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Prozac for Plants
Pyrococcus furiosus

It's only a matter of time before terrestrial flora and fauna finally find their way to Mars. Though to survive and thrive there, they will need some traditional Frankenstein treatment. As a recent NASA article explains: “On Mars, plants would have to tolerate conditions that usually cause them a great deal of stress — severe cold, drought, low air pressure, soils that they didn't evolve for.” Like humans, the article also explains, plants suffer from stress: “They produce a chemical signal -- superoxide (O2-) — that puts the rest of the plant on high alert. Superoxide, however, is toxic; too much of it will end up harming the plant.” The first step to get plants to grow on Mars, then, is to relieve their anxiety.

And scientists find their Prozac pill in Pyrococcus furiosus, a microbe that “lives in a superheated vent at the bottom of the ocean, but periodically it gets spewed out into cold sea water. So, unlike the detoxification pathways in plants, the ones in P. furiosus function over an astonishing 100+ degree Celsius range in temperature. That's a swing that could match what plants experience in a greenhouse on Mars.”

Scientists also hope to transfer genes from other extremophile organisms that not only will help plants cope with extreme conditions such as drought, cold temperatures, low air pressure, and low light levels but also thrive to be able to sustain settlements on Mars.

Meanwhile, how about some botanical illustrations of these Floral Frankensteins? They would be the most amazing botanical illustrations ever, even if they were to look merely common and not the post-terrestrial species that futurists love to imagine them as.
Brodsky & Utkin
For this slow, languorous Midwestern autumn Sunday, here are some Soviet Glasnost neoavant-garde paper architecture by Brodsky & Utkin.

“In their designs, by turns funny, cerebral, and deeply human, Brodsky & Utkin borrow from Egyptian tombs, Ledoux’s visionary architecture, Le Corbusier’s urban master palns, and other historical precedents, collaging these heterogeneous forms in learned and layered scrambles. Underlying the wit and visual inventiveness is an unmistakable moral: that the dehumanizing architecture of the sort seen in Russian cities in the 1980s and 1990s, and elsewhere around the globe, takes a sinister toll.”

Brodsky & Utkin

Brodsky & Utkin

Brodsky & Utkin

Brodsky & Utkin

Obviously, the next step is to investigate whether the pair had once lived in a brothel, done the occasional cross-dressing, and cavorted with scantily clad nuns, and if so, then confect a screenplay to complement our Lequeu biopic. It will be a trilogy on visionary builders, the conceit being their works are unbuilt, unbuildable masterpieces thwarted by politics, economics, and gravity.

But who's the third?

Axel Erlandson?

Prunings X
Dugway Proving Ground

On Dubai. Yes, again.

On projet les halles.

On bollards. They now outnumber trees, right? 50 bollards per person?

On gardening superfund sites.

On Manila through Indian eyes.

On lawn furniture. Literally.
Cellular Infrastructure
A brief stop at the always marvelous Polar Inertia yielded these two photos of cell towers disguised as trees.

cell towers as trees

cell towers as trees

Polar Inertia writes that “over four million citizens are now connected to the cellular phone network. Through the individual itineraries of its citizens Los Angles reinvents itself daily, creating an ephemeral urban identity in its airwaves. The boundaries of the city are blurring further as the interactions that used to happen in face to face transactions have now been transplanted by distance shrinking telephone conversations, e-mail and network connections.”

Here are some more photos gathered from Googledom.

cell towers as trees

cell towers as trees

cell towers as trees

From one company: “The tremendous increase in demand for wireless towers has generated great opposition to the use of conventional, unconcealed structures. Both community and zoning requirements for high quality concealment are on the rise. Today, concealment issues may be the greatest obstacles to obtaining zoning approval. Preserved TreeScapes International's botanically correct tree tower products will help speed the approval process.” Arcadia Ersatz as a function of zoning ordinances.

cell towers as trees

POSTSCRIPT #1: As provided by a commenter, more fantastic photos here.
In This Old House, or: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
This Old House

For its new season, PBS's perennial home improvement show, This Old House, takes the task of remodeling its first ever mid-century modern house. In typical TOH fashion, host Kevin O'Connor and his cohorts guide you to every conceivable facet of a total house remodeling project, from the initial client meeting to the post-construction/housewarming party in brutally dense 30-minute episodes. Away from the drawings and AutoCADs and into the trenches. Every trade gets some screen time: architects, landscape architects, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, interior designers, preservationists, suppliers, painters, engineers, etc.

And arborists? Yes, they show you how to cut down a three-story tree safely away from a neighbor's house, though they make it clear that it should only be done by professionals (at quite an astounding price). And historians? Yes, one gives O'Connor a guided tour of Walter Gropius's house in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

In other words, its holistic approach to televised presentation sets it apart from the cluttered world of home improvement shows.

