Water Sanctuary is a sacred space that regenerates and restores water as it is enjoyed and cared for. It is a climate customizable sculpture complex, representing the combined knowledge of centuries of transnational indigenous traditions and technologies, compiled, tested and explained in an open source digital document and printed art book. Employing only local natural materials, without electricity or mined metals, these rainwater catchment baths engage sustainable science and living ethnobotanicals to engender interspecies kinship and encourage decolonized relation building and reciprocal systems of water stewardship and celebration. This archive of fieldwork will be available free, at no cost to the human community, in an effort to encourage widespread implementation.
Natural building is our oldest and longest running modality of articulating space, but it’s typically absent from local building codes or regulated out of existence. Ancestral trades and traditions in adobe and masonry have fewer practicers year after year. Ancient systems of irrigation and power are forgotten as even remote parcels are assimilated into state run grids and privatized parceling. Community practices of group bathing dwindle, gardens are fences, houses become hermetic, and we grow complacent in the single species monoculture of the urban environment. Locked away in lonely boxes, individualizing our lives and creating resource redundancies for services and spaces that could be shared. In the name of germs, safety, liability, earthquake proofing and efficiency, colonizer cosmologies have shaped and stifled our architectonics, asserting that single species environments are acceptable, even preferential and that water is simply a vehicle for waste, not a sacred sibling we need steward if we plan to survive the century. We turn it on and off, disconnected from its source or destination, we wash our hands and our clothes and paintbrushes and our floors with it, we defecate into it, let it roll through oiled streets and force it through aging metallic pipes, so it can exist in convenient interior spaces where it molds and toxifies, where we chase it with Draino and chlorine to scour it’s protests and blockages and toxifications. we have water networks that are harmful to water. And as humans interact with it, we make our water quality worse. We have reached a critical point in which even our rainwater has become toxic.
This is a microbial genocide we rage every time we flush a toilet, an elemental slavery we replicate in every building, an oppression we both perpetuate and ignore. This century calls us to decolonize our relationship with water and how we conceive of the constructed space. Our environment can no longer tolerate the anthropcentricty of single species spaces. Our elemental brother can no longer tolerate our destructive dismissal and lack of care. To develop a sustainable vernacular architecture for climate resilience, we must center indigenous environmental science, ways of knowing anchored in observation, sustainable lifeways, and ancestral forms of natural building, to create solutions that engender kinship, stewardship, and regenerative engagement. To decolonize architecture, we require a reimagining of how, where, why and alongside whom we hold water in our lives.