Flipping Book | Africa's Giants | Salini Impregilo Library

Men must live by water, or else water has to be brought were they live. In pre-industrial times the forces of nature - gravity and pressure - were used to convey water where it was needed for life and agriculture. Aqueducts, qanats , and artesian aquifers made human settlements possible and determined their location, as well as the amount of food produced in a given territory. The sacred nature ascribed to water sources and rivers by all cultures bears evidence to their vital importance. In Book X of De re aedificatoria, while analysing the virtues and potential dangers related to water, and observing that the whole world would disappear without it, Leon Battista Alberti quotes Thales of Miletus, according to whom water “is the beginning of all things and of human communities in particular.” Alberti adds that Spartan kings used to have a stretch of water before their doorstep as a sign of dignity: “All this shows the high respect attributed to water by our ancestors.” While the connection between water and architecture has always been clear, this mutual relationship must be managed with great attention and care. In the age of mandatory sustainability, architecture has become a key discipline to approach and preserve the physical world, to gain an understanding of the results and causes of its transformation. The safekeeping of water and of its cycle may thus become a gauge of sustainable behaviours. The more technical progress is relentlessly threatening this relationship, the more we realize the fragility of human environment in comparison with the time of nature. The challenges of tomorrow will concern a renovation of the environment, but also projects for new tropical cities, whose future growth will dramatically attract the majority of the world urban population. In the next two decades the cities of developing countries will absorb 95% of world urban sprawl, so that they will desperately need water supply. The problem of the relationship between architecture, resources, water system and climate change has therefore became crucial. We need a new approach and new technical know-how, as well as a “an education to carefulness”, we might even say an education to phrónesis : the “practical wisdom” which, according to Aristotle, is even more important than technical knowledge and “aims to the best possible common good achievable through calculation.” Along this line of thought, architecture should assume a new ethical basis and be responsible for the relationship between human actions and nature at different levels; this role could be summed up by the motto “Since you have to, therefore do, therefore you can.” Public ethics based on prudence and economy requires an understanding of the long duration of time. In this sense today we should “take care future generations,” in line with the basic principles of current policies of sustainability. If this means sacrificing something for the possibilities of the future, then we should get away “from the ecstasy of the ever increasing needs and their unlimited satisfaction” returning “to a level compatible with the environment and to our basic needs.”