There is even a webcam.

This Old House

Which inevitably leads us to fabricate a new reality show, The Surreal Life: Bungalow Edition, starring a medley of architects, landscape architects, urbanists, artists, academics, and critics. Their task is to redesign a Chicago bungalow house and its gardens in an historic South Chicago neighborhood, and they must do so amidst cramp conditions and formica kitchen flooring. There is just one bathroom and a half.

The gang arrives for introduction, booze, and merriment. Highlight of the episode is the first encounter between Peter Walker and Rem Koolhaas. Peter, blinged out in his recently awarded Jellicoe Medal, the designated Nobel of Landscape Architecture, tries to strike up a conversation with the Pritzker Laureate, but was instantly emasculated: “And you are?” asks Rem. Michael Arad, PW's de facto pussy, tries to salvage the conversation and asks: “So, what does Remment mean?” Koolhaas: “None of your fucking business.” And Arad, as it was in the WTC Memorial Project, is never to be seen or heard from in the series again. Peter the Elder blisters into a tirade: “You know, nobody really believes your Lagos fairy tales.”

The gang moves into the bungalow. Still nursing a massive hangover from last night's bacchanalia, Frank Gehry exclaims: “What this house needs is a little bit of that old time Quaker minimalist sensibility: clear and immediate spatial clarity, but still respectful of its vernacular forms. Straight lines are the new curves.” The Herzog-Meuron agrees: “Yes, but let's change nothing in the kitchen. The laminated floors, red vinyl chairs, formica-topped table, avocado wallpapering, flourescent fixtures — these must all stay.” David L. Hays: “I hate it. I love it.”

But pretty boy Matthew Barney wonders: “What am I doing here?” John Dixon Hunt replies: “Tu ne sais donc point ce que c'est que la matière.” In the corner, delighting in the sight of the former high school football player, Lucy Lippard lets out a mischievous smirk: “Oh yeah, that's what you're here for.”

The gang gets down to business. But it soon becomes apparent that the multidisciplinary, single team format might not be the best thing.

Thom Mayne: “What do you DO exactly?”
Walter Hood: “You know nothing of context!”
Thom Mayne: “You mean, Nicolai Ouroussoff knows nothing of you?”
Walter Hood: “My gardens will engulf de Young.”
Thom Mayne: “We actually discovered landscape.”
Walter Hood: “5 years ago.”

Kathryn Gustafson: “Don't touch my plaster casts!”

A bit later.

Adriaan Geuze: “Tumuli earthforms again?”
Michael van Valkenburgh: “Post-industrial homage again?”
Adriaan Geuze: “Tell me Michael, were you in Groundswell?”

And still a bit later.

Al Gore: “Have you accepted Nature yet?”
Martha Schwartz: “I hate Nature.”
William A. McDonough: “Lacrimosa dies illa, qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus. Huic ergo parce, Deus.”
Martha Schwartz: “Fuck you!”

At the end of the episode, everyone goes to their corner to lick their wounds.

Zaha Hadid, inexplicably with a flock of chinchillas on leashes, arrives a week late: “'Sup bitches!” Inexplicable as well, she heads straight to the above-ground hot tub, which the owners recently won on The Price is Right, in the backyard, and begins to drown down some mai tais. At the end of the day, she leaves for Dubai to wrestle some projects away from the presently preoccupied Rement. No one notices because of a minor incident earlier.

Agents from Toll Brothers were speculating whether it would be better to simply raze the entire bungalow and plop down in its place a mini McMansion, something Colonial or a Mediterranean-style ranch perhaps. “We could even do the same for every bungalow in the neighborhood.” Upon hearing this, James Howard Kunstler implodes, leaving only a bowtie behind to identify the mangled carcass on the sidewalk as belonging to The Kunstler.

The gang meets with the gang from This Old House. Saskia Sassen pairs off with Kevin O'Connor to inspect the master bedroom. No cameraman was with them, but fortunately, they still had their mics on. And in what will certainly become an instant reality TV classic moment, a “slurp” sound is heard.

The ghosts of designers past come to haunt the bungalow. Borromini heaps praises upon praises on Gehry: “Guggenheim Bilbao. Que bello, la nuova Chiesa di San Carlo.” And Olmsted on Peter Latz: “Duisburg-Nord is the new Central Park.” But not every spectral emanation was as flattering nor even civil. Ian McHarg takes possession of Ken Smith. Frank Lloyd Wright takes on Norman Foster. Many limbs are twisted, contorted; much sushi and Veuve Clicquot vomited. Double exorcism is ordered. Holy water gets splashed. The room starts to quiver. The house heaves. The garden convulses. And then suddenly, everything contracts into a singularity before finally phasing out of the space-time continuum.

