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The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination; Matthew Gandy; 2014

The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination; Matthew Gandy; 2014

The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination; Matthew Gandy; 2014; MIT Press



Water lies at the intersection of landscape and infrastructure, crossing between visible and invisible domains of urban space, in the tanks and buckets of the global South and the vast subterranean technological networks of the global North. In this book, Matthew Gandy considers the cultural and material significance of water through the experiences of six cities: Paris, Berlin, Lagos, Mumbai, Los Angeles, and London. Tracing the evolving relationships among modernity, nature, and the urban imagination, from different vantage points and through different periods, Gandy uses water as a lens through which to observe both the ambiguities and the limits of nature as conventionally understood.


Gandy begins with the Parisian sewers of the nineteenth century, captured in the photographs of Nadar, and the reconstruction of subterranean Paris. He moves on to Weimar-era Berlin and its protection of public access to lakes for swimming, the culmination of efforts to reconnect the city with nature. He considers the threat of malaria in Lagos, where changing geopolitical circumstances led to large-scale swamp drainage in the 1940s. He shows how the dysfunctional water infrastructure of Mumbai offers a vivid expression of persistent social inequality in a postcolonial city. He explores the incongruous concrete landscapes of the Los Angeles River. Finally, Gandy uses the fictional scenario of a partially submerged London as the starting point for an investigation of the actual hydrological threats facing that city.

About the Author


Matthew Gandy is Professor of Geography at University College London and was Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory from 2005 to 2011. He is the author of Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City (MIT Press), recipient of the 2003 Spiro Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, and has published widely on urban, cultural, and environmental themes.



“This book appears in the thick of the water wave in urban studies and will be sure to remain a major reference. It places the solidities of water and the liquidities of modernity in a single comparative framework and shows how water eludes expert management as well as modernist norms of democracy and of rights to nature.”

—Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; author of The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition"

Source of above and more info here


The title of a publication by one of the reviewers, Arjun Appadurai, also piqued my interest. Looking it up, I came across this statement by Appadurai:

'...something I've realised recently—my own discipline, anthropology and other social sciences like sociology, largely see culture as a vehicle of the past, of heritage, memory, tradition, customs. Culture is occasionally seen as important for the present but almost never as far as the future is concerned—the result is, the future has been handed over to economics and other quantitative and predictive sciences.

I wanted to signal that the future is also highly variable. People have different visions, images and narratives of the future. Today, in cities like Mumbai, there's a lot of debate about heritage—but you won't see the language of conservation applied to what people want ahead. That's a huge oversight.'

This idea should be of interest to those of us interested in cultural heritage- and the future!
Good spot Sara - thanks - that is a very useful quote - i will be using it soon. Will share