Pruned — On landscape architecture and related fields — ArchivesFuture Plural@pruned — Offshoots — #Chicagos@altchicagoparks@southworkspark
New Kiribati
Vicent Callebaut

Earlier this month, the president of Kiribati warned the nations of the world that his country will be gone by century's end. Submerged under rising sea level, a casualty of climate change.

And even if, by some ridiculously well-timed miracle, everyone reduces their carbon footprint to near zero, the 92,000 island inhabitants “may be at the point of no return” where reversing the effects of the emissions already in the atmosphere will not come before their atolls get flooded. The president thus asked for help in resettling his people.

While very impolitic, he should demand from the worst polluting nations that as an act of “redemption” they should set aside “reservations” in prime real estate, for instance, some of the Hawaiian islands, where the entire population can collectively forge a new set of geographic identitites instead of being dispersed in diasporic communities around the world.

Maybe China is open to the idea of deleting a part of the Tibetan plateau and exporting the pulverized geology to the Pacific. They will, of course, argue that this a form of carbon emission trading.

Perhaps more appropriately, the European Union could give the president an order or two of Vincent Callebaut's Lilypad.

Vicent Callebaut

Quoting Archinect, where we first saw this featured.

LILYPAD is a true amphibian - half aquatic and half terrestrial city - able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and inviting the biodiversity to develop its fauna and flora around a central lagoon of soft water collecting and purifying the rain waters. This artificial lagoon is entirely immersed, ballasting the city. It enables inhabitants to live in the heart of the sub aquatic depths. The multi functional program is based on three marinas and three mountains dedicated to work, shopping and entertainment. The whole set is covered by a stratum of planted housing in suspended gardens and crossed by a network of streets and alleyways with organic outline. The goal is to create a harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, exploring new modes of cross-cultural aquatic living.

Kiribati would probably need a less pimped out version, unless, of course, they realign their economy away from fish and phosphate towards eco-tourism — which leads us to wonder: will future climate change refugees become a new caste of service sector workers inhabiting a sort of Floating Hotel & Duty Free Mall, the port of call that comes to you, wherein the fine art of the greeting and linen folding is treated as a Masonic secret passed down from one generation to the next?

In any case, some more unabashedly digital images.

Vicent Callebaut

Vicent Callebaut

Vicent Callebaut

Meanwhile, this is MER, by PLOT, now BIG and JDS.

Notice any resemblance?


The Vortex of 80,000 Nikes

New South China Sea
NL 2028
NL 2028

This sounds like a very interesting exhibition:

What would it mean to the Netherlands if we were to organize the Olympic Games in 2028? How do you ensure that the stadiums used for the Games can still have a proper function afterwards? How do you organize the infrastructure and mobility for the Games? Do you combine all the functions in a single building, or do you spread the Games throughout the country?

MVRDV (in collaboration with the Academy of Architecture Rotterdam and the Berlage Institute) investigated the feasibility and the spatial chances of the 2028 Olympic Games in the Netherlands. Themes such as climate change, water management and energy production were connected in various ways with solutions for stadiums, infrastructure and accommodation for athletes.

If you don't find yourself nowhere near the Netherlands before the exhibition ends in September 21, you can purchase the book.

We also have a proposal.

Naumachia in the Courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti held on 11 May 1589 and Other Adventures in Froth
Orazio Scarabelli

Pruned turned 3 yesterday. To mark the start of Year 4, we return briefly to our first post, specifically to the referenced book edited by Joy Kenseth, The Age of the Marvelous, because, should it need to be disclosed, the Marvelous has been the overall theme of this blog from its inception and Kenseth's volume our editorial guide. We dredge, in other words, the interweb ether for “anything that lay outside the ordinary” and has “the capacity to excite the particular emotional responses of wonder, surprise, astonishment, or admiration.”

In the chapter written by Mark S. Weil, we see the above etching of a naumachia, or mock sea battle, in the flooded courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti. Staged as part of the festivities of 1589 celebrating a Medici marriage, it was “intended to amaze invited guests with their visual effects and to impress them with the wealth and power of the court.”

As illustrated by Orazio Scarabelli, eighteen Christian and Turkish ships do their stylized dance in front of a miniature fortress. Oars and sail masts interlock like the limbs of Busby Berkeley showgirls. Voluptuous hulls ram into each other in diagonal confusion. The once solid ground is now a vacillating carpet of faceless actors performing on cramped, presumably cacophonous pageant floats. Man, which had just been fleshed out and deified by the likes of Michelangelo, reverts back into the murky crowd. It's Mannerist mayhem in the bowels of Renaissance clarity.

And could you believe that that wasn't even the showstopper? Weil quotes Alois Nagler describing the program before this naumachia:

The greatest excitement was caused by a garden which, propelled by invisible forces, moved into the courtyard and unfolded on all sides to the tittering of birds. In the garden were imitations of towers, fortresses, pyramids, ships, horsemen, and animals all made out of greenery. A cloud of birds swarmed up before the Grand Duchess and one of the animals landed in the bride's lap, a good omen.

Weil, unfortunately, doesn't provide an image, if there is one.

In any case, the staging of a naumachia has not gone entirely out of fashion. If we don't count military exercises in such anxious terrains as the Taiwan Strait, the Sea of Japan and the Persian Gulf, the most recent one, of similar monumental scale, was carried out for the opening ceremonies of the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992.