This Old House

The following day, Sanford Kwinter arrives as a guest critic: “Architecture-less. Landscape-less. Urban-less. Brilliant!”

Says another guest critic, an untenured journeyman: “No designers. Marvelous!”

This Old House
Botanical Wunderkammer
Since starting this blog, I've developed a certain fetish for botanical illustrations. For one, they're beautiful, stunningly gorgeous. Their colors are often lush in the way that Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle is lush; the pigments practically bleed out of the parchment.

Tradescantia discolor

Although they are meant to be faithful (nay, exact) replicas of the real thing as demanded by scientific methodology, the process unwittingly translates biological matter into an abstract concept. Cells, tissues, stomata into data, lines, and RGB. The material into the immaterial. And in their uprooted, dissected, defoliated, trimmed, sectioned, decontextualized (yea, the whole shebang) representation, they're practically, to my eyes, extraterrestrial.

Check out this Area 51 post-floral specimen. It's a pineapple, but it might as well be part of the Predator's Torquemadan arsenal or Ellen Ripley's next generation human-botanical-alien hybrid.

Ananas sativus

And in their Victorian, Linnaean, even Darwinian fetish for cataloguing and display and certainly in their cabinet-of-curiosities sensibilities, these botanical illustrations closely mirror the blogosphere. We had this idea of an installation involving a series of computers, hundreds of them, in a gallery. Or perphaps in hypermedia Times Square or in the TV showrooms of a Radio Shack. Or better still, at a botanical garden, the 4D sibling of botanical illustrations. In any case, each computer would feature one specific blog. As bloggers record their missives, their posts get disseminated immediately onto the computer screens. Rows upon rows of virtually illustrated detritus of contemporary life, each blogger's notion of the natural, lived world. Titled. Dated. Classified. Collated. Barcorded. Catalogued. Ready for perusal.

Which brings up an interesting scenario: you could actually follow a meme or popular news item or even this installation propagating throughout the entire blogosphere, like a pandemic of sorts. Blogs cannibalizing other blogs in real-time.

Meanwhile, here's another extraterrestrial specimen from the Missouri Botanical Library from which the images in this post were taken.

Aloë humilis

Rare Books from the Missouri Botanical Library

Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Botanical Wunderkammer, Part II
Hariri Assassination Diorama
The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri resurfaced on the front pages of major newspapers this week when the UN Security Council released a report that implicated Syria in his death.

What had resurfaced as well from our archives is the following photo by Stephen Banham of a child's diorama of the Hariri car bomb site in Beirut. It is arguably one of the most remarkable images we've seen online.

Check out the detail of the two toy cars in plastic bags.

Hariri Assassination Diorama

We're reminded of two things: 1) Landscape sketching. You take construction paper, scraps from your old models or pillagings from other people's models, whatever materials you can scrounge up, and using these garbage, you cut and glue a concept, a scheme and even a program together. You can even built it up to form the beginnings of a final 3D model. It's cheap and a speedy process in the beginning when you have so many ideas running through your head. Primitive rapid prototyping, if you will. In any case, you'll have a collage to donate for some future silent auction.

And 2) Cancer Gardens or Healing Gardens, which some have called a “clash of nobility of purpose and banality of expression.” Or as we like to call it at Pruned, psychoneuroimmunobabblelogy. Or the tyranny of incomprehensible symbolics and methaphorics. Or the Las Vegas malignancy of landscape design. In other words, we're big fans. But are there enough scientific data on their physiological and psychological benefits to justify expenditures of public funds? We ask, since there seems to be a cheaper alternative, one with extensive field use, i.e., the simple act of drawing by kids after a traumatic event. Making diorama and landscape sketching would be the 3D version.

Assignments: Post-Katrina Astro Dome. Post-Tsunami Banda Aceh village. Post-Earthquake Islamabad. Post-Fire Parisian Immigrant Apartment.

Landscapes blow people into smithereens, but it can cure as well.

POSTSCRIPT #1: Landscapes of “a world gone wrong”

POSTSCRIPT #2: Therapeutic Landscape Database

one plus beirut
Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai

In a remarkable stroke of decontextualization, our favorite developers in Dubai have concocted the largest indoor snow park in the Mall of the Emirates, itself one of the largest malls in the world.

Ski Dubai

Ski Dubai, as it is called, comes complete with ski lifts, tobogganing hills, a twin track bobsled ride, and a snow cavern with interactive, multimedia delights. There is even a Swiss chalet. We haven't seen any images of it yet, but we imagine it to be straight right out of Heidi. And for all the migrant workers and petrocrats unaccustomed to frolicking in the snow, there is the Snow School, the first in the region.

And all of these will be chilled precisely to -2˚ Celcius.

