(Im)possible Chicago #3: Forever Open, Free & Clear v2.0
Over a century since retail magnate A. Montgomery Ward sounded the battle cry to defend the city's mandate to keep its lakefront a public common that is “forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstructions whatever,” a similar call to arms was made for the Chicago River, to make it forever free of industries, private developments and sewage.
The ensuing political battles were bruising, and not every building was cleared away, but at least now one can stroll the entire length of the river without having to go up and down flights of stairs or cross streets and fight through traffic. In fact, starting at any point, you can walk or bike or jog along a circuitous path running on both banks of the river and end right where you started.
Along the way, you might encounter kayaking parties setting off from mini-harbors, anglers, community theaters staging avant-garde interpretations of The Odyssey, and triathletes in training. As it is now a baptismal font for future Olympian swimmers, your roundabout will be soundtracked by the ecstatic screams of children frolicking in the waters. During the winter, ice swimming clubs and mobile skating rinks proliferate.
Every four years, the entire river is artificially frozen for a monthlong frost fair.
On the landslide taxonomy above, the British Geological Survey writes:
The main classification criteria are: type of movement (falls, topples, slides spreads, flows), and type of material involved in the movement (rock, debris, earth). Combining movement and material type terms enables an appropriately descriptive landslide name to be formulated. Naming can become more detailed with the addition of other descriptive details related to activity state, water content , rate of movement, etc., if known (e.g. active, complex, extremely rapid, dry rock fall-debris flow).
Surely the image needs to be accompanied by an illustrative taxonomy of mitigative measures against landslides showing a wide spectrum of programs and strategies for inhabiting the geological wilderness.
Monday, June 28, 2010
And here's the next batch.
SOAK: Mumbai in the Estuary by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha looks at Mumbai’s terrain and the history of its making. It images the sea and the monsoon not as enemies and agents of flood, but as inevitable partners in the shaping of the ground of settlement.
It situates Mumbai in a fluid threshold between land and sea, a shifting saline and fresh water gradient of creeks, and a monsoon surface of holdings. The ground between land and sea is understood to be a filter in section drawings, photographs and models that present this alternative representation of Mumbai’s terrain.
SOAK also showcases design interventions that holds waters rather than channel it out to sea; that work with the gradient of an estuary. It calls for visualizing the city as a fluid field of rain-soaked surfaces, monsoon holdings and overflows, of public-private negotiations.
Rather than fighting the monsoon, it encourages us to design with and enjoy the soak.
Here's a brief excerpt from BBC's Coast on artificial coastlines and mobile floating harbours constructed in secret all over Britain for the Normandy invasion.
“Sugar Beach is the second urban beach proposed for Toronto’s downtown waterfront, and the latest addition to the amber necklace of Toronto’s lakefront beachscape. It is a sequel to HtO, the waterfront’s first beach park. The proposal for Jarvis Slip playfully recomposes other signature elements of the city, with Toronto playing the role as its own design precedent. The omnipresent horizon of the lake and adjacent industrial buildings recalls Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884). Tinted by sugar spray carried on westerly breezes from the neighboring Redpath Sugar Factory, a series of hard rock candies with colored stripes and dozens of pink umbrellas are scattered across a sandy wedge of beach along the Jarvis Slip. Integrating the future Waterfront Promenade, along with a plaza for programmed and unprogrammed events, the design playfully adopts some of the most enduring elements from Toronto’s emerging landscape identity—beaches, bedrock, trees, and water—as well as the urban horizon and a trace of the city’s past industrial mood.”
“Oyster-tecture is a project created for Rising Currents, an exhibition jointly sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art and the PS1 Contemporary Art Center that commissioned design responses to climate change and sea level rise on the NYC waterfront. Our team, led by Kate Orff, participated in an 8-week design and planning workshop at PS1 with a team of local engineers, ecologists, and high school environmental activists to develop the proposal. Inspired by local restoration efforts underway, we propose an offshore wave attenuation oyster-reef and a water-based inland to protect the city’s waterfront from climate changed-induced sea level rise and storm surge. By improving water quality, attenuating waves, and building habitat, Oyster-tecture introduces new strategies for water-based recreation, ecologies, and economies to the residents of New York.”
