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Ebola Island
Galveston National Laboratory


The New York Times paid a visit this week to a national biological defense lab. Scientists there will “do research into some of the nastiest diseases on the planet, among them Ebola, anthrax, tularemia, West Nile virus, drug-resistant tuberculosis, bubonic plague, avian influenza and typhus.”

If that isn't fascinating enough, the lab's “gleaming new building” happens to be located in one of the most unstable types of landform and where hurricanes regularly make a mess of things: the barrier island of Galveston, Texas.

Built atop concrete pylons driven 120 feet into the ground, the seven-floor laboratory was designed to stand up to 140-mile-an-hour winds. Its backup generators and high-security laboratories are 30 feet above sea level.


Says the lab's deputy director, “The entire island can wash away and this is still going to be here.”

A gleaming biological bunker, as impenetrable and monolithic as CIA HQ, a Pandora Box protruding out in a landscape of ruins and shifting sands.

Perhaps the next lab will be on an oil rig?
Traces and Trajectories
Just remembered that we have these photos of Smout Allen's model of their marvelous Retreating Village. They complement a recent post so well that we can't help but post them.

Retreating Village


Retreating Village


Retreating Village
Baby Farmer
Baby Farmer
Stack City
Stack City
Turkey Point Canals
Alex S. MacLean
The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora
The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora


Like some Nigerian scammer, an article by a London rag baits its readers with this fantastic headline: Pictured: The 1,500-ton Catholic church moved 248ft and rotated 90 degrees to make way for a new road.

When you actually read the half dozen or so sentences, you learn that it wasn't the cathedral that was moved. It wasn't even “part of the church building” but an altogether unattached structure.

However, it's still a very interesting bit of news, more for us because of that circular tracks where it turned 90 degrees.

The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora


Those tracks will be disassembled soon, if not already. There's a new road to build. But imagine if that wasn't the case. Infilled with paving materials of local variety, they become part of a new plaza instead — the rectory's nomadic past paved into the landscape.

The landscape is its history.

When it rains, water will collect and flow through shallow channels, following the roundabout path the building once took. Perhaps the whole thing is a rainwater harvesting scheme. When dry, little children, arms shoulder high in imitation of airplanes, will run along these grooves imagined as runways.

Parishioners and pedestrians alike will trip on raised bricks. Bruised knees, sprained ankles, cracked skulls. But those who know the history of the site well, those attuned to the vagaries of their own built environment, will not suffer injuries.

But soon no one will remember the story behind the plaza's intricate parterres. Even the tourist guides will have forgotten, telling their weary travelers that it's just one big cardinal compass, the center of which is the city's Kilometre Zero.

Until, of course, a landscape historian comes along and rediscovers its true function, just in time because the rectory has to be moved to make way for a new road.

Later on, the same scholar goes on to make another awesome discovery: Michelangelo's geometric design for the Piazza del Campidoglio wasn't really intended to help systematize the spatial experience of this jumbled corner of the Capitoline hill.

Piazza del Campidoglio


In actuality, the sculptor-sometimes-urban-planner was merely tracing over the leftover transport system used by victorious Roman generals to move architectural spoils during their triumph. It is also the same system co-opted by later popes to move gigantic relics of saints during Jubilee Year.

Misreading his research, some wacko landscape archi-blogger will publish a post with the headline: Illustrated: St. Peter's makes a pilgrimage around Rome during Jubilee Year 1625. The image of Michelangelo's dome sailing through a sea of architecture, through an eternal maelstrom of history, hypnotized him too much to bother re-reading the PDF file for accuracy's sake.

The following day, he'll offer up a theory of his own: it's some weird Freemasonic machine that can control the fabric of space-time, a direct line to God. But the instructions have been lost over the centuries so now it's up to a subsect of Opus Dei, headed by an albino landscape architect to re-learn how to operate it.

Superstudio


In any case, with some exceptions, like N55's insect-like flood-averting Walking House, moving large structures usually takes two routes: on specially laid tracks or on wheels. The latter seems to be the most common, because it provides better maneuverability and has less infrastructural imprint. It's probably cheaper, too.

