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Heavy Load-Exerting Concrete Body and Other Structural Near-Analogues
Schwerbelastungskörper


During a seemingly endless nighttime hypertextual journey through Wikipedia — one that took us from Tempelhof to a crash course on Nazi architecture and inevitably on to Hitler's imagined future capital, Welthauptstadt Germania, a city that became a ruin without first having existed, and to Albert Speer, whose post-war gardening activities are worth detailing, which we will in a future post, i.e., if we still have the stamina to trudge through his excruciatingly long diary for the few relevant entries, before looping back to the start to then read about the Berlin Airlift, whose infrastructural and spatial organization, including the three air corridors above the blockaded Soviet Occupied Zone, we find so utterly interesting — we discovered the Schwerbelastungskörper.

It's a massive cylindrical block of concrete, standing 18 meters high and weighing in at 12,560 metric tons. It is located in the Berlin neighborhood of Tempelhof, where the eponymous airport is found. Under all that tonnage is a slimmer cylinder with a lower and an upper chamber, both of which were outfitted with measuring instruments. In profile, the whole structure would look like a mushroom.

But what exactly is it? And what are those instruments measuring?

Schwerbelastungskörper


The name is translated as “heavy load-bearing body,” although someone in the discussion page of the wiki article has suggested that “heavy load-exerting body” might be more accurate. It was constructed in 1941 to test how well the marshy ground upon which Berlin sits could handle the massive projects planned for Germania. More specifically, it was built to see how the landscape would react to Hitler's gigantic Triumphal Arch, whose opening would have accommodated the triumph in Paris.

The results were not encouraging:

The Schwerbelastungskörper sank 7 inches in the three years it was to be used for testing, a maximum depth of 2.5 inches was allowed. Using the evidence gathered by these gargantuan devices, it is unlikely the soil could have supported such structures without further preparation.


Hitler dismissed these findings, perhaps confident that the landscape can be subjugated with fine Teutonic engineering. But his Third Rome had to wait; there was a war to be waged.

Of course, history then happened, and the Schwerbelastungskörper remained where it stood, waiting for a city that will never come, sinking, still taking measures of the landscape, accumulating trash and graffiti, outliving its original function and its planned 20 weeks' worth of existence.

In 1995, it gained historic status and thereafter given some preservation work that continues today. And if we deciphered the BabelFish translation of this webpage correctly, the structure is to be turned into a history museum, a major component of a redevelopment plan to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods.

Schwerbelastungskörper


Meanwhile, we are reminded of an article published in The New York Times earlier this month about two full-size mock-ups of the future Freedom Tower, one built in California and another in central New Mexico, which “can be reached only over dirt roads in four-wheel-drive vehicles.” In order to see how well the facade and the structure perform under extreme conditions, they were subjected to simulated hurricanes and earthquakes, among other things.

Water jets simulating winds of 74 miles per hour were sprayed at the facade. During the 15-minute test cycle, each square foot of glass was hit with more than a gallon of water.

In another test, a dismounted airplane propeller was switched on to simulate even-stronger and more-scattered winds.

[...]

Hydraulic jacks were used to simulate the different horizontal sway of various floors, both fully occupied and empty. The surface was also chilled to 10 degrees (refrigerated piping was applied to the glass) and baked at 100 degrees (by heat lamps).

Gusts up to 167 m.p.h. were simulated by using pumps to pull air out of the chamber, creating a condition in which the external air pressure was far greater than the internal pressure. The process was reversed, too, by pumping air into the chamber, simulating conditions on the side of the tower away from the wind.

An earthquake was simulated by jacks pulling the mock-up in different directions.


And since everyone believes that the tower will be a prime target of terrorist attacks, the mock-up in New Mexico was blasted with an “explosion that shook the earth a quarter-mile away.”

Freedom Tower


These near-analogues are actually not the only ones. Three years ago a mock-up of the WTC memorial fountain was also built, installed somewhat incongruously above ground in a suburban backyard in Canada. Of all places!

