The Jersey Array
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
This surely must be old news to all, as it was the runner-up in last year's Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition, but we think it needs to be entered into our archives, so that it can hypertextually decorate future posts, endlessly referenced in the hopes that heretofore unrelated ideas and/or fantasies just might spontaneously coalesce into a new landscape paradigm in a violent reactive explosion right in front of our dumbstrucked faces.
So what exactly is it? It's a proposal by Mark Oberholzer to install double-stacked Darius turbines “into the barriers between highway lanes that would harness the wind generated by passing cars to create energy,” which, in his original concept, is fed into the grid.
However, when Metropolis recently caught up with Oberholzer, we learn that he now wants to use that electricity where it is generated, as for instance, “integrating a subway or light-rail train right where the barrier is.” This, we also learn, “avoids energy losses that occur during transportation and eliminates the cost of adding extra infrastructure.”
“The ability to harness wind in an urban environment—where buildings impede airflow and installing 260-foot turbine towers isn’t exactly an option—makes his project particularly inventive.” Indeed.
The geography of displacement
In his novel, The Songlines, the peripatetic Bruce Chatwin tries “to get to grips with the concept of the Dreamtime,” and learns, in somewhat rudimentary terms, that one “had to understand it as an Aboriginal equivalent of the first two chapters of Genesis — with one significant difference.”
“In Genesis,” Chatwin explains, “God first created the 'living things' and then fashioned Father Adam from clay. Here in Australia, the Ancestors created themselves from clay, hundreds and thousands of them, one for each totemic species.”
And “each totemic ancestor, while traveling through the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the land as 'ways' of communication between the most far-flung tribes.”
Furthermore, “a song can be thought of as both map and direction-finder. Providing you knew the song, you could always find your way across country.”
So, “in theory, at least, the whole of Australia could be read as a musical score. There was hardly a rock or creek in the country that could not or had not been sung. One should perhaps visualize the Songlines as a spaghetti of Illiads and Odyssey, writhing this way and that, in which every episode was readable in terms of geology.”
HEADLINE: Sat Nav for immigrants entering the US (The Telegraph; 30 Dec 2006).
Illegal immigrants planning to cross the desert and enter the US on foot are to be given hand-held satellite devices by the Mexican authorities to ensure they arrive safely.
Geoff Manaugh left a comment in our post on Taryn Simon's photographs of customs offices, quarantine facilities, and other Edens; his comment is replicated below:
I once thought - in fact, I still think - that it'd be interesting to grow a garden using only seeds and plants seized at the Customs office.
On water stations.
HEADLINE: Vandals drain desert water tanks intended for illegal immigrants (KVOA News 4 Tucson, AZ; 14 Jun 2006).
You take a dozen or two prospective immigrants. So as to minimize controversy, let's identify them as French.
Through an unimaginably improbable series of events — including years despairing about their country's economic model; being inexplicably listed on the FAA's no-fly list; and a Congress growing increasingly impotent when dealing with immigration reform — they find themselves outside the border of the US, looking in. Just beyond that grove of trees is Arizona.
And they've just eaten some fruits, you see, or brushed up against a pollen-field plant, indigenous to Mexico but not the desert Southwest — or, since this is a design project after all, you, the designer, have them swallow the seeds and lodge a few more on their persons, in their hairy chests, lanky arms, and perfumed armpits. And for good measure, you surreptitiously stuff their pockets with ones you've gathered from other exotic locales.
Then off they go.
Unfortunately, most of them will die. Without a map, they will get lost, and dehydration will come long before they reach Tucson. That or they get accidentally killed by members of the border militia or by wildlife, if distinguishable. But where they stumble and fall, a garden grows.
These gardens would then act like vegetated outposts, a constellation of caravansaries which subsequent border crossers can follow or add to. Wave after wave, and tragedy after tragedy, this new underground railroad would become as well-established and well-marked as elephant jungle tracks, and as easily traceable as a Songline.
A hundred years later, they'll become the de facto national memorial park for immigrant America, a landscape record for the migrant experience.
The Ellis Island of the Southwest.
To follow a trail there is to embark on a pilgrimage, a sacred reenactment of collective memory and a paean to the soul of the country.
Can you connect the dots?
Below is a map showing the locations of migrant deaths in 2003, as compiled from maps available on the website of Humane Borders. Red dots are deaths due to heat; yellow dots, unknown causes; and light blue, vehicles. In areas beyond the map, deaths have occurred due to exposure to cold temperatures, homicide, drowning, existing medical condition and train accidents.
