The horror! The horror!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
It's All Hallows Eve once again, and this year, for my costume, I've decided to replicate Nicholas de Larmessin's design for the Fountain Maker's Costume. It may at first seem insufficiently frightful and quite campy, like Louis XV's high heels or an ancien régime beauty spot.
However, once I tell people that though the spraying jets and frothy pools are mere representations in generic cardboard but back at home all the faucets have been turned on at full flush — i.e., for such frivolity and hydrological gaiety, Lake Michigan is presently being drained of its clean waters wastefully, while the American South and Southwest are in the midst of a historic drought; while children in developing countries are dying due to the lack of accessible freshwater; mothers in China are giving birth to infants with mental defects because they had drunk tainted water; while genocide brought on by drought erupts in parts of the world; while aquifers everywhere are getting drained faster than it can be replenished, the imbalance of which will result in the collapse of global food security; and while Las Vegas and Phoenix want to turn Canada's river rich western territories into a desert.
When all this has been said, when people realize that they've wasted 30 minutes listening to me when they could have spend all that time drinking and whoring, they will surely be horrified by my Larmessin couture.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Behold the future avant-gardener, conceived at the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, “the world's only laboratory dedicated to plant intelligence,” as an extraterrestrial explorer to be deployed to Mars where “[i]ts roots would explore the soil, while power and telecommunications are provided by the main stem and the solar 'leaves.'”
And when its science mission has ended, it will then prune a full scale version of Versailles Gardens out of Martian bedrock.
It Turns and Returns
Here are a couple of snapshots taken from DeLaval's business presentation for its milking rotaries, the TURN-STYLES™ PR1100 and PR2100. During the brief seconds when the camera locks in on the “parlours” as they slowly twirl about their bovine passengers, industrial food production is transformed (un)expectedly into a Busby Berkeley musical number.
In their precisely calibrated choreography, these elegantly designed machines are undeniably mesmerizing. Singularities subsumed by symmetry and repetition, merged wholly into a patterned geometry. Frolic and hypnotic spectacle together side by side with cooly modernist efficiency. And though the rotaries do not appear to conflict with Cartesian topography, any sense of site and context can be nullified if you ignore the spoken and textual commentaries in the videos.
But perhaps they can still defy gravity. Rotate them fast enough and they will detach, a gyroscopic whirligig on its way to a dairy farm halfway across the world. With cows still on board.
Or better yet, for one week each year, the cows are replaced by these bloggers plus Kazys Varnelis, who are herded daily and singly into the compartments to blog whatever they want to write about while they are turned and “pampered” until they are returned exactly one hour later. And for anyone who did not produce an interesting post by the deadline, the abattoir awaits. Such is the brutal nature of the blogosphere.
Our Daily Bread
Brave New Edible Estates
Ensanguining the Trevi
A group calling itself the ATM Azionefuturista 2007 has turned one of Rome's most famous monuments into a bloodied protest canvas.
One of its members, in full Futurist glee, “threw a bucket of red paint or dye into Rome's Trevi Fountain on Friday, coloring the waters of the 18th-century monument bright red in front of a crowd of astonished tourists and residents.”
The man escaped, leaving the fountain, which normally runs on a closed cycle, spouting red water. Police arrived and technicians briefly shut off the water before restoring a clear flow.
At first I thought the guy read an advance copy of The New York Times Magazine's extended report on the neverending water problems of the American Southwest, and so was compelled to carry out this guerrilla attack to highlight the impending climate change disaster to an audience of intensive carbon-producing tourists. Like a self-righteous Moses to a bunch of uber-consumerist Ramesseses.
But alas, based on leaflets found nearby, officials think that he was simply protesting against the “expenses incurred in organizing the Rome Film Festival.” The red waters of the Trevi, then, “symbolically referred to the event's red carpet.”
It was one simple gesture by one person, but the whole world has taken notice. So perhaps next year, another famous fountain will be made to spew vermillion waters — or preferably, made to stagnate and concoct a toxic stew of fluorescent green algae — to successfully call international attention to our present shared hydrological crisis.
Since the fountain is constantly being monitored by CCTV cameras, there is a video of the incident:
But here are some clearer photos, courtesy of Corriere della Serra:
The spirit of Umberto Boccioni still hovers over the heady waters of Italy.
Candor & Meridiani
Immediately after posting this photo of exposed layered deposits in Mars, I discovered these recently released images of possible landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory. Like the earlier one, these obscenely stunning landscape photographs were taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. There are 153 in all.