Unlike the simulated Freedom Towers, however, this lobotomized fountain wasn't placed under structural duress. Instead, it was used primarily to help determine the ideal hydrological conditions in which the “billowing silvery curtains of falling water” do “not splash visitors or disintegrate in the wind or roar deafeningly or freeze in winter or clog up in autumn when the oak leaves begin falling in the surrounding plaza.”

WTC Memorial


WTC Memorial


WTC Memorial


One wonders what actually happens to these structures and others like them after all the tests have been carried out?

One of the Freedom Tower replicas was built for $537,000. It would sound rather wasteful to have it scrapped and dumped in oversaturated landfills instead of being repurposed.

Give it to us, in other words, and we'll convert this representational “corner of three typical tower floors” into our new HQ, its “enclosed steel chamber” chicly decorated. When things are slow or when we need a little breather from mining the interweb, we will simply gaze through the laminated glass panes out to the waters of our ¼ fountain cascading down into a truncated void.

Architect and Landscape Architecture Magazine will come knocking on our armageddon-proof aluminum doors to do a feature. The article will come with hyper-glossy photos of us on another clicker-happy run through Wikipedia. And we will be quoted pretentiously proclaiming that “Near-Analogues are the new prefabs.”

Prunings XLII
Tarim Desert Highway


1) The Guardian on the “Eight Blunder” of the World. Is the Palm Jumeirah merely experiencing some growing pains or will it be a gangrenous toe that will infect the rest of Dubai, its future amputated?

2) Next American City on disaster urbanism in the wildfire country of Southern California and in the flood valleys of the Mississippi River.

3) The New York Times on cleaning the toxic landscapes of Fort Bragg, California with bioremediating mushrooms.

4) The Guardian on climate change, wasted money in the billions, doomed flood defences and abandoned villages on Britain's changing coastline.

5) Der Spiegel on Berlin's Tempelhof a.k.a. the Mother of all Airports. Meant to be one of the centerpieces of Germania, Hitler's future capital, but actually completed by the Americans who used it as an army base, the site of the Berlin Airlift and photo-ops of arriving Hollywood stars, this mythic “inland sea with the yearning for faraway places” is now on the hands of voters who will decide today whether to keep it open or close it.

6) BBC News on gardening with moon soil.

7) The New York Times on outdoor “living rooms” in Central Los Angeles.

Armed with grant money, hammers and some technical help, residents around the city have gone about spiffing up bus stops, among a number of other outdoor spaces, into something known as community living rooms.

The idea began several years ago in Oakland, where community organizers and residents got together to improve places where neighbors tended to congregate — the corner store, outside the barbershop — amid a decidedly downtrodden environment.

“The idea was to enable low-income communities to create their own social spaces and improve their neighborhoods without bringing on gentrification,” said Steve Rasmussen Cancian, the landscape architect who helped introduce the living rooms.


8) The Economist on shrinking eastern German cities.

The 25-Year Riverine Journey of a Wooden Boulder Carved out of a Felled 200-Year-Old Oak Tree
David Nash - Wooden Boulder


Beginning in 1978, when a spherical chunk of oak got lodged in a stream as he was moving it to his studio, the sculptor David Nash has documented its long riverine journey.

“For 25 years,” Nash writes, “I have followed its engagement with the weather, gravity and the seasons. It became a stepping-stone into the drama of physical geography. Spheres imply movement and initially I helped it to move, but after a few years I observed it only intervening when absolutely necessary - when it became wedged under a bridge.”

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

The journey is so extraordinary — made more so perhaps by the fact that it's so well-documented — that we can't help but quote the rest of Nash's accounts:

During the first 24 years it moved down stream nine times remaining static for months and years. Sedentary and heavy it would sit bedded in stones animated by the varying water levels and the seasons. Beyond the bridge its position survived many storms, the force of the water spread over the shallow banks did not have the power to shift it. I did not expect it to move into the Dwyryd river in my lifetime.

