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More Spatial High Jinks 2: How to Build a Park in Jerusalem

Last week, we read in The New York Times that “Israel is quietly carrying out a $100 million, multiyear development plan in some of the most significant religious and national heritage sites just outside the walled Old City here as part of an effort to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as its capital.”

As part of the plan, garbage dumps and wastelands are being cleared and turned into lush gardens and parks, now already accessible to visitors who can walk along new footpaths and take in the majestic views, along with new signs and displays that point out significant points of Jewish history.

To be intentionally obvious and understated, the plan is controversial.

Kerb 17
Kerb 17

Mitchell Whitelaw, of The Teeming Void, alerted us that Kerb 17 is now available or at least will be soon. Last Friday was its launch party. We checked Amazon, and it doesn't seem to be listed, though copies of two previous editions are still available for purchase: Kerb 15 - Landscape Urbanism and Kerb 16 - Future Cities.

Compiled and edited each year by landscape architecture students at RMIT, the latest issue tackles the question, Is landscape architecture dead?

kerb 17 critiques current modes of thinking about the practice of landscape architecture, offering up a discussion of where landscape architecture is, what it has evolved from, and what it might become in the future. The collection of works and ideas by international and Australian designers and artists featured in kerb 17 respond and demonstrate how through the medium of landscape and a potential mediation of design disciplines we can reconsider contemporary ideas of landscape.

Except for Whitelaw's article, the content remains a mystery to us. We can thus only speculate what's on offer inside from the riotously wacky cover.

Are we to expect a repudiation of hyper-modern designery and a celebration of the informal?

Is there a call away from the Dutch School of slick sustainability and cosmetic urban regeneration towards the messier logistics of radical sustainability?

Is someone making the case for post-nature as a legitimate site not just of landscape inquiry but of landscape design?

Rural nostalgia run amok?

Meanwhile, we wait.
More Spatial High Jinks 1: Tactical Horticulture

Discovered via the breathless Bryan Finoki of Subtopia and his epic feral version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is Sinnoveg, a France-based tree nursery and horticulture research center specializing in “securitizing sites, goods and persons by a concept of anti-intrusion security integrated into the environment.” As described, this “natural concept is based on planting of a hedge of thorny plants, weaved into each other and into metallic elements of reinforcement.”

According to Agence France-Presse, the company has planted “vegetation barriers around a nuclear research centre outside Paris, a juvenile detention centre, train stations and airports.” And now, they want to take their patented shrubs to Baghdad's Green Zone and replacing its “vast network of concrete blast walls with terrorist-proof trees and bushes.”

To make the vege-walls more secure, “traditional barbed wire, tyre spikes, sensors and even metal barriers can be placed within the hedges - an invisible back-up layer of security sure to surprise any potential suicide bomber.”

The Tide Pool of Saint-Malo
A Proposal for an Aquatics Complex for the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympic Games Bid
Paisajes Emergentes

In the past couple of months, the IOC mafia has been inspecting the four cities vying for the rights to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Naturally, our curiosity in Chicago's candidacy heightened a bit; we even felt compelled to look through the city's updated bid book, heading straight first for what people really care about: the pretty pictures of proposed venues.

Amidst the technicolor gumbo of humdrums, the aquatics complex is a noticeable thick glop. Remember when you're watching a major stadium sporting event and the camera pans for a few seconds outside, catching sights of adjacent buildings — those temporary structures wrapped in white tarpaulin, topped with awnings, used as crafts service stations and staging area? Placed as it is next to the proposed Olympic Stadium, Chicago's aquatics complex is sort of like a collection of those outhouses.

Of course, this is not to say that the venue isn't going to redeem itself in other key areas. Aesthetically unimpressive it may be, it could leave a truly lasting legacy, filled in the many years to come with raucous kids and their families from the surrounding neighborhoods instead of staying empty until the rare national or international competition comes along, accumulating large maintenance bills with only the Flickr hordes frotteurising its skillfully designed skin to keep it company. Bucking the trend of the past two Olympics, it might not also morph into some ethically obscene monster, disenfranchising people left and right, funneling funds from social services and ruining the city's cultural heritage. It might even attain a LEED Quadruple Gold-Diamond Crown rating. And during the two weeks of competition, everyone's spirits are elevated higher than ever before, their soul stirred into rapture.

All we're saying is that the physical elements of the proposal could be more interesting.

Paisajes Emergentes

As a counter venue, then, we propose a concept aquatics complex in the middle of Lake Michigan.

