During brief lulls in CNN's wall-to-wall coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, we try imagining the complex of rooms from where the Super-Versailles might be monitored and controlled in real-time.
Could they be cavernous, hermetically sealed, climate controlled, an ambience of hard drives whirring and clicking, the smells of days-old coffee and hot rubberized circuitry mixing with endlessly recycled, zealously filtered air, entombed inside a mountain?
Or the opposite of everything imagined above?
Thankfully, the wonderful, if unfortunately non-English, blog Approximation points us to Barco, a Belgian company which specializes in designing and developing solutions for large-screen visualization. A leader in professional markets, so we are told, they have equipped the control rooms of NASA, traffic management centers, national power grids, broadcast studios and military combat rooms. They also outfitted the FIFA World Cup international media center, which served an audience numbering in the billions.
And they even supplied the LED technology for Millennium Park's Crown Fountain.
So from multiple case studies found on their website, it becomes easier to visualize the control room of our very own Super-Versailles. Wall-to-wall cinematics, endless streams of numbers, thousands of hours of hydrological voyeurism saved for the archives or for later viewing and efficiency analysis. Beyond what Warhol ever imagined. In fact, Barco may have one-upped him, John Cage, Nam June Paik, and Alfred Hitchcock.
And among all the trillions of electrified pixels, a lone landscape architect — perhaps he's a descendant of Arnold de Ville or Harold N. Fisk, but definitely has watched Dr. Strangelove and The Matrix Reloaded one too many times — meticulously tracks the migration of a single water molecule: from that first dangling raindrop from a Category 5 hurricane all the way to its first contact with the earth, and then through its frothy journey from rivulets to streams to rivers to cataracts to reservoirs to the fountains of Rome.
Because he has to; the Super-Versailles must follow the script absolutely.
Of course, since he reads too much BLDGBLOG, he'll program scenarios of miniscule critical systems failures. For fun, he'll flood a street or two; drain the Trevi Fountain for a day just to piss off tired, sweaty tourists; and trap honeymooning couples on a Disney cruise ship in the Panama Canal. Mildly inconsequential events of topographical hysterics to pass the hours away.
Mars Weather Report
For the afternoon of sol 956: Fair skies with wispy clouds gently drifting toward the west. Very cold.
The Igualada Levee
Going through an archive of half-forgotten bookmarks, we discovered this FORGEMIND.archi.media article on Enric Miralles and Carme Pinós' Igualada Cemetery located near Barcelona, Spain.
You'll read something about “time architecture” and about life journeys and about space-time-metaphysical continuum and about layering of memories and such. But you'll be forgiven if you skip the whole text and simply peruse the photos, which are many, capture perfectly the essence of the site, and unequivocally support what we've long suspected: that the Igualada Cemetery could be a model for an entirely new flood control system, one that is part levee, part diversionary canal, part city of the dead.
The authors may suspect this as well: “The project is conceived,” they write, “as an earthwork that transforms the surrounding landscape and also as a metaphor for the river of life. A processional route descends from the entrance, where crossed, rusting steel poles which double as gates, proclaim the start of the journey along a winding path where railway sleepers are set into the concrete surface towards the burial area. The route is lined with repeatable concrete loculi forming retaining walls.”
A landscape of concretized rigidity and suppleness, of permanence and impermanence, protecting the living from surging waters, avalanches and supersonic pyroclastic mud flows while welcoming those it could not save.
Cemeteries as Major Disaster Response Protocol
The Second Great Leap Forward Pamphlet #14: Queuing
Thursday, February 22, 2007
While preparations for next year's Beijing Summer Olympics may have wrought incredible changes to the physical landscape of the host city, there has also been an effort to end what officials deemed to be anti-social behaviors in public spaces.
