Ocean as Infrastructure?

A presentation by graduate students from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design focusing on the wet world of oceans, asking, how are we shaping it, and how is it shaping us.

Inland or offshore, water surround us all. Yet, as liquid landscape, the ocean represents a glaring blind spot in our field of urban vision. Catastrophic events sometimes remind of its influence – a shark attack, a lost airplane, an oil spill, an underwater earthquake – but we tend to ignore the extensive and intensive scales that the oceanic takes on. Meanwhile, its space and surface continue to be radically instrumentalized like land: offshore zones territorialized by nation states, high seas crisscrossed by shipping routes, estuaries metabolized by effluents, sea levels sensed by satellites, sea floor lined with submarine cables, sea beds plumbed for resources. The ocean has become a vast logistical landscape and a system of technological systems. It is both a frame for regulatory controls and a field of uncontrollable, indivisible processes. Its contested, catastrophic characterization as imperiled environment, coastal risk or contested territory overlooks great potential power.

As ocean and fluid infrastructure, the space of the ocean supports contemporary urban life in ways practically unimagined, and unseen. It critically and intellectually challenges the dry, closed, and fixed earthbound frameworks that shape today’s industrial, corporate, and economic patterns. Re-examining the ocean’s historic and superficial remoteness through a telescopic lens, this presentation of graduate research projects issue profiles an alternative optic of the ocean as contemporary space and cultural subject of material, politic, and ecological significance.