On constructed wetlands
An archive in the archives:
1) World Wetlands Day, or: why we should sacrifice virgins to wetlands!
2) Floridian Theatrum Machinarum, or: the multi-decade, multi-billion dollar restoration of the Everglades!
3) Dispatches from a Post-Water Chicago, or: how to remake Chicago in the image of its own motto, Urbs in Horto, the City in a Garden!
4) Hyperlocalizing Hydrology in the Post-Industrial Urban Landscape, or: Portland's amazing green street projects!
5) Treating Cancer with Landscape Architecture, or: why covering up reservoirs with plastic balls is super lame!
6) Treating Acid Mine Drainage in Vintondale, or: how to make the future truly brighter!
7) The Return of the Sewer Divers, or: Illinois as the sewage treatment plant to the country!
8) We ♥ Wetland Machines, or: We ♥ Alan Berger!
Quito 1: Paisajes Emergentes
The Wetland Machine of Sidwell
The Wetland Machines of Ayala
Accessing the Wilderness, or: A Proposal for a National Park of Abandoned Gold Mines
Meet the 12-TET Rover. What The New York Times once described as a “shape-changing jungle gym” is, in fact, one of NASA's future extraterrestrial explorers, designed to carry out its mission without much guidance from earth-bound ground controllers.
This autonomy is enabled, in part, by its skeletal frame — 26 extendable metal rods forming 12 tetrahedrons, hence the name — which allows the rover to “reconfigure itself into almost any shape” and adapt to terrains and situations that scientists have not foreseen. So “across flat terrain, it would roll like tumbleweed. It could pull itself, almost catlike, onto rocks or flatten itself and slither through holes.”
You can see it in action in an animation that's available for download at NASA's Autnonomous NanoTechnology Swarm website. The movie file, by the way, is 633.7 MB. Consider yourself warned.
Apparently, there's a prototype roaming a hallway somewhere. You can see it in action here [17.8 MB] and here [5.1 MB].
When not tumbling through the digitized surface of other worlds, these rovers have been drafted by the military for urban reconnaissance or hunting down certain cave dwellers.
Meet the TET Warfighter and its camouflaged pneumatic body.
In many ways, these images remind us of a thesis project by Elena Wiersma, published a few years ago in 306090 07: Landscape Within Architecture.
The thesis is a critical response to Bruce Peninsula National Park's plan to build a new visitor center on a very tame site far from the wild shores of Georgian Bay. The images and text that follow portray an architectural fantasy that proposes, instead, to inhabit the interior landscape of the Bruce Peninsula.
So rather than experiencing the landscape from afar, you are inserted into the interior wilderness of carved bedrock, ancient limestone towers, dark fissures and underground rivers. Instead of outhouses, you will be inhabiting a labyrinth of abysses.
In the proposed scheme, an access and guidance system enables people to climb down into fissures and caverns, mimicking cedar tree roots on the site. Flrexible stainless steel attachments and fittings are inserted into fissures in the rock and hold a network of cedar roots imported to the site from harvested forests. The stainless steel structure mimics fossils, or coral bones, and the roots age and become part of the landscape.
In contrast to the park's philosophy of interpreting the wilderness through a building set apart from the wild, the schematic and imagined access proposal of the thesis do not control or tame the wilderness. The wild space of the interior of the rock of the Bruce Peninsula crosses the boundary of personal safety and loss of identity, and revels in the unconscious. It is through our own inner wild that we respond to the natural and relate to the remaining wilderness.
Here are some images:
In a Metropolis micro-interview of Martha Schwartz, we learn that her dream job is to design “a national park in eastern Nevada, where we join together abandoned gold mines—that have just been left there to rot—and redesign them.”
How marvelous would it be, as part of the master plan to link them all together, to deploy NASA's TET rovers into these mines. In addition to using these skeletal tetrahedral frames as geological armatures, to hold back the earth and facilitate access, they will also bore through the bedrock, drilling new passages and eroding caverns to dwarf the nave of St. Peter's, wherein they will lock into place as columns, arches and internal buttresses.
