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Featured Jobs: Landscape Architect
On a whim I entered “landscape architect” as a search string on USAJOBS, the official job site of the U.S. Federal Government. Three of the results piqued my interest: this, this and this, according to the announcements, are positions which “may be located in various locations throughout Afghanistan.”

Hindu Kush mountains

While they do provide detailed information on duties, required qualifications, benefits, and the likes, I'm left wondering what sort of “assigned projects” whose “planning, engineering, design, construction, and technical functions” the successful applicant will manage. Rebuilding damaged highways, sewer systems, and other basic infrastructure? Providing technical and material expertise in water management and conservation (even though the region has quite a long history in such matters)? Reclaiming marshes from years of unsustainable agricultural practices? Terraforming military and government installations to deter, deflect, and absorb attacks? Revegetating streets, parks, and forests? Biodetecting and bioremediating sites contaminated with land mines, WMDs, and industrial detritus? Joyriding on a Bleex? Indulging some genetic fetish for the ike™? Mythologizing the lost terrains of Robert Byron and Bruce Chatwin? Compromising the tectonic integrity of the Hindu Kush to eradicate its geocloaking capabilities?

In other words, if you currently hold any one of these positions or will do so in the future, let us know once you obtain all the necessary security clearance, if any. See upper left sidebar for the contact information.
The georeferenced spatial meanderings of a lawnmower
GPS Drawing

A garden re-sculpted out of raw GPS data. Plus more spatial goodness at GPS Drawing.

If architecture ♥ landscape
While cleaning the blog of all the spam comments that have accumulated during my hiatus, I came upon a comment by “e-tat” in my post on African pay phones, Colin Farrell, and landscapes as waiting. He wrote:

“[G]iven that everything is in flux at one or more temporal scales, architecture (including landscape) is either an attempt to portray that flux or to disguise it, hold it at bay, or, as you say, to express some sort of wait/weight.

“So we might consider ways of combining the two, in the same way that a clock expresses seconds, minutes and hours while remaining unchanged over the course of days, months and years. Is there a structure held together by gravity whose segments can be moved around one at a time?” And furthermore, “Are there elements of landscape that can express immediate change while remaining intact over time?”

To which I'll simply offer in response this half-decade-old Princeton thesis project: Sentient Architecture.

Sentient Architecture

In anticipating e-tat's call for structures that are indiscriminately responsive to geophysical stimuli and suffer no structural failure afterwards, David L. Hays proposed a program which “exploits an aspect of structural design that has until now been actively repressed not so much by practical necessity as by a convention of thought in which the material truth of a building is considered secondary to a fixed image of its ideal form. A primary objective of my project is to neglect the singular ideal in favor of a notion of materiality enriched through understanding of natural dynamics (i.e., susception, transduction, and response). While the focus of such a pursuit might seem mundane or even banal, its implications for design are considerable and highly provocative. For example, sentient architecture replaces a rigid ideal of form with an elastic range open to radical transformation and even to deliberate systematic failure. That flexibility alone raises significant questions about how to situate and program a structure the formal states of which are linked to forces over which man has no control (i.e., those of climate). 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, 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.”

Sentient Architecture

Sentient Architecture

Sentient Architecture

Sentient Architecture
Malaspina Glacier

A spectacular satellite image of Alaska's Malaspina Glacier in infrared, near infrared, and green wavelengths. Hopefully someone out there is wondering how (not if) you can build a visitor center atop Malaspina's undulating “tongue.”

Val Bavona
A couple of weeks ago and without much fanfare, as can be discerned from my end of the world, an entire Swiss valley was awarded the 17th International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens. The prize, which is awarded by the Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche, recognizes responsible long-term stewardship of landscapes rich in natural and historical values.

Val Bavona

Val Bavona is a “short, rugged valley high in the mountains of Canton Ticino, Switzerland, an 'awesomely beautiful' place, gouged by the glacier, shaped by water and stone, in which a community (about a thousand people) has come to terms with the power and harshness of nature and over time has developed the ideas, the attitudes, the actions and the artefacts of human life when pushed to its limits.”

And furthermore, the community of Val Bavona “continues to celebrate the beauty of a lifestyle reduced to essentials (houses still do without electricity) as a real utopia, a simple, practical way of continuing, conserving and innovating the resolute search for living space that has characterized its history, finding a use even for the great rocks dislodged in landslides by using the earth they brought down with them to create fragments of vegetable garden and pasture or by the exploitation of jagged ravines to make grondàn, cantìn and splüi.”

Val Bavona

Val Bavona

And here I'm inexplicably forced to mention the movie Careful by Guy Maddin. Set in an Alpine village tucked inside a valley perhaps not unlike Val Bavona, everyone must speak in whispers and suppress all loud noises — the cries of a baby, the bleatings of goats, even coitus — lest they want to set off a deadly avalanche.

These forced propriety and decorum, however, lead to emotional repression. Here, landscape nurtures a lurid, baroque internal pathology which outwardly manifests itself into incestuous desires, suicide, self-mutilation and murder.

And some people say Sick Building Syndrome is bad?

Careful by Guy Maddin

I am hardly saying that incest occurs at all at Val Bavona, and would only be speculating if I were to suggest that it may have ran rampant in the past, caused by anxieties over jagged ravines or impending landslides and secretly carried out in any one of the many colloquial architecture.

I am, however, wondering if there are landscapes somewhere else that can induce such aberrant pathology, landscapes that are the antithesis of Healing Gardens.

Or how about landscapes that somehow have been transformed by pathology. Are prairie restorations, for instance, the result of a self-perpetuating quest for redemption? I'm sure that visiting a patch of prairie, reconstructed or otherwise, can result in a prolonged irrational dependence on Claritin.

(I'm forced again to mention another movie here — Safe by Todd Haynes.)

So if after visiting a site by Ken Smith or Martha Schwartz or Peter Walker and you started having migraines, nose bleeds, or seizures, let us know. And if any doctor consultation and expensive therapies failed to treat your symptoms, after which you joined a cult-like desert commune and now spend your nights holed up in a futuristic igloo isolation chamber, let us know about that, too. Or better yet, start a blog, and we'll link to each and every one of your posts.
Please pardon the recent inactivity. Five weeks ago, my hard drive suffered a major crash, the sort of complete and systematic failure that instantly erases months, or years in some cases, of labor into the nothing-evermore. Gone. Sayonara. Or to impulsively hijack an oft quoted Gertrude Stein phrase: There is no there there.

Suffice to say that in between bouts of hysterical weeping and sudden, intense flashes of Frostian awareness, I've been trying to recover ever since. It wasn't a total disaster as I originally feared though, but unfortunately, all Pruned-related materials were lost. The blog now survives precariously in the servers of Blogger. Irregular posting will be the status quo around here as I try to refill my now severely diminished archives and recreate my notes and drafts to the nearly two months worth of future posts that were wiped clean during the meltdown. But hopefully, some semblance of regularity will return.
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