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Environmental Architecture (MA)

Christie Swallow

Diagrammatic timeline of outlet design collaged from archival material
Diagrammatic timeline of outlet design. From 1912 to 1947, the Punjab Engineering Congress, published in Lahore, regularly published new designs for the conveyance of water from parent canal to field. These designs accorded to specific criterion which accrued importance through its dissemination in the engineering schools of thought.
Map of the Route of the Sirhind Canal from Bhakra Reservoir
Source : OutletMap showing the Sirhind Canal’s Sidhwan Branch from The Bhakra Reservoir. Sections are cut across highlighting the Alluvial aquifers below ground. Larger scale sections showing aquifers, soil horizons and clay formation on the right.
Sedimentary Logic
Section through alluvial aquifer


Digital mapping / Illustrative geological sections
Collage using archival material
Collage using archival material
Collage using archival material
Collage using archival material



An environmental architecture can be achieved by thinking-with-geology, where both the material site and the historical designs that have produced it are stratified beneath the surface of the present. 

The Punjab Canal system as it exists today is a layering of eroded master plans, deposited experiments in hydro-control, and stratification of modernist logic which continues to produce harm for the people that live in the area. Responding to RS5s research into ongoing struggles with groundwater pollution in the Punjab, the project works between the geologic and the archival - principally the India Office Archive within the British Library.  I have engaged with this archival stratification as someone who is outside of the ongoing struggles in the region, yet having privileged access to documentation that speaks to how existing problematics have emerged. 

In engaging with this archival record, I have been conscious to the ways that design emerges through historical, political and economic parameters, the trace of which remains latent in the present. As a sedimentary sample must be understood as part of broader geologic forces, seemingly innocuous infrastructure can be understood as emerging from the ideals of statecraft during the Raj era, and working according to hydrological principles that are both outdated and actively propagating harm today. 

The geological record offers both a thinking apparatus where these designs are not critiqued or intervened but instead situated within the broader context that is presently missing. The project asks how can design operate in acknowledgment of the contingencies inherent to working on landscapes with inherited dispositions, and how, as practitioners, we can move beyond a propositional/interventionist framework. 

Detail shot of projected imagery over elevation model

Christie is a designer and researcher. With experience working within architecture, urban design, visual communication and teaching, they are interested in the intersection of spatial design and ecology as a space for re-imagining what it means to be a designer. Their work spans textiles, animation and making.