The superstructure, constructed on land and towed into place, will be wholly submerged, tethered to the lakebed with anchors or resting on pylons. Underwater may be an entire oil rig or Tatlin's decoiled tower, but only jutting out will be the viewing stands, the diving platforms and a few other decorative verticals. A circulation network of gangplanks, metallic or of fine timber, will just break the surface.

While the main competition pools are closed containers, the practice lanes may just simply be on open water. The actual spaces of these ancillary pools are delineated by border frames. These Euclidian hydro-geometries, in turn, will be arranged so that from Google Maps, they will look like they belong in a Piet Mondrian grid painting or a Suprematist collage.

Something like BIG's Copenhagen Harbour Bath, Wilk-Salina's Berlin Badeschiff and White's Kastrup Sea Bath but much further away from shore, much more sprawling and much less of that solid stuff visible.

If the Water Cube and London's Aquatics Centre are pure architecture and pure engineering, this natatorium is pure landscape.

Floating Pool

Yet Another Proposal for an Aquatics Complex for the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympic Games Bid

Ken Smith / MoMA Roof Garden

This post is decorated with photos of Ken Smith's roof garden for MoMA. It is, however, about another roof garden in Midtown Manhattan, a student project by Martha Schwartz.

Because images of the latter are nowhere to be found on the web but those of the former now readily available after the publication last week of the ASLA 2009 Professional Awards, unlike before when such hi-res photos seem to have been all niggardly veiled behind a pay-per-view firewall, accessible only to a privileged few just like the real thing; and because both gardens are similar in type and context; and because Schwartz had also built her own synthetic garden a decade or so before Smith, we thought such appropriation would at least seem reasonable.

Ken Smith / MoMA Roof Garden

Schwartz's roof garden was in the very first slide lecture in our very first day as landscape architecture students. Because that was also the last time we saw it, our description below may not be accurate. In fact, not a single detail may be true, including Schwartz's authorship.

As stated above, this roof garden is sited on a skyscraper somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. The building is of medium height, because the primary audience are those in the upper floors of nearby towers, presumably the headquarters of hedge funds, investment banks and Fortune 500s. The framed views out through the corner office windows of CEOs and money managers towards the garden are thus a Picturesque construction of wealth and power.

Carpeting this sky garden in a sea of glass, a hortus conclusus many-times walled off from the chaotic hordes teeming on the spit-drenched pavement below, are perennials with different flowering time. They are arranged in a very specific composition, so that when April comes, for instance, the blooms spell out a word in bold colors: GREED.

When the flowers start to die, so will the word start to fade. But later in the year, when it's time for the other plants to flower, the same privileged few will then be privy to yet another botanical graffiti: MONEY.

Ken Smith / MoMA Roof Garden

A couple of things:

1) It's such a delicious thing imagining taking this speculative guerrilla garden for the capitalist 80s and actualizing it a year or two before The 2008 Great Conflagration of Financial Manhattan. In this Eden, amidst a future ruin, lies our collective demise.

2) Instead of broadcasting in real-time what you're doing or thinking or what's your current mood or revealing your ideological stance with a 140-character drive-by opinion piece on Zaha Hadid's flaming opera house before it becomes stale news 24 hours later, when past this mysterious deadline it's considered rather démodé and gauche to mention it in the digitized company of your uber-wired milieu, you stencil your thoughts into the soil with seedlings. Of course, most will not be able to read it when the words become legible, so they will have to wait until others photograph it and upload the image to Flickr or blog about it or make a YouTube video of it or tweet it. There's the so-called Slow Food. This is Slow Twitter. It's good for you.

But in any case, the ultimate purpose of this post is to ask someone to verify our memory of Schwartz's unrealized rooftop garden, perhaps even to provide us with some images.

Is there such a student project by her? What in our description is completely wrong? What key details do we not know? Have we embellished it too much over the years, augmenting it with our own ideas, even our own personalities?

For us, this is an important project. We may have only encountered it once, but it became a sort of ambient manifesto that passively guided us as budding spatialists. Our early design outputs, it could be said, were but variations of some aspects of this ur-garden. On several occasions, we outright imitated its attitude, the same tone that colors so many posts in this blog. Of course, there were other gardens and other landscapes that had equal influence during our formative years. We could refer to anyone of them as our ur-landscape, the one from which all others sprang, but Schwartz's was the first of firsts.

