Is it possible to order a garden from Martha Stewart Omnipedia, and via 2-day priority mail, it arrives fully formed, plopped onto your front yard by the mailman?
Or better yet, what if your garden remains airborne, forever nomadic?
So you order from TrueValue.com, and before the end of the business day, it begins its perpetual migration. From Chicago then Beijing and Vladivostok, and then on to Dubai and all the major European cities before waiting out a 104-hour delay back in Chicago and continuing on its suborbital journey. From one aerotropolis to another aerotropolis, they are tended to by the US Postal Service, a legion of 24-hour phone order operators, cargo pilots, air marshalls, baggage handlers, and customs officers. But I wonder, are USDA airport inspectors competent gardeners?
On a clear day, you can see their complex Baroque compositions crisscrossing against a deterrestrialized groundplane. A hortus conclusus twice removed from the earth.
But you can still tend to it from your earthbound living room. Simply pick up one of the many home and garden catalogs littering your mailbox, or tune in to QVC and the Home Shopping Network, and order the necessary fertilizer, clippers, and that prize-winning new hybrid. It's only a phone call or a mouse click away. Tele-gardening.
And with this potentially lucrative market, Airbus just might save itself from dissolution.
When you need to take a look, simply hack into airport CCTV cameras; X-ray machines; TSA's chemical, biological and nuclear detection network; and air traffic control radars. Or track their migration through Google Earth.
Could these be the tracings of Paradise or the ominous tracks of a botanical invasion out to finish the native vegetation of England once and for all?
One Thousand and One Persian Landscapes
Monday, October 30, 2006
A few months ago, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art mounted a spectacular exhibition on
Here are some of my favorites, starting with this twice-walled Edenic garden floating amidst an orange vegetal sea.
And here are some weirdly kinetic fortification walls.
The swirling vortex of extruded geology. The stage for a battle scene or a weaponized terrestrial tsunami?
One wonders if 16th century Persian painters understood the physics of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, since they undoubtedly display a mastery of the multi-temporal and the multi-spatial in this miniature.
And one wonders, too, if they also understood the peculiarities of tectonics, as the following two miniatures obviously portray the billion-year process of mountain making.
This, of the ascension of Prophet Mohammad, is beyond compare.
This is absolutely beautiful!
One detail I quite like is the animal leaping off the landscape. Perhaps the landscape continues on in the next page, but I like to think that it is trying to escape off the miniature and off the page and even off the book altogether into the white voidscape of our digital webpage, into the safe precincts of Pruned.
In any case, all these miniatures are mind-bogglingly gorgeous!
Although this last folio depicts an ascetic man in self-exile inside an arboreal cave, it nevertheless reminds me of one of the more erotic poems by Foroogh Farrokhzaad, Iran's greatest 20th century poet. Below in full is a translation by David Martin of the poem.
in my small night, what mounting
The Earth Scything Its Way Across the Persian Landscape
This is PAMELA, or the reconfigurable robotic Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratory. If you volunteer to be a human guinea pig, you will be subjected to a sort of urban nightmare: headache-inducing lighting; steep inclines to raise heart rates and test the patience of wheelchair users; wet surfaces, gaps and bumps to trip and bruise you; and other people.
But such experiments may result in safer streets and more user-friendly public spaces.
Friday, October 27, 2006
“Take the cold tolerance of bacteria that thrive in arctic ice, add the ultraviolet resistance of tomato plants growing high in the Andes mountains, and combine with an ordinary plant.” And what do you get?
You would get something like this:
Or some close approximation thereof. It might not look pretty, but it will probably be able to survive on Mars. And it has to: “The plants would probably be housed in a greenhouse on a Martian base, because no known forms of life can survive direct exposure to the Martian surface, with its extremely cold, thin air and sterilizing radiation. Even then, conditions in a Martian greenhouse would be beyond what ordinary plants could stand. During the day, the plants would have to endure high levels of solar ultraviolet radiation, because the thin Martian atmosphere has no ozone to block it like the Earth's atmosphere does. At night, temperatures would drop well below freezing. Also, the Martian soil is poor in the mineral nutrients necessary for plants to thrive.”
