Last edited 17 Nov 2020

Main author

Michael Brooks

Aquatecture - review


Robert Barker and Richard Coutts – 'Aquatecture: Buildings and cities designed to live and work with water'

Published by RIBA Publishing (2016)

This hefty and well-presented new book from the RIBA examines the vital role played by water in shaping the built environment. Since we depend on, use, and live with water, it is important that 'designing for water' is considered.

When one thinks of 'aquatecture', the first place that may spring to mind is Venice, a western city that is unique for being built on and around a lagoon. But modern architects too have sought to push the boundaries of the relationship between water and buildings; from Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Falling Water, and Louis Kahn's Salk Institute, to Diller Scofidio & Renfro's Blur Building.

The book defines aquatecture as, 'A water-centric approach to design in which flood-risk management, development pressure and adaptation to climate change are simultaneously reconciled to allow buildings and cities to live and work with water.'

It examines the possible combinations of water and architecture, beginning with an historical overview. The relationship between water and architecture is examined; how water has shaped civilisations, how pressures from urbanisation increase the need to make space for water, and how best to cope with flooding through integrated design approaches.

It progresses on to what the possible future could look like in a world where climate change and flooding are increasing risks. It explores international approaches to designing with water across key disciplines of planning, landscape design, infrastructure and architecture. New innovative techniques are explored that the authors claim could 'revolutionise the way we think about water, design and urban planning'. Each is discussed and their respective effectiveness assessed.

Such innovations include:

Four case studies are provided:

  • Building perspective: Amphibious house.
  • Neighbourhood perspective: Seine Gare Vitry, Paris.
  • City perspective: Shanghai, Future City.
  • Regional perspective: Nijmegen and Lent, Netherlands.

Intended as a reference tool for architects, urban designers, planners and sustainability experts, 'Aquatecture' strikes a successful balance between providing technical information and exploring ambitious theories for future development. The illustrations and images throughout the book are excellent and serve to make it well-structured and a pleasure to dive in and out of and to examine in more depth.

For more information and to purchase 'Aquatecture', please see RIBA Bookshop.

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--Michael Brooks

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