Let us know if you have some information.
Runway Plantations
Last night, I dreamt of a manic jamboree of deterrestrialized runways, cartwheeling, do-si-doing, pulsating, whistling, trembling, bifurcating into ever greater perplexing formations.

Today, I discovered some works by Hubert Blanz. They are gorgeous.

Hubert Blanz / X-Plantation

Hubert Blanz / X-Plantation

Go see.

The Great Climate Change Park
Quito 1: Paisajes Emergentes
Crack Gardens
The Crack Garden

The ASLA Professional Awards were announced yesterday, and garnering an honor in the Residential Design category is The Crack Garden, by CMG Landscape Architecture.

Inspired by the tenacious plants that pioneer the tiny cracks of urban landscapes, a backyard is transformed through hostile takeover of an existing concrete slab by imposing a series of "cracks". The rows of this garden contain a lushly planted mix of herbs, vegetables, flowers, and rogue weeds retained for their aesthetic value.

Looking out of place among projects whose budgets seem crass in an age of credit crunch and foreclosure, an impostor in a cabal of slick hyper-modernity and conspicuous designery, The Crack Garden is a refreshing sight.

The Crack Garden

The Crack Garden

The Crack Garden

Quoting the project statement at length:

The Crack Garden is an exploration of the identity of site and the clarity of intervention. Pre-existing places have an inherent identity that is based on their history, materiality, and activities. The design is conceived as an intervention that functions as a lens, altering perception of a place rather than completely remaking it. The intervention can reveal the physical and material qualities of the place, and/or become a catalyst to incite new program activities. In the case of The Crack Garden, completely remaking the garden was highly unlikely because of the tiny budget. By fully embracing a strategy of design as intervention, the garden relies on its previous identity as much as it does on the changes that were imposed.

“The conceptual basis of The Crack Garden is to reveal the potential for beauty that underlies the concrete and asphalt that is the predominant ground plane material of the urban landscape. The interventions into the site of The Crack Garden were primarily actions of removal rather than the addition of new layers and material. By eliminating portions of the existing concrete and exposing the soil beneath, potential is released, and new opportunities for the garden arise.”

The Crack Garden

Perhaps inspired by the garden, a crack team of guerrilla gardeners will undertake tactical missions to etch similar tectonic fissures in the parking lots of failed suburban malls and abandoned inner neighborhoods of post-industrial cities. With pneumatic drills or with pick axes and some elbow grease, they'll wound the earth's (un)natural asphalt skin, so that forgotten ecologies may return and hopefully fester.

And if they can afford the grotesquely exorbitant registration fees, our gardeners will then submit their covert operations for next year's ASLA Professional Awards.
San Francisco As It Will Be
San Francisco

We don't know if our readers are as interested in coastlines as we are, but we do want to point out a new competition to generate ideas for a near-future San Francisco and environs inundated by sea level rise caused by climate change and with a population perhaps too unwilling to be displaced.

To grapple with the realities of sea level rise, a new suite of shoreline design concepts is needed. The Rising Tides ideas competition seeks responses to various design challenges, such as: How do we build in an area that is dry now, but that may be wet in the future? How do we retrofit existing shoreline infrastructure such as shipping ports, highways, airports, power plants and wastewater treatment plants? Can we imagine a different shoreline configuration or settlement pattern that allows temporary inundation from extreme storm events? And how do we provide flood protection inland of marshes without drowning the wetland when the water rises?

We're hoping not to see stilts and barges, because there are just too many of those littering other ideas competitions. How about more of this and less of this? But then again, we'll be eating everything up — any and all ideas — with sustained glee: monstrous Army Corps megaengineering; the Golden Gate Dam; stilt forests; mobile sewers; genetically modified water sucking post-arboreals; SpongeOakland; San Francisco, Utah; bay-to-river-to-rivulets land reclamation; Climate Refugee ID cards for an odd/even year system of temporary displacement; walking houses; container wetlands as wildlife preserves and wastewater treatment plants; The Super Awesome Supersurface of Super Awesomeness.

Submission entries must be postmarked by June 29.

The Catacombs of Rome in 3D
Catacombs of Rome

For the past 3 years, a team of archaeologists, architects and computer scientists have been laserscanning the underground network of burial chambers, tunnels and chapels carved out of the soft, volcanic tufa rock of Lazio.

The scanner, according to BBC News, “looks like a cylinder on a tripod, stands a metre or so high and is a piece of kit you usually find in the construction industry.”