But wouldn't it be more fascinating if they were all moved via rails, pressed down into the asphalt so as to make them flush with the surface of the road and then left there once the buildings have reached their destinations?

For whatever reasons — perhaps to escape coastal erosion and sea level rise; to join an enclave of Victorian and Queen Anne houses, all refugees from neighborhoods ravaged by generic condominiums; a concerted policy to homogenize neighborhoods into tourist hot spots; or post-oil, post-capitalist, post-interstate American mobility — more buildings are displaced on old and newly-built rails.

Year after year, then decade after decade, this new supersuface of mobility keeps getting added to, continually overlaid with fresh tracks. It becomes so thick that you no longer need to install new lines, because there is enough tracks and junctions to take you anywhere from anywhere.

The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora


Got a job in another town; need to be with your own creative types in the inner city; or can no longer pay the rent in once affordable city neighborhoods and so must look in the urban hinterlands? Simply jack up your house and plop it into the network.

Gentrification and urban cleansing, white flight, reverse white flight, the mythical creative class, 1960s speculative architecture, 21st century blogger fantasia: all recorded on the landscape.

The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora


You might need, however, to pick off some asphalt like a dentist to a tartar build-up and fell some trees and uproot some shrubs. Or even temporarily move some buildings out of the way. But you'll eventually get there.

Civilization 3


So expansive will this network become that scientists begin to consider it a new geological stratum: a homo-sedimentary layer of reconstituted iron ores. Future geologists and archaeologists will use it for dating artifacts. So will historians use it to re-trace migrations and reconstruct how cities once looked like.

Like the Public Land Survey System, it demands all landscape architects to answer to it.
[farming]
Farming


[bracket] is the just announced, new annual publication from InfraNet Lab in collaboration with Archinect.

They are now seeking submissions for the first issue. Planned to be released in Fall 2009, it will center around the theme of farming.

Fish farms, server farms, energy farms, urban farms, information farms, wikipedia, facebook; our contemporary daily life owes so much to the resourceful, convenient intelligence of collectivity. How is it shaping or how could it shape our cities and buildings? How are these developments shaping our natural environment? And what are new potentials for these typologies? These are the issues and questions that designers and writers are asked to respond to.


The deadline is February 22, 2009.
AAgrotecture 3: Farmacy
Farmacy / Samantha Lee


Continuing with our little series of student projects from Nannette Jackowski and Ricardo de Ostos's vertical studio at the Architectural Association, this is Samantha Lee's proposal for a farm at King's Cross London which “grows, manufactures and sells medicinal herbs.”

Farmacy / Samantha Lee


Lee essentially answered the central question of the studio — Can extremes of programmatic effectiveness blend with the fragility of human habitat? — by turning the farm into a civic infrastructure similar in function to hospitals and neighborhood clinics.

Lee writes:

With the notorious past the area has with drugs, and in this process of regeneration, this farm plays a role in its journey of healing. Herbs were selected according to ailments specific to a city like London – for example stress, insomnia, colds and depression.


Urban agriculture as detox centers for urban living.

Perhaps a much richer, more architecturally inclined Jamie Oliver — in a similar neo-eugenics quest to make thinner, fitter, happier Britons — may want to buy the designs and actually build it.

Farmacy / Samantha Lee


Further integrating this infrastructure into the site, “the growth of the herbs takes place within nets, stretched along the deteriorated brick wall of Regent’s canal, where visitors either pass by to experience the fragrance of the herbal gardens, or can purchase from the pharmacies. The wall also acts as a division between the staff and the visitor where back passages are used to access the herbs.”

The central element of the design is the Gas Holders, a Victorian-era building since dismantled and now reconstructed here. It is the “space for the factory and its machinery necessary to wash, dry, grind and distill these herbs into their commercial state. There, the visitor finds walkways and look out points completing the experience of this factory and farm.”

