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Meteorological Alchemy
Lenticular cloud


Cloud seeding, or the manipulation of clouds by chemical means to change precipitation patterns, is scientifically unproven. Even purported successes are said to rest on shaky statistical proof.

Nevertheless, many still see great potential in appropriating it as an effective water resource management tool in places where fresh water supplies are dwindling due to overpopulation and climate change. Which is why, as the Associated Press reported last month, Wyoming is committing $8.8 million to a 5-year project to gauge its viability with unprecedented scientific rigor.

Cloud seeding

“Like most other Western states, Wyoming is rich in oil, gas, coal and other mineral deposits. What it lacks is simple: water.

“So, like other Western states, Wyoming is trying to conjure up rain by embarking on a cloud-seeding project to bolster mountain snowpack -- the reservoirs of the arid and semiarid West -- and create more water from spring and summer snowmelt.”

If Wyoming follows past tactics, expect to hear about fleets of aircrafts or ground-based anti-aircraft guns and rockets impregnating cloud systems with “a fine spray of silver iodide crystals” to coax extra inches of water out of them. Atmospheric sorcery.

Lenticular cloud


Weaponized droplets to win the war against desertification and to stave off any future cataclysmic Hydrological War between arid Western states and the Great Lakes states and provinces.

Perhaps landscape architects will form outrageously successful sky writing businesses or become celestial propaganda insurgents under the employ of Voice of America.


Here Comes The Rain Again: or, Post-Oil Middle East, Part II
Lithic surveillance
It seems that a fake rock, The New York Times reports, may briefly reignite the Cold War between Russia and the UK: “A grainy black-and-white video, broadcast on state television on Sunday night and shown repeatedly again on Monday, was said to show a British diplomat picking up a fake rock that was said to conceal a communications device used to download and transmit classified information through hand-held computers.”

Fake rock

Placed near a leafless tree to add, I suppose, more naturalism to an otherwise fabricated still life, “the rock, the size of a watermelon, and the device, said to be able to transmit and receive data at distances of more than 60 feet, were seized near Moscow, prompting a search across the city for similar device.”

One has to wonder how many other rocks and stones and boulders were overturned, inspected and shaken, provoking perhaps mildly amusing Heidegger meets Monty Phyton soliloquies: “Is this fake? Hello? Is this thing on?” (In Russian.)

Or how many deciduouses and evergreens were stripped and frisked. Knowing how trees can be great masters at disguise, I imagine this militarized tree hugging love fest may have played out on an unprecedented scale.

Perhaps in a decade or so, we will be told that the entire Yellowstone National Park has been the real ECHELON listening post all along.
Atlantis Rising
Geologic archipelago-making rendered in months rather than the usual billion or so eons.

The Palms, Dubai

The Palms, Dubai

The Palms, Dubai

The Palms, Dubai

The Palms, Dubai


Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

South Central Farms
South Central Farms


For over a decade, a group of mostly immigrant families has been tilling a colorful patchwork of thriving farms in one of the most industrialized landscape of Los Angeles. Out of concrete and asphalt, a community of urban farmers have cultivated a whole variety of fruiting trees, cash crops and vegetables. Growing in the shadow of power lines and skyscrapers are avocado, guavas, bananas and peach trees, as are sugarcane, corn, cactus, lettuce, winter squash, broccoli and lettuce. The list surely contains a lot more, but all are harvested not just for food but also for medicine and to supplement low incomes by selling them.

But all of that — perhaps the largest urban community garden in the US — may be uprooted, paved over and replaced by a supersize warehouse not unlike what is already littering the place.

South Central Farms


South Central Farmers


South Central Farms: The Documentary

Helltown USA
Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Since the summer of 1962, a fire, fueled by rich anthracite coal deposits, has been burning beneath the mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania.

Nonstop.

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

From Offroaders: “The fire was started in a garbage dump over an open coal seam in May of 1962. The fire was reported and seemed to be quenched at the time, but actually continued underground. There are many additional versions of the original cause but the garbage pit and the date are probably right. First bid to extinguish the fire was $175.”

“By 1983, the government said the fire was advancing on three or four fronts. Proposed trenching of the area might cost as much as $660 million with no guarantee of success. One of the larger trenches would have bisected the town roughly from east to west. A government buy-out was proposed instead of the trenching and there was a referendum held. The homeowners voted to accept the buy-out 345 to 200. Only those whose names were on the deeds could vote. From 1962 to 1984, $7 million had been spent. In November of 1983, $42 million was voted for the buy-out.”

