Spring 2023

Living Rivers: Reclaiming the Glatt's WaterscapeCristina Fusco and Victoria Dubois

The experience of water in Zurich is ubiquitous. The rushing sound of water flowing, hiding in plain sight, accompanies our walks through the different areas and neighbourhoods of the city. We can rely on numerous fountains offering us drinking water drawn from fresh spring water in unexpected and least suspected street corners. During the summer days, we carefully but happily encounter the cold water by swimming in the Limmat river, taking us in its flow through the city centre. These waters support the life of the city while steadily flowing across its various landscapes. Landscapes as well as water bodies in Canton Zurich are highly managed. As a result from urbanisation focusing mainly on cities and the management of productive land, aquatic habitats have been deteriorated severely and represent the most important habitat loss in Switzerland.

In recent years, fish populations have substantially decreased to a point where they are incapable of surviving without human support, making them dependent on management for their habitats as well as the reproduction of populations. While there are efforts happening at the cantonal level to give more space and restore rivers and lakes, this project aims to go beyond the notion of renaturation and the limits of the riverbed by considering the entire watershed through the lens of fish as an indicator of human influence on nature.
By reminding ourselves that every action happening within the watershed will have an effect on water bodies as habitats, this project proposes a systemic change in our relationship to water. We propose a vision where we claim the river’s dynamic behaviour as an essential ecological entity in the territory, allowing it to shift towards an understanding of the river as a living organism. For this purpose, our project enhances the entanglements between land and water in order to create ecosystems of vital habitats for all living organisms as well as places for us to encounter and interact with nature.