry’s work Charting Pogue’s Run investigates the past and present characteristics of Pogue’s Run as it flows from the Neareastside neighborhood to its confluence with the White River south of downtown. Beginning on E. New York St., along the boundary of the Cottage Home neighborhood, a blue line and small iron markers map the stream’s 1831 path through the city. This addition to the city-scape traces the streams meandering path across 4.5 miles of Indianapolis.
♦ Cheonggyecheon River (Seoul, South Korea): Until it was restored in 2005, Cheonggyecheon Stream existed only as a neglected waterway hidden by an overpass. Today, it has been transformed into a haven of natural beauty amidst the bustle of city life.
♦ Cidade Azul (São Paulo, Brazil): “…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”
♦ Daylight Yonkers (Yonkers, NY): What is “daylighting,” you ask? It’s when a river comes back to the “light of day” after being buried underground! In 2010, the City of Yonkers broke ground on a revolutionary project—bringing the buried Saw Mill River into the daylight at Larkin Plaza. Instead of a parking lot, we now have a beautiful living river flowing through Van der Donck Park right in downtown. And, it’s a unique environmental triumph—designed to assure that it continues to be the “Home of the American Eel” for many more thousands of years!
♦ Daylighting.org.uk (Global): A project of long-time daylighting advocate Adam Broadhead, this site on deculverting or ‘daylighting’, involves opening up buried watercourses and restoring them to more natural conditions. It is often claimed to provide multiple benefits to society, the environment and the economy. The outcomes and objectives of deculverting projects are rarely published, which makes it difficult to evaluate their true effectiveness, determine the best methods to use, or provide quantitative evidence to encourage future projects. To address this challenge, we have established this map-based website where practitioners and researchers working on deculverting projects are encouraged to enter case study information, as well as browse past case studies for inspiration or information and contact details.
♦ Existe água em SP (São Paulo, Brazil): 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.”
♦ Forgotten Streams (London): On the site of the “lost” river Walbrook, which the Victorians built over, appears to have been uncovered this week. The Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias’s Forgotten Streams (2017) now flows gently through the heart of the capital’s financial district, appearing in three places in the pavement outside financial media giant Bloomberg’s new £1 billion ($1.3 billion) headquarters. It is her first public work in London.
♦ Ghost Arroyos (San Francisco, CA): Ghost Arroyos reveals forgotten, invisible waterways of San Francisco. For the 2015 Market Street Prototyping Festival we sonically and visually highlighted an underground creek that emerged into a salt marsh just south of Market Street. During heavy rains, Hayes Creek would flow on the surface as a visible creek among the saturated dunes. I’ve always been fascinated by ghost geographies, landscapes that shape the world we live in today but are invisible to the naked eye. I intuitively began my design process by layering old maps over the festival site. This led me to discover the intersection of Hayes Creek, a historical ephemeral stream, and Market Street, one of the most important vehicular arteries for the city of San Francisco. I immediately began thinking of how to reveal the historical footprint of the arroyo in a way that could truly engage pedestrians. One part of the project marks the waterway on the urban surface, while the other part envelopes the “ghost-scape” with sound. Kristina Loring, my collaborator, developed the sound piece that will invite people into an auditory sanctuary amidst the hectic ambient sounds of Market Street.
♦ Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Creeks (Bay Area): The Oakland Museum creek and watershed information source, providing access to maps, books, exhibits, classes and other creek-related resources. A massive compilation of resources with printed maps that presents both the historical and modern hydroscapes of the creeks of San Francisco Bay Area and the native landscape dominated much of the city. Today the waterscapes is totally modified by the collection of runoff into the combined storm water / sanitary waste sewers.
♦ Hidden Rivers from A to B – Zoë Skoulding (Paris, France): Two lost rivers from very different cities, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre, a little-known river that once ran through industrial areas of Paris, have some surprising connections in their history. Both rivers had been important to urban development but were culverted and re-routed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century because of pollution and nineteenth century ideas about hygiene. For three months in 2014 I researched the literary, physical and social traces left by the Bièvre. I wrote a collection of poems, Teint, which incorporates translation of historical literary sources referring to it, juxtaposing them with a contemporary perspective. By thinking about both rivers and the people whose lives are or have been connected with them, I hope to find different ways of imagining cities and their futures.