We see the Mediterranean Sea rendered as a pointillist foam of humanity, each singular speck wearing a costume that seems to have been repurposed from loose tiles at Gaudí's Park Güell into gigantic Pringles. However individualized each one may appear up close, seen from the bleachers they coagulate into a kind of anti-humanist whole, flowing and ebbing in tandem, self-organizing, as if unconsciously following the physics of hydrology. They inundate. They make waves. They shudder as though whelmed by rough weather.

Navigating this simulated froth are the two belligerent sides of the fake naval war. On one side are the monstrous inhabitants of the deep, such as the Hydra with its inflatable tentacles vigorously flagellating in the currents. Other beasts reside here, too. There is plague and hunger and maybe even boredom, but which of the three is — or whether all of them are — theatrically evoked by The Giant Virus-like Spiky Ball and The Teeming Shoal-Army of Knives is difficult to pinpoint.

On the other side are the heirs of Hercules, adventurers exploring the undiscovered contours of this temporary landscape. They wear dominatrix costumes and act in very broad strokes, but again, whether these details are intended to scale their performance for the jumbo television screen and the exaggerated dimensions of the stadium is hard to know. Nevertheless, these heros win the battle, or at least survive the attacks. To commemorate their victory over Evil, they found a city that would later grow into Barcelona.

Their ship, meanwhile, is constructed out of Cor-ten steel; that is, we think it's Richard Serra's favorite medium. Otherwise, it's something metallic, an expression of Catalonia's industrial virility. This is the Olympics, after all, and everything about this twentieth-century naumachia is practically drowning in symbolism.

If one were to pursue an extended political reading of this elaborately staged spectacle, one can make a case that it's a subversive call for an independent Catalonia. Barcelona, the choreographers argue, has its own creation story, its own mythology and even its own national epic akin to the American Civil War and the French Revolution. Before Franco, Ferdinand and Isabella, the Moors and even the Romans, the city already had a history. Moreover, you will not find here bullfighters or flamenco dancers wearing their peinetas and maniacally clucking their castanets — which at the turn of the 19th century were arbitrarily co-opted and standardized as the national identity; in Catalonia, that blood sport and those quaint customs might as well be of English origins. And you will not see here evidence of Andalucia, which apparently is the hegemonic national landscape. Instead, in this corner of the Iberian peninsula, you'll encounter a foreign landscape, a sea-drenched terrain (until recently, that is) populated by the worldly love-hybrids of Picasso and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Since we are talking about the Olympics, all of these lead us to wonder: will there be a naumachia during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games?

Beijing National Stadium

After Barcelona, the next three Olympics had their own watery musical. Atlanta evoked the swamps of the South; Old Man River made an appearance. Sidney told the creation story of Australia, who, like Aphrodite, emerged from the sea. And in Athens, the Mediterranean Sea was rendered again, that time with real water. If Beijing were to follow precedence, spectators would be privy to a hydro-extravangaza. After all, China is building the biggest water project in the history of the world; staging a naumachia would be a walk in the park.

Returning to the mock sea battle at the Palazzo Pitti, Weil remarked that the production “served to reinforce political dogma, such as the superiority of Christian forces over those of the Turk.” So will the Beijing festivities also “reinforce political dogma?” The answer, of course, is that they will. You can be sure that naumachia or no naumachia there will be propaganda to be broadcast from Herzog & de Meuron's stadium to an audience in the billions.

Or next door inside the frothy facade of the aquatics center.

Beijing National Aquatics Center

Lined around the flooded courtyard, the Chinese will see their divers and swimmers herald their official re-entry into the world stage as a muscular nation. The rest of us will simply be impressed by the show of wealth and power.

Adventures on the Continental Shelf
The Return of the Sewer Divers
Sewer Diver

Hazmat diving may be the worst job in science according to MSNBC, but perhaps a form of ultra-niche tourism could be developed out of it.

It will be marketed to extreme adventurers no longer thrilled by skydiving or free solo climbing or locking one's head in the clasp of a crocodile's jaws and, still craving that rush of adrenalin, may be attracted to the possibility of swimming “into clouds of waste, inside nuclear reactors and through toxic spills on America's coasts and inland waterways.” Or how about a lake “full of urine and liquid pig feces” and littered with “needles used to inject the pigs with antibiotics and hormones?” A sublime landscape that must surely terrify your soul, metaphorically and, if your suit gets punctured, literally.

After their adventures, they will be told that an hour or two in these high-risk-environments-turned-diving-parks have given them an understanding of the natural and built environment greater than what they would have gotten from spending a week camping at Yellowstone National Park.

Nodding in agreement, one of them will say, “It felt like Nature was going to digest me alive.”

Illinois Wetland National Park

Speaking of sewers, fantasizing about possible Illinoises was a lot of fun, so we've been imagining quite a few more, including an Illinois in which the Land of Lincoln has been converted into a giant eco-machine treating the nation's entire sewage output.

Gone are the cornfields and the wheatfields and the vegetable fields, and embedded into the Jeffersonian grid in their place are vast constructed wetlands recycling wastewater by natural means.

Moreover, they will double as parklands — the nation's largest national park.

Everyone's shit will be piped in from every state. Even the most toxic effluent from industries will be trucked in, for there are townships specially vegetated with super-bioremediating plants and bacterium to suck up heavy metals and render extremely carcinogenic chemicals inert. Of course, the required infrastructure may be expensive and incredibly carbon intensive, but the financial and environmental costs will be offset multiple folds by this alternative form of waste management.

There will be a lingering smell in the air, but it will never get any worse than a local pig farm during a hot, muggy August day.

Sewer Divers
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