Then in November 2002 it was gone. The 'goneness' was palpable. The storm propelled the boulder 5 kilometres, stopping on a sandbank in the Dwryd estuary. Now tidal, it became very mobile. The high tides around full moon and the new moon moved it every 12 hours to a new place, each placement unique to the consequence of the tide, wind, rain and depth of water.

In January 2003 it disappeared from the estuary but was found again in a marsh. An incoming tide had taken it up a creek, where it stayed for five weeks. The equinox tide of March 19 2003 was high enough to float it back to the estuary where it continued its movement back and forth 3 or 4 kilometres each move.

The wooden boulder was last seen in June 2003 on a sandbank near Ynys Giftan. All creeks and marshes have been searched so it can, only be assumed it has made its way to the sea. It is not lost. It is wherever it is.


Obviously we know what has happened to it — it's been scooped up by a reclusive oil tycoon to adorn his secret garden like a pilfered Grecian kore. Resting on a pedestal, accumulating monetary value, periodically acting the part of a showpiece to entertain guests.

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

It would be unsurprising to hear someone remark that the boulder is at the mercy of the elements, although we're more apt to say that it is the river that is at the mercy of this artifact, under the weight of human agency, and of Nash's relentless gaze and choreographic machinations.

The river turned into a Picturesque folly; the passing of time, the same physical forces that smooth out rocks and bend rivers turned into a constructed view.

Earth-Fountain Spotted!
Earth-Fountain


A motorist in Al Ahsaa City, Saudi Arabia captured these few minutes of the earth exhaling. It's lo-res, cinematically shaky but still a sight to behold, wondrous and sublime. As it must be commented on — for it's hardly unnoticeably — we are told that the soundtrack is an exaltation of one or several of the divine's multitudinous attributes but we are sure it's a paean to the hidden but knowable geological forces at work eternally shaping the landscape. And just slightly off camera are a flock of demoiselles about to re-enact Busby Berkeley's famous pyramid fountain of lascivious ladyflesh. Of course.


Earth-Fountain
Earth-Fountain Redux
Granular Blitzkrieg
“A wound in the geological bowels of the earth”
Soil Lamp
Soil Lamp


This is the Soil Lamp, designed by Design Academy Eindhoven student Marieke Staps and recently exhibited during Milan Design Week 2008.

Quoting the project brief, in Dutch:

Gratis en milieuvriendelijke energie voor eeuwig. De lamp werkt op modder. De stofwisseling van het biologische leven produceert genoeg elektriciteit om er een led op te laten branden. De modder zit in verschillende cellen. In deze cellen zitten koper en zink om de stroom te geleiden. Hoe meer cellen hoe meer stroom er geproduceerd wordt. Je hebt enorm veel mogelijkheden binnen deze techniek. Het enige wat de lamp nodig heeft is zo nu en dan een scheutje water. Ik heb voor het materiaal glas gekozen omdat ik de techniek zichtbaar wil maken. Door de mooie simpele vormgeving kun je de lamp in elk interieur en elke tuin plaatsen. De vormgeving is een direct gevolg van de techniek.


And this is how BabelFish translates it:

Free and environment-friendly energy for eternal. The lamp works on mud. The stofwisseling of biological living produces enough electricity to launch LED there to burn. Mud is present in several warrants. In these warrants are present purchaser and zinc conduct the flow. How more warrants how more flow is produced. You have enormously many possibilities this technique. Some what has the lamp necessary is this way now and then scheutje water. I have chosen glass for the material because I technique makes visible will. By the beautiful simple design you can place the lamp in each interieur and each garden. The design is an direct consequence of technique.


So essentially, then, the metallic strips of zinc and the cornucopia of minerals and organisms in the damp soil chemically react with one another to initiate a constant electrical current that lights up an LED.

A few questions:

1) Is it an actual working model or just another concept model, a Gravia Lamp v2.0?

