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Pop-Up Versailles

On urban gardens, food production and resilient systems and futures
Gardener and Mechanist in Residence

Time's Up in Linz, Austria, is looking for a Gardener and Mechanist in Residence.

Gardeners, artists, designers and engineers are invited to conceptualise, implement and document a garden and food system making use of Time's Up's unique location in the Linz Trading Harbour. The successful practitioners will be invited to work on the initial planning in late 2011 with construction and planting in Spring 2012, followed by a harvesting and review phase in Autumn 2012. The completed system and experiences from the 2012 growing season will be
incorporated into the ongoing gardening process within the Time's Up laboratory.

As it will not be possible for the practitioners to be present over the entire development and growth period, we will have a number of local apprentices maintaining the systems. As a result, successful practitioners will be asked to create a manual / troubleshooting guide describing the care, use and maintenance of the garden system over the growth [and decay] period and to host a public workshop(s) exploring resilient gardening practice. A final harvest event celebrating the conclusion of the primary growth season will be organised.


Send in your proposal by 30 November 2011.

REPOST: Pole Farm
[First posted June 2, 2009. See also this pole farm in Los Angeles where technicians learn how to climb utility poles. Via @nicolatwilley.]

Telephone Pole Farm


Another testing ground is this field of telephone poles located in Chester Township, New Jersey. It's an arboretum of sorts, “planted” with several hundred tree trunks, the total of which may have peaked close to a thousand, carved out of different arboreal species and preserved using various methods. All are arranged in a formal grid and tagged with data-rich metal plates.

Here, AT&T and then other telecommunication companies subjected their lifeless midget forest to the elements of time. A menagerie of woodpeckers and pocket gophers were brought in to attack the poles. Humans and their spiked boots, too, ran rampant about the place in a balletic dance of ascents and descents, empirically choreographed.

All that just to create the perfect telephone pole.

Once a research center partly turned into a weird kind of aviary or a petting zoo or an even weirder sort of artificial ecology, the site is now part of a recreational area and an archive of our infrastructural past.

REPOST: Happy Trails
[First posted February 4, 2007. If I could restart this blog all over again, I would reconceptualize it as a travel agency blog advertorializing its packaged tactical tours. I'll even have postcards to sell!]

Happy Trails


About three hours northwest of Mexico City, in the Parque EcoAlberto, a reporter from The New York Times got to experience “one of Mexico’s more bizarre tourist attractions: a make-believe trip illegally crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States.”

For about $18, you get to cross deserts, hills, brambles and riverbeds, and have men playing Border Patrol guards chase after you and taunt you from somewhere in the dark: “Ya sé que están escondidos. We know you’re hiding. We’re going to send you back to Mexico.”

Interestingly, the organizers received financial help from the Mexican government.

The article also tells us that “the idea of tourists’ aping immigrants can seem crass, like Marie Antoinette playing peasant on the grounds of Versailles. But the guides describe the caminata as an homage to the path immigrants have beaten across the border. And the park’s approach to consciousness-raising is novel, but not completely unique. In 2000, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders set up a camp of tents, medical stations and latrines in Central Park to recreate the setting of a refugee camp. Last year, the refugee-camp project returned to New York and also traveled to Atlanta and Nashville.”

Happy Trails


What the organizers should do next is join forces with these Latvian hoteliers, and develop a whole series of packaged reality tours, recreating death marches, diasporas, and other mass displacements of people.

For instance, rather than experiencing the Cold War holed up inside a building, you set out on a gulag-bound train, inside a boxcar packed with fifty other adventurers, and with only an inch or two opening between the wooden panels through which you can view the passing beauty of the Russian steppes. You try reading Solzhenitsyn, of course, but there aren't nearly enough light, and the sound of metal grating on metal and that smell — what is that smell! — make it difficult to concentrate.

If warm weather is to your liking, there's the Bataan Death Tour. Searing temperatures. Humid air — thick, gelatinous, in your crotch. Sun beating down heavily on your head. The din of the forest. The specter of cholera. Hired Filipinos as Japanese soldiers barking orders.

Also on offer is the Armenian Death Tour. But as this would be impossible to recreate in Turkey, a substitute for the desert of Deir ez-Zor will have to be found in France.

The Trail of Tears on Jeep® Cherokees.


The geography of displacement

REPOST: Deep Space Public Lighting, Chilean Copper-Gold Mines, Rare Earths Geopolitics, and iPhones as Portable Artificial Suns
[First posted November 4, 2010. In the latest mining disaster in China, about 50 miners are said to be trapped in a 760-metre-deep shaft.]

Deep Space Public Lighting


For the past few months, I-Weather.org, developed by Philippe Rahm and fabric | ch, has been churning up a pastel maelstrom here on this blog for use by our spatially and temporally displaced readers to restore their circadian rhythms, whether this is actually possible or not. You, too, can embed this artificial sun on your website to blast your asynchronous readers into metabolic normality. Its open source code is freely available.

At the recent 01SJ Biennial in San Jose, California, we saw a less earthbound and less private platform for this quasi-light therapy: a flickering light tower for “confined and conditioned environments of space exploration vehicles” and “speculative public spaces of distant colonies.”

To distribute and synchronize these pockets of simulant terrestrial cycles of day and night across vast distances, fabrica | ch proposes using a theoretical Deep Space Internet.

Deep Space Public Lighting


Deep Space Public Lighting


By coincide, we first learned about this project just as the first reports about the trapped miners in Chile started trickling in to our attention, specifically, the news that NASA scientists have been flown in by the Chilean government to offer advice on how to help the men stay physically and mentally healthy during the weeks-long rescue.