“This atlas addresses the New Dutch Water Defence Line (Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie) on a themed basis. Its position in the landscape, the forts, the inundation system, the geomorphology, the strategic system and recent developments can be read off in maps rendered so as to give an understanding of all aspects of the defence line landscape. The defence line reveals itself as a many-tentacled military defensive system of forts, group shelters and polders which can be flooded at the threat of war. The maps show the cohesion of the defence line as a landscape-strategic structure as well as the topographic composition of this structure in layers and components. The more detailed maps of the forts display the wealth of historic places, insertions in the landscape and defining elements.”
In the Safe Trestles Beach Access competition, our favorite finalist is The Long Trail, submitted by Ken Smith Landscape Architect.
Writes the design team, “Our approach is straight forward incorporating ADA access and providing a safe at-grade crossing. The path follows the topography by tracing desire lines. Existing use patterns are utilized for a minimal footprint of path infrastructure. This strategy encourages ecological restoration, reduces runoff, improves water quality, and provides additional habitat.”
The Tarlair Swimming Pool is a tidal pool cozily tucked into a cove on the northeast coast of Scotland, near Macduff. First opened in the 1930s, it became a popular, even fashionable, social meeting place. During low tides, it provides safe areas for swimming and wading, and at high tides, the sea replenishes its waters by engulfing all areas of the pool. Built in the Art Deco style, its expressive curves, white washed geometric tea pavilion and Suprematist pool stand in awesomely beautiful stark contrast against the craggy landscape.
Tarlair has fallen in disrepair since it was closed in 1995. In 2007, it was awarded A List status, the highest rating, by Historic Scotland in recognition of its “simple yet stylish design, early date and magnificent location.” This status gave the pool legal protection but not immediate funding for restoration.
See also the tide pool of Saint-Malo.
#1 #2 #3
Friday, June 25, 2010
Giving us another reason to love John Körmeling's Happy Street at the Shanghai Expo even more is this nighttime photo of the Dutch pavilion taken by Dan Hill, of City of Sound. With its hodgepodge collection of ostensibly detachable modules all crazily lit up, this instant city looks like a mini-Shanghai crossed with a mini-Tokyo or Amsterdam genetically modified with a 24-hour shopping mall and Blade Runner. We know we shouldn't be judging things just by their photos, but those Christmas lights spiraling down the columns make the other pavilions look joyless. Just check out this yawn-a-rama.
One half-expects that flanking that fluorescent Happy Street are cybercafes where the local mafia farm for World of Warcraft gold, McDonald's serving dim sums, noodle shops, sushi bars, hot pot dining halls, ping pong halls, laundromats, capsule hotels, Youth Hostels, pieds-à-terre, dormitories where college students and migrant workers from Shanxi province cram into multi-level bunk beds, bookstores selling rare editions of books that survived the bonfires of the Cultural Revolution alongside copies of Mao's Quotations, Chinese apothecaries, mobile phone repair shops, e-waste recycling sweatshops, antique shops filled with Ming ceramics of questionable provenance, an IMAX 3D movie theater, chapels for Western-style white weddings, Falun Gong secret meditation rooms next door to a non-government sanctioned Catholic church, brothels, acupuncture centers, discothèques, coin-operated pissoirs, Chinese shadow puppet theaters, a landscape architecture studio, haberdasheries where tourists can get outfitted with a Mao suit in just a couple of hours, Michelin 3-starred restaurants, travel agencies, car dealerships, a planetarium, a synagogue, a Freemason lodge, an abattoir, an Apple Store selling iPhone knockoffs, bootleg DVDs and dumplings, a miniature golf course and a miniature football pitch, Buddhist temples, tattoo parlors, Starbucks, AC cooling centers, bôiteries, karaoke bars, oxygen bars that always fill up whether or not there's a smog alert or a sandstorm, the venue for Postopolis! Shanghai, fabulous ballrooms for drag shows, hot-body contests, mock same-sex weddings, Chinese opera performances and the Miss Transgender China beauty pageant, detention centers for human rights campaigners, fishmongers, tea houses, calligraphy schools, English language schools, high schools, gao kao preparation night schools where students hook up to oxygen tanks in the hopes of increasing their concentration, National Ethnic Minority Theme Houses, fully immersive Cave Automatic Virtual Environments (or CAVEs), H&Ms, Zen-inspired spas, hipster boutiques, white guy rental agencies, expat watering holes, organ harvesting clinics, sanitariums, orphanages, missionaries, branches of the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Tate, satellite campuses of the world's leading universities, studio spaces in which guests for A Date with Luyu are interviewed via satellite, Dance Dance Revolution arcades, crematoriums, grottos, betting shops, bakeries, abortion clinics and a cinema that plays all the films of Jia Zhanke all the time.