One wonders if the most interesting landscape photographers aren't working here on earth and are rather spaceborne or on other planets, collaborating with NASA and government contractors. Could we be in another WPA era?
Are Opportunity and Spirit the new Anselm Adams?
Since I couldn't resist posting just one image, there will be two this time. The first one shows the swirling geology of Candor Chasma, a major canyon of Valles Marineris; the other shows a slice of East Meridiani, though it's obviously a lost texturological work by Jean Dubuffet.
Interestingly, both seem imminently palpable. If you were to decide to reach out for your computer screen, you might actually touch something other than a mechanically smooth surface. Lick it and you'll taste Martian salt.
In any case, enjoy!
When Jardinators have lived out their usefulness, they apparently go out to pasture in Ferropolis.
Located right in the middle of a former open-pit mine near the city of Dessau, in Bauhaus country, it is part open air museum and part multimedia venue inhabited by monolithic machines, perhaps belonging to the same species that had turned the surrounding landscape into a post-industrial desert.
Meant to be “an ominous monument and symbol of the extensive exploitation of the countryside and the ecological consequences of doing so,” this City of Iron “also represents a new start in dealing with nature and the countryside. It is an attempt, at the end of an epoch, to create new perspectives for a landscape depleted by industrial exploitation. It is also an attempt to find answers to what are currently two of the most frequently asked questions: where is structural change in the region leading, and what will a post-industrial cultural landscape look like?”
To both questions, Peter Latz has some great answers at Landshaftspark Duisburg-Nord.
And of course, there's Niall Kirkwood's Manufactured Sites. It's no coffee table book, and maybe a little bit technical for the lay person, but it's an incredibly important book.
Meanwhile, we read that there are only five mechano-titans. Surely that isn't enough. There should be at least 1,000, either arranged like the formal aeronautical gardens at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base or irregularly, an inorganic forest waiting for Bangladeshi migrant loggers and for descendants of the Brothers Grimm to pen new fairy tales.
Dear Global Warming, Thanks in Advance! Sincerely, Greenland XOXO
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
No one really wants global warming. Unless you are mentally disturbed, you wouldn't want to see whole nations and cities hydrologically erased or entire ecologies and cultures go extinct. Some may find designing for climate change refugees an extremely fascinating studio project, but the growing inevitability of catastrophic displacements and their attendant economic and social upheavals must surely make everyone sleepless at night.
But then there's Greenland.
BBC News, off-grid and National Geographic tell us that higher temperatures and retreating ice caps are opening up the island's “vast mineral rich wilderness” to exploration. From the off-grid article:
The belief in Greenland’s potential riches stems from the fact that the geology is identical to that found across the now ice-free north-west passage in Canada, which has led to large opencast mining in the Arctic region.
The melting glaciers themselves may even have some economic benefits, as a source of hydroelectricity. In fact, according to the BBC News article, “Greenland has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US company Alcoa to build a huge aluminium smelter using the country's plentiful water reserves.”
What all these mean, then, is that Greenland could achieve financial independence from Denmark, who each year gives the province about $600m, and perhaps full political independence. So while global warming could end a traditional way of life, particularly those of the Inuit in the north of the country, they may gain a new nation with a new (and very large) immigrant population of prospectors.
A newly revealed landscape for creating new cultural identities.
In any case, a few things:
1) A new landscape needs, of course, a new breed of landscape architects.
2) What if Greenland — realizing how strategically important it will be in an iceless-Arctic-Ocean and navigable-Northwest-Passage future — rents the Thule Air Base to the U.S. for a whopping $600m+ a year? What if instead of letting Halliburton or some other sinister oil company run rampant around its virgin territory, the U.S. military somehow becomes a sort of environmental steward? There will be some fascinating examples of greenwashing, obviously, but what subtopian landscapes will come about?
3) And this is worth asking again: What if Greenland was Africa's water fountain? How about Atlanta?
Monday, October 08, 2007
There was an interesting article published in the August 2007 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine about Punta Pite, a residential development on the Chilean coast with perhaps the most awesome oceanside trail system.
Actually, it is more than awesome. The opening image, somewhat similar to the one above, immediately put me into a state of delirious ecstasy, a reaction no other article published by the mothership has ever elicited from me, as far as I can recall.
