Floridian Theatrum Machinarum
An über hydromechanical complex is set to rise in the Everglades when “engineers next month will begin building one of the world's largest manmade reservoirs - the size of a small city - as efforts continue to restore natural water flow to the Everglades,” the Associated Press via Wired News reports.
The “flagship” project of a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar wetland restoration initiative, this staggeringly huge theatrum machinarum, “roughly 25 square miles in area, is set for completion in 2010. It will hold 62 billion gallons of water, equivalent to about 5.1 million residential swimming pools, and will be seven miles across at its widest point.”
It's so vast, in fact, that it will lower water levels at the much, much bigger Lake Okeechobee. And “when you stand on one side of this reservoir, you will not see the other side.”
Moreover, “most reservoirs are built amid mountains and valleys or where a natural water source feeds the pool. In this case, 30 million tons of earth will be dug from flat land and surrounded by a 26-foot high, 21-mile long levee, making it larger than any other reservoir not connected to a natural source.”
If you are as thoroughly fascinated in wetlands and wetland restorations as we are, make sure you stop by the South Florida Water Management District. To simultaneously satisfy your inner civil engineer and verify that the whole thing isn't merely Michael Heizer recreating Tenochtitlan, you can download all manner of plans and reports at Acceler8. But make sure you read the article though.
Notes on Some Selections from the Visual Images Database of the Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers
Friday, July 21, 2006
“There are too many Grand Canyons,” declared Lucy Lippard. “There is the place itself and its staggering geography—the rims, the river in the Inner Gorge, the maze of side canyons, mesas, plateaus, forests, arroyos, vegetation and wildlife, and all those hoodoos, columns and spires (so-called by 19th-century devotees of the Church of the Wilderness). There is the no-nonsense (and topographically nonsensical) governmental gridding of ungriddable lands as the frontier fell away. There are the variously perceived canyons through which flow the never-ending verbiage that attempts but never succeeds in seeing, let alone describing, this sight of sights. And at a deeper level, there are the interpreted canyons, the contested canyons. From these emerge our individual and collective psyches, reflected in the geographies of national history and personal experience. The abysses are epitomized by fundamentally divergent views of place and nature expressed by the Canyon’s Native peoples and by the ruling ethics of the National Park and Forest Services, themselves often at loggerheads.” And now, to add to its “macro-microcosmic multiplicity” that “staggers retina and rhetoric,” this gorgeous spectrally lit 3D view from the South Rim. Georgia O'Keefe spaceborne with an Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer.
Grand Canyon: The Creationist Tour
Thursday, July 20, 2006
From NASA's Visible Earth: “These three false-color images demonstrate some of the applications of remote sensing in precision farming. The goal of precision farming is to improve farmers’ profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals. The images were acquired by the Daedalus sensor aboard a NASA aircraft flying over the Maricopa Agricultural Center in Arizona. The top image shows the color variations determined by crop density (also referred to as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI), where dark blues and greens indicate lush vegetation and reds show areas of bare soil. The middle image is a map of water deficit, derived from the Daedalus’ reflectance and temperature measurements. Greens and blues indicate wet soil and reds are dry soil. The bottom image shows where crops are under serious stress, as is particularly the case in Fields 120 and 119 (indicated by red and yellow pixels). These fields were due to be irrigated the following day.”
If you'd like to know more, head to Earth Observatory where you can learn about how this new agricultural practice may limit the environmental impact of farming. For example, rather than “treat a field of crops as one homogeneous unit” and consequently “applying fertilizer evenly across the whole field,” farmers using remote sensors, GIS and GPS tools can selectively target areas with just the right amount of fertilizers and at the right time. The same goes for water, seeds, pesticides and herbicides.
So in other words, far from the genteel picture of rural life — “a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace, forgotten values, simple pleasures” — farms are no longer populated by country bumpkins but rather 21st century hyper-technophiles.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
This is the Island of Hawai'i: magmatic, flora-encrusted, and fringed along the edges with the Suprematist geometries of sugar cane plantations, pineapple farms and human settlements. Against a blackened Pacific Ocean, it is, for lack of a better word, sublime.
Huangyangtan, or: Tactical geoannexation, Part II
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
This is a patch of the Karakoram mountain range claimed by India but currently occupied by China. It lies in the contested region of Kashmir.