For instance, we learn from BBC News that “China has launched a campaign to try to eradicate queue-jumping.” On the 11th day of every month “volunteers wearing red sashes set up stages in squares and on street corners in more than a dozen districts of the city” where they will choreograph a sort of performance art piece of disconnected, institutional linearity slithering across the urban landscape: millions of people standing in the cold, waiting for buses and trains, and all the while supressing any and all urges to jump in line.
And what's a mass campaign to recondition (or westernized?) the public civility of an entire populace without a slogan: “It's civilised to queue, it's glorious to be polite.” Of course, the French may have something to say about that.
Previous Pamphlets: Spitting, Littering, Farting, Staring, Eating, Slurping, Belching, Sneezing, Cursing, et al.
The Hanging Cemetery of Babylon
Nannette Jackowski and Ricardo de Ostos, both recently tasked to author the next installment of Pamphlet Architecture, once proposed “a gigantic presence of a hanging funeral structure” that will hover above the war torn streets of Baghdad, floating unceasingly “from bright explosive mornings to airless night hours,” and lush with growth from an endless supply of dead Iraqis.
“Day by day, nearly hourly, it updates its assimilating heavy stocks, a statistic of a hundred thousand Iraqi corpses or maybe twenty five thousand.”
Lest someone say that this can never be built, a prototype already exists in the skies above Iraq. To see it, one only needs to track the endless flights of cargo planes delivering dead coalition soldiers back to their home countries. And also the countless parabolic airborne tracings of the injured getting airlifted from battlefields to waiting “cash” units; of celebrities and politicians for Thanksgiving or dubious fact-finding missions; and of celebrity journalists, some of whom will simply add to the spectacle and cause their audience to see the events they cover “as nothing more than a special effect or just another reality TV show” before they get seriously injured and are then swiftly flown away.
It's a Paglenian geography physicalized into a new hanging garden.
A book about this project should be coming out in April 2007.
Friday, February 16, 2007
More collaborative solutions collected since our last post on übergadgets.
From MIT Media Lab: “SandScape is a tangible interface for designing and understanding landscapes through a variety of computational simulations using sand. Users view these simulations as they are projected on the surface of a sand model that represents the terrain. The users can choose from a variety of different simulations that highlight either the height, slope, contours, shadows, drainage or aspect of the landscape model.”
2) Jeff Han
Jeff Han's multi-user interactive solution is “an intuitive, 'interface-free,' touch-driven computer screen, which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds to varying levels of pressure.”
On TED Talks: Jeff Han.
On Flixxy: “'Minority Report' Computing”
And on FastCompany.com: Adam L. Penenberg, “Can't Touch This” (Feb 2007)
From the Music Technology Group, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona: “The reactable is a multi-user electro-acoustic music instrument with a tabletop tangible user interface. Several simultaneous performers share complete control over the instrument by moving physical artefacts on the table surface and constructing different audio topologies in a kind of tangible modular synthesizer or graspable flow-controlled programming language.”
On YouTube: Basic demo #1.
More demos here.
One of many projects developed at Natural Interaction, Courses is a large space sensing solution wherein multiple visitors are tracked and trigger video events on the floor.
Download movie here.
5) C6 VRAC
What is it? According to Subtopia, “for some, it is a room-sized genetic structure modeling tool. Others use it to engineer preliminary architectural superstructures suspended in hypothetical space, or simulate incredible emergency landings and training flight paths under fake duress.” And then there are those who want to turn it into a War Room.
So, to repeat ourselves yet again, should we soon expect a legion of Sorcerer's Apprentices to appear in studios and offices everywhere, conjuring monumental earth-moving tricks, re-knotting the floodgates of New York to relieve itself of its teeming masses, coaxing the sea to perform arabesque self-similar geogenesis, or maybe divining intercontinental migrating wave gardens from the plains of Illinois just as Paul Duka's score begins its final tempest?