Farmacy / Samantha Lee


Farmacy / Samantha Lee


Farmacy / Samantha Lee


In appearance — and this could be mostly due to the model's chromatic choices — the structure looks like a rustic cottage for an apothecary, something the Crusader turned monk-herbalist-sleuth, Cadfael, might have produced if he were at the AA.

Or a steampunk version of Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall's River Cottage.

It might also be something that came out of Peter Jackson's SFX studio. The Farmacy, after all, seems to be subconsciously engaging in Tolkienesque fantasies. It belongs in Middle Earth, not in a contemporary global city such as London. In fact, the reconstructed Gas Holders reminds one of water wheels, a symbol of industrial progress but now more often a signifier of the pastoral.

All of which could be Lee's central argument, her “urban script”: to “blend” well into the spatial fabric of the city without people turning riotous at the sight of some industrial monstrosity, it's best for urban farms to mine the mythical rural idyll for nostalgia and vernacular forms, reinterpreted.

No one wants the Fordist hell beneath Metropolis. They want the bucolic, peacock-strewn gardens in the sky.


King's Vineyard London
Aquaculture
Gastronomic Garden


On agro


Pharmland™
AAgrotecture 2: Aquaculture
Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


From a vineyard above London to a fish farm in Central London.

Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


Without drive-by commentary, here is Benedetta Gargiulo's project statement in its entirety:

Aquaculture is an urban landscape that playfully explores and re-imagines industrial food production, inviting visitors to examine the complex interrelationships between the private consumption and mass production of fresh fish.

Formed as a sinuous pedestrian network extending along the sides of Regent's Canal, its central structural element is water. Aquaculture is characterized by continuous waterfalls and levelled terraces, which co-exist with the topography of Central London. It is a fish-farm that doubles as an innovative architectural body, providing a network of bridges, multi-level pathways and accessible connections across the riverbanks, while contemporaneously purifying and treating the canal's water. The cultivated fishes are treated, filleted, and packaged on-site for instant consumption or for take away.

The visitors participate in the entire industrial process whilst experiencing an ‘Aqua Bridge’ or entering the ‘Aqua Tunnel’ by glancing at the mackerel and cod production lines from the sushi bar or simply by crossing and walking along the canal.


But we do want to say that we wanted to post this project because of that beautiful ribbed structure, a possible nod to the nave of St. Paul's, the iron truss roof of Saint Pancras or the de-fleshed carcass of aquacultured mackerels. Of course, the referent could be something else or altogether nonexistent. Perhaps it's a single computational iteration chosen with quasi-randomness amongst many. Or not.

In any case, this well-defined shell provides a nice counterpoint to the jumble of bridges, access ramps, tunnels and conveyor belts — all recoiling within and without, jutting in and out, directing fishes, fishmongers, diners and pedestrians here to there and vice versa.

Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


Aquaculture by Benedetta Gargiulo


In the labels for all the images in this series of posts, please note the links to their original and much larger versions, which have been uploaded to our Flickr account.


King's Vineyard London
Farmacy
Gastronomic Garden


On agro
AAgrotecture 1: King's Vineyard London
King's Vineyard London by Soonil Kim


Off and on for the last year, we have been following the progress of a studio at the Architectural Association tasked with this central question: Can extremes of programmatic effectiveness blend with the fragility of human habitat?

Most of the students approached the problem via industrial food production, which when blended into the city can create urban Edens in one extreme or situations reminiscent of the stockyards in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in another. Intrigued by their investigations, we asked the tutors, Nannette Jackowski and Ricardo de Ostos, the duo behind the spectacular Hanging Cemetery of Baghdad and the newest pamphlet, Untold Stories, for images and any explanatory text. We like four projects in particular, so much so that we've decided to post them individually.

The first of these is a proposal for an airborne vineyard by Soonil Kim.

King's Vineyard London by Soonil Kim


Writes Kim:

Inspired by the urban grains especially the railway network from both St. Pancras and King’s Cross Station around the site, the design is a formal continuation of the topography while reinforcing the colonisation of air space by winery branches. The audacious structure, the winery and the vineyard for red wine grapes are connected by a suspended transport network enabling the use of ground space for a public park. With a capacity to produce 10,000 bottles of red wine annually the project re-articulates private and public space blending productive infrastructure with quality areas to Londoners and tourists.


