Saturday, December 31, 2005
Assorted bookmarks collected throughout the year, pruned here not so much for your edification but rather dumped just so that they and the discarded multitudes that do not appear here won't clutter my archives any longer.
On container gardens: wading pools, feed sacks, used tires, etc. With a guide to starting a community garden.
On The Return of Lenin, a mildly disquieting recreation of his stop at an allotment garden in Sweden on his way to the Russian Revolution. “Lenin was totally unresponsive to [the benefits of allotment gardens], to poke in the soil was to prepare the ground for political laziness in the class-strugle. The workers shouldn't be occupied with gardening, they should rather devote themselves to the proletarian revolution.”
On Arthur Wiechula, a pioneer in arborsculpture.
On noise mapping England. See also its Parisian equivalent.
On arbortecture: or, plants growing out of buildings.
On expanding and densifying the Mall further and further. “The architects and designers were giddy with the possibilities: They talked about giant sculptural bridges, soaring waterfront museums, inland canals, water taxis and monuments that would forever change the nation's capital.”
On the history of the Illinois Tollway Oasis.
On the Valley of the Yosemite, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Mariposa Grove of Mammoth Trees by Eadweard Muybridge.
On the Fab Tree Hab. “Imagine a society based on slow farming tress for housing structure instead of the industrial manufacture of felled timber.”
On the Cornerstone Festival of Gardens, “an ever-changing series of walk-through gardens, showcasing new and innovative designs from the world’s finest landscape architects and designers.” What's Christophe Girot doing amongst such a stellar crowd? But never mind, I kid.
On Urban Dead, a massively multi-player web-based zombie apocalyse. “The city is dying. Some months on from the first reported outbreak, military quarantine units have closed Malton's borders, and are moving in to eliminate the looters, to forcibly evacuate those civilians who still refuse to leave their homes. The city is dying, and the urban dead are filling its streets.” In other words, Zombie Urbanism is the new urbanism.
On virtual parks.
On Michael Rakowitz, planimeters, BBC Gardening, Lagos, a rubber tree, super weeds, and The Bomb Project. Throw them all in the pot and you've got the makings of the best landscape project of 2006.
The Very Rich Hour of a Compost Pile
More John Pfahl: “The title of this series pays homage to the fifteenth century illuminated manuscript entitled Tres riches heurs du Duc de Berry. In it the Limbourg brothers depicted, in minute and loving detail, the passage of the seasons over various medieval landscapes.”
“My Compost pile, situated in a hidden corner of the garden, constantly changes with the passing months. The rich efflorescence of rotting vegetable matter creates a daybook of both the memorable and mundane meals that grace my table.”
The obvious question is: why in a hidden corner?
It needs to be a centerpiece of the garden — a technicolor tapis vert, lush and vibrant as any medieval tapestry. It even has its own sprawling battle scenes whose iconographies are taken from Charles Darwin.
This is no Paradise Garden. It's a Naturalist Wonderland of consumption, putrefaction and defecation, a celebration of decay where growth and vigor are venerated.
An inversion of Marc Quinn's own colorful garden.
Invite neighbors to help maintain the parterres. Chitchat about each other's dinner: “Chicken pot pie?” “Oh, no. We had fish last night.” “So how are the kids?”
Building a sense of community in a landscape of decay.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The sun has set in the Nigerian town of Ebocha, but the day has not turned to night as one would expect.
“Across Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta,” we read, “hellish towers of fire throw an auburn glow, scorching the communities that live under them and sending dark columns of smoke into the sky.”
Which you can have a front row seat for at a brothel-tavern called “One For the Road.” Across from the 200-foot high columns of flames that leap and roar from a tangle of pipelines, its proprietress complains(?): “It is always like this. Every day, every night. We no get darkness.”
The flares have been illuminating the landscapes since the 1970s, residents say, night and day continuously, because Nigeria has not built the infrastructure to make use of one of the world's largest reserves of natural gas. So rather than putting it to use, the fuel is burned off, or flared.