2) If it's a working model, how does it work actually? We'd be interested in seeing some flow diagrams and numbers. And what kind of soil mixture?

3) And if it does work, can you take the metallic body and LED out of its lower 3/4 glass enclosure, remove the test tubes and the soil contained therein, and then impale it into the ground — will the LED still glow? Can a generous benefactor of the arts (perhaps Dia) manufacture for us several thousands so that we can run amok with these geological illuminations in Canada's trillion-barrel tar pits or Russia's still untapped gas fields, away from amateur astronomers and other light-sensitive nighttime fauna, making new earthly constellations of future negative contour lines and rhizomatous pipelines? Because why should this alternative energy light fixture be installed only in parks, gardens, driveways, streets and indoor rooms everywhere?

4) Does it work in bacteria-laden moon soil?


Fluorescent Field
Petroleum Sublime

Autotechnogeoglyphics
Automotive Test Tracks


Over a year since their last newsletter, the CLUI has now put up the latest edition. Among the many wonderful things worth noting, there is their aerial photographs of automotive test tracks — those concrete hieroglyphs, in the fringes of urban sprawls, recording “the condition of America, land of the automobile, a syndrome that transformed the landscape of the nation, and the world, more than any other.”

Automotive Test Tracks


Vast asphalt geometries and bounded trajectories tattooed on the surface of the earth, they are described as the “nurseries” for our vehicular companions, reared in “a microcosm of the country, built for subjecting vehicles to all the types of terrain - from interstates, to suburban stop and go; from dirt roads to black ice” — where America is geographically, meteorologically and infrastructurally condensed.

The automotive test tracks of America are mostly in the West and Midwest. Around Detroit, each of the “big three” operates at least one major complex. Test tracks are located around Phoenix, Arizona, to test in conditions of extreme heat, on top of everything else. On the fringes of this city's sprawl are tracks for companies whose home terrain has no desert to work in, such as Volvo, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Nissan. Honda and Hyundai's tracks are in the desert north of Los Angeles. And, in Illinois, Caterpillar, the global earth mover, tests its machines in a giant hilltop sandbox.


You can tour these places, at least via photographs, in Autotechnogeoglyphics: Vehicular Test Tracks in America, CLUI's contribution to the Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The exhibition lasts till August 17, 2008.


Dugway Proving Ground
After the Deluge, The Farm
Viet Village Urban Farm


For a more sober take on urban farming than Work AC's agro-fantasia, check out this project by Mossop+Michaels for a Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans. Today, it garnered a 2008 ASLA Professional Award.

Quoting the brief in part:

The Viet Village Urban Farm project represents an effort to reestablish the tradition of local farming in this community after Katrina. New Orleans East was one of the most damaged areas of the city during the storms of 2005. In response to the devastation, the community has organized around the idea of creating an urban farm and market as the center of the community. The farm, located on 28-acres in the heart of the community, will be a combination of small-plot gardening for family consumption, larger commercial plots focused on providing food for local restaurants and grocery stores in New Orleans, and a livestock area for raising chickens and goats in the traditional Vietnamese way. The proposed market on the site will provide a location for the individual farmers to supplement their income as well as serve as a central meeting space for the larger Vietnamese community along the Gulf Coast. Based on the history of the markets in the area before Katrina, as many as 3,000 people are expected to come to the site for a Saturday market, perhaps more on traditional festival days. Specialty vegetables and foods used in Vietnamese cuisine will be sold at the market. Local Vietnamese restaurants will have a space to sell prepared food during market days as well.

Another goal of the project is to bring together the different generations with the local community through the shared endeavor of the farm and that the traditional skills and practices of the culture brought from Vietnam to America are passed down by the generation of elders. Thus it is also important that the farm also acts as a community center and areas for sports and playgrounds are proposed for the site. The community sees this project as the centerpiece for the rebuilding efforts in the New Orleans East.


If you're at all interested in urban agriculture, this is a good case study to review.