Except, of course, that it isn't located where it's supposed to be, but rather deep in central China besides a military installation near the remote village of Huangyangtan.
A 450x350-kilometer area of rugged terrain — whole peaks, ridges, valleys, an entire hydrology — is scaled down to a 700x200-meter sandbox. There are two obvious questions that must be asked immediately: 1) How was it made, or rather, what is it made of? Since it would be more than a bit ironic to find that a part of the Himalayas, maybe even the actual source of its simulation, was dynamited, then transported for thousands of miles to the Gobi Desert, grounded up, mixed with cement, and finally painted as it were a Qing vase. Or maybe it's more likely that China, with its limited supply of so many natural resources, had to import the aggregate material from Africa and Australia.
And 2) what is it for? Pruned's resident Busby Berkeley fanatic thinks it's the stage setting for another lavish production of the Mahabharata. Vishnu made in China. Because apparently, filming in Bollywood is a lot more expensive now.
The Register, meanwhile, posits this “sensible explanation”: rather than a bewildering landscape expression of globalization and mass entertainment, instead “it's a training aid for pilots - possibly helicopter jockeys - designed to familiarise them with the landscape should military action ever be required.” But then one wonders why there are no Spratly Islands, arguably a more strategically important target than Kashmir, to be found.
Not content with any of these speculations, we telepathically interviewed BLDGBLOG, who guessed it to be yet another example of topographical terrorism gone voodoo: “simulacra as a threat to national security.” Or simply a form of tactical intimidation. Instead of being blasted with nighttime sonic booms and recursive Spice Girls medleys until they capitulate, your enemy watches televisually on Google Earth as you rape and pillage their own backyards, growing ever more paranoid of the real invasion, the one precisely choreographed and endlessly practiced, to the point of civil unrest.
This is landscape architecture as tactical psychological warfare.
It could also be the modern equivalent of spoils-taking. Forget about the gold, the obelisks, the giant menorahs, the virgins (supposedly), or chunks of churches, mosques and palaces. The victors will slice off entire topographies and then cart it all the way back to the homeland.
For instance, once the current incursion provisionally ends, the Israeli army shaves off a whole mountain (or two) from the Anti-Lebanon and transplant it to the Negev Desert. Similarly, after yet another Greco-Turkish skirmish on the high seas has concluded, a Greek island gets yanked off from the Aegean and placed atop a pedestal in front of Atatürk's mausoleum. Perhaps just before the U.S. forces leave Iraq, a segment of the Tigris and the Euphrates will be flown off on a C-130 halfway around the world to Nebraska, where landscape architects, in the spirit of Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstahl, have prepared grand parades and mass celebrations as lavish as any organized by Kim Jong-il for the arrival and installation.
In any case, whatever the conflict and the geography, all terrestrial spoils will be assembled in plain sight for all Google Map and Google Earth tourists alike.
Finally, above, a photo of the Karakoram mountains and its analogue, their lakes in perfect rhymming scheme.
Monday, July 17, 2006
These “structures” can be found off the coast of the island of Yonaguni near Okinawa, Japan, and according to the Morien Institute, they “show quite clearly that, during the last Ice Age, civilisation flourished on what were then the coastal areas of the many parts of the world which, despite glaciations further north, still enjoyed a very pleasant, temperate climate. These ancient settlements are proving to have been much more advanced urban cities than current models of prehistory are prepared to acknowledge, but their existence is just as real as the fact that they were obviously flooded during the abrupt end of the last Ice Age, at the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary.”
Or they aren't man-made structures at all, and that in actuality, according to geologist Robert M. Schoch, geomorphological processes such as “natural wave and tidal actionæ” have eroded and removed ”the sandstones in such a way that very regular step-like and terrace-like structure remain.”
Or maybe, as a middle ground between the two theories, the Yonaguni Monuments were at first natural formations but later terraformed, i.e., manipulated and modified by human hands, into ceremonial platforms.
And transoceanic ports?
Pleistocene astronomical observatories?
Or maybe it was the site of a quarry from which “blocks were cut, utilizing natural bedding, joint, and fracture planes of the rock, and thence removed for the purpose of constructing other structures which are long since gone.”
Suffice to say they require further investigation.