“By 1991, this area had been increased by about three-quarters. Worst case scenario would be about 3700 acres and [burn out in] a hundred years.”

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Perhaps not since the entire Appalachia region hovered above a fault line hundreds of millions of years ago has the ground below smoldered, a glowing ember of iridescent orange, while fissures and fumeroles spewing poisonous gases dotted the landscape above.

You feel the heat in your feet. The smell of sulfur lingers in the air. The town, appropriately enough, resembles a “post-nuclear war wasteland.” Or yes, Helltown USA — an important itinerary on the municipalis non grata travel circuit — a stopover on the way to Chernobyl and the flooded villages upstream from the Three Gorges Dam.

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

If it weren't for the signs warning us of the coal mine fire, I'd probably guess we're witnessing the birth pangs of a new ocean.

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

Centralia Coal Mine Fire

If you cannot make it to Centralia, there are, apparently, other coal mine fires in Pennsylvania and all over the world, particularly northern China, eternally coursing their way through the serpentine subterranean tunnels and mineral veins.




The Centralia Project
Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire
Centralia Mine Fire @ Roadside America
Photos of Mine Fires
Coal fires by Anupta Prakash


Petroleum Sublime
Woof! or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part IV
Puppy by Jeff Koons


Puppy by Jeff Koons


Puppy by Jeff Koons



The Technolicious Arboretum
Extreme Horticulture
Revival Field
Bouffant Topiary
Protoflorafauna
Edouard François

Pteris vittata
Pteris vittata


Continuing a thread from Revival Field: Pteris vittata, or The Chinese Ladder fern (or even simpler, the brake fern), is a highly efficient arsenic hyperaccumulator. And its phytoextractive property may offer economically viable strategies for arsenic filtration out of water supplies.

From The Annie Appleseed Project: “Arsenic pollution of drinking and irrigation water has emerged as a massive health threat in Bangladesh and India, where wells drilled into aquifers have turned out to be tapping poisoned water.

“When the water is used to irrigate rice paddies, arsenic also accumulates in the crop. According to one estimate, 3,000 people may be dying in Bangladesh each year because of arsenic contamination.

“Elless and his colleagues hope their ferns could be adapted to help purify water in these countries; the method is potentially very cheap, and the plants grow readily in warm, humid climates like those of south-east Asia.

“But Meharg is less optimistic. He points out that the ferns may not be able to cope with the huge volumes of water used for irrigation, and that Bangladesh probably lacks the infrastructure needed to maintain such treatment facilities.

“Still, the approach could be valuable in richer countries. For example, thousands of US water-supply systems exceed the new EPA limit for arsenic concentrations in drinking water of 10 millionths of a gram (10 micrograms) per liter.

“The limit comes into effect in January 2006; the existing limit is five times higher. For small rural communities, fern filtering of arsenic could be just the thing to achieve this new limit economically.”

Pteris vittata


Now the hunt commences for a hyperaccumulator of bad architecture, a vampire plant that can suck the concrete and steel and glass out of failed buildings. Which you can simply sow and cultivate to disintegrate a Corbusian public housing high-rise, perennially empty urban plazas, trillion dollar levees, any Wal-Mart, or any Peter Eisenman. Etc.

I imagine at some point in the future Mel Chin proposing a Revival Field composed of these vampire plants hyperccumulating upon ill-manered museum additions.


Revival Field, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part III
Revival Field, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part III
Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

In 1990 artist Mel Chin collaborated with Rufus L. Chaney, a senior research scientist at the US Department of Agriculture, on a project to detoxify a 60-square-foot section of the Pig's Eye landfill, a site in St. Paul, Minnesota, heavily contaminated with zinc, lead, and cadmium.

Using hyperaccumulators, or plants that naturally can extract and store heavy metals, the team was able to gather scientific data on the viability of using these types of plants to clean up polluted soil. Previously, little data outside of lab experiments existed. So for Chaney, Revival Field enabled him to test his research on an actual contaminated landscape for the first time.

Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

Besides advancing science, Chin saw the project in terms of art-making:

If Michelangelo takes a block of marble and starts to make a David, he carves it and carves it. The art is this idea transformed into reality. But what happens if your material isn't marble, but a toxic, dead medium—earth that can't sustain life? Scientific process, not artistic process, has to be the tool. To take that soil and make it live again, to sculpt a diverse ecosystem from it—that to me is beautiful.