Ski Dubai

Ski Dubai

The snow will be 100% real, we are told, meaning you can build real snow men, have real snow ball fights, make real snow angels and perhaps even get real frostbites. We imagine it falling as soft, gentle flurries on suntanned cheeks. It may even bring back fond memories, if you've got some, of winter wonderlands from childhood.

But they should also program a Midwestern zero visibility blizzard and a New England Nor'easter ice storm (you would need defoliated trees for this, preferably ones that break easily for that recognizable twig snapping and crashing sound), and even a Swiss avalanche to match the quaint alpine cottage.

A totality of tundral experience like nowhere else: you've just been on a Lawrence of Arabia desert tour, under the sun for a week, lips blistering and peeling and there's sand in every crevices of your body; you then shower, put on a jacket and a pair of boots; and a mere hour after getting off a camel, you're tearing down the slopes of the Matterhorn.

Ski Dubai

Even during the bitter winters here in Chicago, it would be quite a chore to replicate most of what you can do at Ski Dubai.

Dubai via Archinect, Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker, or: Post-Oil Middle East, Part III
Here Comes The Rain Again, or: Post-Oil Middle East, Part II
The Palms, or: Post-Oil Middle East

Dubai Update
Prunings IX

On news we have neglected lately to cover.

The Dirt, Archinect, Land+Living and Planetizen do such amazing coverage that any repeat from us will only clutter the blogosphere.

But for our own records, here's a massive chronological-bibliographical smackdown of news and analysis we have PDFed, saved, printed and collated in the past week.

Steven Lee Myers, “Belarus Resumes Farming in Chernobyl Radiation Zone.” The New York Times (22 October 2005) “The winter rye is already sprouting green in the undulating fields of the state cooperative farm here. The summer's crop - rye, barley and rapeseed - amounted to 1,400 tons. Best of all, the farm's director, Vladimir I. Pryzhenkov, said, none of it tested radioactive.”

Gregory Hahn, “Who pays for growth.” The Idaho Statesman (21 October 2005) For every wetlands from development, 5% property tax increase. For every farm, another 5%. For every ancient stand of woods, still another 5%. Etc. Or so we're hoping.

Robin Pogrebin, “A Challenge for Six Days: Planning Mississippi's Coast.” The New York Times (19 October 2005) “Architects and urban planners have been known to pull all-nighters wrapping up big presentations. But the group of 200 who emerged bleary-eyed on Monday in Biloxi, Miss., had struggled with an unusually daunting task: rebuilding the state's entire coastline.”

“The National Parks Under Siege.” The New York Times (21 October 2005) “[W]hat this proposed policy revision would remove from the very heart of the park system's mission statement: 'Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant.'”

Damon Darlin, “A Journey to a Thousand Maps Begins With an Open Code.” The New York Times (20 October 2005) “A Google map is no longer just a Google map.”

”Russia plans 'millionaires' town'.” BBC News (20 October 2005) “Keeping up with the Jones's could take on a whole new meaning in a town being planned for rich Russians near Moscow.”

David W. Dunlap, “An Elevated Plaza Finally Worth Going Up to See.” The New York Times (19 October 2005) Designed Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect.

Maureen Jenkins, “Navigating city life without owning a car.” Chicago Sun-Times (19 October 2005) Carefree car-free lifestyle.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, “New Orleans Reborn: Theme Park vs. Cookie Cutter.” The New York Times (18 October 2005) “Optimism is in short supply here. And as people begin to sift through the wreckage left by Hurricane Katrina, there is a creeping sense that the final blow has yet to be struck - one that will irrevocably blot out the city's past.”

Aaron Betsky, “Give GG Park a makeover / New de Young exposes flaws.” San Francisco Chronicle (16 October 2005) The Netherlands Architecture Institute's Aaron Betsky proposes a radical rethinking of Golden Gate Park.

John Gertner, “Chasing Ground.” The New York Times (16 October 2005) “Whether or not there's a real-estate bubble hardly matters for a large company like Toll Brothers. The mega-developer is hungrily buying up land for its market-tested luxury homes and transforming the landscape of America's haves.”

Christopher Hawthorne, “Flight plan soars.” Los Angles Times (17 October 2005) On designs for Orange County Great Park.

Albert B. Crenshaw, “Even With Gas at $3 a Gallon, Metro Isn't Much of a Bargain.” The Washington Post (16 October 2005) Unless you give up your car entirely.

Jennifer Medina, “In New Orleans, the Trashman Will Have to Move Mountains.” The New York Times (16 October 2005) “There are thousands upon thousands of others, totaling 22 million tons of waste, according to state officials. They have baked in the swampy heat for weeks now, making this city look and smell like a landfill.”

Catherine Porter, “The power of Nimbyism.” Toronto Star (16 October 2005) And NIABY and Banana.

