Dean’s New Book Advocates for a Water-centric Approach to Architecture & Urban Design

illustration of book cover, Blue Architecture
Thursday, May 12, 2022
"Blue Architecture" demonstrates how water stewardship can and must shape good building design.

A new book by Brook Muller, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture, argues for the creative opportunities – and moral imperatives – of “embedding water-related concerns” into architectural design. Blue Architecture: Water, Design, and Environmental Futures, released on May 14 by University of Texas Press, suggests that good water quality and the systems that ensure it deserve consideration at the forefront of the building design process and can, in fact, "expand what is architecturally imaginable."

Blue Architecture book coverAt a moment when communities across the western states are facing water scarcity and residents in cities like Flint, Michigan, and Newburgh, New York, are suffering from water contamination, the book “endeavors to motivate a next generation of architects to embrace the complexities of water and water systems, excite the design and moral imaginary, and proactively contend with the many hydrological problems facing contemporary urban societies,” Muller writes in the Introduction.

Muller became dean of the CoA+A in 2019. Formerly Professor of Architecture at the University of Oregon, his research and practice focus on how site scale works of architecture can support broader scale ecological processes and the design implications of resilient urban water systems. He has written articles that have appeared in Environmental Philosophy, Nature + Culture, Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning, The Pluralist: Official Journal of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, and Enquiry: The ARCC Journal of Architectural Research. Muller is also author of Ecology and the Architectural Imagination (Routledge, 2014). As a designer, Muller has worked on projects marrying water infrastructure, architecture, and urban design in Egypt, Tanzania, and the Madeira Islands.

water schematic for park in Cairo, Egypt

Muller is a project team member for the design and development al Khalifa Heritage and Environment Park in Cairo, Egypt. An irrigation system was designed for the park, reusing the groundwater inundating the facing domes of al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatima Khatun. The illustration above shows a water schematic for groundwater interception and treatment. Blue Architecture, p. 72.

Blue Architecture provides a vision for reversing the scheme of things and a roadmap for buildings to produce ecosystem services," wrote University of Pennsylvania professor Frederick R. Steiner, author of Making Plans: How to Engage with Landscape, Design, and the Urban Environment, in his review of the book. “By giving creative agency to water, Brook Muller offers vital new approaches to urban architecture.”

Cover image: West atrium with reflecting and stormwater collection pond, National Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (IBN) in Wageningen, The Netherlands (1993-1996). While with Behnisch & Partner Architects of Stuttgart, Germany, Muller served as co-project leader for the design, working with Michael Singer Studios. Illustration by Brook Muller.