Unlike Michelangelo's, however, the process is largely invisible. As a way to spatialize the process, then, “the contaminated earth was fenced in with chain link and subdivided by intersecting paths that form an X.”

It's X marks the spot, a gun's crosshair, the earth turned into a target.

Poisoned landscapes about to be bombarded with botany.

Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

“The project's boundaries are circumscribed by a square. Chin conceives of these overlays as a target, a metaphorical reference to the works pin-point cleanup. The divisions are also functional, separating different varieties of plants from each other for study. In the circular field the intersecting paths create four fields where six types of plants and two pH and two fertilizer tests can occur in each quadrant. The land area between the square and circle functions as a control plot where plants will be seeded with local grasses. The design for revival field facilitates the chemical analysis of each section.”

Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

Revival Field / Mel Chin and Rufus L. Chaney

The initial field experiment finished in 1993. “It showed that Alpine pennycress was best at taking in heavy metals, although neither it nor any of the other plants took in metals fast enough to achieve significant cleansing in 3 years.” But as it is a replicable test, other Revival Fields have been staged elsewhere to determine better and faster accumulators. So stay tuned.


Revival Field @ The Creative Capital Channel
Mel Chin @ Walker Art Center
Mel Chin by PBS Art:21
Rufus L. Chaney


The Technolicious Arboretum
Extreme Horticulture
Woof!
Bouffant Topiary
Protoflorafauna
Edouard François

MILF:04 The World
The World by Jia Zhangke

For this series, just one film: The World (2004) directed by Jia Zhangke.

Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum gives us his blurb: “Suggesting at different moments a backstage musical, a failed love story, a surreal comedy, and even a cartoon fantasy, this beautiful, corrosive, visionary masterpiece by Jia Zhang-ke is a frighteningly persuasive account of the current state of the planet. Set in an eerie Beijing theme park--a kind of Chinese Las Vegas, with scaled-down duplicates of the most famous global landmarks--it follows a bunch of workers as they labor, carouse, couple, and uncouple, but it's really about propping up extravagant illusions through alienated labor.”

If that doesn't temp you to seek it out, perhaps its trailer will.


MILF:03 Nanoscapes
MILF:02 Spatializing the Marvelous: The Musicals of Busby Berkeley
MILF:01 Figures in the Field
MILF


MILF:05 “The Best Things In Life Are Free”: Selections of Feature Films from the Internet Archive
MILF:06 Thick City
Animal Vegetable Video
You can add to Bryan Finoki's Boschian Entomomechanophilic Army these aspiring faunal and floral videographers.

Such as this Sundance-bound aardvark.

Animal Vegetable Video

Landscape architects should definitely go into the security-surveillance industry. Or have they already?

From the topsy-turvy view of a tumbleweed, landscape architects can monitor the precarious peace in Montana between ranchers, separatist patriot militias, environmentalists, miners, and Hollywood celebrities.

Animal Vegetable Video

Or in some solitary patch of the American West, gauge the mental condition of reclusive Land Art purveyors to reassure the Army Corps of Engineers that their earth moving activities are not compromising the tectonic integrity of Nevada.

Or perhaps it's better to turn our four-legged cineastes into agents of psychological warfare, letting them loose to terrorize Michael Heizer day and night, only backing off when his city nears completion.

For the Cannes-Venice-Berlin film festival circuit, this wolf is a good candidate.

Animal Vegetable Video

Under the cover of darkness, Bleex Soldier-Gardeners release a pack of techno-lupine vigilantes into national parks, public lands and forest preserves. There, they'll sniff out invasive species and snuff them out mercilessly to preserve ecological purity.


Animal Vegetable Video
Subzero Garden
Speaking of subzero, check out these videos of the hydroponics greenhouse at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

McMurdo Station Greenhouse

Conditions at Ross Island are obviously favorable for something verdant. Temperatures outside are lethal with prolonged exposure. The sun doesn't make an appearance for months. And the population of pollinating insects is nil.

That the available exposed land in the world's biggest desert is less than 1% only necessitates the creation of a garden.

McMurdo Station Greenhouse

The guy in the upper left is our unnamed guide, who seems rather cool and fun to hang out with, to what is essentially the most vegetated parcel in the entire continent: "Everyday is a perfect day. It's always sunny. It's always perfect weather.”

Amidst a field of Antarctic romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, and tarragon, you can calibrate your internal biorhythms and mitigate your seasonal suicidal tendencies.