Roger K. Lewis, “Betting Against Natural Disasters.” The Washington Post (15 October 2005) “We know how to design structures to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and 8.0-magnitude earthquakes. Yet we rarely design and build to cope with such extreme conditions.”
Stadium City

Earlier, we posted a few photos from Hatakeyama's amazing Blast series. We return to him again, but this time to his diptych of the Osaka Stadium, the former home of a local baseball team. Here, we find no athletes or cheering fans or even astrotruf, and instead discover a cluster of houses, an entire neighborhood complete with its own parking lot. But is it an actual neighborhood, perhaps a gated community? Is it an aberrant strain of the cul-de-sac typology?

If one were to trust Google's translation of this page, which apparently is the only one in Googledom to have much in the way of information on the building, it's actually a “residential display room.” That seems to contradict other sources, but as it is, we must content ourselves with what can be gleaned from Hatakeyama's photographs plus some Yodaspeak and go with model housing showroom.

Still, we'd like to think of it as a new breed of urbanism: Sports Entertainment Real Estate. A city gets suckered into the myth that sports stadiums are economic saviors, builds one, gets tired of it, and stages another baroque operetta between team owners, the politicos, preservationists and tax payers before another one is built. That leaves the former stadium to be colonized. No void left unfilled. A new neighborhood already with a security perimeter, branded identity and history. And mythology: “This was where the White Sox finally ended their World Series drought,” a father tells his son as they play catch.

Landscape as a function of ESPN statistics.

Or better yet: you're bored and lonely and feeling a bit perverted, so you take to the bleachers, beer, chips and binoculars on hand, and watch your neighbors as they dine or argue or have sex. Think Colosseum and mock sea battles.

Ticket revenues will pay for the mortgage.

POSTSCRIPT #1: Comments by Geoff Manaugh, here postscripted to the front:

See, that's the thing: it'd be like the Truman Show in real-time, you'd take the subway down to the stadium on Friday night – the Re/Max Dome – and the people there – like Urban Survivor – the people who had volunteered to live there, to live their normal lives, in their normal suburban way inside these houses, sitting silhouetted in windows checking email, cooking pork roast, throwing frisbees outside... they're actually being watched by a stadium full of tens of thousands of spectators. Dwelling as spectacle. "I love the way you clean house!" scream the fans of domesticity.

An anthropology-entertainment complex.

Or it's a new TV show, you put unwitting families into badly designed houses – houses that are surrounded by stadium seating – and then you film and watch and document them every second of the day. Instead of making raunchy videos and pulling each other's bikinis off, or getting into grilled-meat-inspired fist fights beside the swimming pool, they scream at weird doors that won't open, they shout and punch and claw at walls that have no business being there, and is that a shelf blocking the toilet...? The trauma of the built environment – watching others deal with it. Domestic architecture as spectator sport.

Whoever dwells best, wins. Who dwells it, knows it.

Anyway, I was about to post this exact photo but you beat me to it – I should condemn you to a prison built inside a baseball stadium, where everything you do is watched by tens of thousands of screaming fans... The new Panopticon: the live-in prison/stadium complex.

(Though surely this idea could be pitched to ABC? Re/Max, Toll Brothers, Major League Baseball, and perhaps the Urban Land Use Institute will cosponsor it... With a live-in blogger known as Pruned...)

POSTSCRIPT #2: Today we read on Things Magazine what is there now: the green oasis of Namba Parks.

Naoya Hatakeyama & Geoff's Earth-Fountain©
MILF:03 Nanoscapes
The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man (dir. Jack Arnold, 1957)
After an accidental exposure to radiation, Scott Carey begins to shrink. Confounding doctors, his family, and himself, he must nevertheless cope with the realities of his downgraded scale: cats and spiders morph into Godzillas, salt shakers into skyscrapers, a dollhouse into an American homestead, and sex into an Almodovar fiesta (or so we think).

Fantastic Voyage (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1966)
A team of scientists is miniaturized and injected into the bloodstream of a famous physicist in an attempt to destroy a clot that threatens his brain. One of the most visually lush SF film.

The Andromeda Strain (dir. Robert Wise, 1971)
When a deadly alien virus turns up in a New Mexico town, a team of scientist is dispatched to isolate and neutralize it before it. They must do so in just a few days or else their research complex, and they, gets pulverized by a nuclear blast.

Tron (dir. Steven Lisberger, 1982)
The inner workings of the computer is reimagined as a totalitarian state.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (dir. Joe Johnston, 1989)
An inventor devises a gizmo that accidentally shrinks his kids and their friends. The real treat is the suburban backyard transformed into an endless jungle fraught with dangers, fantamagical creatures and thrilling adventures.

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (dir. Errol Morris, 1997)
The stories of four unconnected individuals: a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a mole-rat specialist, and a robot scientists.