The Dutch Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai
(Im)possible Chicago #2: New Micronesia
After a series of negotiations between the United Nations, the U.S. Government, the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago and various ward aldermen and their constituents, sovereignties over several neighborhoods on the South and West sides were transferred to the governments of Pacific island nations whose territories have been made uninhabitable by rising sea level. Generously compensated, residents displaced by the new arrivals were relocated to the North side.
The new residents, also generously compensated by carbon-intensive nations in perpetuity or until global warming subsides, then set about colonizing their new homeland: an archipelago of extraterritorial enclaves carved out of the city. Some razed everything to the ground, then unearthed and discarded everything that was underground; they tilled the earth anew. Others adapted to and modified what was there, resulting in a patois of Midwestern and Pacific cultural traditions.
Still another nation-in-exile housed their entire neighborhood-state in vast greenhouse complexes: a City of Glass simulating a tropical memory, luminous at night, gleaming during the day.
The Vanishing Mosque
The Vanishing Mosque is a winning proposal by RUX in the Design as Reform competition organized by the Dubai-based Traffic Gallery.
Rather than a physical building, this mosque creates a place of worship in the spaces between buildings whose qibla is formed by skewering the urban grid to “forg[e] a forced perspective view in the direction of Mecca.”
Rather than an impervious (or quasi-impervious) block, it is “seamless with [the] streets, connected directly to the pulse of daily, and open to anyone and everyone at anytime.” At other times, it functions as an outdoor plaza.
“The inside of The Vanishing Mosque is its outside,” writes RUX. “Its community extends to the limits of the city at large, creating a sense of shared ownership, collective identity, and deep roots that connect spiritual life to modern urban living.”
Monday, June 21, 2010
Here, we're less interested in the Massimo Vitali photograph itself than what it has captured: more or less a construction scaffolding smoothing out a patch of irregular terrain.
Less designery and messier than Vicente Guallart's microcoasts and hexagonal beaches, this seemingly ad hoc intervention creates an occupiable public open space on the rugged coastline of Catania, Sicily, where before only the daring few ventured out. Simultaneously, the structure provides an easy and safe access to the waters of the Mediterranean, an important recreational asset to the local community as well as an obvious exploitable asset for its tourism industry.
Last Friday, Chicago celebrated the Blackhawks' first Stanley Cup victory in half a century with a ticker-tape parade in downtown ending with a rally at the foot of the Michigan Avenue bridge, kitty-corner from the recently completed Trump Tower. According to estimates by the city, 2 million people joined in the celebration, all jam packed in ridiculously small street footage.
A few things:
1) We're curious to find out the reasoning behind the decision to hold the rally in what is essentially a street intersection. The nearby Millennium Park is maybe too precious and dainty to survive the revelry, if it even could contain such a large crowd, but there's Grant Park. It's an incredibly rugged urban park, proving summer after summer that it can handle a stampede of wild festival goers. It's spacious, and there, more people might actually have seen or at least heard what was happening on the stage besides a sea of heads. Then again, why would you need a clear sightline when, even if your view was blocked by a skyscraper, you could probably get instantaneous updates and live feeds from your social network via a mobile device. It's the urban spectacle of the early 20th century amended by the network culture of the early 21st century, perhaps in the process mitigating the monopoly of Victorian and American 19th park typologies for such occasions.
But we'll probably just end up learning that the choice of venue was informed by budgetary issues or simply that the parade ended there.
2) We're also curious to find out what tactics the city would have employed if they had an urban panic on their hands.
3) We were reminded of Studio Gang's proposal for a sports stadium built right smack-dab in middle of the cramped innards of a city.
“Designed for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Biennale,” we are told, “the stadium design explores the potential of an urban stadium to accommodate throngs of people and disappear when not in use. The proposed structure would employ a kinetic seating bowl, lifted 30 floors above street level, comprised of a series of transforming seating and support elements, many constructed to fold into the adjacent high-rise buildings in a dense urban center.”
Considering the timeframe of its development, one wonders how much cross-pollination was going on between this project and the then nearly finished Millennium Park, that Frankenstein of programming and constituencies “lifted” above a multi-story garage, as well as New York City's failed bid to host the 2012 Olympics for which, at least in the early proposals, the Olympic Stadium would have been built on the West Side of Manhattan.
