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60 619 Make Do Water Do. Water-sensitive urban development within Greater Oslo

Full course name in English: 
Make Do Water Do. Water-sensitive urban development within Greater Oslo
60 619
Syklus 2
2021 Vår
2021 Vår
Maksimum antall studenter: 
Sabine Muller

Mandatory for 2nd semester Landscape Master students, open to Architecture Master students.

CAD 2D and 3D (Rhino), Adobe Suite, hand drawing, analogue and digital model making, GIS. Interest and experience in urbanism and landscape “materials” such as water, soil, plants.

Om emnet

Oslo: Blue, green, and the city in-between.
This marketing rhyme is constantly challenged with Oslo being at the very centre of a growing region. To accommodate the influx of inhabitants municipalities re-zone agricultural land for the development of urban districts, often using boulevards and city blocks as their formal repertoires. Civil opposition, understandably riding the arguments of ecology, history and connectivity, are the consequences – while the cultural reservations towards compact urban development remain forceful but less explicit drivers. 

What if we radically reverse the approach of urban development? And start from the water and vegetal structures to generate contemporary forms of dwelling?
There are reasons enough. Historically a water-rich area, weather extremes question the functionality of the cultural landscapes present in the Oslo region. While flooding and its impact on traffic, real estate and water quality in intensively used areas start to be addressed in municipal planning, the recently occurring droughts shift attention to water supply – and with it to the rather extensively used, wider “support” territory. From a water perspective, the levelling of seasonal peaks asks for new cultural landscapes. To be bold: Could urban development be the incentive of the required hydrological and ecological transformation?
Oslo: Blue, green, and the city in-between. The rhyme would then mean both to intertwine urban life into concise and perceptible landscape structures and to have human settlement play an active role in the re-adjustment of the hydrological cycle to the changing climate. 

Make Do with Water – Make Water Do.
In this context the studio subscribes to an oscillating mode of action: Make Do with Water – Make Water Do. “Make Do with” means to get along with what is available, to manage with the limited or even inadequate means available. It means to adapt to and to creatively accept the given. For urban development (rain) water is one of those available means, an enabling and limiting resource at hand. On another take, to “Make s.th. Do” means to enable, to empower, and have s.th. do the job. Urban and landscape practices actively change and modify water flows and cycles. Can urbanism team up with water’s active role in structuring space, regulating climate and creating opportunities for cultural practices? The studio proposes a shift from water as a passive resource to an agent taking part in developing a future cultural landscape.

Both modes of action – passive and active – require an aesthetic position along with the functional and performative imperatives. Make Water Do is finally a call for projects that support an environmental imagination in which urbanism and ecology are informing each other. 

In sum, the studio explores landscape-based, water-active urbanism within the Oslo Metropolitan Region. In face of climate change with its increasing risks of draught and flooding, and continuing urbanisation pressure the studio proposes blue-green infrastructure at the very basis of new low density settlements. It engages the functional requirements of adaptation to changing environmental conditions as much as the spatial and environmental aesthetics of flowing and cycling water as an agent of urbanism. 

The studio is thus an inquiry into future cultural landscapes beyond perceived city/countryside or culture/nature or planned/unplanned dichotomies, and how these contribute to an idea of dwelling within urban nature.


Knowledge: The design and research studio will provide students with the conceptual categories to address the interrelated issues of sustainability in an urbanising regional context. Based on a systemic view on the environment a focus of the studio will be a hydrological perspective on design, and the understanding of landscape as infrastructure. Form will be discussed in relation to performance as well as to space and place.

  • Acquaintance and discussion of notions of watershed, region, cultural landscape as a spatial product of geological and climatic forces as well as cultural, political and economical interests and practices layered in time 
  • Basic knowledge of urban-regional metabolism as a concept to describe the flows of substances and energy between and within cities and landscapes; in particular: urban hydrology and integrated watershed management (retain, clean, reuse) 
  • Basic knowledge of landscape as a productive, performative layer in human systems: ecological infrastructure, ecosystem services, and regenerative agriculture; in particular: historical precedents of water management 
  • Advanced knowledge of form and urban form: emergent patterns, figures and fields, dissolution and abstraction
  • Basic knowledge of form as “informed” related to processes, both as a passive result of processes, and as an active modifier or catalyst of processes and flows
  • Basic knowledge of an actor perspective and user-centered design practice: “everyday urbanism”

Skills: Concretely, students will develop skills to envision urbanisation projects as cultural landscapes with the goal to ensure adaptability to climate change and promote participation. Research-driven, multi-layered and multi-scalar in its scope, the studio builds the capacity to conduct a layered and visual analysis of the territorial/ regional context, the ability to reference precedents, to fuse technical and aesthetic aspects of form giving, and finally to frame and argue for a well-resolved design proposal anchored within the scale of the territory. 

  • Research: Capacity to select and sort, and evaluate data from greater information quantities; ability to conduct precedent analysis and transfer
  • Analysis: ability to carry out landscape and urban analysis based on map work (GIS and morphological analysis) and field work (photography, interviews); description of a territory through a synthesis of mapping, drawing, diagramming, and photography, with a special attention to hydrological systems
  • Strategy: capability to develop scenarios for a watershed, development of propositions related to water flows and cycles for concrete case areas and programmes out of the strategic approach 
  • Iterative design process: trial and error to find adequate solution, successive and interrogative usage of drawings (section and plans), physical and digital models, as well as texts variants, to test and develop proposals, in favour for “unsafe” experimental approaches
  • Interrogative design: explicit discussion of a formal question, such as grids and figures organizing a spatial field; explicit discussion of an aesthetical question,
  • Design resolution: ability to work out a territorial approach on a detailed level, including grading, planting, surfaces and textures
  • Representation: capability to illustrate design through compelling plans, sections, and 3-dimensional images such as elevational perspective and collage, as well as digital and physical models
  • Communication: problem definition, framing of a task within the given context of the studio; skill to verbally and visually argue for a project through telling of a compelling narrative

General competence: The studio’s underlying thesis will encourage the rethinking of urban, social and environmental challenges as opportunities to develop place-specific, lived and just spaces for the future. The studio’s main competence goal is to equip students with the ability to state ideas, translate these into form, and to apply theoretical and technical background in project work. Students will develop the adequate background knowledge to frame their projects in a larger socially and environmentally relevant context, as well as to use the project as an investigative vehicle to address professional and disciplinary questions. Both individual and group work will be trained.

Praktisk organisering og arbeidsmåter

Individual and group work (2-3 students) is organised around 5 phases. 

These phases will be supported by input lectures and readings to facilitate contextualisation and familiarization with discourse and state of the art in theory and practice.

Mapping and Research: Constructing the context through field and map work (1:20 000), hand drawing of landuse, topographical and hydrological pattern, 3D modelling, and archival research. 

Scenario: Definition of water-relevant strata and sites, and possible water-building strategies within the examined watershed. Group work. (1:10.000)

Precedent Analysis/Excursion: Understanding of cultural landscape techniques to modify water flows; acquaintance with historical landscape-based urban models. Group work.

Project: Elaboration of the water-building strategies into site-specific blue-green infrastructures as a basis for urban projects. Elaboration of landscape and architectural proposals with a focus on public spaces (1: 5000, 1:2000 - 1:50). Individual work. 

Communication: Visualization and “telling” the proposals to communicate to a broader audience. Production of an exhibition or website; and a studio booklet that can serve to advance the imaginary on the Oslo Region as a sustainable territory. Group work.


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