One can certainly imagine such a network built to grow others things, such as vegetables, herbs, fruits, cash crops, commercial flowers and plants, with the winery turned into a farmer's market.

Need more space to grow? Simply extend it. Cities may have a lot of rooftop space for farming, but the negative space above people's heads is exponentially greater.

King's Vineyard London by Soonil Kim


King's Vineyard London by Soonil Kim


A tentacled superorganism creeping out rhizomatically to the suburbs and towards sunlight.


Aquaculture
Farmacy
Gastronomic Garden


On agro
Nomadic Hotels and Lighthouses
Brighton Beach Hotel


We promise these to be last passages we ever quote from Cornelia Dean's Against the Tides.

In April 1888 [...] Brighton Beach Hotel on Coney Island, a multistory frame structure with scores of rooms, was moved 450 feet inland when it was threatened by erosion. Its owner, the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railroad, jacked the thing up and hauled it inland in one piece, using six locomotives, 112 flatcars, and twenty-four specially laid tracks. The structure moved “at a fast walk,” Scientific American reported in its issue of April 14, 1888, adding: “No difficulty of any kind was encountered.”


Images from that issue of Scientific American, including one from the Library of Congress, are replicated below:

Brighton Beach Hotel


Brighton Beach Hotel


Brighton Beach Hotel


Brighton Beach Hotel


Brighton Beach Hotel


A century and a decade later, another substantial structure on the Atlantic coast was moved wholly intact: the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


When it was built in 1870, the lighthouse was located 1600 feet inland. Sited on one of the most unstable landscapes, where you can witness geological changes occurring in real time, it saw the shoreline getting closer and closer over the years. People feared that without protection the waves would eat away at its foundation, toppling it over. And protect it they tried.

First, the U.S. Navy “installed three groins to trap sand in front of it. Erosion worsened downdrift at the lighthouse. The downdrift groin was strengthened, which helped somewhat, but waves soon began cutting around its southern flank, threatening the lighthouse again.”

Then a businessman helped with the purchase of “the latest thing in shoreline protection technology: artificial seaweed.” After it was installed, “the project quickly failed. Fronds broke loose and caught in the propellers of passing boats. Others ended up in tangles on the beach. It was a mess.”

Asked by officials from the National Park Services, the Army Corps of Engineers drew up plans for a seawall to surround the Cape Hatteras beacon. Everything outside this defensive wall would be allowed to erode away, essentially turning the lighthouse area into a fortified island. As the coastline moves further inland, this new artificial island would migrate out to sea. Should the coastline itself retreat and march out back to sea, perhaps in the next Ice Age, both lighthouse and island would rejoin the mainland: an image we certainly like imagining. Problem was the seawall would block much of the lighthouse, especially its photogenic base. Moreover, the structure rests on a foundation of yellow pine logs. Their “strength is legendary” but could only be maintained if submerged in fresh water. If the lighthouse goes out to sea, salt water will flush it out, and if the fresh water goes, so goes the foundation and the lighthouse.

Since no one wanted to just let nature take its course on the coast and let the lighthouse collapse into a Picturesque ruin for Neo-Romantic tourists, the only other “sensible approach to accelerating erosion,” as the enfant terrible of coastal geopolitics, Orrin H. Pilkey, and others advocate, is: managed retreat.

In July, 1999, “the lighthouse, traveling on steel plate resting on iron rails, arrived at its new site, 1,600 feet inland from the sea.”

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


Architecture here has been yanked from its isolation and thrown into the wilds of ambiguous conditions, to dynamic forces and flows. If only for a short time, it was opened to the landscape.


The Retreating Village
Coastal Retreat
Other Bathing Machines
This House Turns and Returns, Too


Moving the Vatican Obelisk


The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora
The Giant Crystal Caves of Naica: The Documentary
The Giant Crystal Caves of Naica



The Giant Crystal Caves of Naica


The Rhizotron of Illinois
Accessing the Wilderness, or: A Proposal for a National Park of Abandoned Gold Mines
OTECsteading
With the all too brief mention earlier of OTEC comes this image of a concept OTEC power plant.

