Sunday, February 28, 2010
1) On Urban Omnibus is an interview of the organizers of Foodprint NYC, Nicola Twilley and Sarah Rich. Says Twilley, “[F]ood is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting seemingly disparate issues. It is a magical lens that allows you to see the landscape in a different way.”
2) Metropolis on landscape architect Jacques Wirtz's garden in Schoten, Belgium.
3) Spillway on Kieran Timberlake's winning design for the new U.S. Embassy in London.
4) The public comment period on the National Mall Plan is open until March 18, 2010. We knew that the National Mall is the most contested territory in the Western Hemisphere, if not the entire world (which would include Jerusalem), but we were dumbstruck to learn just how many government entities have jurisdiction over the lands and roads within and adjacent to the plan area. In addition to the competing interests of a bewilderingly heterogeneous citizenry, planners have to do deal with the following agencies: the National Park Service, the Architect of the Capitol, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Agriculture, the General Services Administration, the District of Columbia, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office.
5) The Pop-Up City on a floating park for Amsterdam.
Friday, February 26, 2010
For Glacier/Island/Storm Week, we rummaged through our archives for some thematically relevant material. Rather than simply linking to the analogous hashtags (our #ice for #glacier, for instance), we decided to do a bit of curating, ending up with 10 posts per hashtag. We've got nuclear-powered glaciers, a proto-Archigram city in quasi-flight, a pyramid for serving glaciers, ice caps turned space observatories, Thoreau's frozen New England pond reconfigured vertically, avalanche protection structures, an anti-hurricane toy for the rich and famous, vapour cities and more. Go see. #glacier #island #storm
Meanwhile, above is the Morris Island Lighthouse, which has been standing on the same spot on the South Carolina coast since 1867. As the island migrated towards the mainland (as barrier islands wont to do), fans of the lighthouse decided to save the historic structure from certain collapse by armoring its base. The island kept on retreating, and they kept on fortifying. Once it overlooked a wide stretch of beach, but now the lighthouse is itself an island located half a mile out to sea, an immovable geoglobule secreted by its parent island. However, the two islands may yet rejoin, perhaps in the next Ice Age. Or it might attach itself to a different nomadic island just passing by. No doubt that after awhile, it will be secreted once again. Other islands, other shores and other continents will come and go, and the lighthouse will fuse and disentangle with them all, a static marker recording not just the dynamic processes of geomorphology but also the irrational geopolitical mechanics of coastal development and the mercurial aesthetic tastes of those that will (or will not) seek to preserve it for eternity.
Nomadic Hotels and Lighthouses
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Cut two leg-wide holes ergonomically apart, line the holes and the excised disks with recycled plastics, and voilà, you just made your own OOoo Chair.
“The OOoo Chair is an innovative design solution,” Martina Decker and Peter Yeadon tell us, “that attempts to address the energy and waste problems that are propelled by the furniture production and disposal. The project intends to provoke a change in our behavior, and our way of thinking about furniture, through an elegant economy of means.” Specifically, by (almost) doing away with the chair and embedding it into the architecture, you significantly reduce the energy and material to make it. No object also means no waste and no replacement, which would have its own energy and material requirements.
The OOoo Chair may never be massively implemented to the extent that there would be an appreciable reduction in waste and energy use, but this does not entirely preclude one or two installations at, say, a new restaurant in a museum or a national pavilion at the next “green” world expo. Instead of shimmering scrims, you would have disembodied limbs projecting out of buildings, billowing like a colony of sea anemones siphoning off passing algae. Not interactive performance art, just people eating their lunch. It's the crowd as ornament. They're even as organic as green roofs, as kinetic as wind turbines, and as “green” as those architectural affectations.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
1) The Wall Street Journal on Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court last December. “Erosion threatens nearly 59% of Florida's 825 miles of sandy beaches, according to the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Under a 1961 law, the state dredges sand from one area and dumps it on another, expanding the width of a threatened beach. Six property owners in Walton County, banding together as Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc., argue that they should own the new beach and visitors shouldn't be allowed to spread their towels on it. The owners say their deeds entitle them to all land up to the mean high water line, including the additional 80 to 100 feet of beach the state added.” More on the SCOTUSblog.
2) 3quarksdaily on Tings Dey Happen, a one-man play by Dan Hoyle set in the sublime petroscape of Nigeria.
3) InfraNet Lab on the Thermarium. “The Thermarium envisions a new beach typology for the Toronto Waterfront. Responding to the lack of swimming at Toronto’s new urban beaches and consistent CSO (combined sewage overflow) closures at surrounding swim areas, the Thermarium offers new possibilities for water immersion and activity that are enabled, rather than prohibited, by the polluted run-off instigated by heavy rainstorms.”