Gone are the days when archaeologists just used shovels, brushes and sieves to unearth the past.

The scanner has been placed in hundreds of different locations in the Catacombs.

It turns slowly, sending out millions of light pulses that bounce off every surface they come into contact with. The light pulses rebound back into the scanner and are recorded on a computer as a series of white dots, known as a "point cloud".

Gradually, every wall, ceiling, and floor is bombarded with the dots, enabling the computer to build up a picture of each room.

All told, “four billion dots” were gathered, and on a computer screen, they coalesce into a digital 3D model of the necropolis: a filigreed network of subterranean voids that's not unlike the complex clustering of a Romanesque basilica and its companion buildings.

Catacombs of Rome

You can zoom in and zoom out, rotate about the axis, and render it with color. Perhaps you can record your scopic drive through this digitized world, as one would with Google Earth. Give it a soundtrack, and you've got yourself a YouTube music video.

And maybe Radiohead would like to give it a go for a sequel to House of Cards.

Catacombs of Rome

One of the stated goals of the project is to study the paintings in the Domitilla catacombs: from the pagan images of the early 3rd century to the theologically fully developed Christian iconography of the late 4th century, and how this micro-history of early Christian art reflected the broader changes in late Roman society.

Catacombs of Rome

Now if only someone could make the laserscanner mobile (a spelunking Paranoid Android) and then send it roving through other labyrinths — other necropolises, ancient underground aqueducts, sewers, stormwater megatunnels, abandoned subway tunnels — kicking up an underground maelstrom of point clouds.

Google comes a-knockin', and soon everyone will be exploring these passages in a flurry of nighttime clicks. Google Hadesview®.

Rome Stillborn 1.0
Landscape challenge #5

Depending on how much you already know about your city, this task will involve a fair amount of research and perhaps some site visits. There are three parts.

1) Confect together a fantasy itinerary for a CLUI tour of your city.

Where are the wastewater treatment plants? Where does your trash end up and where are the places they used to go? Where are the abandoned landfills, those now capped with park or forest preserves and possibly leaching toxic chemicals into underground aquifers?

Where are the water purification plants? Does your city get its water from hundreds of miles away? From another country? Where are the pipes, canals and aqueducts? Any reservoirs? Are there dams nearby? Desalination plants? Where are the control rooms surveilling the whole system?

Where is the electricity coming from? Nuclear, solar, hydro or oil? Are there oil refineries anywhere?

Where are the communication antennas showering the whole landscape with electromagnetism? Do you live in a city that's at one end of a submarine communications cable? If so, where does it enter into the continent? (Taryn Simon photographed once such entry point.)

How is your city managing to stay solidly in place? Where are the levees and flood control? Where are the avalanche tumuli, debris fields, anti-tsunami warning and protection system and wildfire surveillance network?

Any military bases nearby? How about abandoned ones? Or how about abandoned ones that's been adaptively reused or been sown with a replicant pre-settlement ecosystem? Among concrete bunkers and silos, wildlife now flourish.

Are there stone quarries, coal mines, steel mills, lumber yards, shipyards, Supermax prisons, land art?

The headquarters of supranational megacorporation? National science laboratories and testing grounds?

Look through CLUI's Land Use Database to see what could be considered CLUI-esque.

2) Map out these places.

It's simple. Just go to Google Maps, and below the logo on the left is “My Maps”. Click that link and then “Create new map”. The rest should be easy. It'll simply be a matter of searching the site and then tagging it with a placemark. The learning curve is low.

3) Let everyone know about it.

You can do so by leaving the link in the comments. If we get a good amount, we'll collect it all into a new post.

This is optional, but we do want to know about these places and so will others. It'll be interesting perusing through these fantasy itineraries, going on late-night scopic drives through CLUIrome and CLUIlondon and CLUIlosangeles. CLUIhongkong! CLUImexicocity!


A Fantasy Itinerary for a CLUImidwest Tour of Peripheral Chicago

Inspired by a Dwell article published last summer — in which Geoff Manaugh, in his temporary guise as the magazine's Senior Editor, asked Matthew Coolidge, of The Center for Landscape Use Interpretation (CLUI), what makes his favorite city work — we have concocted a fantasy itinerary for an infrastructural tour of our HQ, Chicago. We, too, are interested in learning what makes the city function. From where does it get its water and electricity? What happens to our shit? What about our trash? Where is the nerve center overseeing all that traffic?