Viet Village Urban Farm


Viet Village Urban Farm


Viet Village Urban Farm



On agro
Locavore Utopia
Locavore Fantasia


Four architects were asked by New York magazine to submit ideas for a vacant lot in lower Manhattan. It's merely a design exercise, as none of the proposals will actually be built. Or maybe one or all will be used to fill other urban voids. Equally plausible, it's all been done in the past.

Undoubtedly of greatest interest to us is Work AC's sequel to its upcoming installation at P.S. 1. This iteration of the same idea takes the form of a multi-tiered apartment building with agro-roofs, propped up towards the sun by Brancusi sculptures and above what looks like a farmers' market. Or perhaps a flea market, where the detritus of a capitalist culture gets recycled in survivalist fantasia below a mythological rural idyll.

In any case, the whole structure reminds one of bleachers found in sports fields everywhere, leading us to wonder whether the second sequel in an urban agriculture trilogy by Work AC is an adaptive reuse of Shea Stadium, the soon-to-be former ballpark of the New York Mets, into a locavore utopia.

Shea Stadium


Build a duplicate stadium — why not 1,000 — and you could have the beginning of a Queens rice terrace to rival those found at Banaue in the Philippines.

Banaue Rice Terrace


Part Grand Canyon, part Norwegian fjords, lining the edges of the five boroughs, built high up, protecting the megalopolis from sea level rise, bad diets and the coming global food crisis.


On agro

Training Ground for Future Terraformers
Future Terraformers of America


Here's a site for those bored executives and hedge fund managers inexplicably unaffected by the worldwide economic freefall and seeking new thrills that only a handful have ever experienced: Cloud 9 Living.

This adventure outfit, based in Boulder, Colorado, advertises itself as “the premier experience gift company that offers the highest quality experiences as unforgettable gifts.” Such offerings include, for instance, diving with a Great White shark from a private luxury yacht. Priced at $100,000, you'd better be diving from and uncorking champagne on the deck of The Gigayatch. If wading in the deep doesn't interest you, you can fly a Mig 25 from a top-secret Rusian airbase. Of course, this chance of surveying the landscapes in rarefied air, at supersonic speeds, will also cost you dearly.

There are, however, plenty of affordable options as well. You can sign up for nighttime white water rafting expedition in which you can survey the terrain through unfamiliar wavelengths of light with night vision goggles. And again, if floating in water bores you, how about a nighttime helicopter tour of the neon-drenched alien landscape of Las Vegas?

One “experience gift” we wouldn't mind giving to ourselves is a day or two or even a whole week spent at Dig This. There, at “the 1st heavy equipment play arena,” you can “play in the dirt - super sized” with an array of “empowering” heavy machineries.

Future Terraformers of America

From the Dig This website:

You can get lost in our 10-acre site with hills, valleys and a spectacular views of the Yampa Valley. Under the supervision of Dig This instructors, you can remove yourself from the external influences of life and focus only on the adventure at hand, automatically building self-confidence and adrenaline levels.


As if to feed some primal urge, starved by a 21st century lifestyle disconnected from the earth, emasculated by the droning shrills of sustainability and pastoralism, you can “doze and excavate dams and ponds” and “move and remove sand, gravel, rock, and other materials from your own individual area.” In climate controlled machines.

We can call this Post-Industrial Romanticism. Mineral lyricism?

Making tiny mountains or rock gardens seems to be a popular task there, as are “team building” and “character building.” But for some real fun, why not spend a whole month excavating a new city, another Denver ex-urb without its McMansions? In this supersized urban sandbox, you can scrape the outlines of future roads, driveways and cul-de-sacs. You can will into existence an entirely new hydrology of storm culverts and drainage channels, thus undoing billions of years of natural tectonic activities.

These foundational landscapes are all ready to be paved over and occupied, but no lawns or SUVs will come. It's as if the developers and creditors have fled, the bankrupt homeowners unwilling to visit their spectacularly failed investments. It's a landscape in a perpetual state of waiting.