MILF:02 Spatializing the Marvelous: The Musicals of Busby Berkeley
MILF:01 Figures in the Field

MILF:04 The World
MILF:05 “The Best Things In Life Are Free”: Selections of Feature Films from the Internet Archive
MILF:06 Thick City
Counting Crowds
Million Man March

We first learned of Farouk El-Baz's method for counting large congregation of people from the wonderful Crowds project at the Stanford Humanities Lab. In the Gallery section, click the third thumbnail image in the first column. A quick Googling returned this article from Wired in which El-Baz lays out his methodology. Adopted from those used to count dunes in a desert and trees in a forest, it goes like so:

1. Fly over the crowd at peak times using a fixed-wing aircraft. (Shaky helicopter platforms blur photos, increasing the effort required to analyze them.) Altitude should be 2,000 feet or less.

2. Photograph the area in strips using a digital camera, with 60 percent overlap between successive pictures to allow stereoscopic viewing (helpful for making ambiguous pictures clearer). Image resolution should be about 1 foot per pixel.

3. Load the photos in an image-processing program and co-register them with a 1-meter-resolution US Geological Survey orthophotomap - a perspective-corrected collage of aerial shots of the area with a uniform scale.

4. Superimpose a grid on the image and classify its units by the apparent density of people per unit.

5. Place a cross or dot on each individual head or shadow point.

6. Count or, if necessary, estimate the number of people in each grid unit, then tally the numbers.

7. Calculate error - basically the number of grid units divided by the degree of uncertainty about how many people they contain.

Million Man March

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Farouk El-Baz was asked by ABC News to estimate the number of participants in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995. The Nation of Islam, which organized the event, estimated attendance at around 1.5 million. The National Park Service, however, reported a peak attendance of 400,000. Controversy naturally followed:

When crowds gather to make political statements, it matters how many people turn out. Crowd size matters to organizers, who invariably say they made their point. It matters to police departments, who insist they fielded the right number of officers. It matters to the media, who often claim they've reported the facts. And it matters to elected officials, who often like to act as if the whole thing never happened.

Who had the largest rally and therefore are the true barometer of public opinion? Anti-war or pro-war supporters? Pro-choice or pro-life supporters? Depose the king or let him reign on? Exile the dictator or burn him in the public square?

The controversy was somewhat resolved when Farouk El-Baz's analysis produced an estimate of 870,000 with a margin of error of about 25 percent. This meant the crowd could have been as high as 1.1 million. Both the National Park Service and the Nation of Islam found this acceptable.

Sokol Congress at Prague

And then it occurred to us: what if the size of the crowd were twice as large as the estimates? What if there were 5 million people or even 10 million? Would the National Mall have coped? How about 150 million anti-war protesters, half the population of the United States? Would L'Enfent's Washington have been able to cope with that many people and survive? Is there a designed landscape that could? Haussman's Paris? Sixtus V's Rome?

Could Chicago's Millennium Park cope with the 1.5 million+ that usually descend to the lakefront for the 4th of July fireworks?

We ask this because when it comes to the generative potential of the crowd in design, it seems that landscape architecture tends to exhibit an engineering or even an architectural mentality. Don't ask us for examples. Let's pretend for now. But think of garden walls, iron fences, hedge rows, bollards, concrete pavers, 10,000 max outdoor seating capacity, tunnels, bridges. By their nature, inflexible.

(Un)fortunately, landscape is anything but rigid.


So introducing the Mimosa-Hedge©. Normally, on a quiet weekday afternoon, it provides the necessary edge condition, regulates foot traffic, or screens sound, visual, and possibly even environmental pollution. But during the 4th of July with its attendant hundreds of thousands of revelers, the Mimosa-Hedge© fluctuates between a solid wall, a permeable membrane and a borderless border. When it senses the presence of a large crowd, it responds by contracting parts of its shruberry thicket to create openings, allowing for freer circulation within the space. Or entirely collapse, uniting previously distinct spaces into a larger, more accommodating one. Later, when the crowd dissipates, it starts to unfurl, unharmed, resuming its normal duties.


And the Fractal-Beach©. Rather than retracting when the crowd multiplies exponentially, it sprouts additional beach territory out into the ocean and defoliates when the crowd departs. In seconds.


And the Prunnel©. As a fundamental condition of their materiality, steel and concrete expand and contract, but these physical events are muffled in architecture and civil engineering. Not Prunnel©. It can response to increases in humidity and heat emitted by the crowd by inflating, and does so exponentially beyond what physics allows. So no more catastrophic deaths of pilgrims during the Hajj. A full-scale evacuation of Manhattan preceding the arrival of a tsunami will go fast and orderly. Whether informed and formed by weather, mass hysteria or political instabilities, the Prunnel© exploits them all.

Jamarat Bridge

We have other patents, but those are for future posts.

But who will fund these projects, you ask? Multi-billionaire Dubai sheiks, of course.