4) Metropolis POV on protecting the Netherlands from sea level rise via soft coastal engineering.
5) A seven-story aquarium on Times Square. “Jerry Shefsky, a Toronto-based developer, said on Wednesday that he has signed a preliminary agreement with the landlord of an office tower on the western edge of Times Square to go forward with the $100 million project. He would install tanks featuring sharks, rays, penguins, otters, and other animals in the bottom floors of the 40-story building, known as 11 Times Square, hoping to attract some of the 35 million people who pass through Manhattan's major crossroads every year.”
6) The New York Times on military training sites as wildlife preserves.
7) Miller-McCune has an ongoing series on wildfires. “The war being waged against wildfires from Southern California to Greece and Australia is almost as complex as the infernos themselves. Innovative computer mapping tools advance, as do airborne imaging techniques that can look straight through black smoke for views of emerging dangers no firefighter ever sees. However, some crews battle blazes on bulldozers older than they are, and funding is tight all around. Still, the breakthroughs keep coming.” One article looks at state of the art remote sensing technologies while another looks at computer modeling to understand and hopefully predict the behavior of wildfires. A third looks at lo-tech strategies in places with modest budget.
8) The Wall Street Journal on the politics of the Asian carp.
9) The Los Angeles Times on the complicity of turfgrass in global warming, pollution and the water crisis. “For the first time, scientists compared the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed by ornamental turfgrass to the amount emitted in the irrigation, fertilizing and mowing of the same plots. In four parks near Irvine, they calculated that emissions were similar to or greater than the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the air through photosynthesis.”
10) Yahoo! Sports on the looming Peak Curling Stone crisis. Will curlers turn a Scottish island into the next Nauru?
Buy a Lighthouse
Bidding for this oil drilling station augmented with a lighthouse will start this spring. One wonders what potential buyers would want to use it for. Might they convert it into an oceanic summer McMansion with an amazing 360º ocean view (that is, if they're lucky enough to get financing), the vanguard of an incoming sea-level-rise real estate speculative bubble?
We actually don't mind this sort of irrational housing fad, if it means seeing beachfront McMansions get razed to the ground and rebuilt offshore as part of a managed retreat program while at the same time curtailing further coastal development. If it means halting the billions of tax revenues annually earmarked to protect these properties of the very few, money which can be used in ways that can benefit the very many, then by all means speculate away.
A Little Columbarium in the Atlantic
Real Estate of the Future
The Hydrological Schoolyard
Monday, February 15, 2010
Adding to the growing list of stormwater management projects posted on this blog is the Mount Tabor Middle School Rain Garden in Portland, Oregon, designed by Kevin Robert Perry with Brandon Wilson and built in 2007.
It is included in the American Society of Landscape Architect's recently launched website Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes, a sort of glossy brochure of 10 mothership-approved projects to showcase the ASLA and its members to a lay public and some allied fields that unsurprisingly are unfamiliar with what they actually.
“Through this site,” we are told, “you will learn how landscape architects improve your world through projects ranging from the large-scale sustainable master plans and housing communities to small-scale green streets, parking lots, and private yards. You will also learn how landscape architects, planners, architects, engineers, horticulturalists, and others work in interdisciplinary teams to create innovative models that outline a path to sustainable future practice.”
Here, most of the rainwater falling on the school grounds are captured and allowed to infiltrate the soil rather than piped away on aging sewers.
Quoting the project statement: “The 80-year old combined sewer pipes serving the Mount Tabor neighborhood are inadequately sized to effectively manage the amount of impervious area runoff generated from neighborhood buildings, streets, and parking lots. During intense rainfall events, the overload of stormwater entering the neighborhood combined sewer system will 'push' sewer water back into the basements of local residences. The City of Portland, dedicated to solving this problem, began working with Portland Public Schools to reduce, as much as possible, the amount of stormwater entering the combined sewer system from Mount Tabor Middle School.”
This depaved parking lot also has the added benefit of cleansing the water of pollutants, cooling the school's south-facing classroom and providing an on-site, real-world example of environmental design.
We won't say much more about the project, because the program is similar in many ways to others we've covered before, most recently the rain garden at Sidwell Friends School, though that is technically more complicated, as it also manages wastewater. We have also covered the environmental and aesthetic benefits of rain gardens with another project by Perry: Portland's Green Street Project. In that post, we also touched upon their potential economic and social benefits to places where local governments are fiscally unable to maintain basic infrastructural services. Finally, we once attempted to summarize for our mostly lay readers all the key concepts in our posts on Grasscrete®; simply substitute “Grasscrete®” with “rain gardens.”