Future Terraformers of America

In any case, exactly how popular Dig This is, we don't know. But the operators and instructors are certainly attuned to the zeitgeist.

Reporting over a year ago on research by geologists Brandon McElroy of the University of Texas in Austin and his colleague Bruce Wilkinson of Syracuse University, the Discovery Channel wrote that “human changes to landscapes are now on par with the wasting power of weather and tectonic uplift.”

In other words, we are on par with the same natural forces that move continents across oceans and erode entire mountain ranges down to hills.

A new take of the scale of human changes to the face of the Earth shows that by farming alone, humans have now managed to move a thousand times more earth than the annual sediment loads of all the world's rivers combined. That's enough soil to cover the state of Rhode Island nearly two miles deep in dirt.

And the rate of human changes to the land is increasing.


Indeed, a recent article in The New York Times reported that “thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate.” There are 36.8 million acres of land in the program, bigger in area than the state of New York; “last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.”

Why?

“Because of a growing global middle class as well as federal mandates to turn large amounts of corn into ethanol-based fuel, food prices are beginning to jump. Cropland is suddenly in heavy demand.” So naturally, farmers want “to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybean, corn and other crops.”

Future Terraformers of America

And then there are the reports of a growing breed of diggers who also want to cash in on the boom in the mineral trade. Again in the The New York Times, we read that “160 years after a flake of gold found not far from here incited a frenzied stampede to the Sierra Nevada foothills, a new gold rush is on.”

Driven by record high prices and a suburban thirst for new outdoor activities, tens of thousands of ’08ers are taking to historically rich streams and hills all across the West in search of nuggets, flecks and — more often than not — specks of gold.


However, not everyone is foraging along rivers.

Some prospectors have taken to scouring ore dumps — discarded piles of rock left by old-time miners — with high-tech metal detectors hoping to divine what previous generations missed. In Arizona, clubs head for dry creeks, sifting through the dirt where gold might have washed down in past floods.


Here, one wonders how the big transnational mining companies will take advantage in this uptick in prices of not only gold but also copper, titanium, coal and whatever China wants to gobble up all for itself. But then again, one only needs to see the photos included in this Wikipedia entry on open-pit mine to get a fairly accurate prediction.

Just check out this grossly beautiful panorama of the open-pit coal mine in Garzweiler, Germany.

And this is the Grasberg Mine in Indonesia, the largest gold mine in the world. Here and in other gold mines across the world — where the earth is undone, where billions of tons of dirt get displaced, enough perhaps to save every Pacific islands from sinking beneath the climate-changed waters — is where the staggeringly complex relationship between gold prices and the global credit crisis, the falling value of the dollar and the failure of Bear Stearns are physically manifested in the landscape.

As new slums begin to appear out in the peripheries of American cities and even further afield and as the next generation of grandiose projects like the Orange County Great Park and Louisville's Museum Plaza stall due to lack of funds, elsewhere not covered by the top-tier and middling architectural press are new abysses being excavated, swirling towards the inner core, overlaying new un-earthly soil horizons, suffocating lives and geographies alike.

Future Terraformers of America

We won't be surprising anyone by saying that there is currently a construction boom everywhere. Read any articles published in The New York Times, The Economist and the BBC, especially those of Dubai, China and the quarterly profits of Caterpillar or those of earlier reports on Mecca eradicating its historic Mohammedan neighborhoods to make way for billion-dollar developments and Singapore pirating sand from Indonesia, and you're already well-informed of the situation.

As but one more iteration of this global phenomenon, there is the recently approved $5.25-billion Panama Canal expansion project. To accommodate post-Panamax vessels and to better cope with the projected increases in cargo traffic, new locks are to be built. New approach channels will be dredged and existing ones deepened and widened. Gatun Lake will similarly be deepened and its water level raised to increase water storage capacity. It is thus rightly labeled an engineering megaproject.