So in the meantime, all these photos suggest unambiguously that when the Egyptian pyramids are dropped into the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, they will remain as enigmatic as they were in the open desert, if not more so. That any other large structures, from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame Cathedral to Angkor Wat, are probably better explored underwater, devoid of a totality of experience.
It was BLDGBLOG who once proposed a graveyard archipelago for cathedrals. But how about the Marianas Trench?
In any case, if you'd like to learn more (and can read Japanese), go here. And there's also this flash presentation.
The cartography of disasters and post-impact relief
Far from merely inducing or aggravating a pathology for RSSpectating in global disaster events, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System “combines existing web-based disaster information management systems with the aim to alert the international community in case of major sudden-onset disasters and to facilitate the coordination of international response during the relief phase of the disaster.” Although unless you have access to their alert-notification and interactive components (e.g. Virtual OSOCC), you will probably just end up fetishising humanitarian crisis into another Edward Tufte poster.
And there's also UNOSAT, a United Nations programme whose goal is “to make satellite imagery and geographic information easily accessible to the humanitarian community and to experts worldwide working to reduce disasters and plan sustainable development.”
For instance this map assessing the wholesale destruction of housing and businesses in Harare, Zimbabwe during Mugabe's urbicidal Operation Murambatsvina.
Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
Havaria Emergency and Disaster Information Services (Budapest, Hungary)
Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers
A trailing suction hopper dredger, or TSHD, is the sort of seafaring vessel you would want to buy if you plan to rehabilitate dying beaches, fortify riverbanks, recontour ports and harbors, construct offshore multi-terminal airports or send marauding bacterio-peninsulas to unsuspecting shorelines.
It should surprise no one, then, that we want to comandeer about a dozen of them. If Michael Heizer had his bulldozers and James Turrell is having fun with his tunnel boring machines, we should be able to play around with our own earth-moving machines.
As but one of certainly many possibilities, we could use them to stage an utterly marvelous water show in the grand tradition of the naumachia, those monumental re-enactments in Ancient Rome of epic naval battles. Obviously, we would first need to reincarnate Busby Berkeley to help with the script, tentatively titled Adventures on the Continental Shelf.
In semi-accordance with ancient practices, it will be performed entirely by a cast of quasi-slave workers from Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh. The Army Corps of Engineers will help with the art direction, and the Naval War College will provide the choreography.
Months later the ridiculously wealthy and the grotesquely (in)famous will head off to Abu Dhabi (Dubai is so old news) for the world premier. With their 67-course Alinea dinner finished and the Veuve Clicquot now flowing freely, they will watch the armada glide across the moonlit Persian Gulf in interlacing figure eights and arabesque battle formations, arcing chunks of the mantle and patterning a frothy trail within sights of U.S. aircraft carriers and heavy battlecruisers guarding vital oil shipping lanes. A hydrological fantasie staged in a geopolitical minefield.
Stone against metal against water. Their bones will tremble with the ambient vibrations.
It's better than the Bellagio, they will say to themselves. Because any slight misalignment of the nozzle and their heads get sandblasted off from their torsos.
During intermission, someone will go up to a group of totalitarian dictators awaiting their future micronations and ask, was Pruned inspired by the Battle of Leyte Gulf?
The next day, hung over and with a mouthful of grit, they will step onto their manmade continent and set about showing those petulant Modernists and New Urbanists the proper way to build a thriving city without the ahistorical mimicry.
Or maybe it's a game. You are given a tiny speck of an island and there waiting for you is a set of groynes, sea walls, revetments, rip raps, gabions, breakers and a multi-billion dollar levee system. The challenge is in the assembly (perhaps Ikea would like to sign on as a sponsor), and whoever keeps their island above sea level the longest, wins.
Meanwhile, in case you're wondering, a trailing suction hopper dredger operates very much like a floating vacuum cleaner. With a single or twin proboscis-like suction pipes, it pumps up materials from the sea floor and then discharges them into a storage compartment known as the hopper. You wouldn't find a land version of the TSHD cruising the arid expanses of the Arabian Peninsula sucking up desert sand, because apparently, unlike sand taken from the bottom of the ocean, desert sand isn't materially and structurally suitable for making artificial islands.