Now if only someone were to make the hydrological Edible Schoolyard.
The Hydrological Playground
A Proposal for an Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Chicago
This Olympic Stadium is inspired by the historical transformation of the Stadium of Domitian into Piazza Navona in Rome and also to some extent the post-games strategies of Atlanta's Olympic Stadium, which was reconfigured into Turner Field; Albertville's circus-like Théâtre des Cérémonies, which like a circus big top was wholly dismantled and recycled; and the future London stadium, whose seating capacity will be downgraded, the same legacy plan for Chicago's holdover stadium for its failed bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
It will be an antithesis to Beijing's de-civilizing monolith.
Rather than remaining a stadium in a city already saturated with athletic and outdoor cultural venues, this proposed stadium will be adaptively reused post-games into low-rise affordable/low income housing or for mixed uses. It'll be truncated down, and the excised modular units will be clustered around the stadium proper. This newly formed neighborhood will then be infilled with further development to reach a certain density. Additionally, the stadium proper itself will be carved out into segments (not too many, perhaps just two or three openings) in order to open up the interior to the urban grid and link it to the city's Olmsted-designed Emerald necklace of large parks and green boulevards. This open space may be a park, a plaza or whatever the winning proposal will be in an official design competition to repurpose the grassy turf.
The stadium exterior may have the ebullience of FAT, the lushness of a vertical garden or the networked interactivity of a vast multimedia screen of pure data. But the design will have to bear in mind its edited future and that the interior, too, will be a facade facing a park/plaza/whatever.
This stadium or the Olympics needn't be in Chicago.
Chicago 2018, or: A Proposal for the First Wholly Urban Winter Olympics
A Proposal for an Aquatics Complex for the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympic Games Bid
Saturday, February 13, 2010
1) Hubble on Saturn's twin “fluttering” aurorae.
2) On March 9, the Landscapes of Quarantine exhibition will open at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. “[T]he practice of quarantine extends far beyond questions of epidemic control and pest-containment strategies to touch on issues of urban planning, geopolitics, international trade, ethics, immigration, and more. And although the practice dates back at least to the arrival of the Black Death in medieval Venice, if not to Christ’s 40 days in the desert, quarantine has re-emerged as an issue of urgency and importance in today’s era of globalization, antibiotic resistance, emerging diseases, pandemic flu, and bio-terrorism.”
3) Bustler on the winning concept for the revitalization of Toronto’s Lower Don Lands.
4) Alphabet City on urban public baths. “When the public bath moves into the city, it may frame natural landscapes, as in an indoor wave pool or a Japanese open-air rotenburo, or amplify the elemental qualities that buildings usually try to moderate, such as heat and cold, wet and dry, darkness and light. These urban bath cultures, like the Roman thermae and balnae, Turkish hammam, Japanese sento, and Russian banya, have formed a cornerstone of their cities’ spatial forms and their citizens’ daily rituals.”
5) An apiary on the west site of Chicago.
6) Wikipedia on the River Thames Frost Fairs.
7) The Guardian on damming the Amazon. “The Brazilian government has given the green light to the construction of a controversial hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest that environmentalists and indigenous activists claim will displace indigenous tribes and further damage the Amazon basin.” The Belo Monte Dam will be the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world, behind the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Itaipu Dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay. And according to the BBC News it is one of “at least 70 dams” planned for the Amazon basin.
8) On drive-ins.
9) e360 on rewilding. “A Marshall Plan for the environment, rewilding promotes the expansion of core wilderness areas on a vast scale, the restoration of corridors between them (to fight the “island” effect of isolated parks and protected areas), and the reintroduction or protection of top predators.”
10) BBC News on climate change tours in the Alps using GPS and mobile phones.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
To the ever growing list of computer interfaces now infesting our bodies like viral prosthetic limbs, you can add another, one that's far less arthritic than a keyboard, less prosaic than a tablet/stylus combo, and while without that technolicious sheen of a multi-touch screen is nevertheless as immersive and unconventional as one can get.
And that's mud.
Writes Thomas Gerhardt:
By sloshing, squishing, pulling, punching, etc, in a tub of mud (yes, wet dirt), users control games, simulators, and expressive tools; interacting with a computer in a new, completely organic, way. Born out of a motivation to close the gap between our bodies and the digital world, the Mud Tub frees the traditional computer interaction model of it’s rigidity, allowing humans to use their highly developed sense of touch, and creative thinking skills in a more natural way.
Gerhardt further describes how this interface might work.