A colleague pointed me to the article I linked to above. He wrote: “While it is essential to recognize and address the issues of environmental justice present here, it is also important to acknowledge the power of the spectacle. Obvious references are to the work of Richard Haag, Julie Bargmann, and Peter Latz. Environmental justice demands that these facilites not spew their toxicity on populations who derive little benefit from them, but a sense of environmental poetic justice, or of economic transparency, would demand that these facilites somehow be visually integrated into the societies they serve. Why should societies whose lifestyle depends on oil be deriving their aesthetic templates from a pastoral economy. Let the derricks and flares dot the distant hillsides! The follies in the distance are likely poly-resin anyway.”
Let's call Cai Quo-Qiang for sure then.
Extreme Horticulture, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part II
Animaris geneticus, or: Intergalactic planetary landscape architect
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
“Since about ten years Theo Jansen is occupied with the making of a new nature. Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic matierial of this new nature. He makes skeletons which are able to walk on the wind. Eventually he wants to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.”
Instead of scattering these creatures on a beach, why not release them into the arid, wind-swept open spaces of Antarctica as well? Wait a decade or so until its ice caps have melted away, and watch them scamper about over newly revealed soil. With pollens, seeds and alien microbes gestating inside their plastic yellow tubes, they'll plant new orchards and forests, maybe a farm or two, like an army of robotic Johnny Appleseeds.
How about dropping them off in Chernobyl? Using the ample ambient radiation as their power source, they'll proceed to deposit phytoremediating flora and fauna. In future sites of nuclear disasters, they'll become part of the primary emergency response protocols.
Let's also send them to Mars or Titan or some extrasolar planet. A new breed of intergalactic planetary landscape architects capable of exploration and terraforming: fast, cheap, and out of control.
Powered this time by dust devils, they will seed entire ecosystems, cultivating and pruning for centuries. And even when the planet has been fully colonized, they will still be marching across the landscapes they had created. Inorganic and extraterrestrial they may be, no one is going to dispute that they're an inalienable part of the planet's natural history.
They will also become central figures in the colony's mythology as well. Around machine oxygenated campfires across the planet, terraformers will entertain themselves with stories of The Creation that might as well have been written by Ovid. “The Animaris geneticus wasn't manufactured by NASA, but rather the result of incestuous and bestial trysts between the Gods and the First Colonists,” is how future Aesops and fabulists will start to spin their yarn.
As a way of maintaining social cohesion in a still unforgiving place, colonists will scare their extaterrestrial children with ghost stories of disobedient youths snatched from their beds in the middle of the night by these ancient beasts, who then imprisoned them inside their skeletal frame as their pneumatic creaking, clicking, trilling howls fill the terraformed air.
The Physics of Space Gardens
“It could only happen in space,” NASA's interplanetary gardeners explain. “A tiny bubble of air hangs suspended inside a droplet of water. The droplet rests in the cup of a delicate green leaf, yet the stalk doesn't bend at all.”
On gravity-laden Earth, however, “[t]he air bubble, lighter than water, would race upward to burst through the surface of the droplet. Meanwhile, the leaf would be busy tipping the heavy water onto the floor below. Everything would be in motion, the picture a blur.”
As it is, the photo can be upside down or even sideways and still get the same photographic result.
So if and when space gardens have outgrown their primary role as agriculture or a sort of organic HVAC in the early stages of space colonization, and our intrepid colonists attempt a more recreational approach, well, how would they design it when one can float? When a wall is a floor is a ceiling is a floor is a wall in zero gravity. (Except when it's got a door.) A simple gesture like craning your neck up at a tree may no longer be necessary when it's a simple skip and a jump to the canopy. A truly three-dimensional space, not just up to 10 feet off the ground.
And fountains, infamous for their gravity-defying acts, may simply be a billion-dollar lava lamp, which would be awesome actually.
I suppose labyrinths may have to be reimagined as well. As Swiss cheese.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
On the ultraweak photon emission phenomenon of a soybean. Even without the benefit of transgenetic alteration, a plant still bioluminesces.
On Lawrence Halprin and Walt Guthrie, two more sample interviews from TCLF's Landscape Legends Oral History Initiative. We are told complete interviews will be available for download and DVD purchase beginning spring 2006. Lawrence Halprin: “The definition of what a landscape architect does and is is very obscure and very ambiguous. And it ought to be kept that way, because it's rather an undefinable profession, which makes me rather happy. It's like saying what is a painter. Well a painter makes paintings. And what does a landscape architect make; he makes places. Or maybe he doesn't make places. Maybe he preserves places. Maybe he makes streets. Maybe he makes parks. Maybe he writes about it.” That is, he blogs about it. “You can go on and on and on and on and on.”