Perhaps Studio Gang's hyper-programming was more directly informed, after Burnham, by early 20th century epic proposals to build airports, not just way stations for blimps but humongous concrete surfaces filled with winged vuvuzelas, in the bowels of dense metropolises.
In any case, since everyone is predicting multiple championships for the Blackhawks in the near future, perhaps a retrofit in the manner of Studio Gang's stadium might be in order for that particular street intersection for future rallies. To use phraseology en vogue, let's do some urban and infrastructural hacking.
On the day of the event, skyscrapers pop out viewing boxes and lower gangplanks bolted with seats. Windows become electrified and aggregate into a giant television screen. Even the Michigan Avenue bridge is raised to reveal more seating areas. Someone will then shout, Trump Tower, transform! And it will!
Not only will 2 million people be then able to fit in but also the entire population of the Chicagoland area. (It might not, however, adequately contain the apocalyptic hysteria during the victory rally to be held for the Cubs after they finally win the World Series.)
When the crowd dissipates, so too will this hyper-intersection.
4) Just in, via @SubMedina via @loudpaper: RUX's vanishing mosque. “What if a mosque was not a building? What if it vanished into the fabric of a city?”
Under the city, under the streets where you walk, that’s where we dive
Our Future Plural partner site, Edible Geography, has posted the transcript of the talk given by one of their invited speakers at Postopolis! DF: Julio Cou Cámara, a sewer diver for Mexico City.
Cámara might seem like a strange choice, but as Nichola Twilley succinctly explains, “the infrastructure of waste disposal is the (frequently invisible) corollary of consumption.” For every input, there's an output.
Here's an excerpt:
People are always wondering why there’s so much flooding in the city. I can tell you that the city floods because of all the rubbish that creates blockages in our drainage system. If we were maybe a bit more conscious about rubbish and we didn’t throw it on the street, we wouldn’t have this many flooding problems in the city. People complain—they say, “There’s almost a lake in the street.” Well, yeah—that lake is there because of your rubbish.
Go read the rest of Cámara's presentation, plus the Q&A afterwards.
The Return of the Sewer Divers
Inscribed on that liminal space where civilization messily interfaces with the wilderness is a series of monumental earthworks protecting the Icelandic town of Siglufjörður from snow avalanches and landslides.
While the planning and construction of these defense structures were the work of a multi-disciplanary team, for our own purposes, we'll concentrate on the contributions of the landscape architects involved in the project, specifically the Reykjavík-based firm of Landslag.
These anti-disaster tumuli were built in two phases. Completed in 1999, Phase I involved the construction of two deflecting dams on the south end of town. These direct avalanches from the most hazardous locations away from the populated area. The smaller of these dams, at 200m long and 15-16m high, is not as visible as the larger dam, which measures 700m long and 18m high and runs prominently up along the mountainside to an elevation of 180m.
Completed in 2008, Phase II involved the construction of 6 walls and dikes running along the entire mountainward side of Siglufjörður. Unlike the two deflecting dams built in Phase 1, these are intended to stop the flow of an avalanche rather than change its course.
During the early planning stages of the project, there were concerns about the negative social and even psychological impact of these massive landscape alterations on the town's residents, who, despite acknowledging their vital role in preventing fatalities and property damage, might nevertheless show strong resistance to such large-scale structures. This is where Landslag came in.
Working closely with the engineers, geophysicists and meteorologists, Landslag focused on minimizing the visual impact of the project. Their solution was to approach the structures not only as fortifications against nature but also as an opportunity to create recreational spaces out of the defensive infrastructure. They were turned into an architectural statement, a positive cultural asset rather than an invasive structure. Since these gigantic structures could never be hidden, nor could they be camouflaged from view with tall-growing trees, turning them into landmarks was very logical.
The avalanche defense structure, in fact, doubles as an outdoor recreational facility. Paths weave around the structures and run on top along their ridge lines, directing hikers up the mountain. Already these trails are heavily used. At the end of the larger deflecting dam is a sloping bastion used as a public viewing platform. It's a hazard zone, but they're also occupiable.
In order to avoid the deflecting walls from looking too dominating, they were designed to mimic the natural features of the surrounding landscapes. With the additional use of natural materials, their organic, undulating forms help to blend them into the landscape. To even further soften their substantial profiles, a process has been started which in decades to come will see the natural vegetation of the area reclaim and inhabit it once again.
