The Water Lab: Building a Resilient Future
By Mary Pat McGuire
Many people take water and water infrastructure for granted when it comes to urban development. But, in an era when many cities around the world are facing increasing disasters from climate change that cause severe flooding to drought year after year, it’s time to rethink relationships among land, water, and people. Mary Pat McGuire, associate professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of The Water Lab, advocates for water urbanism—an approach to urban climate adaptation by creating greater synergy between our cities and nature. Climate change is not going away, and we need to start reimagining our current infrastructure to adapt to our changing environment instead of continuing to resist it. “We can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s thinking.” McGuire enthusiastically states, “Cities in coastal areas—sea coasts, rivers, and along the Great Lakes—have to imagine different ways of living with water, and that means redesigning the land in cities to behave more like a sponge.”
The Water Lab is a design lab that uses creative research to identify urban flooding and stormwater design solutions focused on the Chicago and Calumet region. The Lab brings together researchers from landscape architecture, urban planning, engineering, and geology. Many of McGuire’s team and her students’ research and design proposals have addressed urban imperviousness—retrofitting pavements and designing water-absorptive surface landscapes to address stormbursts (quick rainfalls in short time periods). They focus on the urban landscape within communities that have been most affected by environmental degradation and systemic injustices. Learn more about The Water Lab and Mary Pat McGuire’s research at thewaterlab.org.