A few centuries from now, landscape architects will go spelunking through this subterranean park. They are actually postulants to a secret society of Freemasons that had splintered off from the American Society of Landscape Architecture. As part of their Masonic initiation rites, these future stewards of the earth must first immerse themselves in the abyss; it's baptism by artificial voids. To become better caretakers of the environment, they must encounter the fullness, the exquisite grandeur, the terrifying unconscious indifference of the landscape.
As they descend deeper and deeper, as their bodies and identities begin to dissolve into the rocks, they must ask of themselves: “How deeply am I willing to go into the wilderness?”
Animaris geneticus, or: Intergalactic planetary landscape architect
We ♥ Wetland Machines
Of course, we have to return for a third time back to P-REX, this time to single out one of their projects, the Pontine Systemic Design.
The result of Alan Berger's year as the Prince Charitable Trust Rome Prize recipient in Landscape Architecture, at the American Academy in Rome, in collaboration with Case Brown, this project proposes to “re-introduce a gigantic new wetland machine” to cleanse and adaptively reuse one of the highly polluted zones of Italy's Lazio region, the drained Pontine Marshes. It is both a productive filtration system and a regional recreation area.
Quoting the project summary at length:
Choosing a gigantic, consolidated wetland site will likely be more viable in the complex patchwork of land ownership. Given Latina’s situation distributed treatment areas would be both enormously complex to purchase and ineffective to manage. The Wetland Machine’s dimensions are directly related to the amount of wetland area needed to treat the amount of water in the Canale Aque Alte—the major collector for this highly polluted zone. At 220 l/s, with a load around 50+ mg/l of N, at least 2 square kilometers of treatment wetland will be required. The design retro-fits and widens existing canals to serve as flow distributors. Furthermore, soil cut/fill operations are used for terraforming shallow ridges and valleys to hold/treat water and make raised areas for new public space and program. At 2.3 sq. km., the new wetland machine will drastically improve the regional water supply and provide needed open space for recreation. At only 6 km from Latina, the site could house programs and environments almost completely lacking in the region—large open landscapes with diverse vegetation. Extensive edge habitat diversity or programs—shallow shoals for juvenile fish and swimming, starker edges for fishing and water storage.
Early this summer, the President of Latina Province launched a feasibility study to evaluate the potential of this wetland machine.
There are more fascinating projects at P-REX. If you are at all interested in how to adapt entropic landscapes — such as abandoned mine pits mountains of slag and pools of cyanice, vacant urban lands, landfills and former military installations — in a holistic, multi-layered strategy for future productive use and more sustainable outcomes, let Alan Berger and his colleagues show you how.
POSTSCRIPT #1: The New York Times on Alan Berger and the Pontine project. ““The solution has to be as artificial as the place. We are trying to invent an ecosystem in the midst of an entirely engineered, polluted landscape,” says Berger.
POSTSCRIPT #2: Much earlier, The New York Times tagged along with the landscape architect and his class to a severely polluted mining area in Colorado.
A Field Guide to the Public Beaches Of Malibu
The famed beaches of Malibu are public; you are the owners.
However, there seems to be a concerted effort to confuse the public, to make one feel like a criminal trespasser in some exclusive enclave of millionaires and celebutants. If you aren't met by security guards at the very few public access entrances, this after navigating through barriers just to get to public parking lots, there are signs warning you that you are passing through “private property” and entering a “private beach.”
There are signs everywhere: “No Parking Any Time”, “No Stopping”, “Right to pass by permission” — the majority of which are false and illegal. It's as if the aristocracy along Central Park West and 5th Avenue has conspired to keep the public away from Central Park.
To see that the public is properly instructed on how to access the beach — your beach — the Los Angeles Urban Rangers provides an easy-to-use field guide [PDF]. From their website, you can also download a reprinted article, by Jenny Price, from LA Observed that gives you more detail.
Having both with you shouldn't necessitate carrying copies of the California Coastal Act and the state's constitution.
For those who are in Los Angeles this weekend, you can also sign up to a “safari” organized by the urban rangers, who will teach you how to navigate those invisible lines separating private-property and public lands. A “public easement potluck” is also scheduled on your beach.
Other Simulated Worlds
The American Museum of Natural History has made available for download historical photographs of its permanent and temporary exhibits. There are photographs of the museum's dinosaur displays and many more of its famous dioramas. All are in black & white.