But what designer plant I want is one that can blog, my partner in crime, so that while I go off sailing along a straightened Danube River for a forthnight, Pruned won't seem abandoned.
In my absence, it will blog endlessly about its photosynthetic activities; Adventures in Evapotranspiration is a possible topic. It will also chime in on the cornfield projects and Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics (it will, of course, argue that a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics would be better); insist that this has to be the best BLDGBLOG post ever, thus infecting the blogosphere with yet another insiduous viral meme -- My Top 5 Favorite BLDGBLOG Posts; and fantasize about restored prairies atop five-level underground parking garages, railyards, six-lane interstate highways, and secret CIA prisons.
Typing through the night and into the day, and on through another night, restlessly.
“How's the (space) weather?”
In short, today's space weather is fine, and the forecast for the next few days calls for very low solar activity. No sunspots and coronal ejections to blast the earth with severe geomagnetic and solar radiation storms. And expect no radio blackouts.
So if you're an ISS astronaut, communication satellite operators, power grid managers, and city police chiefs perpetually dreading the time when Left Behind loonies who, having seen auroras appearing as far south as Florida, will instantly erupt into a riotous mob — all of you can relax for the next couple of days.
Unfortunately, there's much to be concerned about in the coming months. “The Sun is currently near its minimum activity, at the tail end of a solar cycle,” New Scientist reported earlier this year. And according to computer models based on past sunspot cycles, the next one is predicted to be 30% to 50% stronger than the last. The first sunspot of this coming cycle may already have been spotted.
Obviously this brings up possibilities of designing landscapes specifically for these coming electromagnetic hurricanes. In the same way weather here on earth informs design &mdash for instance, when one orients houses on a southeast facing direction as a primary technique in increasing domestic energy efficiency; plants tree rows to the north and west as a way of modifying microclimate; plasters an entire corporate office complex with the largest solar-powered electricity system; or even watches The Weather Channel religiously &mdash can biologically hazardous coronal mass ejections, traveling earthbound at near light speed, also inform landscape architecture?
Can you design public spaces that illuminate during high X-ray events?
Can you genetically modify shrubs to thrive on extreme proton flux, throwing shoots and growing buds everywhere while you sit in the garden, admiring the lush vegetation and cultivating skin cancers?
Can you design a park where you can listen in on the “[d]etonations of stars?” All electronic devices might be rendered useless, but amidst the twittering of fauna and the rustling of flora, you can still listen to minuets, sonatas, and adagios throughout the park. So if you follow a prescribed path, they all resolve into a hypnotic solar symphony. Or if you stray from the path, you get Ligeti.
Are there sites specifically designed for auroral observation? In Cairo, high in the Peruvian Andes, within the precincts of Angkor Wat?
Can you plan an entire exurban subdivison that &mdash whether through some mathematically complex street configuration, innovative zoning, subterranean debauchery, institutionally sanctioned Neo-Luddism, or whatever &mdash can mitigate the effects of electromagnetic storms on its grid?
Meanwhile, there are plenty of solar graphs and data plots to overload your visual cortex.
And if NASA and NOAA seriously want to create a 24/7 space weather channel, which I think they should, they first need to take a lesson in weather infographics.
But in the meantime, there are also these near real-time images of the sun for you to peruse. The one below was snapped by the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. As you can see, the sun is practically quiet.
However, if you prefer watching coronal whorls unleashing a billion one-megaton nuclear bombs, you can download this 25.8MB QuickTime movie and this 35.5MB MPEG movie courtesy of NASA and the European Space Agency.
“How's the weather?”
Thursday, October 26, 2006
How does one dress for the post-apocalyptic landscape? Mary Mattingly can show you how.
