“As humans, we rarely respect or value the things we cannot see.” 

Veins is a speculative design project that seeks to revitalize Toronto’s buried and lost rivers. As a consequence of decades of rapid industrialization and urbanization, many of Toronto’s waterways have been converted into underground sewage systems. Veins, ultimately aims to bring awareness to these hidden tunnels, while proposing a long term solution to this systematic problem. 

Humanities relationship with water spans life itself, and yet, our neglect for our most precious resource cannot be argued. Growing up in Isfahan, Iran, water was an intrinsic part of my life. Isfahan is home to the largest river in the central plateau of Iran, a river that has since been drained as a result of exploitative practices. 

Walking alongside Toronto’s ravines, I couldn’t help but be brought back to Isfahan. It drove me to reflect on Toronto’s relationship with its rivers. 

As I began looking into the city’s waterways and hydrological systems, I discovered numerous rivers that once flourished above ground. These now hidden rivers were the city’s answer to rapid growth. Initially transformed into open waste systems, these lost rivers were eventually buried and converted into underground sewage tunnels. 

During this time, the long term effects of this transition were not taken into account. The result? Homes built over these rivers are slowly sinking due to erosion, while tree roots have begun penetrating the tunnels in an attempt to reach water. Some rivers have become irreparably polluted while others have caused flooding and overflow into Lake Ontario due to an excess in sewage and rainwater. 

The city’s current solution is to add  relief tanks which of course would in time meet the same fate as the current systems in place. 

My proposal is to clean and revive these rivers through engineered biodiversity. Planting ecological bio-robotic systems that would live inside these underground tunnels. Filtering water through the usage of bacteria and enzymes -breaking down pollution. This natural cleaning process would cleanse the water before it ever gets above ground or reaches a processing plants. These bio-robotic systems would also scan the tunnels, gathering a library of data of what lies beneath us, helping us emend our relationship with water for future generations.