Water Tower Pilgrimages:
People often live in urban areas without being aware of the topographical structure of the land beneath them. Landmarks like big buildings and TV towers, clear edges created by rivers and highways, and frequently visited nodes such as subway stops and crossroads have come to define mental maps of the environment which have little to do with the pattern of ridges that separate different valleys or the regions defined by the flow of rivers. These qualities of the landscape are usually only appreciated when navigating in wilderness areas, or when looking out from a high vantage point.
From high points within the city, the Boston metropolitan region appears to sit within a ring of hills, the summits of which are capped by a series of water towers, sited to maximize water pressure to their dependent area. In the spring of 2003 I began to make a series of pilgrimages to these high points and to the strange bulbous monoliths that sat atop them. Having just come back from Tibet, these towers seemed to echo both the form and layout of stupas, religious monuments built atop high points to demarcate the boundary of sacred areas. The journey I made to each tower traced a path through the city that was unlike any I had navigated before.
The maps and photographs documenting these pilgrimages were displayed in the Mather House Three Columns Gallery during February-March 2003. The gallery's three double-height columns were each hung with a panel describing a particular water tower. The viewer's spiraling ascent from the ground floor to the balcony-level evoked the experience of a walking pilgrimage. Taking the elevator up to the 19th-story rooftop deck above the gallery, the ring of water towers is visible on the horizon.