Entangled with Water: Participation and design of water and sanitation infrastructure in Indonesia

Entangled with Water: Participation and design of water and sanitation infrastructure in Indonesia


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Image: A microcosm of things and relations

Join us on Zoom for a presentation and examination of PhD candidate Dasha Spasojevic.

Perhaps it is not surprising that we are entangled with water. It seems as though we are so entangled that we forgot what came first – the water, or the infrastructure that designed our entanglement. The idea of infrastructure as a thing is common – we have been designing pipes, toilets, septic tanks, water tanks and basins for decades. But infrastructure is simultaneously a relation between people and territory, people and nature, power and access, houses and bodies. Like the shapes of water – steam, ocean, mist, foam, holding fish, containing plastics, carrying sharks, cold, hot, oily, solid, ice, in the soil, in the air, in the bucket, swamp, river, tea, mineral, urine, rain, aquifer – we need to learn how to transform our design approaches to infrastructure.

Entangled with Water explores ethnographic and design research around infrastructure, water, sanitation and informal settlements. It provides a specific view into the design process of water sensitive infrastructure in informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia. Entangled with Water is a result of doctoral research within the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) Program, between 2018 and 2021. It presents some of the key outcomes of this research and seeks to complement the written exegesis by also providing an insight into personal experience of designing and implementing the constellation of participatory design workshops across time and locations.

It seeks to expand a design process traditionally confined to the desk of an engineer. Here, the desk is multiplied and enlarged; it travels between locations and through time, and it changes its features to enable the capture of diverse perspectives: from men, women, youth, children, pipes, pumps, toilets, lorongs*, pamali*, wetlands, engineers, architects, scientists and funders.

Entangled with Water seeks to open a discussion about the participation of designers and architects in global challenges, beyond temporary installations and experiments, on the ground, with real people and places. What is their role in caring for the ecosystems and people of the future? A single, simple answer to this does not exist; rather, this thesis proposes a reflective approach and attention to detail, from one conversation to another. It is a glimpse into the microcosmic realm of operation where, to design a 300m2 wetland, every 25 cm of land needs to be negotiated.

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