Perhaps the most interesting from the catalog are the ones showing the museum staff preparing those exhibits. You see in those photographs landscape facsimiles in various stages of recreation; creatures undressed or nearly dressed; ethology imprinted on a three-dimensional canvas; and exterior habitats crammed into architectural spaces.
So marvelous are these bunch that we are going to post a lot of them.
Meanwhile, we have to mention at this point a very early episode of Chicago Public Radio's This American Life, titled Simulated Worlds. In the second act — just after we meet some Civil War reenactors who don't wear underwear and also after we get a tour of a wax museum and a fake coal mine but before we hear about host Ira Glass's visit with an actual medieval scholar to a Medieval Times dinner theater in suburban Chicago — writer Jack Hitt gives us a short history of dinosaur displays.
According to Hitt, dinosaur displays are not entirely the product of accumulated scientific data, of empirical truth. They are cultural artifacts, our “national psychic erector sets which we've put together in different ways depending on our mood.”
During the first decades of the 20th century, the AMNH posed its T. rex bones in an upright position, propped on its tail. Skeletons were broken, some bent and others removed altogether so that it looked like the “marauding predator” people thought they were. And also so that it didn't look too diminutive in the large exhibition hall. Natural history as a function of architecture: it had to reach high up to the ceiling, fill up all that space, loom large over the crowds. This was, after all, the time of P.T. Barnum, “when you put up your most fantastic stuff in your museum or your circus” in order to attract more people than your competitors.
This was also the time of America's ascendancy. Transcribing Jack Hitt:
These creatures had slept forever and now they were upright for the first time in a hundred million years. What had put them up on their feet literally was the wrought iron strength of Pittsburgh steel, the American industrial revolution. But the exact dates are also timely. The brontosaurus went up in 1906 and the T. rex in 1912, just before World War I, when the slumbering giant of America awoke. To the Europeans we were still a friendly, dumb rube of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, but we were about to prove ourselves as international warriors. The crowds that flooded through New York's museum saw two images: the affable but dimmed brontosaurus, and across the aisle, the berserk rage of T. rex. Friendly until agitated, then fury, which is how the world came to see us: an amiable, joshing hick who, if provoked, will kick your ass.
A few decades later, after World War II, dinosaurs were presented in more animated positions, sometimes in “outrageous poses.” They were “jimmied into action poses, locked into face to face combat like two upright grizzly bears or [?] ready to assault. This was the 50s dinosaur, the dinosaur of kitsch. They were no longer held up together by steel but animated by plastic, the essence of America at the time, a substance and a future entirely of our own making.”
In the 80s, dinosaurs gained a new persona. “No longer was the dinosaur a slow, dimmed monster. Now he was a slick, swift, calculating hunter: the Velociraptor. A 6-foot tall predatory entrepeneur, who learned and adopted quickly. He was the perfect dinosaur for global capitalism, who'd eventually starred in a bestselling book and movie, Jurrassic Park.”
As for the 90s, the decade had the eco-saur. Jack Hitt here describes a dinosaur exhibition at the AMNH, then new when this episode first aired in 1996:
We see dinosaur eggs and baby dinosaurs. The ambience is largely about parenting. The scene is more ecological and holistic. We are meant to see these animals as part of the natural ecosystem of their time. Eggs, babies, parents, death, bones. This is a story about the the cycles of life. A warmer tale, a greener tale. This is a story of dinosaurs not as George Patton would see them but as Al Gore would: emblems of a proper view of the environment. The eco-saur, who's seen the light of family values and the beauty of biodiversity.
And like the dinosaurs dying out, that's “probably not a bad thing.”
In any case, more photos! Including this seemingly contemporary snapshot of a bear confronting its own simulation, predating both Jean Baudrillard and Damien Hirst by decades.
Would we have to reassess the history of Abstract Expressionism if we were to discover that this taxidermist was Robert Rauschenberg's lover and that the artist's found objects were not appropriated from the streets and trash heaps of New York City but were actually pilfered from the museum's workrooms during their nighttime trysts?
And the rest.