Or perhaps they're bewitching an army of guerrilla gardeners haunting the urban hinterlands, or maybe just presiding over the future Panoptic Arcade, the Super-Versailles, the Kumbh Mela Array, and the 1000-mile Jamarat Spiral? Or with merely the wave of a hand and the flick of a finger, rampaging through historic city centers, ethnic enclaves, squatter cities, and urban Edens like some zoning board urbicidal maniac?
All of the above, obviously.
Hydrology vs. the Apocalypse
In Jacques Leslie's prologue to his book Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, excerpted here at AlterNet, we learn that “between Hoover and the end of the century, more than 45,000 large dams — dams at least five stories tall — were built in 140 countries” and that “the water behind them blots out a terrain bigger than California.” Moreover, Leslie writes that “by now the planet has expended two trillion dollars on dams — the equivalent of the entire 2003 U.S. government budget.”
But here's what could possibly be the most interesting trivia:
The world's dams have shifted so much weight that geophysicists believe they have slightly altered the speed of the earth's rotation, the tilt of its axis, and the shape of its gravitational field.
To repeat: altered the speed of the earth's rotation.
Slightly, that is. But even if the alteration amounts to a mere fraction of a second per day, that dams could shorten or lengthen a year obviously offers a possible solution to a perennial nuisance: earth-bound extinction level asteroids.
In other words, would a hydrological meganetwork of dams hasten the planet's solar orbital journey such that we arrive at the impact point in space and then depart before the asteroid has even arrived?
Trillions of dollars would have to be spent constructing thousands of dams on every river basins in the world, and many trillions more integrating them into urban stormwater management systems; wetland restoration projects; concretized rivers and irrigation channels; fortified lagoons and estuaries; abandoned tunnels; flood control structures; and every faucets, sprinklers, buckets and rolling 'hippos' throughout the world.
At scheduled times during the year, a transnational governing agency chartered to oversee this Super-Versailles would initiate a carefully programmed sequence of valve openings and closings, of inflows and outflows, of discharge and storage. In soporific trickles and raging Jovian torrents, great volumes of water are shifted across the surface of the earth, against gravity, by sheer human will.
And if the calculations prove correct and the hydrochoreography is followed precisely, the earth would then spin a little faster, and we finish the day and reach year's end early.
Over the course of decades, countless miniscule fractions of seconds are saved, albeit probably amounting to a few seconds. Nevertheless, that just might be enough for us to miss our appointment with the Apocalypse.
In the meantime, before we even know if the whole thing actually works, this apocalypse-averting great flush will be treated as the grand spectacle.
Everywhere fountains will spurt with a little bit more mirth and whimsy. Fireworks will lighten up the night skies over the Three Gorges Dam and Aswan Dam, and barbecue pits will be lit beside a raging Los Angeles River. It'll be the only truly international holiday.
Meanwhile, travelers equipped with the latest edition of The Lonely Planet Guide to Super-Versailles will trek to the Aral Sea, the marshes of southern Iraq, the Everglades or and Owens Lake to witness these ancient landscapes get rehydrated with waters from Greenland's ice caps. To coincide with this event, the local tourist agency will stage a naumachia re-enacting The Deluge.
Those with Fodor's will visit picturesque Venice; those with more adventurous spirit and shun guidebooks at will rappel down behind Niagara Falls.
But most importantly, all the Great Water Wars are averted and resolved.
Dunes in Mars
Monday, February 12, 2007
In case our upcoming upgrade to the new Blogger turns horribly wrong, you can avoid the resulting hysterical wailing and still get your fill of landscape architecture and other wondrously related items at del.icio.us/pruned.
Most links recently have been on hydrology and hydropolitics, and there's this gorgeously soundtracked segment from the 1929 animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
Here's the RSS feed.
The Cenotaph Machine
To cap our unintended series of posts on sacred landscapes, let us point you first to contour crafting, a fabrication technology being developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis whereby “a single house or a colony of houses, each with possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run, embedded in each house all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning.”
And then to Gallica, from where you can download the following images of Etienne-Louis Boullée's designs for tombs and memorials.