Stickney Water Reclamation Plant

Coolidge started at a wastewater treatment plant, so we'll also begin in one, the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant. It's the largest in the world, and if you live in Chicago, this is where your shit, condoms and dead pet gerbils end up eventually after swirling for miles and miles in a vortex network of underground pipes and tunnels.

It should be noted that Stickney doesn't yet have its own Wikipedia entry. If being zoned out of the city and exiled into the fringes isn't a sign of its off-center status, then its digital absence from the seemingly omniscient encyclopedia must surely point to a collective amnesia about this critical urban infrastructure. But then again, the general public is largely ignorant about such things, seeing how we've designed infrastructure to be invisible. Out of sight, out of mind.

Jardine Water Purification Plant

If Stickney somehow represents one end point of something, then one starting point may be the Jardine Water Purification Plant, the largest capacity water filtration plant in the world.

“It draws raw water from two of the city's water cribs far offshore in Lake Michigan and sends nearly one billion gallons of water per day to consumers in the north and central portions of the city,” says Wikipedia.

Though Jardine is located on a prime lakefront location, unlike Stickney, it couldn't be more peripheral. Nearby is Navy Pier, that collection of kitsch suburban mall attractions. While one is rarely visited, the other is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the city, if not the most popular. Chicago would survive if Navy Pier is leveled to the ground, but it would struggle without Jardine.

Also nearby is Lake Point Tower. Until very recently, i.e., last night, we thought that Oprah Winfrey was domiciled atop this trefoil skyscraper, the only residential structure east of Lake Shore Drive, but apparently not. Still, it was always incredibly exciting to think that when one of the world's most popular, most powerful and wealthiest women gazed out of her palatial windows, the Picturesquely framed views of sublime Lake Michigan included that unrepentant slab of pure post-industrial functionality.

Also very nearby is the future site of Calatrava's Chicago Spire, if it survives the economic crisis.

Deep Tunnel Project

And then there's the Deep Tunnel Project, “a large civil engineering project that aims to reduce flooding in the metropolitan Chicago area, and to reduce the harmful effects of flushing raw sewage into Lake Michigan by diverting storm water and sewage into temporary holding reservoirs. The megaproject is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in terms of scope, cost and timeframe.”

Digging started in the 1970s, and it's still unfinished. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2019.

You can watch a YouTube video about the construction here.

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal

Another hydrological megaproject is the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, completed in 1900, when according to landscape historian extraordinaire Jo Guldi, “we used to believe that civil engineering was going to transform civilization.”

The canal reversed the flow of the Chicago River, making it the only tributary besides the St. Lawrence River through which precious Great Lakes freshwater flows out. As an artificial conduit, it's a continuing source of controversy. Calls to re-reverse the river are growing louder, as some fear (perhaps overblown) that this diversion can be used by parched Western states as a wedge argument in their a bid to tap into the Great Lakes.

One good place to see the canal in active mode is at the Lockport Powerhouse. Alternatively, you can simply walk along the canal and then segue into Lockport to explore the urban landscape of a post-industrial, Midwestern suburban town.

Thornton Quarry

For some reason, we didn't think there would be a quarry anywhere near the city, but there is one, Thorton Quarry, located just a few miles south. An even greater surprise is the fact that it's one of the largest in the world.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, what is now Illinois was south of the equator, and a warm, shallow sea covered the region. Reefs were formed, and these mineralized remains of corals, algae and sponges are what's being mined. We don't know how much of the construction materials in the city comes out of Thorton, but we like to think of the highways and skyscrapers here are made of this long lost equatorial landscape.

Now what about electricity? One interesting source is the Byron Nuclear Generating Station.

Byron Nuclear Power Station

To our complete surprise, there are actually several functioning nuclear power stations in Illinois, making it ranked first among the states in nuclear generating capacity. Not all are located near Chicago, but there is a good clustering of them around the city, including decommissioned ones. Beyond the border is a Kuiper belt of sublimely radioactive landscapes, perambulant as though caught in the gravity well of inner city Hyde Park, the site of the world's first artificial nuclear reactor.

As with any tour, there needs to be some side trips, even for one that's already off the beaten track. For instance, one could go to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Before the construction of CERN's Large Hadron Collider, its particle accelerator was the largest in the world. This is where physicists have elucidated (and still continue to do so) nothing less than the fundamental construct of Nature and the landscape architecture of reality.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

We certainly missed a few places, but you'll let us know which ones in the comments, right?
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