Meanwhile, returning to the first link, check out the other stuff in the Gallery section, such as The Crowd in Cinema, Contagion, and The Moscow Metropolitan.

POSTSCRIPT #1: Zombie Infection Simulation.

POSTSCRIPT #2: Evacuating Manhattan.

POSTSCRIPT #3: Farouk El-Baz is director of the Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University.

Farouk El-Baz, “The [?]-Man March.” Wired (June 2003).

Naoya Hatakeyama & Geoff's Earth-Fountain©
Naoya Hatakeyama

Naoya Hatakeyama. Japanese. Born 1958. Artist extraordinaire.

Naoya Hatakeyama

Naoya Hatakeyama

Naoya Hatakeyama

It's easy to translate Naoya Hatakeyama's blast series as a critique of man's wanton destruction of nature and its capacity to do so in nanoseconds, undoing what has taken millions, even billions, of years to form. And yet, whenever the two confront each other (i.e., Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Stan, Tsunami of 2004, Pakistan Earthquake of 2005, et al.), it's human frailty that's exposed.

Rocks break bones, crush skulls, extinguish entire families, bury villages.

Naoya Hatakeyama

But this is Pruned, and we're slaves to whimsy.

Introducing Geoff's Earth-Fountain©: “it spits gravel and freshly tilled soil up into the air in dizzying patterns.” It's Busby Berkeley meets the Bellagio meets the Jardinator© meets a disused surface strip coal mine.

While others go on and on about phytoremediation and brownfield parks and research parks and re-wilding the mine as a design program, Pruned will instead be producing a showcase extravangaza to outdo all past and future Olympic Games opening ceremonies. Adventures in the Mantle. The thunderous, gyrating Earth-Fountain© will be the star. Seven shows a week plus a Saturday matinee. Precisely timed and calibrated, something you can't say about Old Faithful.

Some Appalachian mining towns are already privy to a mini-Earth-Fountain© showcase. Each time a section of the nearby mine gets blasted away, pellets fling upwards at supersonic speed only to rain down on Main Street, on houses, on people. Daytime meteor shower. One can argue that they have a greater visceral experience and therefore a deeper understanding of the landscape than say, someone strolling through a park on a Sunday afternoon.

Or in the outskirts of Dubai? Adventures in the Empty Quarter.

POSTSCRIPT #1: Geoff is the purveyor of BLDGBLOG.

Naoya Hatakeyama @ artnet
Naoya Hatakeyama @ L.A.Galerie Lothar Albrecht

La Machine de Marly

Stadium City: or, Naoya Hatakeyama, Part II
Dubai via Archinect, Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker, or: Post-Oil Middle East, Part III
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

And so we return back to Dubai. How could we not? Archinect started the ball rolling last week when someone asked, “Is Dubai the city of the 21st C?” Mostly inconsequential responses from the lot, unfortunately, except maybe from the pseudononymous “anti”. S/he answers with a question: “How is this any different than Shanghai?” Indeed, questioning its premise, presumptions, proposals, prognosis, and prospects seems to be the only possible response.

Can Dubai sustain such massive construction? Will Dubai become a model of a post-oil Middle Eastern economy? Is it the future? And why Dubai of all places? Why a seven-star hotel? The world? The palms? A pyramid? Who would want to live in a pyramid? Will there be enough people clamoring to live in the world's tallest building, a very tempting target for bomb-laden planes, trains, and automobiles? And where will these people come from? Will the palms bifurcate into fractal self-similar patterning, sprouting or defoliating in response to the global real estate market?

Will the bubble burst, sending British investors and Malaysian migrant laborers back home destitute? Will the sand then creep back in, smothering the refrigerated ski slope along with its Swiss chalet? Will someone write another Ozymandias? And then, only when it becomes an archaeological ruin to rival Luxor and Pompeii, will it become the prime tourist destination in the late 21st century as it was meant to be in the early 21st century?

Anyway, back to Archinect, the gems of that thread are the links. For instance, one link takes you to this article by Mike Davis from “Welcome to paradise. But where are you? Is this a new science-fiction novel from Margaret Atwood, the sequel to Blade Runner, or Donald Trump tripping on acid?” And this article by George Katodrytis from Bidoun.

Another one directs you to sinkingSands, a blog: “Real-estate soup anyone?” “You want more?” “Who's gonna buy all these houses?” “Vested interest in interested rates?” Huh?

And there's a link to this, from which all these photographs, by Brian J. McMorrow, were lifted.

Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Palm Jumeirah, Dubai


Dubai International Financial Center

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times had something to say about all these zaniness.

“If Americans pushed west to manifest destiny, the Emirates are pushing into the sky. There is a vague consensus here that great cities arrange themselves around ambitious architecture, and Dubai is determined to outdo them all. You feel it when you drive down the highway, eyes assaulted by a string of quixotic slogans: 'The earth has a new center.' 'History rising.' 'Impossible is nothing.'”