The built-up area at the top is Phoenix, Arizona. The white line at the bottom is the US-Mexico border.
In the Archives: Botanical Guide to BorderXing
The Washington Post Special Report: Immigration Multimedia
Clash of the vernacular
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Daniel Traub has photographed a curious spaceship parked somewhere in the periphery of a Chinese city. Many more will soon be arriving, apparently: “China intends to build 400 new cities by 2020. We see all the elements of this new and contradictory world: homogenous, industrial parks and residential communities pressing against age old rhythms of villages and farms; the new rich living in gated communities next to migrant workers shanty towns; burning mountains of trash next to lushly watered golf courses and country clubs.”
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Dugway Proving Ground National Park
Or: by an Act of Congress, Dugway Proving Ground gets transferred from the Department of Defense to the National Park Service.
Landscape architects are hired to turn the site as open and occupiable as all the other parks under the care of the NPS. Because why bar humanity for thousands of years from visiting the place when it can offer new ways of experiencing landscapes?
So they, i.e., the landscape architects, set out do what they do: master planning for uses, choreographing circulation, stagecrafting experiences, preservation, etc. Meanwhile, the CDC concocts treatments for Ebola, Avian flu, smallpox and all other bioweapons the U.S. military had played around with at Dugway.
Soon the first visitors arrive.
They swallow the pills and are immunized.
After a waiting period of a few minutes for the drug to take effect, they then set off on foot, backpacking from one square to another square, from one circle to another, tracing arcs, diameters and circumferences, each and every geometry carefully measured and inscribed on the parched Nevada landscape.
Sure enough, red marks begin to appear on their skin, turning blue, then to black. Cutaneous necropsy. Trigonometry has infected you with a plague. Maybe it's anthrax.
Meanwhile, you are inspecting some angles, their hypotenuse pointing NNE towards some distant, rock-strewn hills. A fog rolls in from aerosol fountains, then evaporates. Seconds later, your lymph nodes begin to swell and a rash starts to spread from your crotch.
But you worry not. It's all part of the tour: a fantastic voyage into militarized infection, from the initial cough to nose bleeds to coma to fully restored health.
Triangles wedged in squares contaminated with rabies. Parabolas atop rectangles imprinted on marked contour lines smeared with typhoid. Radiating circles traversed by empathic diagonals injected with cholera.
There won't be any baby sneezes or sunburns or watery eyes or any of the allergic sort. Because after all, this is not Yellowstone, and you're certainly not on the beach. Camping here aren't made memorable with the mere brush up with poison ivy. That headache isn't caused by altitude sickness. It's something more terrifying, more sublime, more marvelous.
And so with your first contagion cured, you go explore another part of the park. Wide airport runways, a whole series of them, their perfectly straight chalked edges extending far to meet the horizon.
“What superlative surveying techniques,” you shout, perhaps quoting Maria Reiche, and all the while every orifice in your body begins to ooze with blood.
“This is going to be another awesome hike!”
Sugimoto in Titan
It's long been speculated that there are large bodies of liquid methane on Saturn's largest moon, and now radar images obtained by the Cassini spacecraft last July show “definitive evidence for the presence of lakes on the surface of Titan.”
There are lakes on Titan!
And here one can't help but wonder what if J.M.W. Turner had hitched a ride on Cassini and then parachuted down with the Huygens probe, and who is frantically now trying to finish the last in his Titan watercolor series. What if in addition to color tinted radar imaging data, Nature puts on its cover Turner originals that look something like...this?
Waves breaking by Jupiter's gravity. Mists of methane churning violently in subzero temperature. Turbulent, tempest torn, as dynamic as our own terrestrial hydrology.
But then later we learn that Caspar David Friedrich had, too, bummed a free ride. He gives us an entirely different vision of Titan's landscape.
Are we suppose to see God amongst these vast methane seas? Has He somehow been transported from His earthly domicile and forced upon an alien landscapes?
And lo! There's Hiroshi Sugimoto as well.
Have they all been hired by NASA as Artists-in-Extraterrestrial-Residence?
The latest peripheral from Subtopia points us to this recent article in The New York Times about atomic tourism in the American Southwest.
At the Titan Missile Museum, we learn, visitors can “stare up at a 103-foot-tall intercontinental ballistic missile from the bottom of a hardened silo buried in the Arizona desert;” see how the crew rested (or experienced countless anxiety attacks) in spartan conditions; feel the thick, cold steel of the blast doors; and even jiggle around with the switches on the firing console.