It is worth contrasting these with the avalanche protection structures at Drangagil Neskaupstaður and Flateyri, which look like they belong more to a Medieval walled city.
Wearable Anti-Avalanche Homes
Sites of Managed Anxiety
Slurry #2: Marsh Condenser
We continue our time-saving survey of projects situated on that ambiguous line separating land and water with Fabrizio Matillana's Marsh Condenser, one of the ecoMachines coming out of Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto's studio at the AA.
Matillana describes his ecoMachine as “an evolutionary infrastructure situated in the Essex estuary, restoring lost marshland ecologies through a park typology based on sediment collecting ‘folies’ [sic] bridging the dynamic flood cycles of the site and the public that visit the natural reserve.”
These follies act “as a combination of hard and soft engineering technique to increase accretion levels within the test site which is necessary to stabilize marshland in risk. Soft engineering in the sense that it is highly sensitive to its positioning in relation to the environmental dynamics and stresses that contribute to the preservation or destruction of a marshland ecology. Hard engineering in its material presence acting as ‘sediment corset’ and allowing an architectural intervention that embeds itself within the emerging ecology.”
Potsdamer Platz 1997-1999
Friday, June 11, 2010
Vis-à-vis BLDGBLOG's post yesterday on slow photography (and what sounds like a proposal for a neo-atavist Google Street View for off-the-beaten-path, off-grid landscapes, with herds of Strandbeesten replacing Google's fleet of peeping toms), here are Michael Wesely's two-year-long exposure photographs documenting the post-reunification construction on Berlin's Postdamer Platz.
Commissioned by DaimlerChrysler, the images were taken from five different locations between 1997 and 1999. We see “the chronological sequences of the construction activity into one simultaneous action, whereby an infinite number of individual moments overlap until they form a complex structure of fragments of reality. Before and after fuse together.”
Beautifully captured as well is the sun streaking across the sky, its brushstroke-like retinal burn adding to the painterly quality of the photographs. “The massive constructions seem almost transparent,” writes Weseley, “yet the rays of sun in the sky documenting the various seasonal positions of the sun, gain a surprising level of materiality.”
Also worth looking into are Michael Wesely's three-year long exposure photographs of the construction of the Museum of Modern Art.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
To start Year 6, we're looking back briefly to some of our favorite spatial high jinks from our first half-decade.
1) The Hanging Cemetery of Baghdad by NaJa & deOstos is a “a gigantic presence of a hanging funeral structure” hovering above the war torn streets of Baghdad. Floating unceasingly “from bright explosive mornings to airless night hours,” it is always lush with growth from an endless supply of dead Iraqis.
2) Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi is a 480-acre dual-function power plant and public marine park floating off the coast of California. Made up of 1,800 Piezoelectric sheets supported by 1,800 buoys, it generates electricity during the weekdays. On the weekend, it morphs into an island (or several islands), the size of which depends on energy consumption.
3) Bulgarian architect Zheko Tilev proposes uncovering and preserving the ancient ruins of Seuthopolis, which at the moment is lying at the bottom of a reservoir, using “a circular dam wall, resembling a well on the bottom of which, as on a stage, is presented the historical epic of Seuthopolis.”
4) Transgenic Zoo by Peter Yeadon is the existing Toronto Zoo envisioned as part of a mixed development in downtown Toronto, wherein humans live and work alongside genetically modified animals in their habitats.
5) The Retreating Village by Smout Allen rests on a perpetually shifting edge, a twitchy city continually repositioning and reconfiguring itself in response to a slowly unfolding disaster.
6) The City upon a Chicken is a mobile, disaster-averting city with easy access to cheap, local and free range produce, watched by the rest of the world as a model for a sustainable community. (Maybe.)
7) CH2O by Waterproof is a postcard tour through a post-Deluge Switzerland: a landlocked, Alpine country turned island nation.
8) SpongeCity by Niall Kirkwood et al. is a Dutch city embedded with cellular network of Super Absorbent Polymers. During flood events, such as when the dikes are breached, these sponges absorb the water, dramatically swelling the landscape to a height up to 20 meters.
9) Pleistocene rewilding is an extreme form of wildlife conservation strategy in which close relatives of extinct Pleistocene megafauna are reintroduced in order to slow the loss of biodiversity and reestablish key ecological processes.
10) The Berg by Jakob Tigges is a “euphoric” 1,000-meter high mountain terraformed on the grounds of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin.
Stay tuned for more spatial high jinks.