♦ Hidden Rivers of London – Geertje Debets (London, UK): A research on the letterpress technique, while developing the concept and design for the visualisation of the underground rivers of London. London has a lot of hidden underground life. Not only the tube, but there are also underground rivers, tamed by humans with stone and asphalt. There are tube stations that are no longer used, underground buildings, remnants of shelters and offices of the Second World War, and an underground tunnel that leads you under the Thames. 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.
♦ Hidden Waters Blog (New York City): This blog is the online companion to the book Hidden Waters of New York City (2016), published by WW Norton. The book’s author, Sergey Kadinsky, is a staffer at the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and an adjunct professor of history at Touro College. Published by WW Norton, the book offers a historical survey of 101 hidden lakes, creeks, inlets, ponds, and reservoirs within the borders of New York City
♦ Imaginary Terrain (Washington, DC): David Ramos is “,,,a designer, developer, and design educator based in Washington, D.C. I build tools and platforms to support local, humanistic endeavors.” His work on “how long-buried natural systems and historic land use patterns poke their way to the surface, shaping our cities today. I produce maps and lead tours that examine landscape history and planning issues, particularly in the D.C. area.”
♦ L.A. Creek Freak (Los Angeles, CA) Towards healthy Southern California streams, creeks, rivers and neighborhoods. I see this blog as a way to share information about LA’s historical ecology – the rivers and streams that were once here – and to update people on relevant watery news and events with a mostly local focus. And to editorialize, of course, and hopefully also amuse and enlighten, although the topics are sometimes heavy. We’re not planning to be neutral here at Creek Freek. Our bias is that we believe our rivers and creeks are vital to our communities and our planet. Though degraded and forgotten, they’re worth saving.
♦ London is a River City – Amy Sharrocks (London, UK): 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. 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.
♦ London’s Lost Rivers – Paul Talling (London, UK): This website has been created to promote the book of London’s Lost Rivers (2011) (the follow up to my Derelict London book). Over the years this website is expanding to cover many other London water related topics. From the sources of the Fleet in Hampstead’s ponds to the mouth of the Effra in Vauxhall, via the meander of the Westbourne through ‘Knight’s Bridge’ and the Tyburn’s curve along Marylebone Lane, London’s Lost Rivers unearths the hidden waterways that flow beneath the streets of the capital. Paul Talling investigates how these rivers shaped the city – forming borough boundaries and transport networks, fashionable spas and stagnant slums – and how they all eventually gave way to railways, roads and sewers. Armed with his camera, he traces their routes and reveals their often overlooked remains: riverside pubs on the Old Kent Road, healing wells in King’s Cross, ‘stink pipes’ in Hammersmith and gurgling gutters on streets across the city. Packed with maps and over 100 colour photographs, London’s Lost Rivers uncovers the watery history of the city’s most famous sights, bringing to life the very different London that lies beneath our feet.
♦ London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide – Tom Bolton (London, UK): London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide (2011) by Tom Bolton is available from strangeattractor.co.uk and all good bookshops. It’s a book of walks tracing the course of 9 buried London rivers through the modern streetscape.
♦ The Lost Rivers of London – Nicholas Barton & Stephen Myers (London, UK): The hidden rivers beneath London’s streets have a perennial fascination. Sadly, over the years they were neglected, abused and eventually integrated into drainage and sewer systems. They were for centuries an important element of London’s life and topography: they still are. The Lost Rivers of London (2016) (Revised and extended with color maps) is the most comprehensive account of their history and courses. The book also offers a proposal for harnessing some of their waters to create small ornamental streams in London’s streets again. Previous editions authored by Barton include the original in 1965 and a 2nd Edition reprint with the expanded subtitle ‘A Study of Their Effects Upon London and Londoners, and the Effects of London and Londoners on Them’ in 1982 and a 3rd Edition 1992.