And then Christo and Jeanne-Claude will anoint it as the new Paris x Berlin x New York with 390,500 oil drums.

The Mastaba of Abu Dhabi by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

They will install 10 mastabas. Obviously.

And now we come to The New Yorker. The article is not online, but for a taste, author Ian Parker discusses “the architectural weirdness of Dubai” online.

The Palms, or: Post-Oil Middle East I
Here Comes The Rain Again, or: Post-Oil Middle East, Part II

Ski Dubai, or: Outside-Inside
Dubai Update
Biblical Gardens
Mary in the Garden

What is a Biblical Garden? “A Bible Garden is any garden that has plants that are mentioned in the Bible. There are more than 125 plants, trees and herbs. There will be a plant for every garden.” For example:

“As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” Song of Solomon 2:2

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Song of Solomon 2:1

“And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.” 1 Kings 4:33

“We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick.” Numbers 11:5, 6

A crocus here, a juniper there, some myrtles, one or two olive trees, but preferably a grove, and there you have a Passion Garden in your backyard.

Or other similarly themed gardens: the Babylonian Captivity Garden, its main feature an allèe of fig trees on a north by north-east trajectory; the Burning Bush Garden, Ground Zero for the periodic, rejuvenative, ecologically essential Midwestern prairie fire or southern California forest fire; the Flight into Egypt Garden strewn with wheat grass, Axel Erlandson-esque date-palm trees bent just so, slabs of rock, pagan idols, ceramic jugs, etc., all arranged perhaps in an English picturesque style, allowing for a narrative progression of experience via an irregular path system; and the Marian Hortus Conclusus to which high school kids trespass to fuck away their virginity on a carpet of irises, hollyhocks, marigolds, daisies, lilies-of-the-valley, violets, cowslips and strawberries.

Wave down a Jardinator© if interested. Act soon as demand will increase exponentially in the present/coming Bush Rapture. Entire cities have already signed up. Green roofs and brownfield reclamation are démodé; biblical gardens, all the rage. The landscape architect's road to riches.

Free samples offered.
Prunings VIII
Photograph by Hans Heiner Buhr

On the Kaukasus, Tusheti and Khevsuret!

On the East Darling Harbour design competition. Finalists include Hargreaves Associates, Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, Martha Schwartz, and EDAW. Stop by gravestmor for some terrific entries. He's been quite vigilant. And we of his brief(?) (mis)adventures.

On the writer in the garden.

On the Castleford Project. “Some projects are about improving the quality of life, environment and investment potential of the town; other projects are about supporting neglected neighbourhoods, improving the safety and well-being of the community and providing better opportunities for young people.”

On the edible schoolyard.

On fallen fruits, “a mapping and manifesto for all the free fruit we can find. Every day there is food somewhere going to waste. We encourage you to find it, tend and  harvest it. If you own property, plant food on your perimeter. Share with the world and the world will share with you. Barter, don't buy! Give things away! You have nothing to lose but your hunger!” (Of some relevance, the politics of pollen.)

On a clicker happy night, we ended up here. The name will no doubt be familiar to a new group of visitors.
Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River, Part III
Fisk, 1944. Map of ancient courses of the Mississippi River, Cape Girardeau, MO - Donaldsonville, LA (Plate 22-8)

Part II
Part I

Part IV
Part V
Alluvial Porn
The World's Biggest Digging Machine (a.k.a. The Jardinator©)
The World's Biggest Digging Machine

Some facts from here:

1. The machine is 95 meters high and 215 meters long (almost 2.5 football fields in length)
2. Weight is 45,500 tons (that's equivalent to a bumper to bumper line of jeeps 80 miles long)
3. It took 5 years to design and manufacture at a cost of $100 million
4. Maximum digging speed is 10 meters per minute
5. Can move more than 76,000 cubic meters of coal, rock, and earth per day

Here's another photo.

The World's Biggest Digging Machine

Imagine one of these babies grumbling down new suburbia or ex-urbia, prowling through neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs like an ice cream truck or a horse-driven gypsy caravan selling whatnots and thingabobs, their infectious jingle filling the air, calling out over their loudspeaker: “Get your garden here! Frontyard, backyard, sideyard! Fresh and organic!” The Jardinator©.

You pay. They flick some switches, pull some levers and the Jardinator© plops down a garden complete with beds of roses and water features. Or not. Everything's customizable to suit the site's plant hardiness zone or your own peculiar taste in low-maintenance, recycled crushed glass or the prevailing tastes of both Landscape Architecture and Garden Design magazines. At low, low prices.

How about a small park? In seconds! A tree-lined Main Street? In nanoseconds!

Free samples before you commit.
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