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Microscopic Wood Anatomy
Thanks to Craig P. V. for pointing me to Microscopic Wood Anatomy, a web-based identification key for central European trees, from which the images below were taken.

Abies alba / Silver Fir

Larix decidua / European Larch

Picea abies / Common Spruce, Norway Spruce

Juglans regia / Walnut

Though the images are quite stunning, unfortunately, they remind me off my college courses in woody plants identification. What would have been fondly remembered in a future old self as my halcyon days may ultimately be thought of as a horrifying experience, exacerbated by memories of pre-sunrise tree runs, unending memorization drills, severe allergy attacks, and the resulting addiction to Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra and Flonase.

Fortunately, they also remind me of Michael Wolf's photographs of Hong Kong highrises, which I was introduced to by bldgblog. The similarities are uncanny. And then not a moment too soon, I was reminded of another bldgblog entry, Das Urpflanze Haus: “You'd plant the seeds – or perhaps just one, like a new, Piranesian "Jack and the Beanstalk" – do some watering, perhaps spread a little fertilizer... and at some point your own house will grow.” But for our own proposal, the end result would not be in the form of a Tolkinesque biomagical cottage but a skyscraper as hinted by the scientists at Miscroscopic Wood Anatomy and elucidated by Michael Wolf. It would take as its context not the rolling countryside of Hobbiton but a supradense extra-super-megalopolis. Perhaps Hong Kong 2046? Beijing x Shanghai x Guangzhou?

Living quarters carved out of ephithelial cells; cable, electrical wirings, plumbing, et al. inserted through resin canals; built-in green roof; exterior pollution scrubbers. All planned from the onset or one can take an anti-architectural approach and subject it to the indeterminacy of landscape. And time, “the crucial dimension of landscape,” can be cultivated to full economic use. Local officials need not wait centuries for the woody skyscrapers to be ready for habitation. With genetic manipulation and super fertilizers, a “sapling” may accomodate single families or individual renters. But as it expands in breadth and girth, additional spaces become available, tempered, of course, by economic forces, structural responsiveness, and environmental conditions. It's landscape, architecture, and real estate all rolled into one. Curioser and curioser.

Microscopic Wood Anatomy
Michael Wolf / Architecture of Density
  • Anonymous
  • October 5, 2005 at 4:08:00 AM CDT
  • unending memorization drills.. uh-oh..

  • Geoff Manaugh
  • October 6, 2005 at 9:25:00 AM CDT
  • From New Scientist, 8 October 2005:
    "How do you make a structure stronger? The answer, it seems, is to fill it with thousands of holes.

    It might be seem counterintuitive, but holes can add resilience to a material by absorbing stresses or the energy of an impact. Researchers have come up with a formula for the ideal size and distribution of such cavities.

    The approach is inspired by wood, a material that has evolved over millions of years to withstand the worst that weather can dish out... In 2002, a team led by Julian Vincent at the University of Bath, UK, used an electron microscope to examine the microscopic holes found in hardwoods, which measure between 10 to 150 micrometres in diameter. They found that the hole walls absorb the energy produced by stress to the trees by flexing.

    It explains why woods such as beech, oak and willow are particularly strong, even though their density is no greater than that of many other woods. Softwoods have fewer, smaller holes."


    Then: "[Julian] Vincent says it should be possible to extend the idea... to strengthen building materials such as concrete, although it would be tricky to place holes in such substances. One way would be to insert glass bubbles into concrete to mould the holes before it sets, he says."

  • Alexander Trevi
  • October 7, 2005 at 5:39:00 PM CDT
  • Terrific postscript.

    Thanks G.

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