The Taj Mahal, with its beautiful serene lake and landscaped gardens, is an excellent example of passive cooling in traditional Indian architecture.

Water has been an important part of ancient architecture in most parts of the world, but was eliminated from urban architecture in the last 50 years or so. As we explore the return of water in contemporary urban design, we quote architect and educator Charles Moore from his book ‘Water and Architecture.’ He writes that the key to understanding the architecture of water is to understand the water of architecture: the physical laws which govern its behavior, the ways in which it engages the senses, how its presence relates to human life.

He goes on to explain how water has been almost systematically removed from our cities and then, our lives. He states, ‘For much of the twentieth century, extensive highway systems were built alongside degraded urban rivers and waterfronts, separating them from cities; their polluted waters were often diverted into underground culverts, creating barriers between city water and city dwellers.’

Today, conservation of water resources, resto-ration of aquatic ecosystems, and reintegration of the water supply with civic infrastructure have become widely shared goals among all disciplines engaged in urban design.

According to Moore, these objectives are most successfully accomplished when architects, landscape architects, and urban planners work together to support the conservation, retention, purification, recycling, and remediation of water resources. While these initiatives are important, equally significant is the process of restoring the droplets, sprays, trickles, splashes, ripples, waves, streams and flows that are manifestations of water’s presence in the built environment.

The various projects reviewed in the next couple of pages showcase how architects try to capture the dynamism of water in concrete, how efforts are being made to bring back forgotten rivers into city centres, and how architects believe every city must have access to its waterfront.

The diverse attempts made by architects and designers to connect back to this important resource is, in our opinion an ongoing adventure. Water, its fluidity, its changing form fascinated the kings and queens of the ancient world, and it continues to do so today. Today, water fountains within your home, swimming pools on terraces of multi-storeyed buildings are definitely considered to be the ultimate statements of luxury, probably more so today than at any other time in history.

Role of architects in shaping experiences

Architects are mediators between natural and constructed form, and accordingly, architecture can play a significant role in shaping our experience of water. Part of the fascination of water for architects is that, its essential qualities – fluid, dynamic, transparent – are unlike buildings in most respects, but both are essential for human life.