A couple of weeks ago we marvelled at how infrastructure is a clear, artistic expression about society and its values in its particular time. As a stark contrast to that, in Australia, the seemingly most utilitarian, out of the way pieces of infrastructure have now transformed to allow us to see some form of beauty in them.
Yes, dams. Really, what aesthetic value can you add to them? They’re giant slabs of reinforced concrete. At best, they are bare walls. Any other piece of architecture of their towering height and face would be considered despotic. They are the man-made aneurysm of mother nature – or, the bypass so that masses of humans can use their resources. There is little wonder that environmentalists and other nature lovers look at them with disgust or protest vigorously against them.
But, let’s be fair, they are our source of life. And although there are alternative ways to fulfil our thirst, the oldest dams are now largely harmonious with nature. And in Australia, the government has invested plenty into sending a clear message to the public: they’re ours to share, to appreciate the meeting of humans and nature.
Here is Sydney’s largest dam – an hour from the city centre, yet the hub of a catchment area of almost 2 billion hectares. And it’s breathtaking from every angle. The government project around it – a mini-museum, has exhibits highlighting the key issues of sustainable and responsible water use. But the clearest message it sends is the fact that such a crucial stricture is publicly accessible – a sign of a society where everyone can take personal ownership and pride in such achievements.
It’s an opportunity for us not only to enjoy the scenery (and it’s epic), but to see humankind’s increasing awareness of – and improving relationship with – nature.