Where the Mud Tub differs from [other experimental interfaces] is its use of a richly textured organic substance that takes advantage of human ingenuity and complex sensory ability; pioneering a new open-ended interaction typology where prescriptive goals are centered around states, rather than specific user manipulation. I.e., instead of having a user click a mouse button with their pointer finger, or gesture with two fingers in a specific way, he or she is simply asked to create a state in the Mud Tub surface, which can be accomplished in any manner of ways, including digging, molding, pressing, piling, etc. This creates a “buffer” between physical user action and digital result that allows for user improvisation and makes the system inherently adaptable.
So can we soon tweet by playing in the mud? Our tweets will just be gibberish, meaning there won't be much difference from the norm.
When might we expect to be able to go to our neighborhood park, find a patch of wet or merely damp earth, plug in our iPad and update our blog, all the while using the soil for power?
Can we use our (muddy) backyard garden to create a digital 3D model of our next landscape project?
We're reminded here of David Gissen's chapter on mud in his marvelous book Subnature. Mud, he writes, is “a type of unstable ground that must be overcome in the construction of foundations. In the development of modern cities, rather than discussing mud as something wanted or desirable, it was identified as the product of poor drainage and ineffective engineering.” It “signifies a type of failed engineering” and “operates against modern concepts of circulation; it slows the city down like slush.”
[T]he development of ideas about mud is intimately related to the rise of modern economies, industrialization, urbanization, and the birth of the modern state. Mud has run counter to virtually all of these formations. When economic prospects went bad, in a sense, they turned into mud (or dust); urban routes were slowed, and mud infiltrated all manner of economic enterprises, from farms to mines.
It's interesting, then, that Gerhardt is using mud to facilitate communication, enable commerce and bridge distances. By lessening the disconnect between our physical bodies and our network identities, this mud liberates rather than bog us down. Rather than neutralize the city, mud is seen as engendering community, virtual or otherwise.
Mine the Gap
Here's another competition, and it's organized by the Chicago Architectural Club. The site is the Chicago Spire hole.
The Chicago Architectural Club is pleased to announce the 2010 Chicago Prize Competition: MINE THE GAP, a single-stage international design ideas competition dedicated to examining one of the most visible scars left after the collapse of the real estate market in Chicago: the massive hole along the Lake Michigan shore that was to have been—and may yet be—the foundation for a singular 150-story condominium tower designed by an internationally-renowned Spanish architect, a tower which was to have become a new icon for the city and region. What to do with the gap? Whether or not the project is resuscitated, what else can we do with this strategic and highly-charged site? Once the motor of real-estate speculation has stalled, what can we use to propel ourselves, and the discipline, forward?
We're still pining for subterranean skydiving, but we'd be happy if it gets turned into a mushroom farm as a satellite venue for the world's largest annual food orgy, the Taste of Chicago.
Entries can be submitted online between March 22, 2010 and May 3, 2010.
UPDATE: Land Art Generator Initiative
Registrations for the Land Art Generator Initiative competition are finally being accepted.
The goal of the competition is to design and construct Land Art / Environmental Art installations that have the added benefit of large scale clean energy generation. Each sculpture will continuously distribute clean energy into the electrical grid with each land art sculpture having the potential to provide power to thousands of homes.
Note that this is foremost an art competition, meaning “the installations are art first, power plants second. There may need to be sacrifices to be made in terms of efficiency of energy generation in order that the design function primarily on a conceptual and aesthetic level. The objective is not to design and engineer a device that provides the cheapest KWh or the most energy per square meter of land.”
The deadline is June 4, 2010.
While clearing several months' worth of accumulated bookmarks, we rediscovered an article from The New York Times about laser scanning in Glasgow — or to be more precise: laser scanning the city itself.
A few years ago, we read, a group from the Glasgow School of Art “began surveying a swath of the center of Glasgow, along the River Clyde, creating 3-D digital representations of some 1,400 buildings and dozens of streetscapes.” The project led to commissions from the Scottish government's heritage agency to scan other historical landmarks in the country. And later this spring, the group will be part of a team that will scan Mount Rushmore to create “the most complete and precise three-dimensional models ever of the site, millions of times more detailed and accurate than the best photographs or films, precise down to the tiniest fraction of a millimeter.”
So precise are these digital models that they can be used not only to facilitate much needed restoration work of deteriorating monuments but also to recreate them if they are completely destroyed by natural or man-made disasters. In other words, if the Bamiyan Buddhas had been laser scanned before they were obliterated by the Taliban, they could now be reconstructed with unbelievable accuracy.