Some specifics: “The fabric used is an outerlayer combination of Kaiok, a phase change material like Outlast® Adaptive Comfort®, waterproof Cordura, Solarweave UV protectant fabric, and the inner muslin layer. The fabric has the ability to keep the body at a comfortable temperature no matter the weather. The encapsulated warmers (like those found in electric blankets) are also woven into the innermost layer of the home, and through sensors, are adjusted to your bodies temperature and keep the home warm or cool on the inside to counteract the outside. The electronic silver threads in the fabric connecting to the sensors will give the wearers the ability to monitor themselves, their health and introspectively study themselves, as well as monitor the outdoor conditions, and transmit information to another, currently through a ZigBee connection or secure nodal random key coding and patterning frequency that can be set up to directly interface with another person’s home and information. This infrastructure will be able to receive signals from satellite and aid in GPS, mapping VA goggles, cel-sat and Internet.”
So that you can still blog in a ruined landscape? Brilliant!
Always on, indeed.
Mary Mattingly gets even more specific about these new global uniforms. In fact, she imagines an array of future ecologies where a society of wanderers are forced to be self-sufficient, and various scenarios in which the body is networked to the landscape in surprisingly intimate ways.
Moreover, the view from your backyard will always be spectacular.
Finally, this last image is titled Soldier, so I wonder if Mattingly also designed a wearable millitary-industrial-entertainment complex.
Which also leads me to wonder how this nomadic complex will inscribe itself onto the landscape. Through paradimensional songlines, hollowed out craters stringed together by an intercontinental Silk Road, or Out-of-Africa-like bifurcations?
Future cultural geographers will certainly have much to investigate.
Two parcels of uncertain terrain in the breathtakingly wondrous deltaic expanse of the Ganges-Brahmaputra.
From NASA Earth Observatory: “Stretching across part of southwestern Bangladesh and southeastern India, the Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans is a tapestry of waterways, mudflats, and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. Home to the endangered Bengal tiger, sharks, crocodiles, and freshwater dolphins, as well as nearly two hundred bird species.”
The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game
Simultaneously indulging the fantasies of Dr. Strangelove and the Soprintendenza, Andrew Evans wants to deploy a robot to cities devastated by an earthquake, whereupon this “burrowing robot negotiates through the unstable rubble and solid earth, creating an interred, inhabitable structure from recycled debris. The raw system left behind by the robot provides a basic framework for shelter, infrastructure, and structural stability in an upheaved landscape. The resultant system is a landscape of interconnected spaces ready for human colonization.”
But what of the ruined city above? Well, it becomes an archaeological site, finely reconfigured so as to generate billions in tourism revenues, rivaling the economic power of Pompeii and Luxor, while the Reinterred City below, presumably one of a few, itself will attract hordes of visitors.
Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby
Siting the Disaster
Two years ago, a piece of a mountain in Japan self-mutilated. Luckily for us, it was captured on video, which can be downloaded from YouTube.
Hope no one is repulsed if I simply link to this classic BLDGBLOG post, wherein Geoff Manaugh via John McPhee describes “how architecture can survive in the fallout paths of rock slides, debris slugs, and other flows of geologic mass wasting.” And also to this post here on Pruned, in which the formative potential of a different kind of disaster, i.e., the super-crowd, in landscape design is covered.
From the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress, a scene from a “camouflage class in New York University, where men and women are preparing for jobs in the Army or in industry.” The assignments sound rather intensive: “make models from aerial photographs, re-photograph them, then work out a camouflage scheme and make a final photograph.”
But what would happen if you repeat the same process, only this time you make the model not from aerial photographs but from that final photograph of the camouflage scheme? And the same process gets repeated again. And again and again. Over and over until you've produced a township of simulated simulacra, a camouflage of a camouflage of a camouflage that actually gets built.
And then you go for a visit...