On the world under New York, the swirling, knotting vortices of infrastructure, geology, humanity, and the forgotten.
On the best landscape design in Texas.
On invisible cities. Photographer Camilo José Vergara documents the patterns shaping the nation's poorrest and most segregated post-industrial cities.
On Dubai. Yet again. This time a video presentation for potential developers for any of the 300 or so small artificial islands of The World now visible from space.
The Technolicious Arboretum, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part I
Either the trees have started to fossilize in a week, a technolicious process that usually takes 100 billion years, or the Earth has sprouted stainless steel roots, like an epiphyte in search of minerals, then pumping them all in, core-bound, to replenish an iron-depleted mantle.
The Technolicious Arboretum in Central Park.
It's also growing in Aspen, Colorado.
They're all over the place. This one has sprouted in Sweden.
The “45.5 Meteorite Craters Made by Humans on Their 45.5 Hundred Million Year Old Planet” Fountain
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, China. Lives and works in New York. And a self-described extraterrestrial.
Though his palette involves a wide range of materials, his signature pieces are borne out of gunpowder and fireworks. In one of his more recent exploding events, he painted a black rainbow in the skies over Valencia and Edinburgh, a monochromatic omen heralding the Apocalypse, a scheduled test of the prototype Emergency Aerial Alert System or a pyrotechnic triumph celebrating industrial virility.
In any case, check out the videos to get the full sonic thrill.
“Why is it important to make these violent explosions beautiful? Because the artist, like an alchemist, has the ability to transform certain energies, using poison against poison, using dirt and getting gold.”
Or Dr. Frankenstein concocting from his menagerie of elemental particles a wondrous creation, one that could, in an instant, mutate into a destructive monster, severing pinkies, arms, perhaps even torsos.
But Cai Guo-Qiang is a master: “With time you start to get to know the material. You actually develop a way to know how it will behave, to a certain degree. First, you have to accept that it’s uncontrollable and that there is an accidental element. You have to accept it and then work with it. I’ve worked with the material for so long that I’ve gained an understanding of how it works. Sometimes I can control it better than I realize, better than I expect. Then at that point it becomes stagnant. So it’s very important that there is always this uncontrollability that’s a part of the work. My way of doing it is just to flow with the material, go with the material and let it take me where it wants me to go. So I continuously want it to give me problems and obstacles to overcome.”
Looking through his various projects, it occurred to me how cool it would be if he were to design fountains that are as intricate and flamboyant as any Baroque fountains. In fact, he has one in his repertoire, though the next iterations should be less temporary than his ephemeral pyrotechnics.
There is something defective about a fountain that goes dormant in the winter. And no amount of sculptural beauty and imaginative multi-use strategies can salvage a veritable dead weight. When their waters are drained, the surrounding public space usually goes to the dumps.
So when Buckingham Fountain is turned off but tourists and February newlyweds still need that standard Chicago portrait, throw away the Christmas lights and turn on the “45.5 Meteorite Craters Made by Humans on Their 45.5 Hundred Million Year Old Planet” Fountain. There is no better substitute background than crackling sparks, serpentine solar flares, voluminous cloud tendrils, prismatic technicolor and the smell of sulfur.
Instead of a stony carcass, a polychromatic beast.
Cai Guo-Qiang @ Art:21
Naoya Hatakeyama & Geoff's Earth-Fountain©
La Machine de Marly
If the migration of the earth's magnetic pole remains steady and unimpeded, Alaska and Canada may find themselves without their most sublime landscape spectacle.
Within 50 years, the BBC reports, the magnetic pole may be calling Siberia its new home. “If that happens, Alaska could lose its northern lights, or auroras, which occur when charged particles streaming away from the sun collide with gases in the ionosphere, causing them to glow.” Fortunately for romantics and amateur photographers alike, this may only be a temporary setback as studies have shown this to be part of a normal oscillation and the magnetic pole may return back to North America.