The article, parts of which appear online, begins thus:
Punta Pite is a 27-acre piece of land that follows the contours of a bay between Zapallar and Papudo, two sea towns located 93 miles north of Santiago, Chile. A residential development planned and built here between 2004 and 2006 takes its name from this place and is laid out in a way that surrenders to the power and beauty of the ocean. It was developed as a series of parts connected by a walking path, one part of which seems to be sculpted out of the existing cliffs, while the other part passes through a restored creed that were meant to create one single spatial experience of the site.
While the article says these Inca-like stony trails are on private property, it also reports that they will be open to the public in the coming months.
Nothing like Punta Pite's cliffside walking path would probably be built in the U.S., or at the very least minor design tweaks would have to be implemented to meet federal regulations and to appease anxious attorneys. Certainly if it's publicly funded, the Americans with Disabilities Act would swoop down demanding railings and specifying turning curves and maximum ramp gradients. And with even more certainty, developers would not want to subject themselves to expensive litigations.
There are, of course, many landscape projects that meet both ADA and attorney approvals and still look and work marvelously. Bureaucratic regulations are in and of themselves not anathemas to great design as some vocally voice.
But the incredible thing about the path, or El sendero, at Punta Pite is the possibility for multiple-compound fractures and even death. It is designed to be accessible and relatively safe, but landscape architect Teresa Moller wonderfully did not diminish the sublime quality of the landscape — and by sublime, I mean, terrifying.
One second you're enjoying the cliffs, its geology, the ocean crashing against the rocks. You're lulled by the beauty of it all, but then exactly one second later, you slip and bash your head down below.
One second you are assured solidity and logical direction, and the next second, you find yourself unable to move, incapacitated by too much landscape, by the knowledge that your foot is but a millimeter away from the precipice and bloody ecstasy.
Or perhaps you find yourself lost, completely subsumed by the wilderness — an unintended reenactment of Picnic at Hanging Rock or a similarly accidental homage to the late Michelangelo Antonioni.
Or so I imagined, as I obviously have yet to visit the site. But the photos are quite suggestive.
Meanwhile, Moller explains in the article that she was guided in her design by “the words of a famous Chilean poet who describes Chile as 'pure geography.'” We are not told who this poet is, but one wonders if the country will now give birth to a national Romantic movement, a whole new generation writing peans to geomorphology, tectonics, hydrology and coastal erosion.
Or perhaps dark Romantic souls will haunt these cliffs, searching for a more sinister, far truer side to Nature, but in finding it too incomprehensible that even Edgar Allen Poe will have trouble expressing it in paper, will sink ever deeper into mire.
How deeply am I willing to go into the wilderness?
Saturday, October 06, 2007
On hydropower and why it doesn't count as clean energy.
On Sydney's ocean pools. In B&W but nevertheless absolutely fascinating Suprematist shapes carved into the city's rocky perimeter.
On Minnesota's sensible plan to generate $20 trillion in revenue by diverting water from Lake Superior to the parched Southwest, as reported by Garrison Keillor in 1995.
On Brooke Singer, a Yahoo! Pick profile on the creator of Superfund365.
On underground wind farms. A coalition of local utilities in Iowa is “building a system that will steer surplus electricity generated by a nearby wind farm to a big air compressor (diagram). Connected to a deep well, the compressor pumps air into layers of sandstone. Some 3,000 feet down and sealed from above by dense shale, the porous sandstone acts like a giant balloon. Later, when demand for power rises, this flow is reversed. As the chamber empties, a whoosh of air flows back up the pipe into a natural-gas-fired turbine.”
On ghost craters, uncharted territories, and the organic remains of a former world.
The Vortex of 80,000 Nikes
Contrary to popular beliefs, Fresh Kills in New York City's Staten Island doesn't contain the biggest collection of garbage in the world. What Wikipedia says “could be regarded as the largest man-made structure on Earth, with the site's volume [...] exceeding the Great Wall of China” and was once the temporary dump site for the remains of the WTC Towers isn't the largest landfill at all.
In fact, the largest landfill isn't even on land, but rather it is trapped in an oceanic riverine system known as the North Pacific Gyre.
Wikipedia again: “The centre of the North Pacific Gyre is relatively stationary and the circular rotation around it draws waste material in. This has led to the accumulation of flotsam and other debris in huge floating 'clouds' of waste, leading to the informal name The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Eastern Garbage Patch. While historically this debris has biodegraded, the gyre is now accumulating vast quantities of plastic and marine debris.”
It is so vast, apparently, that these floating clouds have a total area equal to that of 2 Texas.
Which directly leads me to wonder: can you collect these patches to create a floating solid ground?