Meanwhile, at the Nevada Test Site, you get to see the actual effects of Armageddon.
“As the bus headed toward the site of a 37-kiloton blast in 1957,” writes Henry Fountain, “it drove past the mangled remains of several shelters made of aluminum. Nearby was a blasted bank vault, an experiment to see whether money and valuable documents could survive nuclear war. There were twisted I-beams from a section of a trestle bridge, large poles for testing window glass and concrete bunkers that looked relatively unscathed.”
And there are also “the remains of the Apple 2 project, a 1955 explosion designed to test civil defenses. Parts of a small town were constructed for the test, with stores, cars and houses complete with refrigerators filled with food and mannequins dressed in clothing.”
For some reason, we are reminded of a design competition, held many years ago, for a permanent warning sign for Yucca Mountain, the nation's first long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
The winning design, by Ashok Sukumaran, features “genetically engineered Yucca catcus which turns various shades of blue depending on the levels of radiation in the area.”
This is a giant 3-D version of the iconic radioactive danger sign designed by Yulia Hanansen: “We stylized the conventional sign, arriving at the conjoined triangle design shown below. The sign has sharp edges, representing an acuteness and seriousness appropriate for the warning it must convey. It is a pyramidal structure which can be perceived as a message containing another message. The monument itself becomes a symbolic mountain where one will be able to enter it and learn about what lies within.”
Scott A. Ogburn and Linda Buzby designed these nuclear waste mausoleums.
None of which, of course, will ever prevent anyone from visiting the site — even if our descendants still understood English, and the universal radioactive danger sign remains iconographically legible 10,000 years from now. Build a field of menacing concrete spikes, and it becomes a popular destination. CLUI will send busloads of tourists.
What should be done in the intervening thousands of year is to develop an anti-radiation pill or the fast-acting anti-tumor pill, so that with these miraculous medical breakthroughs, future travelers will go on so-called radiation tours.
As you walk through the excavated labyrinth of Yucca Mountain during these tours, you become listless, nauseous. Going deeper and deeper into the caverns — damp, mildewed surfaces; stale air; pyramids of light falling heavily on your weakening body — you begin to have what will become the worst migraine of your life.
Then your hair falls off.
Others in your group had taken a different path and are now suffering from beta burns. Still others, on a different scenic route, are vomiting every few steps, their nose bleeding.
But obviously, all is well; you've taken the pills. Radiation poisoning is as safe as a Disney ride or a stroll through the park.
And as a souvenir you'll be given a wig at the gift shop.
The Bureau of Atomic Tourism
Cold War National Park
Dugway Proving Ground National Park
From Sleep City comes this photo of a hillside cemetery with a view of Nagasaki and its port, a cityscape within a cityscape, suggesting perhaps that it might not be such a bad idea to place cemeteries again in the center of town.
That is, not simply inside the city limit, but rather build them right in the middle of downtown — in front of City Hall; on the 20th through the 35th floors of a skyscraper; converted from disused subway tunnels; next to Macy's. And with the right business model, it might even become a highly profitable venture, helping to turn a once blighted section of the city into a thriving urban scene.
Convince celebrities and high society to be laid to rest inside, and it becomes a major tourist attraction. If, say, another Princess Di or a new River Phoenix dies unexpectedly and spectacularly inside and is then later buried there, then it could become the new Père-Lachaise. In other words, a cultural and community asset comparable to museums, theaters, schools and churches.
But best of all, the throngs of daily commuters will get your daily dose of healthy philosophical musings on life, death and landscape architecture as they pass them by.
Posting the Dead et al.
The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game
Remember the Sundarbans, that “tapestry of waterways, mudflats, and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal” and home to an unbelievably huge array of endangered species? The Independent reported last month that one of the inhabited islands there, Lohachara, has “disappeared beneath rising seas.”
“Eight years ago,” we further learn, “the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.”
So while global warming is uncovering islands elsewhere, it is expected to wipe out about a dozen or so inhabited islands in the Sundarbans in the very near future, resulting in an estimated 70,000 sea level refugees.
The Sundarbans, in other words, couldn't be a more perfect setting for The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game.
As originally and inadequately fantasized here, you as a game player will be given an island, forested or slightly so, but intentionally inhabited so as to give your choices and actions an element of real consequence.
