497-218: Cities, Waterfronts & Water — Innovating the Urban Water System

Meeting Days/Time
Thursdays from 8:35 to 11:15 am
Edoarda Corradi Dell-Acqua (CAEE) (ecorradi@iit.edu)
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome, Architecture, Architectural Engineering, Biochemistry, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Business, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Engineering Management, Industrial Technology and Management, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Social and Economic Development Policy
Technological Innovation

This IPRO project focuses on the relationship between urban and natural systems and, in particular, between the city and the water. The design and development of a smart and sustainable water system in cities is becoming essential for human health, safety, the environment, and economic growth. The United Nations identifies two main water related challenges that impact cities today as a result of climate change and a growing urban population: (1) Urban flooding events and (2) Droughts and a growing need for quality water and sanitation.

The IPRO team will have the objective of exploring today’s relationship between cities, waterfronts and water. The project will involve investigation of water management strategies and re-thinking urban water infrastructure (1) to protect cities from the risk of flooding events and (2) to achieve sustainable long-term growth.

The first four-to-six weeks of the semester will be dedicated to analysis and literature research, while the remaining time will be used for the design of a water system/infrastructure in an urban environment. Thus, the IPRO project will have two main parts:

  1. Weeks 1 to 4/6: Literature review; analysis of the development of waterfronts such as London’s Docklands project, research on wastewater recycling technologies,
  2. Weeks 4/6 to 15: Project development; selection of project test site along the riverfront; conceptual/design development.

Students who register for this IPRO project can begin to think about the historical context concerning the convergence of cities, waterfronts and water. Over the span of world history, there has been a strong relationship between water and the built environment, e.g., the ancient Roman aqueducts, thermal baths, or the gardens and fountains of Arabic tradition. During the nineteenth century the edge between city and water was primarily used for industry and transport, import and export of goods, which led to environmental degradation and pollution of water and waterfronts. In the post-industrial era the dialogue between cities and water has been re-defined due to economic, social and environmental changes. Today’s service-oriented economy and the progressive de-industrialization of urban port areas as well as the concurrent technological development of road, rail, air, and water transport combined with the requirements of freight containerization led to the migration of ports to extra-urban sites and produced a “spatial and functional vacuum” (Source: Minca C., Urban Waterfront Evolution, Geography, Vol. 80, No. 3, July 1995) on urban waterfronts. As a consequence, since the 1960s the development and revitalization of waterfronts has become a topic of great interest in urban planning (Source: Marshall R., Waterfronts in Post-Industrial Cities, Taylor & Francis, 2004).

In addition to the economic drivers, which brought a change in the spatial and functional use and configuration of urban waterfronts, today we are facing important environmental challenges. Cities, worldwide, are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, which directly impact the city’s water edge and its water management and infrastructure. This forces us to re-think the relationship between the city, water and its waterfront.

This IPRO project builds on previous work developed by Illinois Tech students during summer 2016 and focuses on Chicago’s riverfront. It encompasses several fields of study, including urban planning, architecture, civil and environmental engineering. It is based on the idea that cities have to find a new balance between the natural and the urban environment: urban and social activities overlap with green and grey infrastructure and natural systems. Join this IPRO team if you are interested and passionate about helping to figure this out!

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