Subzero Gardening @ Exploratorium
Antarctica Hydroponics
Ice Fishing Shacks
The ridiculously awesome Polar Inertia has come out with a new issue, and it features these beautiful photos of ice fishing shacks.

Ice Fishing Shacks


Writes the photographer Scott Peterman: “These shacks illustrate the primal elements of shelter, food, warmth and an ongoing battle against the caprices of nature. They are entirely utilitarian in their purpose, using lightweight windproof materials such as foam insulation sheet metal, plastic or wood, yet put together in surprisingly ingenious ways, appearing as crude minimalist sculpture.”

Ice Fishing Shacks


Ice Fishing Shacks


Ice Fishing Shacks


Ice Fishing Shacks


Any one of these shacks could be the summer residence of Pruned. Just chopper it with me inside down on top of a glacier or in the middle of the polar ice caps, and I'll blog the days away in solitude, with the subzero landscape, katabatic winds and blazing auroras as my inspirations.
Prunings XV
Sealand


On micronations. Sealand, for example.

On forests.

On New York's compost project.

On LAND-I archicolture, a group of architects and landscape architects which deals with landscape at various levels: landscape planning, landscape and environmental design, and mainly focuses on contemporary garden design.

On UNESCO's Heritage Image Archives Initiative, a growing database of high-quality still and moving images of all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

On sounds like public space.
The Bleex, or: Intergalactic planetary landscape architect, Part II
BLEEX Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton


Behold the BLEEX!

Referred to in long-form as the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton, this DARPA-funded Ellen Ripley hydraulic couturier will allow soldiers, combat engineers and civilian techno-sartorialists to carry hundreds of pounds (potentially more) with little physical effort.

According to a press release:

Such a machine could become an invaluable tool for anyone who needs to travel long distances by foot with a heavy load. The exoskeleton could eventually be used by army medics to carry injured soldiers off a battlefield, firefighters to haul their gear up dozens of flights of stairs to put out a high-rise blaze, or rescue workers to bring in food and first-aid supplies to areas where vehicles cannot enter.


Of course, the BLEEX could also allow a lone landscape architect to carry a shed worth of tools, a truckload of hardscaping material or the entire inventory of an arboretum. With added appendages for the upper extremities, he might even carry an entire garden straight from the factory to an awaiting backyard.

BLEEX Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton


It's the Jardinator© miniaturized and exoskeletonized.

With just a small army of highly trained migrant workers, you could overlay an interstate highway or landscape a dozen Central Parks in a day. Or a bed of mums in one picosecond.

This is the future of guerrilla gardening. You get suited up with the Bleex, and with your night vision goggles, satellite navigation systems and weaponized hoe, you set about re-wilding urban concrete wastelands. Under the cover of darkness, a squadron of Bleex Soldier-Gardeners armed with prairie grasses and wildflowers carries out sabotage on Wal-Mart parking lots.


Animaris geneticus, or: Intergalactic planetary landscape architect


The Return of the Intergalactic Planetary Landscape Architect

Ripple Topography
Can't say I've fully grasped the science behind cross-bedding yet, but I was quickly and fully hypnotized by these computer animations of sedimentary migration and deposition. Some screen caps follow.

I'll assume that everyone will download and watch them on a continuous trance-inducing loop.

Cross-bedding

Cross-bedding

I wonder if you can harness energy from these land migrations and conceive a park out of it: a terrestrial version of the Wave Garden. Just settle yourself atop a dune, watch landscapes after landscapes pass by, and at the end of your picnic, you find yourself on the other side of the continent.

Cross-bedding

Cross-bedding

You can, in fact, download the bedform simulation software, supposedly the same one used to produce the animations, to create your own rippling topography.

Such as these:

Cross-bedding

Cross-bedding

Cross-bedding

Obviously, it brings up interesting scenarios of landscape architects, in drunken stupors at 3 in the morning, downloading the software to design their own sinuous landforms. Perhaps as a gag, to throw off the visiting critic. Or to one-up Michael van Valkenburgh and Kathryn Gustafson, ending their monopoly on tumuli earthforms. Or perhaps a moment of inspired experimentation. But most likely because they simply can't navigate their way through formZ or Maya or even AutoCAD inebriated.

And just to add a bit more oddity (or realism) to the scenario, imagine them sprinkling a few digitized models of Classical architecture into the simulation and laughing, still drunk, at their fixed proportions and rigid geometry rapidly crumbling, dissolving in the ever shifting landscape.

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