Some Thoughts on Unthinking Coastlines

Lindsay Bremner

First published on geoarchitecture.wordpress.com.
All images by the author, taken on field trips to India and Bangladesh in 2009 and 2011 as part of the Folded Ocean Project; sponsored by Temple University and the NGO Civil Service International.

Coastlines have long been represented by the hard sciences of cartography, planning and control as hard edges and lines have been imagined and constructed to delineate terra firma from its wetter counterpart. But what is a coastline? Is it a line, a wall, a barrier, an edge; or is it a liminal, fluctuating tidal condition between land and water, ecologically, culturally and socially charged with meaning and possibil­ity? Can the hard science of the line be countered by deploying land and sea as categories, cultures, imaginaries and ways of life that exist in a state of negotiation and flux? If we unthank the lines and categories that have delineated coastlines and fixed their meanings, can tides, flux, flow and other boundary breaking phenomena forge new understandings of coastal ontologies, epistemologies and practices? Can design led interventions begin by ‘unthinking’ the line? Can design and planning for coastlines be rethought according to the logics of fluidity, flow, uncertainty, give and take?

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