♦ Lost Rivers/Rivières Perdues – Documentary (Multiple Locations): Nearly every major city was built near the convergence of many rivers. As cities grew with the Industrial Revolution, these rivers became conduits for disease and pollution. The 19th century solution was to bury them underground and merge them with the sewer systems. These rivers still run through today’s metropolises, but they do so out of sight. But LOST RIVERS shows how a move of underground urban explorers is helping spur cities around the world to make their once-buried waterways more accessible. Yonkers, NY, for instance, has committed to “daylighting” its Saw Mill River. While in London and Toronto, planners are responding to structural problems that have led to frequent flooding and sewer overflow. As climate change forces us to reconsider the relationship between built environment and natural resources, LOST RIVERS brings to life an aspect of urban ecology that has long been kept secret.”
♦ Lost Rivers Toronto (Toronto, ON): The objective of Lost River Walks is to encourage understanding of the city as a part of nature rather than apart from it, and to appreciate and cherish our heritage. Lost River Walks aims to create an appreciation of the city’s intimate connection to its water systems by tracing the courses of forgotten streams, by learning about our natural and built heritage and by sharing this information with others. The Toronto Green Community started Lost River Walks to help us discover the fascinating world of the watershed beneath our feet. This site is the start of a field book on the lost streams of Toronto. Bits of our city’s history, both natural and built, are included. Those interested can take a virtual lost creeks walk, or better, use the information to take a self-guided tour. Come explore nature hidden under our city and along its ravines and byways.
♦ Lost Rivers Vancouver (Vancouver, BC): An extension of Lost Rivers Toronto. Building the Lost Rivers community in Vancouver.
♦ Philly H2O (Philadelphia, PA): It has been my pleasurable challenge, as a consultant to the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) since 1998, to try to piece together the fascinating history of the city’s many lost streams. PWD has preserved its own collection of historical material, which is a rich source of information, and I have supplemented that base with research in local libraries, historical societies, archives and relevant departments of the city government. Besides many useful written records, I have uncovered a wide range of graphic material including paintings and drawings, maps and plans, photographs and surveys. This material stretches across the breadth of the city’s long history, since changes were made in the landscape almost as soon as William Penn began building his new city along the Delaware River in 1682. The bottom line is that, over the course of several centuries, most of the city’s surface streams have been channeled underground and incorporated into the city’s 3,000 mile sewer system.
♦ Portland’s Goose Hollow (Portland, OR): Authored by Tracy J. Prince. One of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods, Goose Hollow is steps from downtown and beloved for its quirky character, historic homes, spectacular views, and walkability. Over a century ago, the actual “hollow” was dramatically altered when the meandering Tanner Creek, in a deep gulch with several trestle bridge crossings, was diverted underground and infilled. The creek’s presence is still felt in the ravine carved through the Tualatin Mountains (spanned by the Vista Bridge) and in the neighborhood’s identity. This book provides definitive answers to how Goose Hollow got its name and how Tanner Creek Gulch was filled. Stories are also told of the Great Plank Road, City Park’s slow-moving landslide, and famous residents such as Daniel Lownsdale, C. E. S. Wood, Dr. Marie Equi, John Reed, and Bud Clark. Historic institutions such as Civic Stadium, Multnomah Athletic Club, Lincoln High School, and Washington Park are also featured.
♦ Rios e Ruas (São Paulo, Brazil): 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.
♦ San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) (San Francisco, CA): The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) is one of California’s premier aquatic and ecosystem science institutes. Our mission: provide scientific support and tools for decision-making and communication through collaborative efforts. We provide independent science to assess and improve the health of the waters, wetlands, wildlife and landscapes of San Francisco Bay, the California Delta and beyond. SFEI’s 50 scientists and experts provide data, technology and tools that empower government, civic and business leaders to create cost-effective solutions for complex environmental issues–from cleaner water and sustainable communities to climate change. We have three primary programs: Clean Water, Resilient Landscapes, and Environmental Informatics.