OTEC


It looks more sleek and futuristic (or retro-futuristic, if you're much versed in vintage SF) than other prototypes, a creature more adapted to fictional outer space than to the oceans.

But something about its bulbous main compartment led us to wonder if there is enough room inside for seasteaders to muck about with nation-building. Amidst all those noisy condensers and turbine generators and navigational gears, perhaps even inspired by them, they try to formulate the mechanics of a new micro-civilization, new identities and new cultural traditions.

If not, how about a second, similarly bulbous habitat module perched on top, above the water line? Or a polyhedral honeycomb of spherical units for, you guessed it, climate change refugees to call home? It would be a kind of artificial energy island but sovereign.

With an overabundance of low-cost, carbon-neutral energy, this New Tuvulu could desalinate fresh water for its citizens and a mini-aquaponics industry. Power enough open-ocean aquaculture cages, and all will be well fed. Any surplus electricity, fish and fresh water would then be traded to neighboring countries. Consequently, their GDP skyrockets.


Deep Lake Water Cooling System
Oceansphere™
Yet another open-ocean aquaculture cage, this one designed by Hawaii Oceanic Technology.

Oceansphere™


Like the Aquapod®, the Oceansphere™ will be untethered to the sea floor and is being marketed as a solution to the continuing rapid decline of wild fish population.

One noteworthy difference is its proposed energy source: the ocean itself. Specifically, the Oceansphere™ will exploit the temperature difference between shallow and deep water through a method called ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). The “exclusive patent pending hybrid OTEC power plant,” we are told, will provide “100% of the electricity necessary to geostatically position the 82,500 cubic-meter Oceansphere™.”


On agro
Rainwater Harvesting in Al-Andalus
Rainwater Harvesting


The 2008 ASLA Student Awards were announced last month. As usual, to figure out which project to post, we filtered the winners through our blog's ratty crochet of thematic threads: but all remained. They're all interesting, intelligently described and evocatively illustrated. Unfortunately, we haven't the time to make individual entries for each one. We're still going to single out one, however, and maybe a second one later, for no other reason than it is by a student at a non-North American university.

That student is Marti Mas Riera, of Universitat Politecnica De Catalunya, Barcelona, and his project is a rainwater harvesting scheme for the Arabic Fortress Hill of Baza in Andalucia.

Rainwater Harvesting


To understand the scheme, it's best to trace an imaginary journey a single drop of rainwater would undertake in Riera's recontoured hill.

So let's say it falls into one of the new gardens on the summit.

Rainwater Harvesting


There, it somehow doesn't get absorb by the aromatic plants or seep through the vegetated spaces between the pavers. Instead, propelled by gravity, it rolls down into one of the “geometric fissures.” Once in these trenches, it is then channeled down to one of the 4 new plazas at the bottom of the hill via a narrow access path, on the middle of which is another collection canal.

Rainwater Harvesting


This canal is connected to an overhang of unspecified stone material, through which our intrepid little drop enters the plaza in a temporary waterfall before it gets swallowed by little holes drilled into the basalt pavers. Under these pavers, below the plaza proper, is a water storage tank.

Rainwater Harvesting


There, it waits until something needs watering.

Rainwater Harvesting


Riera, then, has essentially re-landscaped the hill into a gigantic Rube Goldberg machine, its complexly interconnected parts paved into the built environment as sculptural installations or infrastructural decorations. Rainfall, an obvious rarity in southern Spain and an event in itself, is further turned into a choreographed spectacle.

One can certainly imagine little kids making toy paper boats (or landscape architecture students on assignments and even us trying to recapture the halcyon days of our distant youths) and then letting them set sail from one of the canals atop the hill. Clothes soaking wet but bounding with joy, they will try to follow it on its journey, walking, running, strolling, stopping when it gets stuck to nudge it along, hurrying and slowing in syncopated rhythms, in fits of giggles and screams of delight.


Programming (In)Security
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