It's rather unfortunate that Khoshnevis and Boullée did not live in same century. What beautiful collaborations they might have had.
And everyone could easily have ordered cheap Pharaonic mausoleums towering over cities and landscapes. Entire provinces or states or even whole nations becoming literally valleys of the dead, hosting hundreds of encapsulated monumental voids.
The Enigmatic Jean-Jacques Lequeu
Grand Canyon: The Creationist Tour
Urinating at the Eisenman
The American Lawn Masjid
Trail of Tears
Reconfiguring the Jamarat Bridge
Cemeteries as Major Disaster Response Protocol
The Kumbh Mela Array
The Kumbh Mela Array
The last important bathing date of the half Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, is set for next Friday, February 16. By some estimates about 60 million people will have participated by the festival's end, and as mindboggling as that number sounds, even more pilgrims are expected to attend the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013.
Here are some photos from Getty Images, which are copyrighted, hence the empathic branding. Nevertheless, the photos are still quite stunning.
So: how much electricity can be generated from 60-70 million ecstatic people walking, parading, running, crossing pontoon bridges, or simply splashing about? How many kilowatts can a teeming mass of people, roughly equal to the population of France concentrated into an area the size of three Central Parks, produce?
Say, for instance, a network of perambulatory channels is grafted onto Allahabad, the Ganges, and Yamuna, something resembling a High Italian Baroque fountain, or if one were to prefer something vernacular, a Mughal fountain, but in either case, unabashedly flamboyant in design and engineering, crazily interlooping, fractal, and stampede-proof.
It's a water feature writ large. The Maha Kumbh Mela Fountain.
And imagine then that these human aqueducts were somehow rigged to harness the kinetic energy of tens of millions flowing through them: would there be enough electricity produced to power the city for a couple of months? Or perhaps just to power a handful of emergency hospitals and aid stations? A dozen defibrillators?
A couple of things: 1) We sort of like the image of ash-covered naga sadhus only going through certain channels, and women wearing brightly colored saris on other channels: the turmeric yellows over here and the vermillions over there. And petal-bedecked priests carried on floats by their technicolor-hued devotees each taking over a channel. But all are surging towards the water, coiling and recoiling, circling one another on their own separate paths, brushing up against each other, color against color, but without mixing. Until finally, they merge together into a single crowd in the holy rivers.
And 2) while waiting for the next mela, you can probably rig pedestrian subway tunnels to generate electricity from the morning and afternoon rush hour traffic; from sports fans exiting sporting arenas; from the throng of New Year's Eve and Independence Day revelers as they scamper about urban squares, sidewalks, and plazas, if only to power nearby traffic signals and street lights.
The Jersey Array
Cemeteries as Major Disaster Response Protocol
Apparently, some of the people displaced by the devastating floods in Jakarta have found shelter in a cemetery located in the center of the city.
“For several hundred evacuees,” reports The New York Times, “the cemetery offered a refuge, with public toilets and working water pumps for washing. An informal community has emerged there, with women cooking donated food at a communal fire under a big blue tarpaulin.”
Says one evacuee, “We are afraid to sleep in the cemetery. But we have no other place to go. We are sleeping among the dead.”
But “during the day, the cemetery is now a lively place, as displaced people from surrounding neighborhoods come to wash at its pumps and use its outdoor toilets.”
Cemeteries, planned on high ground, sacred spaces normally detached from the rest of the city, becoming critical centers in post-disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Which reminds us of a Cairene cemetery, pictured above. Known to Westerners as the City of the Dead, it is home to thousands of refugees from Cairo's housing shortage, a “necropolis turned metropolis”, where tombs and mausoleums have been converted to house families, schools, and small business. There is even the occasional wedding parties.
The last four photos are by Ed Kashi, whose amazing though unfortunately downsized photos of the City of the Dead first appeared in the Winter '96 issue of Atlas Magazine, with a brief essay by Julie Winokur.