After filling up its hopper, the dredger would then sail to the disposal site where it unloads its cargo either by 1) opening the doors or valves in the hopper bottom; 2) using a pipeline running from the ship to the site; 3) or using a special bow jet. This last technique is known as rainbowing.
In case you're wondering as well, most of the dredgers shown in this post are owned by Van Oord, purportedly the largest dredging company in the world. The others are either owned by Boskalis, Jan de Nul or Dredging International.
Would it surprise anyone to learn that these four companies are based in the Netherlands and Belgium, that these two countries — most of whose territories were reclaimed from the seas — have a near monopoly in TSHDs?
Standing beneath a roaring froth of regurgitated geology. Loveliness.
Jan de Nul
Bert Visser's Directory of Dredgers
Sunday, July 16, 2006
In lieu of a set of Prunings, here's the first entry for our new irregular feature, Postscripts.
#1: Vis-à-vis Hu Yang's photodocumentary on Shanghai living, see Michael Wolf's own investigation into density in Hong Kong.
#2: Remember how we were hysterically lamenting over the demise of the ACEMVD's Visual Images Database? Apparently, it wasn't defunct; it was simply being moved to a new server.
#3: And remember Hal the Coyote? He died only a week after his capture just as he was being prepared for release. Cause of death: “heartworm infection and internal bleeding caused by his ingestion of rodent poison,” which were exacerbated by the “stress of captivity and handling during the release.” Poor fella.
#4: The first Edible Estate was in Salina, Kansas. For the second Fritz Haeg chose a site owned by the Foti Family in Los Angeles. And then The New York Times came for a visit.
#5: After reading our post on the Leidenfrost Fountain, phronesisaical reminisced about their trip to Nepal where they encountered water moving uphill.
#6: We asked: Is there a medianeras Flickr Pool? Yes. In fact, there are two: Medianeras and The Unconscious Art of Demolition. So go now and contribute.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Protoflorafauna, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part VI
Some have speculated this to be a video of a newly discovered breeding ground for the next generation of Superviruses. Amidst the steam and din of the jungle, roboticized tendrils fold HIV into Ebloa intermingling with SARS-polio hybrids. But many believe it's a covert recording of an arboretum tended to by a reclusive multi-billionaire Dubai sheik intent on invasively populating The World. Still others think it's the long lost Garden of Earthly Delights, the setting to so many of Don Aguirre's
The Technolicious Arboretum
Landscape challenge #4
Thursday, July 13, 2006
This lifetime field list of geologic sites were intended for geologists, but we see no reason why landscape architects cannot appropriate it as a pedagogical tool. So copy and paste, add a tick box besides each item, and off you go.
No doubt this will take decades to complete, but fear not, Pruned will still be here in the next century and beyond to oversee this challege. Be sure to send journal notes, photographs, hospital injury reports, death certificates, etc.
An erupting volcano.
Landscape challenges #1, #2 and #3
If you simply must be alerted whenever an earthquake erupts halfway across the globe, or for that matter just about anywhere, then head on over to the USGS Earthquake Center and subscribe to one or all of their RSS feeds. New landscapes and extinguished geographies syndicated and delivered to you in real-time.
Some weeks ago Pruned discovered Chicago's North Avenue Beach — and its tideless, shimmering blue-green waters; its unsalted offshore breezes; nearby multi-billion dollar seawalls as sculpted by the Army Corps of Engineers; the immigrant lakefill; and Lake Michigan's low E. coli count.
Clearly there were just too much to keep us entrenched along the shoreline and away from our blog. But we simply have to come back and share with our readers this satellite image of the groynes seemingly jutting out like spinal projections from Lake Shore Drive to keep the relentlessly drifting sand at bay.
These are the self-replicating, self-similar geology of the city's mercurial edge.
Groynes, or groins, are built to control and modify beach erosion. Usually constructed perpendicular to the shoreline and with timber pilings, steel sheet pilings, concrete and/or rock barriers, they act as dams to block the flow of sediment. Unfortunately, this also reduces sand replenishment on the downdrift side, necessitating the construction of another groyne. And then another and then another and then another, conceivably down the entire stretch of coast, domino-like.
Which really makes us wonder what monumental earthen hydrotactics will be devised to fight off the coming post-glacial Flood. And whether they'll set up the opening scenes for La Jetée II.