Frankly, I'd be more interested if the magnetic poles fluctuate much more wildly, that they can migrate all the way to the equator, with the north pole closer to Illinois or Arizona or even Guatemala. And to discover that they have indeed been circumnavigating the world, with their companion auroras seeding myths and creation stories in every corner of the planet, inspiring countless cultures to build elaborate tumuli, ziggurats and desert walklines that precisely forecast these solar electromagnetic storms.
Thousands of years later, Europeans will unearth long lost Mayan and Egyptian hieroglyphs. When they are deciphered, deep in the steamy jungles and blistering deserts — or maybe by then under a mile of glaciers, they will read, in part: “When the sun collides with gases in the ionosphere.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley is then put to shame.
The Pleistocene Park
If a team of naturalists at Cornell University had its way, the Great Plains of North America may once again be home to lions, cheetahs, elephants and other megafauna that roamed the land 13,000 years ago.
Team leader Josh Donlan writes in Nature: “Our vision begins immediately, spans the coming century, and is justified on ecological, evolutionary, economic, aesthetic and ethical grounds. The idea is to actively promote the restoration of large wild vertebrates into North America in preference to the 'pests and weeds' (rats and dandelions) that will otherwise come to dominate the landscape. This 'Pleistocene re-wilding' would be achieved through a series of carefully managed ecosystem manipulations using closely related species as proxies for extinct large vertebrates, and would change the underlying premise of conservation biology from managing extinction to actively restoring natural processes.”
So forget Jurrasic Park; that is so 1993. For 2006: the near semi-ancient past.
And they're not just talking about one or two desolate tropical islands. They have set their eyes on an entire continent.
Their plan is essentially a wildlife conservation program, one that encompasses ultra-complex ecological systems that will take many decades to realize in multiple phases. But it's a peculiar kind of conservation: “Managed elephant populations could similarly benefit ranchers through grassland maintenance [...]. Five species of proboscidians (mammoths, mastadons and gomphotheres) once roamed North America in the Late Pleistocene; today many of the remaining African and Asian elephants are in grave danger. Elephants inhibit woodland regeneration and promote grasslands, as Pleistocene proboscidians probably once did. With appropriate resources, captive US stock and some of the 16,000 domesticated elephants in Asia could be introduced to North America, where they might suppress the woody plants that threaten western grasslands. Fencing, which can be effective in reducing human−elephant conflict in Africa, would be the main economic cost.”
Speaking of economic impact, depressed areas of the United States may be receptive to an “ecological history park,” as it might inject some ecotourism dollars to the local economy: “[H]umans have emotional relationships with large vertebrates that reflect our own Pleistocene heritage. More than 1.5 million people annually visit San Diego's Wild Animal Park to catch a glimpse of large mammals — more than the number of visitors to most US National Parks.”
But nearby urban areas, so close to so many disease vectors, may be susceptible to deadly outbreaks, possibly to ones more lethal and contagious than AIDS and Ebola.
Still, it's certainly fascinating to think that an hour or two car drive out of Pruned HQ, somewhere near the bland-sounding town of Rockford or Rantoul, you could be snapping away at a herd of elephants or a den of lions.
In the Pleistocene Park.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Dubai's dizzying, stratospheric rise has reached a milestone: it has pierced the sky.
Ski Dubai: or, Outside-Inside
Dubai via Archinect, Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker: or, Post-Oil Middle East, Part III
Here Comes The Rain Again: or, Post-Oil Middle East, Part II
The Palms: or, Post-Oil Middle East
Today's BLDGBLOG entry reminded me of this map of road traffic noise in Paris. The noisiest are in blues or reds. At the other end of the decibel spectrum, greens.
A Nolli map of Paris.
And there is even a 3-D map, with the colors now transferred onto the facade of buildings and structures. Inner courtyards are expectedly green and those fronting the busiest streets are typically in blues and reds. And here's an interesting snippet from the how-to section: “as the [express ring road] is semi-subterranean, lower storeys are less exposed to sound nuisances than higher storeys.”
It would be awesome to see these palettes actually get painted onto the sides of buildings. Or how about covering an entire building, noise-abatement walls, bus shelters, billboards, people, etc. with LED lights, which would then display these ever fluctuating colors. A sort of Albert Speer or a Pink Floyd light show spectacular.
