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Rivers, Seas and the Oceans - Our New Homes

Part 1 Dissertation 2007
Sabba Khan
Sabba Khan
Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London UK
With gradually rising sea levels threatening the very existence of our coastal cities; it has become crucial for architecture to take on a more flexible role to compensate for such change.

The defensive nature of current town planning is thus reconsidered. Cities such as London and the Netherlands both employ vast, megalithic structures that not only physically detain the waters but also psychologically misrepresent the importance of water within our lives. Though walls and barriers may work on a literal sense of regulating water flow, they do also have grievous consequences; which only become evident after a length of time.

The extent of human control on our natural surroundings has begun to take its toll on earth’s balance. The very sea walls that once served to protect our cities, have become the very problem that they aimed to solve. The south-eastern coast of the UK is now said to be sinking into the waters because of the overly banked river edges.

With this basis, the dissertation then explores why and how cities should reconsider their stance towards water. Taking references from across cultures, religions, and times- water is thoroughly explored as a metaphor for life, freedom, and liberation.

The ultimate question of whether humanity is able to strike a balance between land bound systems in contrast to the free reigns of the seas is asked. Are we able to break free from the shackles of the bricks and mortar of our current houses to a more adaptable and adjustable structural type?

The dissertation concludes with a confident solution to the current dilemma our coastal cities find themselves in. The concrete barrier is broken down and in its replacement we have an all-natural existing buffer: marshland. With this muddy terrain fast disappearing from our maps, it has become apparent that such a landscape is crucial for a harmonious interchange between land and sea to take place. The marshland ultimately serves as the ‘in-between space’, the location where water and land co-exist, where fluctuations are endorsed, and wild life are sustained.

It is the condition where man can uninhibitedly embrace water.

Sabba Khan
Sabba Khan


Starting from an environmental position, this dissertation goes on to explore a range of topics associated with the relationship between man and water. On one level, the dissertation is a thorough survey of both cultural and architectural issues, but more importantly begins to frame a discussion that is both pressing for the future of coastal living and poetic in the manner with which the issues are presented. As a body of research and theory, the dissertation presents the reader with serious questions as well as pointers for design consideration in the future.

2007
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