Without intervention, your tropical paradise will be wholly submerged exactly ten years from the start of play. And lest some bothersome Republican Apologist or a second-rate SF novelist obfuscate the science, the data predicting catastrophic sea level rise is irrefutable, its analysis impeccable and unassailable.
Per island is a lone seaside village. You will notice that its plan closely follows the principles of New Urbanism. This is probably because the principal game designers have read too much Nicolai Ouroussoff and consequently have turned homicidal and, like CIA expert waterboarders to a terror suspect, would like nothing more than to see anything that is quaint and earnest placed under simulated drowning and environmental stress, with the possibility of stylistic expiration or total erasure. That or perhaps they have been proselytised by Andrés Duany enough to have developed a raging hero complex for things wholesome and bourgeois.
The waters are coming, and you are tasked to prevent your assigned island and its village from sinking.
You will have a budget of $1 trillion, of course, and have all the structures and widgets ever used in the long history of hydroengineering — from the Garden of Eden to the Three Gorges Dam — to choose from: groynes, seawalls, revetments, rip raps, gabions, breakers, levees, dams, canals, bridges, channels, spillways, pumping stations, marram grass, artificial reefs, imported sand and fleets of trailing suction hopper dredgers.
And also these fantastically named concrete blocks: tetrapods, dolosse, akmons, Xblocs and A-jacks.
As this is being sponsored by IKEA®, the challenge will be in their assembly.
Since you'll be taking on the role of Chief of Engineers and the rank of lieutenant general, you will command an army of migrant workers from Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent. Choose carefully among the enlisted, since each nationality has been genetically altered to display certain traits.
For instance, the Vietnamese are supremely creative, prone to fits of the imagination. The Thais, meanwhile, are practical and reliable, but there are instances when they get distracted completely. Filipinos are the most collegial and unlikely to disrupt your schedule to air out grievances on their quasi-indentured status. The Laotians are the most hardworking, though sometimes they can be too Western about certain things, namely wages and working conditions. The Indonesians have undertaken the most extensive training, but unfortunately, they lack imagination. The Bangladeshis hate the Indians and vice versa. Everyone dislikes the Pakistanis.
Again, draft wisely, for when the tenth cyclone of the season is on a direct course towards your island, the right mixture of skills and a collaborative team atmosphere will help you weather the flood.
With the grunt work placed on the shoulders and backs of others, you'll have time to strategize. So if you like, you can invite Cornelia Dean and Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock for a candlelight dinner to gather some pointers and maybe even create a cheat sheet. After dessert and a fine digestif, you hold a seance to channel Arnold de Ville and Salomon de Caus. Alternatively, everyone gathers around the bonfire on the beach and take turns reciting stories from The Deluge.
You could even organize a weekend charette or a hydrologically-themed lecture (and film) series. For something that's a bit more rigidly curated, you can host an international symposium showcasing the latest hydroengineering research by leaders in the field. Perhaps a design competition can coincide with this event. Countless students and emerging young firms — everyone oozing with talent, vigor, and infectious enthusiasm to make even the most cynical archiblogger weep for joy — will all send in wildly radical yet uncannily practical designs. Of course, your chosen jury will unfortunately have decided long before that they will only going to pick the OMAs and the Hadids and the Schwartzes and the Walkers. They'll laugh; so too will the Pritzker Laureates and the FASLAs. (Unless perhaps you're Rem Koolhaas and decide to throw a fucking hissy fit.)
Or at night, with the impending sea softly breaking against the dunes, you reflect upon the monumental task of lifting Venice above the lagoons for inspiration.
And on Dubai.
On New Orleans.
On Galveston, Nauru, Rome, the Netherlands, the Thames, the Everglades.
While still clinging on to the pretense that this game is real — and temporarily setting aside the fact that this post wasn't published primarily to point you to The Independent article, but rather to provide a dumping ground for 1) leftover images of TSHDs from this previously mentioned post; 2) some newly collected images of tetrapods; and 3) various links collected last year — here are some prohibitions:
1) You cannot construct wetlands and mangroves.
2) You cannot modify the weather.
3) You cannot use any part of your budget to embark on a worldwide conservation crusade or to fund research into alternative, non-polluting forms of energy.
4) Your island must remain tectonically stationary, as opposed to airborne.
5) You cannot mechanize your island and install too many A.I. systems that it becomes sentient.
6) It goes without saying that a strategy of managed retreat — arguably the most sensible but, inexplicably, rarely implemented planning approach to future coastal disasters — is not allowed, because that would be too easy.