Some noisy big rig or a fleet of puttering mopeds passes by, and the entire facade turns blue. In real time! Like a techno-robotic chameleon.
But having spent millions on a programmable lighting system, you probably wouldn't want to use it for just one light trick. So when you're being robbed at gunpoint by members of the Dubai Liberation Front, the exterior pulsates in Severe-Terror-Alert red, hopefully alerting the Department of Homeland Security.
And when co-workers are having illicit office sex, the exterior also blushes in, what else, red. The possibilities are limitless.
In the meantime, how about those 2-D maps marketed as real-time, data-generated canvases, which would be kinda nice right next to the Van Gogh or to the Velvet Elvis. Or even alongside Pierantonio Cinzano's light pollution map. A minimalist painting by day, but by night, it becomes a bravura pointilist masterpiece. A new genre of landscape painting.
Artificial Night Sky
Artificial Night Sky
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
While searching for images of heliodons, we stumbled upon this map of the artificial night sky brightness of North America. More info and maps at lightpollution.it, a website maintained by Pierantonio Cinzano.
Here's a detail showing Chicago as a white blob blazing at the center of an artificial Midwestern galaxy of flaming star cities.
Seeing that made us wonder how much of that light pollution is coming from Millennium Park, from a certain twin towering LED bonfire inferno. Or for that matter, from all the neighborhood parks, forest preserves, prairie restoration sites, green roofs and other public spaces combined.
Say you had an electronic zoning map monitoring the electric consumption of the various zoning areas. Would you find the Parks with their xenon-drenched baseball fields spiking a little higher than the Single-Family and Multi-Family parcels?
Which outshines which? Cahokia Mounds vs. Empire State Building. Gettysburg National Military Park vs. Golden Gate Bridge. Yellowstone National Park vs. Highway 80.
Submit your findings to Information Aesthetics.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Continuing the shopping spree for our billionaire Dubai clients, we were inspired by a photo of Markus Peskoller under an artificial sky dome as reported earlier, and bought several dozens of heliodons.
Used mostly by architects and architecture students to stimulate light conditions within and around buildings, they would surely please the princes' landscape-architects-in-residence already having fun at the wind tunnels.
And this time, they'll be pruning away — yup, you guessed it — phantasmagorical phototropismic bansais, using imitation latitudes, the artificial passages of days into nights, and simulant seasons as their pruning tools. In due time, there will be a grove set to the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn. Or set to perpetual twilight. Or impossible solar progressions to create helical, torqued or similar deformations.
Reviewing the checklist:
We could, come to think of it, form a limited liability company from which to coordinate our Dubai landscape enterprises: Earth Wind Rain & Fire LLC?
Unnatural Cultivation by Natural Means.
Heliodons @ Wikipedia
Wind Tunnel QTVR
Let there be light!
“The sun has stopped shining in Rattenberg,” the AP reported recently; winter darkness has gripped the picturesque Austrian town. But a solution, cinematic über-villainy in sensibility and scope, has been engineered by Bartenbach Lichtlabor GmbH involving 30 heliostats, “essentially rotating mirrors, mounted on a hillside to grab sunshine off reflectors from the neighboring village of Kramsach.” And those 4 months of gloom and seasonal clinical depression may soon be alleviated.
But rather than illuminating the entire city, which would take a football-size mirror and basically would cover an entire mountain, Lichtlabor “plans to create about a dozen 'hotspots' — areas not much bigger than a front yard scattered through the town, where people can gather and soak up rays. The mirrors would also reflect at various times of day onto building facades to show daylight slowly turning to dusk.”
More from Lichtlabor in a nearly year-old Telegraph article: “Sunlight brings security and a better standard of living. We decided that the light should come from above, not from artificial lights at house-level, and we decided to create an impression that the sun really is there.
“In the neighbouring village of Kramsach there is plenty of sun and so we can catch the light from the mountain there and send it to Rattenberg."
“The mirrors will be clustered to give the appearance of the sun and will be turned away in spring and summer to avoid confusion with the real thing.”
To repeat: to avoid confusion with the real thing.