♦ Seep City (San Francisco, CA). When San Francisco was first becoming a city, it had many more waterways than now. Those were wet years. When dry years came the gullies became annoyances. People filled in the creeks and low areas with sand, debris and gravel. Marshes and sloughs were filled, too. The edges of the city were expanded into the Bay, making sailable water into salable lots. Today’s rain goes right into sewers, for the most part. Few absorbent soils are still exposed. Remarkably, surface creeks do still flow, here and there. And when you dig, you still find groundwater. If you search you’ll see springs, mostly small, seeping and trickling out onto our landscape. Land. Look closely. The map shows recognizable cuts where streets were sculpted. Enjoy the seeking, without labels. Get to know your landscape. Find things you didn’t realize you were looking for.
♦ Streamlines (Indianapolis, IN): StreamLines is an interactive, place-based project that merges the sciences and the arts to advance the community’s understanding and appreciation of Indianapolis’ waterways. Five environmental installations by Mary Miss/City as Living Laboratory®, a series of dance performances by Butler University Department of Dance, six musical compositions curated by Michael Kaufmann/The Kinetic Project, and collection of poems penned by Indiana poets selected by Poets House, The site-specific art invites the community to learn, explore and experience the science of local water systems. The project is supported by an interactive website, smart phone app and related programming to increase engagement, enhance interpretation and provide expanded opportunities for learning.
♦ Stuart Hyatt – Artist (Indianapolis, IN): Stuart Hyatt is a Grammy-nominated artist and musician who creates interdisciplinary projects in the public realm. Projects follow rigorous conceptual frameworks yet present themselves through simple pop and folk aesthetics. Hyatt holds advanced degrees in both architecture and sculpture but is an untrained musician. This varied background allows him to explore the intersections of space and sound as both an expert and a novice. Pogue’s Run, the second album by FIELD WORKS, follows a humble waterway through urban neighborhoods in Indianapolis. From its source, through the city, into a mysterious three-mile underground tunnel, and finally to the White River, Pogue’s Run represents the ongoing tension between nature and civilization.
♦ Subterranean London (London, UK): Peel back the layers under a London street and you’ll discover a haunting, dreamlike world of hand-laid brick sewers, forgotten tube stations, World War II evacuation shelters, secret government bunkers, and tunnel boring machines laying new sewer, communication, and transport grids. 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 London’s historical and contemporary architecture below the streets. Beautifully designed to allow for detailed viewing and featuring bespoke illustrations by artist Stephen Walter, Subterranean London reveals the locations few dare to go, and even fewer succeed in accessing.
♦ Swimming to Heaven: The Lost Rivers of London (London, UK): Iain Sinclair follows in the path of the ‘lost’ rivers of London and examines their influence on the visionary literature of the capital. “There is a very particular sense of London and its geography. And underlying all of this are torrential lines of verse in the great epic poems; wild waters of inspiration surging, stalling, tumbling over weirs and falls.”
♦ Town Branch Water Walk (Lexington, KY): Lexington was founded on the banks of the Town Branch Fork of the Elkhorn River, which provided a source of freshwater for colonial settlers. As the city grew, Lexington’s relationship with Town Branch changed, and the creek was buried below ground in two culverts. Click the episodes along the culvert lines (shown in white) to listen to episodes as you tread over the city’s underground stormwater system to investigate the history, ecology, geology and infrastructure that impact the city’s hidden waterway.
♦ Under Montreal (Montreal, QC): Under Montreal is a resource established in 2009 to document the City of Montreal’s sewers and other underground infrastructures. Its author, Andrew Emond, is a Canadian photographer with an interest in the built environment, a subject that he has been actively exploring and photographing in Montreal, Toronto and other North American cities since 2005.
♦ Undercity.org (New York City, NY): Steve Duncan – As an urban historian & photographer, I try to peel back the layers of a city to see what’s underneath. From the tops of bridges to the depths of sewer tunnels, these explorations of the urban environment help me puzzle together the interconnected, multi-dimensional history and complexity of the world’s great cities.