Earlier this month, ENR.com gave us an update by reporting that a dredging contract was given to the Belgian firm Dredging International. No new fascinating details are given, but it's interesting to note the other companies who made bids for the same contract. They are Boskalis International, Jan De Nul and Van Oord.

Long-time readers of this blog may recognize these names. Jan De Nul and Van Oord are, of course, responsible for conjuring up Dubai's artificial archipelagos, both The World and The Palms, from the bottom of the sea. And Boskalis is known for its trailing hopper suction dredgers, a fleet that includes the largest THSD in the world; no doubt they'll be deployed to carry out the company's newly awarded contract, worth nearly $1.5 billion, to create a new port for Abu Dhabi.

Future Terraformers of America

All this, then, is the milieu in which Dig This, intentionally or inadvertently, has set up their operations, a creative playpen where future terraformers might be reared in the form of chief executives instilled with the acumen to capitalize on a very profitable futures market or lowly, overworked but extremely well-paid diggers and excavators.

Or the next generation of Robert Smithsons and Michael Heizers. A new breed of Olmsteds and Capability Browns liberated from the ancient paradigms of the Picturesque, Romanticism and Sustainability.


Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

A New River in the Mediterranean Sea
“As Barcelona runs out of water,” New Scientist reports, “Spain has been forced to consider importing water from France by boat.”

Artemis


“Barcelona and the surrounding region are suffering the worst drought in decades. There are several possible solutions, including diverting a river, and desalinating water. But the city looks like it will ship water from the French port of Marseilles.”

The amount of water being considered is “small – 25,000 cubic metres, less than what's needed to grow an acre of wheat, and not enough to keep 30 Spaniards going for a year.” But should this drought continue, growing worse and worse for years to come, we could see a new river, armored in metal and artificially propelled, flowing through the Mediterranean Sea.

And possibly more than one, all circulating through other seas and oceans: a braided, de-terrestrialized hydrology connecting parched landscapes and water-rich regions, knitted by climate change.


POSTSCRIPT #1: The plan is no longer being considered; it is being carried out. From The Guardian:

“The tanker Sichem Defender arrived at the port of Barcelona yesterday carrying something far more precious than its usual cargo of chemicals.

“Nearly 23m litres of drinking water - enough for 180,000 people for a day - was the first delivery in an unprecedented emergency plan to help this parched corner of Spain ahead of the holiday season.”



What if Greenland was Africa's water fountain?


Another New River in the Mediterranean Sea
Giochi d'Acqua
Fontana di Venere at Villa d'Este, Tivoli


In keeping with today's theme of antics and tomfoolery, above is an image of the Fontana di Venere at Villa d'Este, Tivoli, and below is an image of another fountain at the villa, the Teatro e Fontana della Civetta.

Made by Giovanni Francesco Venturini in 1691 and digitized by Catena, the Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes, they are two of the best illustrations available online showing a giochi d'acqua in action.

Giochi d'acqua were water jets concealed between paving slabs, in benches, staircases and statues. Controlled by gardeners behind the scenes, these hidden little fountains would sprinkle unsuspecting visitors, catching them off-guard. One minute they're enjoying the genteel pleasantries of a garden walk and the next minute they're scampering about in their fineries, frantically searching for an escape, if there is one.

With the spigots in the hands of the lascivious, women could get a titillating squirt up their dresses or get completely soaked from a puti's simulated urine or other.

Teatro e Fontana della Civetta at Villa d'Este, Tivoli


Replace the water with battery acid and you could have the penultimate setting of Indiana Jones V or Tomb Raider III. Not in the Mayan jungles of the Yucatan or steamy Angkor Wat but in a sun-drenched papal garden of Tuscany. It's an anxious space under constant threat of eruptions.

In any case, these whimsical water features — which really were an astoundingly complex network of hydraulics — were common in Mannerist Italian gardens, since they provided the element of surprise, an important feature of any mannerist work.


On fountains
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