Aquatic architecture is incredibly advanced these days, producing wonders like floating schoolhouses and self-sufficient eco-homes. Despite the recent advances in technology, aquatic architecture isn’t a new invention — not by a longshot. Ancient civilizations masterfully utilized water to make their lives a little bit easier. My favorite example is the use of floating gardens by the ancient Aztecs.
Known as Chinampa, the Aztecs used rectangular sections of floating, arable land to grow crops in the shallow lakes along the Valley of Mexico. The construction of these gardens was pretty clever: they began by building floating rafts and anchoring them to the lake bed. They would sometimes plant trees in the lakebed to serve as support pillars that kept the floating gardens in place. From there, they covered the rafts with things like sediment and decaying plant matter.
These sections of land were incredibly fertile. The nearby water provided more than enough sustenance for growing crops, and the decaying plant matter acted as fertilizer. Pretty impressive for people back in 12th century, eh?
The cool thing about this is that we use similar strategies today. Those floating gardens were one of the earliest examples of hydroponics, the practice of growing plants in nutrient-rich water. The construction of the floating gardens is also fairly similar to the construction of modern floating gardens like New York’s Waterpod.
The main thing that I want to take away from the Aztecs’ ingenuity, though, is how versatile water can be. By using water as a medium, the Aztecs were able to grow enough food to sustain their people. Those gardens were originally built out of necessity, but they have since become well-known as symbols of ingenuity.
It is not unreasonable at all to think of a nearby body of water such as a river, lake, or pond as a blank canvas. You could do virtually anything imaginable to it — float objects on the water, use the water to create natural fountains and pools, have art objects jutting out of the water, dig channels to create manmade waterfalls, and so forth.
You might even want to create an Aztec-inspired garden at your home. It really wouldn’t be very difficult to create a floating flower garden that drifts across the surface of a small pond or lake. People love the beauty of lily pads — why not take a page out of the Aztecs’ book and bring floating plants to the next level?