We're clearing our bookmarks again, and here are some links that were worth saving: Project New Orleans /// Fake Soil /// Designing Greener Dirt /// Chicago's Green Alley Initiative /// GROW:DC /// Cooking at the South Pole /// Pechet and Robb Studio Limited /// International Rivers /// Earth House /// USA evacuation routes /// Wanted: Space Experiment Volunteers /// Who owns the moon? /// Public Participation GIS /// Your Sewer on Drugs /// High Tech Crosswalks /// Baghdad's Red Lake /// Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial /// Alan Berger /// National Helium Reserve /// The CERES Water Trail /// Mars Soil Resembles Veggie-Garden Dirt /// The Sliding Rocks of Racetrack Playa /// The Waters of the City of Rome: hydraulic infrastructure, aqueducts, fountains and sewers.
Wave Garden v5.0.0
Thursday, July 24, 2008
No doubt you've seen the HypoSurface everywhere at technology fairs, architecture biennales, gadget blogs and advertising industry trade conventions. It's the “world's first display system where the screen surface physically moves,” according to its developers.
Here, however, let's imagine it as a temporary art installation at a Chicago downtown plaza, specifically this plaza fronting a Miesian-inspired black box by Jacques Brownson, the one with the famous Picasso public sculpture. Rather than a wall, it's the ground itself, gyrating in the shadow of perfect geometries. It's also embedded below so that its occupiable surface is not floating above the plaza but actually a continuous ground plane.
But what sort of digital data will it be linked to? Earthquakes? Past tsunamis? The rise and fall of the price of oil and food? The fluctuating collective volume from all the silly debates, brought on by the premier The Dark Knight, which was filmed near the offices of Pruned HQ, about whether Chicago or New York is the real Gotham City?
Cross-Bedding, Bedforms, and Paleocurrents, or: A Proposal for a New Civic Plaza in Chicago
Cross-Bedding, Bedforms, and Paleocurrents, or: A Proposal for a New Civic Plaza in Chicago
Below are some screen captures taken from animations of cross-bedding formation that you can download from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The sinuous patterns that you see on the sides of these modeled landscape correspond to actual stratigraphic markings in the real world — earth's own hieroglyphs that can be read and interpreted, allowing one to piece together a narrative of events from deep time.
Similar images appeared here quite awhile back, then in monochrome. Having recently been reacquainted with them, we thought it would be fun to post another series, now in sepia.
And we also thought it would be fun to imagine a new urban public space inspired by these animations.
It's Chicago's Federal Plaza — that “space in between” three black boxes by Mies van der Rohe in the Loop — turned into a giant version of Janis Pönisch's Dynamic Terrain. Into an undulating patch of the urban grid.
Uploaded into this terrestrial machine would be all the data accumulated by the USGS on cross-bedding. Flip the switch and ancient worlds get resurrected, forming and deforming once more for all to see. During the morning hours, extinct sand dunes come alive, and in the afternoon, Jurassic riverbeds get their chance to distort and convulse in a forest of Miesian lines.
And all the while, office workers enjoy their lunchtime break undisturbed; tourists listen in to a lecture on Chicago architecture in a valley temporarily sheltered from the surrounding tectonic upheavals; and the homeless get comforted by the mesmerizing rhythms of this amorphous surface.
Until, of course, some unfamiliar wave patterns begin to rattle the whole place. The USGS has detected a 9.0 earthquake somewhere in the world, and since its servers are networked to the plaza, this potentially catastrophic event gets replicated in Chicago in real-time. Everyone who was there — who was tempest tossed by telepresent seismic waves, bruised but not battered — gets interviewed by CNN.
Or maybe it's been hacked, because someone has a grievance with the government. The plaza has always been the site of political protest; after its renovation, however, organizing large crowds has been difficult. But as proven by these hackers, it can still process acts of civil disobedience.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
BusinessWeek on T. Boone Pickens, the “modern-day John D. Rockefeller” who “owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more. He hopes to sell the water he already has, some 65 billion gallons a year, to Dallas, transporting it over 250 miles, 11 counties, and about 650 tracts of private property.”
The LA Times on farming with the sea.
The New Yorker on the American lawn. “What began as a symbol of privilege and evolved into an expression of shared values has now come to represent expedience. We no longer choose to keep lawns; we just keep on keeping them.”