So if this were indeed a real game, whoever keeps their island with roughly the same pre-game acreage above sea level the longest, wins.
That your construction looks like a Rube Goldberg machine or a psychosis-inducing theatrum machinarum will not count against you. In fact, you might be awarded a Jury Prize.
One thing is certain though, like with America's Army: The Rise of the Soldier, you will waste years of your life.
Notes on Some Selections from the Visual Images Database of the Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers
Monday, January 22, 2007
Carlos Barrios was an accountant for over two decades. It was a nice comfortable desk job. And then he quit. Now he dives into the sewers of Mexico City, into “the bowels of one of the most polluted cities on Earth,” amongst “garbage, bacteria, excrement, dead animals—even the occasional murder victim.”
You can watch him at work here, courtesy of National Geographic.
“In the darkness of the sewer,” we read from this years-old Washington Post article, “Barrios could see nothing. He doesn't bother to carry a light, because it would be of no use in the thick waters. He inched forward in his bright red suit, an airtight model that sealed away the disease all around him, feeling his way with his rubber gloves, listening in the darkness. He could hear the powerful, whirring pump that pushed the flow through a six-foot-wide pipe. His mission was to clear away the debris around it so it wouldn't back up into city streets. Thousands of homes have been flooded in the past by dammed-up wastewater.”
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Nothing will bring your dinner guests to discuss ironically about urban blight, spectacularly failed city planning policies and grotesque economic inequalities faster than David Monsen's graphically neat wallpaper, Sunnydale Trailer Park.
Neo-Baroque for the socially conscious.
Or could this be a new form of environmental determinism? Plaster this all over the nursery, and you've got yourself the next Daniel Burnham. Use it to cover the walls of a kindergarten classroom, and you'll soon have a litter of future Baron Haussmanns. But whether that's a good thing or not will depend largely on the prevailing mood, fickle or otherwise, of landscape urbanists 20 years hence.
Next on the production line: Addis Ababa Slums, Harare Squatter City, Rio de Janeiro Favela, Casbah Algiers, Sadr City.
No, it isn't a long lost episode of Star Trek, but Ned Kahn's “tourbillion” installation art, a collaboration with architect Uwe Bruckner, for the Duales Systems Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany.
This “dancing airborne funnel of whirling fog,” we read here, was 7 stories tall; powered by large turbines; fed with fog from an ultrasonic humidifier; and observed from a ramp wrapped around the cylindrical atrium.
What a Marvelous sight it must have been.
But as it is, we can only now see it writhing and screaming in this unfortunately compressed video. Fortunately, videos of Kahn's other works are available here. Similarly lo-res, but better than none at all.
There is also The London Tornadium.
Tornado Alleys of Mars
Sailing to Chernobyl
Anouk de Clercq, Joris Cool, and Eavesdropper are your tour guides to Kernwasser Wunderland, a “deserted landscape” of “abandonment and brooding emptiness,” where the asphyxiated din and howls of a former ecology are replaced by the boisterous clicking of a geiger counter.
But could they perhaps have taken us to the surface of the sun? Maybe to a future Guangxi, malignant and brackish?
Wherever you might have gone to, listen! Hear that? That's your DNA being sliced, repaired, and then snipped again. Hear that feedback loop? That's you being genetically recombined into a subspecies. And those incomprehensibly mesmerizing chants — the crackling, humming, ticking, whirring, pulsing, buzzing, throbbing from the deep? Those are the birth pangs of new landscapes borne out of contamination. New biotopes for new species.
From the Telegraph, quoted at length:
Terrorists attacking British bases in Basra are using aerial footage displayed by the Google Earth internet tool to pinpoint their attacks, say Army intelligence sources.
Documents seized during raids on the homes of insurgents last week uncovered print-outs from photographs taken from Google.
The satellite photographs show in detail the buildings inside the bases and vulnerable areas such as tented accommodation, lavatory blocks and where lightly armoured Land Rovers are parked.
Written on the back of one set of photographs taken of the Shatt al Arab Hotel, headquarters for the 1,000 men of the Staffordshire Regiment battle group, officers found the camp's precise longitude and latitude.
“This is evidence as far as we are concerned for planning terrorist attacks,” said an intelligence officer with the Royal Green Jackets battle group. “Who would otherwise have Google Earth imagery of one of our bases?... We believe they use Google Earth to identify the most vulnerable areas such as tents.”
“TerraServer appropriated as a guerilla tactic.”