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A River Runs Through It: Re-imagining Kuta's Neglected River

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Title:A River Runs Through It:
Re-imagining Kuta's Neglected River
Authors:Sunnland, Tai
Contributors:Ashraf, Kazi (advisor)
Architecture (department)
Date Issued:Dec 2013
Abstract:Water plays a fundamental role in Balinese culture. The Balinese religion known as Agama Tirta, “the religion of holy-water,” enforces the philosophy of tri hita karana, which instills an interrelationship of spirit, human, and nature. The physical manifestation of this philosophy is Bali’s cultural landscape, a landscape shaped by an ancient social organization and system of water irrigation, known as the subak, for the cultivation of wet rice (sawah) over the past millennium. Fundamental to the agricultural infrastructure is the network of water temples which intangibly connects each subak sharing the same water sources. The temples sanctify water from its mountain source, through numerous rice terraces, and eventually emptied into the ocean. Due to the cultural significance of Bali’s water culture, Bali’s networks of water temples, subak organizations and engineered landscape have recently been deemed an UNESCO World Heritage site. The subak, and its mastering of water hydrology, has allowed Balinese civilization to reach the heights it has today. However, as modernization and globalization, spurred by tourism, continues to pave over Bali’s natural and cultural landscape, the subak and Bali’s inland water sources have greatly suffered in urbanizing areas. As a result, Bali’s waters have become heavily polluted and neglected, a stark contradiction to the philosophy of tri hita karana. Kuta, a coastal district in southern Bali, is Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination welcoming nearly six million foreign and domestic visitors annually. Once a quiet fishing and farming village hidden within a dense coconut grove, Kuta's seemingly endless white sand beach, tropical environment, and holiday atmosphere attract travelers from around the world. In response to growing visitor numbers and the desire to modernize, a large boom of unrestricted and unplanned development has transformed the once lush coastline into a bustling commercial zone forever altering the traditional village-scape and landscape due to minimal effort in preserving and reinforcing traditional Balinese sociospatial qualities, subak infrastructure, and important natural ecological systems, especially the Tukad Mati River and Prapat Benoa mangrove forest, both of which are for the most part out of view and inaccessible for the general public. Furthermore, a lack of public space prevents any synergistic interaction between tourists and the local population, augmenting the social and economic disparities between the parties. In reaction to the issues currently facing Kuta, I explore the intricacies of Bali’s complex culture, which have shaped its built and natural environments, the impact and influences of tourism in Bali, and contemporary theories of place-making, urban identity, and landscape urbanism. The research guides an urban design proposal for Kuta, reclaiming its neglected Tukad Mati River as an axis of urban development; conceptually reinventing the network of water temples and subak as a series of spaces and urban nodes that integrate civic, landscape, and hydrological infrastructural functions in order to bring awareness to an ancient cultural landscape.
Pages/Duration:93 pages
Appears in Collections: 2013

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