♦ Vancouver’s Old Streams (Vancouver, BC): “Vancouver’s vanished streams and waterways can now be seen again in Google Earth, PDF form and other digital formats. UBC Library digitized the content of the Aquarium’s old paper maps, allowing both scholars and the public to see the paths of old streams and the original shoreline of Vancouver. The digitized maps encompass only the area of the City of Vancouver, and show the large area of land reclaimed since the 1880′s. The map is derived from Sharon Proctor’s Vancouver’s Old Streams, which has an accompanying booklet outlining the history of the now-disappeared waterways, complete with stories from Vancouver’s early inhabitants as well as black and white pictures.
♦ The Vanishing Point (Toronto, CA): The Vanishing Point website is a resource that has emerged from a decade of underground research and photographic practice by Michael Cook. As a form of citizen geography, it has informed community groups, academic projects, and the official work of planners, landscape architects, engineers and archaeologists. The photography and the historical and geographic research presented on this website is an attempt to make this infrastructure visible so that as a public we are better positioned to participate in and take responsibility for the infrastructure decisions that shape the neighbourhoods, watersheds, and cities that we live in.
♦ Walking on Water: London’s Hidden Rivers Revealed (London, UK): London’s hidden – or lost – rivers are a source of fascination. This book concentrates on seven North London rivers – the Fleet, the Walbrook, the Tyburn, the Westbourne, Counter’s Creek, Stamford Brook and the Black Ditch. The author, a professional water engineer, describes their sources and traces their individual histories, setting out their influence on the development of London and their use and abuse by society, eventually leading to their disappearance. The original watercourses of each of the seven rivers are shown on London street maps to a detail never previously attempted. Research to enable this included extensive onsite analysis of their river catchment topographies and desktop studies of numerous old maps and literary references. Walking on Water ends on an optimistic note. Drawing on his professional experience, the author proposes a practical, affordable and exciting approach to re-creating riverside parks and walks in the London Boroughs through which the Hidden Rivers passed, which uses their source waters to refresh the lakes of the Royal Parks.
♦ Watercourses (New York City): Steven Duncan – Looking for the lost streams, kills, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, burns, brakes, and springs of New York City. This website is an attempt to put together what I know with what you know. The more I’ve looked for modern remnents of old watercourses, the more I’ve found that this is truly a case where anecdotal information is the best sort.
♦ Waterlines (Seattle): “We examine the history of Seattle through a focus on its shorelines: the natural and human forces that have shaped them, the ways they have been used and thought about by the people who have lived here, and how this historic understanding might influence urban-development decisions being made today. This is, we believe, an appropriate and compelling framework for viewing the city’s history–one that will engage public audiences and raise themes that are important in American history.”
♦ Water Shed (San Francisco, CA): A series of performances by artist Chris Sollars that lead viewers to water thru the physical properties within the city of San Francisco that both comprise and compromise the watershed. Watershed is composed of: Creek Walks (Lead to Water) and Water Shed (On the Water).
♦ The Welikia Project (New York City): “After a decade of research (1999 – 2009), the Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society un-covered the original ecology of Manhattan, one of New York City’s five boroughs. The Welikia Project (2010 – ) goes beyond Mannahatta to encompass the entire city, discover its original ecology and compare it what we have today. The Welikia Project embraces the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the waters in-between, while still serving up all we have learned about Mannahatta. Welikia provides the basis for all the people of New York to appreciate, conserve and re-invigorate the natural heritage of their city not matter which borough they live in.”
♦ West Philadelphia Landscape Project – Anne Whiston Spirn (Philadelphia, PA): For more than twenty-five years, the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) has worked in the Mill Creek watershed and neighborhood. Our mission is to restore nature and rebuild community through strategic design, planning, and education projects. Through our experience in Mill Creek, we seek to demonstrate how to create human settlements that are healthier, economical to build and maintain, more resilient, more beautiful, and more just. A key proposal of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project is to manage the Mill Creek watershed as part of a broad approach to improving regional water quality and as a strategy to secure funds to rebuild the neighborhood. We employ landscape literacy as a cornerstone of community development.