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Prunings L
England's Rock Art

1) Strange Harvest on Stonehenge and tourism infrastructure.

Stonehenge is a monument to contemporary doubt, to fallibility, competing theories and conflicting mythologies. And perhaps these confusions explain the curse of the Stonehenge Visitors centre. Because, though seemingly benign, visitors centres are highly strung cultural artefacts.

The role of a visitors centre is more than corralling cars and dispensing cappuccinos. The real substance of a Visitors Centre is to articulate our relationship to history, nature or whatever it is we happen to be visiting. The current visitors centre typology employs a kind of eco-high tech that steers a path between various controversies. It's a building type that attempts to feel authentic, natural and generically vernacular but contains enough contemporary tropes of transparency and engineering to differentiate it from commercialised 'themed' heritage. If you only visited Visitors Centres, leaving before you saw the significant site, you'd develop a nuanced understanding of the ways contemporary culture relates to nature and history.

It just seems so strange to us that the country of garden follies (culturally mediated engagement with nature and history), the grided architecture of metes and bounds, and the literary invented landscapes of the Lakes District could still be having problems negotiating between the manmade and the natural and between authentic experience and drive-by tourism. Haven't these issues been resolved already over there?

2) Bustler on the winners of the Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza competition.

3) BLDGBLOG on nuclear power stations as national historic landmarks. Reading this and remembering Fantastic Journal's travelogue to England's seaside village of Dungeness, we were reminded of Derek Jarman's garden and how it appropriated the nearby nuclear power station into a landscape folly. It's the radioactive machine in the garden.

4) SUBSURFACE Magazine on A student publication from the Department of Landscape Architecture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

5) The New York Times on planting a meadow.

[W]ith the growing interest in sustainable gardening and the widespread dissatisfaction with the time, expense and chemical fertilizers required for traditional lawn care, meadows are becoming increasingly popular. A perennial meadow in bloom, its colors constantly changing with the play of light and shadow, may be nature at its most alluring. Yet, as random and natural as a meadow looks, there is nothing haphazard about creating one. Planting a meadow, it turns out, is as rule-bound and time-consuming as planting any perennial border.

6) Defense Tech on liquid-cooled underwear, BBC News on robo-skeleton for the paralyzed, and Wired Gadgets on d03: ready-to-wear for extreme landscapes. (As a possible ground cover, d03's “intelligent shock absorbers” calls to mind Stoss' Safe Zone, a temporary garden installation for the International Garden Festival, Les Jardins de M├ętis / Reford Gardens.)

And with that, this series is retired.

  • Blaize
  • September 14, 2008 at 12:30:00 AM CDT
  • Wait. What? This series is retired? But I love to sweep up these prunings! Anyway, excellent run, and thank you for all the interesting links.

  • Anonymous
  • September 14, 2008 at 11:29:00 AM CDT
  • Yes, please don't retire Prunings!
    Stonehenge visitor centre has been depressing people for years. UNESCO are now worried about other sites in Britain - see this article

  • Alexander Trevi
  • September 19, 2008 at 3:25:00 PM CDT
  • I miss this series already. In fact, I started having regrets about retiring it mere minutes after I posted these last prunings. So maybe it will return in the near future. Or maybe not.

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