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Matthew Gandy on Water and Urban Fragmentation

Source: Meena Kadri

"In a dusty office of the municipal buildings in K-West ward in northwest Mumbai there is a detailed map of the Paris water supply system placed under a sheet of thick glass on the desk of the chief engineer. This 'hydraulic decoration' acknowledges an attachment to a utopian vision of the perfect city: a striving towards a perfect synthesis of engineering science with urban modernity. The intricate arrangement of blue lines — varying in thickness and shading to depict the hierarchical structure of the city’s water mains — is counterposed with the familiar bridges, boulevards and radial sub- divisions of the Parisian arrondissements. This striking cartographic representation of Paris is suggestive of a tension between the idea of the modern city as a visible manifestation of conscious design and the complex array of unseen networks extending beneath the city streets. Mumbai, like any other modern city, bears the imprint of successive generations of civil engineers and urban planners yet its hydrological structure has never closely corresponded with a rationalized conception of urban space: time and again, ambitious plans and schemes have been only partially realized leaving the material reality of the city far short of any technical ideal."

Matthew Gandy, from "Landscapes of Disaster: Water, Modernity and Urban Fragmentation in Mumbai," 2008

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