GOOD Magazine on pollution tourism.
Pink Tentacle on some floodgates.
Off-Grid on soil power. “Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that make use of the energy given off by soil microbes are amongst the technologies that hold promise for bringing power to developing states.”
Thursday, July 17, 2008
While we are still on the subject of coastal interventions, let us finally enter into the archives Vicente Guallart's wonderful microcoasts.
Installed on a rough stretch of the Spanish coast, these terrestrial islands enable comfortable colonization of landscapes in a state of “permanent revision,” where solid ground gives way to more ambiguous landforms.
If we can be permitted to continue our self-indulgent streak, we would like to imagine these microcoasts having been fitted with an internal fantamagical machinery that allows them to expand and contract, either following some sort of obscure, unknowable tectonic logic or in direct response to external stimuli, for instance, beach erosion and the fluctuating numbers of English pensioners.
Each one is like an orthogonal paramecium genetically modified with an Autobot's DNA, unfurling its geometry laterally or outwards into the sea, perhaps joining others of its own species to form a superorganism and in the process Spain gains a small province, before mitotically subdividing into beach furniture. For power, they graze on a diet of sun, wind and waves.
When there is no more edge, when the sea finally abuts the city, they will just migrate to new ecotonal pastures.
And while all of this is happening, you can picnic or sunbathe or set up permanent camp.
The Great Climate Change Park
Mapping the Ecotone, Ashley Kelly and Rikako Wakabayashi's winning entry in the design competition Envisioning Gateway, is one of those things that we have been meaning to post for months.
Having earlier attempted to communicate our fascination with coastal interventions and our belief that by merely being sited on such tenuous terrain, they are by default the most interesting type of project there is, we think that the duo's project will be a good postcript to our previous post.
Their proposal is certainly among the best that we have encountered last year, and it definitely deserved its First Prize.
Kelly and Wakabayashi had a two-fold task. First, they had to develop a master plan that unifies the separate units of the Gateway National Recreation Area scattered all over the New York-New Jersey harbor. Second, within this larger scale, they had to design a new park at Floyd Bennet Field in Jamaica Bay, the result of which are seen in the images accompanying this post.
A major element of their proposal is a series of jetties and piers, rigid infrastructure in an otherwise shifting landscape. It's the urban edge intersecting with the natural landscape. From above, they look like the runways of the now defunct airport, here realigned not to direct people off to distant locales but to the site itself.
It's a simple design but a fantastically genius one. It allows park visitors to come “into direct contact with marshlands, tides and fluctuating sea levels” but, in keeping with the natural condition of the park, a place in “necessary flux,” this infrastructure vacillates between accessibility and inaccessibility.
In other words, during low water levels, you can throw around a frisbee, have a picnic or take a hike on dry ground; you can do most anything what you can at a national park or an urban park. however, when the waters come and inundate the site, there will certainly be some things that you won't be able to do. But you would then be able to fish from the jetties, do some kayaking and more — until, of course, the site reverts back to drier conditions.
The great deluge may have come but there's no reason to panic. The design being as resilient as it is, the infrastructure hasn't collapsed. The symbiotic relation between the varying ecological and cultural systems hasn't deteriorated.
This is disaster, designed.
There is an important lesson here for coastal cities threatened by sea level rise, especially cities like New Orleans. The prevailing paradigm is to separate urban settlements from the waters, to fortify against attacks from the elements. But it's a catastrophic mistake to think that one can contain something as eternally mutable as the landscape. You cannot freeze the outline of the shores or the riverbanks forever in time and place.
What Kelly and Wakabayashi are saying is open up the city to the waters. Give it a zone of transition — an ecotone — where both land and water can be occupied simultaneously.
In the abstract, replace classical notions of formal clarity and structural stability with an orthodoxy of flexibility and adaptibility.
Meanwhile, it must be mentioned that in addition to being points of access, the jetties and piers are pedagogical tools as well. As the landscape changes around them, they provide a backdrop with which one may be able to discern the various habitats, the disappearance and reemergence of landforms, and fluctuating sea levels.
One may even possibly detect the creeping effects of global warming.