Copiapó


Al Holland, a NASA psychologist, says during a press conference:

One of the things that's being recommended is that there be one place, a community area, which is always lighted. And then you have a second area which is always dark for sleep, and then you have a third area which is work, doing the mining, and the shifts can migrate through these geographic locations within the mine and, in that way, regulate the daylight cycle of the shift.


It occurred to us that one should make a portable version of Deep Space Public Lighting for future mining disasters. It should be able to fit through bore holes and then easily assembled by survivors in the murky depths of a collapsed tunnel.

A deployable piazza for subterranean “distant colonies.”

Copiapó


Rather than being illuminated by the anemic brightness of a hard hat or video camera, one bathes in soothing electromagnetic wavelengths from a technicolor torch.

Or from an i-weatherized iPhone.

i-weather


And yes, considering the high demand for coal and industrial minerals, there will be many more mining disasters, many more trapped miners and, depending on various fortunate circumstances, more tunnels to be reconfigured. In fact, only a few days after the last Chilean miner was brought to the surface, 11 miners were trapped at a coal mine in China after a deadly explosion.

Consider, too, the recent export ban by China on shipment of rare earth elements to Japan after a kerfuffle between the two countries involving a collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats near some disputed islands. The ban may have been brief, and China may have denied having instituted one in the first place, nevertheless, the incident points again that China is willing to use its near resource monopoly of rare earth metals as a political tool, to get its way, in other words. Other countries have again taken notice, and are scrambling to develop alternative sources, if not already, to ensure future supply. With new mines opening and even old mine operations being restarted, there are more potentials for disasters.

Reformatted in this context, Deep (Inner) Space Public Lighting engages not just with issues such as “public space, public data, public technology and artificial climate” but also with the geopolitics of natural resources, globalization and our collective networked boredom that seemingly can only be satiated by an epic spectacle of natural and man-made disasters and the ensuing heroic rescue of survivors.
REPOST: Istanbul v2.0
[First posted February 15, 2008. More recently, the Japanese government unveiled plans to build a duplicate Tokyo just in case the original city is destroyed by an earthquake.]

Istanbul v2.0


Some civil engineers from Purdue University apparently believe that the best way for Istanbul to lessen the humanitarian crisis and economic impact of a catastrophic earthquake striking the ancient city is to build a second Istanbul.

Istanbul v1.0, these engineers point out, won't be able to withstand a major seismic event as “many of the city's buildings were constructed with little regard for modern building standards.”

The city itself is not well designed for earthquakes. Many streets are narrow and winding and would quickly fill with debris after an earthquake, preventing aid from reaching those who are trapped or injured.


And if Istanbul goes, so goes the nation.

Istanbul v2.0


Istanbul v2.0, on the other hand, will be “earthquake resistant, with strong buildings and wide streets. The city would be designed to take advantage of building techniques used to minimize earthquake damage and incorporate modern technologies such as electronic locks and security, video communication and environmentally friendly technologies.”

More importantly, this “satellite city” would serve as a refugee camp and guarantee continuity of the nation's economic activity, 80 percent of which occurs in Istanbul.

Of course, the new city will not lay empty, gathering dust and weeds as it waits for the first influx of seismic refugees to arrive. It is “designed to be an economic hub,” with a business, residential and entertainment districts ready to be utilized in the meantime.

Istanbul v2.0


Oddly enough, we are reminded of the Japanese tradition of building exact copies of Shinto's holiest shrines at Ise every 20 years and then completely dismantling the current temples save for a central wooden pole. In another 20 years, a new set of replicas will be erected around this pole, thus completing and restarting the cycle over again.

Consequently, we are left to wonder what if a similar phenomenon were to happen to cities?

Let's say a new city is built, a fully functioning metropolis complete with homes, businesses, museums and infrastructure. For twenty years, people would live there, going about their lives, going to work, raising their children, tending to their gardens. Everyday they would hear news of another city under construction at an adjacent site. In fact, they will be reminded of this at every hour of the day, if not from the news, then from the distant but incessant machine noise and dust plumes emanating from the horizon. It becomes a major aspect of daily life, settling in nicely or not so nicely into the background, like radiation or an impending major earthquake or a Hurricane Katrina, oscillating between states of ambiance and immediate critical concern.

When the new city is finished, everyone will have to migrate there, as the now older city will be torn down, the sewers excavated and upturned. Everything else will be burnt to the ground. But in another 20 years, they will again be exiled, forced to a newer city constructed on the very same site from where they had fled from decades ago.

And so on and so on.

At each new city, then, will people replicate an exact copy of the old? Will their gardens, high rises and even the paintings in the museums be perfect reproductions of the originals, which are themselves copies of reproductions? Will the layout of the streets be an exact mirror image of the one they had walked on and driven through not too long ago?

Or will they gradually come to develop new cultural traditions favoring the values of impermanence, of continual change? Will their society be based on a culture of experimentation and radical innovation? In other words, will they stop designing buildings and landscapes exactly the same way as before, even if it's been proven to work time and time again, when failure can and will be erased in no more than 20 years' time?

For that matter, will there be such a thing as historic preservation when everything is understood to be temporary and concepts such as icons and authenticity are illusory?

What will the built environment look like when everything is conceived as planned waste?

How will you live your life in tenuous circumstances?

Istanbul v2.0


In any case, there is a 3D animation of Istanbul v2.0 for you to look at. You'll see, among other things, a cluster of earthquake-resistant buildings arranged in the shape of a star. This shape, we are told, is that of a Selcuk star, a classical Turkish symbol.

More importantly, you will see its overly segregated design and the absence of what some may describe as “charm,” that urban quality accumulated through centuries of successively being a Greek polis, a Roman outpost, the imperial seat of Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans, and the uncontested premier city of the modern Turkish state. Some urban planners and romantics will no doubt lambast it.

In which case, they'll design Istanbul v3.0.
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