Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Hell and the Flood”, a panel from the triptych Deliverance from the Deluge painted on the inside of an altarpiece, reveals an image of a post-apocalyptic landscape. The water has subsided, and rotting corpses of drowned sinners litter the land. This Old Testament narrative depicts water as a device for ethical cleansing. Yet, if the moral connotations are set aside, the Deluge in Genesis 8 is essentially a story of human’s technological adaptation to imposing natural phenomena. The ark, as a response for survival, has become the paradigm for humanity’s response to ecological disaster: construct a mechanism for deliverance. This paper is a catalog of mechanisms that enable the control of, escape from, and adaptation to water. Two hydrological crises are examined here, the rising and the disappearing of water, which present fundamental complications for humanity’s dependence on the natural resource. Each of these extreme conditions for water is evaluated relative to design strategies for defense, retreat, and adaptation.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Hell and the Flood, panel from Deliverance from the Deluge (circa 1450–1516). Oil, 27.2 x 15.4″. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
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