It'll be like a new Pacific island nation molded together out of “80,000 Nike sneakers and boots” and “tens of thousands of bathtub toys and hockey equipment” lost overboard from cargo ships.
Or a recycled ocean cruisers from where eco-terrorists hunt down polluting holiday cruise ships in the high synthetic seas.
Or better yet, dump it all on the Polynesian archipelago of Tuvalu, which Der Spiegel says is “currently only 10 centimeters above sea level” and “likely to become the first country to succumb entirely to climate change.”
Paradise Lost it may certainly be, but it may yet still be Arcadia Regained from the bottom of the ocean.
Of course, the islanders have the option of not anchoring this newly accumulated stratum of detritus to their former nation; they could submit it to the whims of the ocean currents and trade winds.
And in their intraoceanic meanderings, they'll meet other climate change refugees on their own island nations made out of Barbie dolls. A new trade group could be formed, with the goal of developing self-sufficient economies and expanding their territorial boundaries by mining the Pacific for consumer goods Made in China.
Is this the future site of the New Central Park of the Pacific, designed by Fresh Kills head designer James Corner?
Dispatches from the Super-Versailles
Last week The New York Times published the latest installment in its ongoing series exploring the environmental and human impact of China's epic economic growth, and from it we learn, among other things, that the country is continuing apace with the construction of “the biggest water project in the history of the world.”
Called the South-to-North Water Transfer Project, it will essential graft into the country's present hydrology three new major rivers — concretized, subterranean, gravity defying — which together will “funnel more than 12 trillion gallons northward every year along three routes from the Yangtze River basin, where water is more abundant. The project, if fully built, would be completed in 2050. The eastern and central lines are already under construction; the western line, the most disputed because of environmental concerns, remains in the planning stages.”
Dwarfing the more famous Three Gorges Dams in cost and scale, this hydroengineering colossal is China's solution to a predicted water-parched future, one that surely would derail the most dynamic economy in the world if it came to pass.
The North China Plain undoubtedly needs any water it can get. An economic powerhouse with more than 200 million people, it has limited rainfall and depends on groundwater for 60 percent of its supply. Other countries, like Yemen, India, Mexico and the United States, have aquifers that are being drained to dangerously low levels. But scientists say those below the North China Plain may be drained within 30 years.
It's a hydrological version of the Great Wall, an olympian infrastructural defensive against an impending civilization-ending crisis.
But will it work? You'll have to read the article for a complete assessment.
Hydrology vs. the Apocalypse
Notes on Some Selections from the Visual Images Database of the Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers
Water in the Metropolis
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The call for entries for the next Next Generation design competition is out, and this time the theme is on something very dear to Pruned's heart: WATER!
Water, glorious water! Magical water, wonderful water, marvelous water, fabulous water, beautiful water, glorious water!
Water is everywhere—in nature, industry, home, our bodies, products, interiors, buildings, landscapes, systems (just to name a few).
Indeed, what will be your marvelous ideas?
Will you turn a city, say, Beijing (why not!), into the largest ecological wastewater treatment machine in the world?
How about a huge, thinly surfaced floating island that's both a post-oil power station and a park?
Or perhaps you'll summon the not-so-ancient spirit of Isamu Noguchi to help you design the greatest hydrological playground ever?
Will your design involve Grasscrete® or super absorbent polymers instead?
Could it be that you want to design an awesome set of cocktail glasses? And that in your poetically beautiful project statement, you will mention how water has always been considered the epitome of purity, a fundamental attribute of Paradise, and used to cleanse the soul of its sins, but it, too, can flood entire villages, terrify us with its abyss, and turn children cancerous with its impurities? You'll even say how very Treehuggable it is, because recycled hypodermic needles are used. No more shall they litter our beaches.
Will you ask yourself: What if Greenland was Africa's water fountain?
Do you have an exceptional talent for programing and so will create a computer game to rival SimCity?
I can already tell that all the winners and runners-up will be phenomenally great. But in case yours isn't one of the projects chosen, send it to me and I'll post it here on Pruned. Sometimes the best aren't chosen.
Monday, October 01, 2007
A new month, a new layout (i.e., back to 3 columns again), and of course, a view from Derek Jarman's marvelous seaside garden towards the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station and its twin atomic reactors, picturesquely sited as the main focus of interest in this composed pastoral scene.
Let me know if anything's amiss with the layout.
(And yes, we are now referring to ourselves in the singular again. “Hello me!” “Hello myself!” “How's me been all this time?”)
Derek Jarman's Garden