The Tense Marriage of Rivers and Urban Space
Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America
Edited By: Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden
Paperback: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin
Rivers have flowed like arteries and veins across the continents for millennia. They have carried the lifeblood of societies, given paths to the virus of wars, and generated countless measures of energy. Most every major city has grown alongside a riverbank: Paris on the Seine, Washington D.C. on the Potomac, London on the Thames, Moscow on the Moskva, and Beijing on the Yongding, Chaobai, and Hai, to name a few. They funnel transportation, food, shipping and trade into and out of the urban metropolises that serve as hubs for our societies. Rivers globally are tied intrinsically into the urban areas that lie on their banks.
However, the development of these urban centers has not always been sustainable for their waterways. The large concentrations of people mixed with rapidly growing industrialization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were unkind to river systems, as was the realization that rivers were rather adept at disposing waste. Year and years of disuse resulted in heavy pollution and contamination. Rivers stank, were undrinkable, and even began to lose clear passageways as the channels filled with refuse. Much of this harm has begun to be reversed due to the environmental impetus of the mid-to-late 20th century. This shift is fortunate, as the future development of our cities leans dependently not only on the health of our rivers, but in the way the cities are built around them and the resources are managed, as Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden explore with the articles they have collected in Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America.