We're inevitably led to fantasize a team of laser scanners shooting billions of pinpricks of light at the Acropolis or Machu Picchu, converting them into deterrestrialized point clouds. Not waiting until the buildings get corroded down to bedrock by an abrasive mixture of tourists and climate change, or even until the scans are completed to start reconstruction, the surveyors connect their data servers to a distant swarm of Pike Loop robots, which immediately begins to fabricate these ancient sites in foreign terrain. It's BLDGBLOG's wettest wet dreams.
Better yet, forget those surface monuments. How about something subterranean like the underground necropolis of Domitilla outside Rome or La Subterranea in Guanajuato, Mexico? Both of these places have been laser scanned, and their ghostly digital facsimiles await to be physicalized.
There are also those abandoned sewers, stormwater tunnels and subway tunnels. Day and night, laser scanners that have gone mobile will be deployed into these voids, and bit by pinprick bit, these labyrinths that once confounded, concealed and even consumed trespassers with their disorienting mazes will resolve into total comprehensibility. Every detail will be known to you.
Simultaneously, disembodied limbs out in some vast tract of land will get to work replicating these filigreed abysses. Once completed, it will look like a city eroded down to its subsurface infrastructure. It'll be the playground for urban explorers who might be looking for more muted thrills and for architects who could no longer wait for the mythical Golden Age of WPA 2.0 to play out their desires.
CLUI and Atlas Obscura will no doubt lead tactical tours.
What will you do here in this infrastructure disconnected from the network?
For the month of February, including the two weeks when the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be staged, you can participate in the fifth and latest installation of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Vectorial Elevation in Vancouver.
Twenty robotic searchlights have been spread out along the English Bay, and via a three-dimensional interface on the installation's website, their positions can be reconfigured by anyone. From anywhere in the world, you can redesign the skyline of Vancouver.
You can render the intricate vaulting system of a Gothic cathedral or the geometric tessellation of a Persian mosque; inscribe cryptic constellations onto passing clouds; or cultivate a photonic bouquet for Valentine's Day.
Perhaps someone might want to recreate a childhood memory of searchlights that once beckoned them to a glamorous Hollywood movie premier while another might one to evoke the torched nighttime skies of London during the Blitz. Indeed, searchlights add spectacle and a sense of excitement to any event, thus making them perfect additions to the festive environment of the Olympics. But they are also harbingers of violence and destruction, and of course, the Olympics have a long urbicidal track record.
In any case, all designs will be placed on queue, then projected for everyone to see on site or on webcams, and finally given their own webpage with photographs as documentation of your participation.
Bodies in Motion, Bodies at Rest
Flux-us! Flux-you! Flux-me!
Monday, February 08, 2010
The fabulous Junk Jet has just released their third issue, and it sounds amazing. They asked for:
Fluxing architectures, boogie, buildings, rolling rocks, flying architectures, provisory pyramids, and temporary eternities; for all kinds of practical concepts and conceptual practices, for stable happenings and unstable thoughts, for lifted cellars and dug in landmarks, for curtains, mobiles, house boats, bubbles, zeppelins, flying saucers.
And they got:
Fantastic forms of material, immaterial, physical and mental flux. Not only were immovables made movable, but also were put forth moving ideas of aesthetic, social, and political concern. We recognize that it is in microarchitectures, where architecture resides today, that speculations cannot be hilarious enough, and that the post-digital is the era we already live in.
We're thrilled that one of the contributors is David L. Hays. His piece will give an update on his investigations into thermally-responsive, dynamic structural systems, a research project which he had begun for his 2001 thesis work, Sentient Architecture, and then continued during an academic career predominantly occupied with landscape history and theory.
“As a practice of design in which boundaries between art and technology are fully dissolved and in which form is both motivated and modified by shifting conditions of environment,” Hays wrote in his project statement, “sentient architecture conflates concepts of structure and environment that have hitherto been at odds, thereby allowing architecture and landscape to be theorized as a single discipline.“
It is exactly what Junk Jet was looking for.
Meanwhile, we were asked to submit a piece to the issue, but unfortunately we found ourselves in several kinds of fluxes and couldn't get around to it. Sorry Junk Jet!
Our contribution was to have been a mixed bag of resampled posts, such as our proposals for an Aurora Bibliothèque; a Versailles hydrologically rendered to terrorize coastal cities; mass producing the Netherlands' Shanghai Expo pavilion as an Archigramic infrastructure for the nomadic population along the Eastern seaboard; the related supersurface of architectural diaspora; a performance art in which Maurizio Cattelan choreographs a modern reenaction of the moving of the Vatican Obelisks through the streets of Rome but this time involving four parade balloons in the exact shape and dimensions as the minarets of Hagia Sophia; and The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game.
Only a few hundred copies are printed per issue, so act fast to get yours.