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Buttology 1
ISS Space Toilet

A fantasy table of contents for the fantasy first issue of BUTT, now renamed Buttology, a fantazine for the spatial study of waste.


The Rise of Public Composting Toilet  
“Installation of composting toilets in public facilities is catching on. In New York City, The Bronx Zoo and Queens Botanical Garden have been operating restrooms with composting toilets, with no need for sewer lines, for the last few years. The technology in both facilities is made by Clivus Multrum and resembles a conventional toilet, except that it uses only 3-6 ounces of water, in combination with a bio-compostable foam, for flushing.”


Montreal’s Wastewater Treatment: A History of Problems  
“While it’s an impressive system in terms of its scope and capacity, the treatment process itself leaves much to be desired. In fact, it’s actually one of the worst in Canada. A national ‘report card’ issued by the Sierra Club in 2004 gave the city’s treatment process a grade of F-. The only other city to receive a grade worse than Montreal was Victoria, a place which doesn’t even have a treatment process in place yet.”


Nomadic Spaces: The Afghan Sewer Kids of Rome  
“Italian police have found more than 100 immigrants, including 24 Afghan children, living in the sewer system beneath railway stations in Rome.”


Trash Track

Trash Track  
“Trash Track relies on the development of smart tags, which will be attached to different types of garbage in order to track in real time each piece of waste as it traverses the city's sanitation system. The goal of the project is to reveal the disposal process of our everyday objects and waste, as well as to highlight potential inefficiencies in today's recycling and sanitation systems. The project will be exhibited at the Architectural League in New York City and in Seattle starting September 2009.”


“Today, 40% of the global population lives without toilets. In most places, scarcity of water renders sewer systems impossible, while ad hoc human waste disposal spreads waterborne illnesses that prey upon millions, and cripple developing economies. It is crucial to address the global sanitation crisis with creative solutions. While many NGOs are hard at work installing composting eco-toilets for those in need, a continual challenge is to motivate communities to look after their new toilets. By turning human waste into a high-value commodity, energy, the Gardiner CH4 offers plenty of incentive to sustain itself.”


The Geopolitics of Space Toilets  
“[Veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka] told Novaya Gazeta newspaper that officials had rejected his request to work out on the American exercise bike during their pre-training mission. Worse than that, they had also ruled that American and Russian crew members should use their own ‘national toilets’, with Russian crew banned from using the luxurious American astro-loo.” The situation may have improved since reading this.


Religious Freedom vs. Sanitation Rules  
“For the last two and a half years, Mr. Crislip, a planning supervisor for the state’s Environmental Protection Department, and local sewage authorities have had more than 30 meetings in a futile effort to persuade members of the sect here in Cambria County, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, to upgrade outhouses next to a schoolhouse so they comply with state sanitation codes.”


Bureau E.A.S.T.

Fez River Project  
“The City of Fez Department of Water and Power (RADEEF) is currently implementing a new system which will channel the city’s water sewage towards two treatment plants. Thereby, the Fez river will soon stop receiving backwater and regain its potential as a public amenity. If rehabilitated, its impact will be inordinately salient to the unique urban context of Fez. Indeed, the medina’s intra-mural population not only lacks public open spaces, but is also experiencing a rapid deterioration of its environment due to over-densification and aging public infrastructure.”


Soft Disaster  
“The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm. But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.”


Poo Power to the People  
“Lünen, north of Dortmund, will use cow and horse manure as well as other organic material from local farms to provide cheap and sustainable electricity for its 90,000 residents.”



Mapping Urban Drug Use  
“A team of researchers has mapped patterns of illicit drug use across the state of Oregon using a method of sampling municipal wastewater before it is treated. Their findings provide a one-day snapshot of drug excretion that can be used to better understand patterns of drug use in multiple municipalities over time. Municipal water treatment facilities across Oregon volunteered for the study to help further the development of this methodology as a proactive tool for health officials.”


Tips for the next issue will be much appreciated. We're especially looking for built works, thesis projects, entries submitted to (ideas) competitions and proposals of a highly speculative nature.
Thanet Earth and the Crystal Palaces of the Coming Salad Crisis Era
Thanet Earth

A passing scene or two in a British police drama of the garden variety gritty kind — no need to name the show, but the scenes involved its Northern Irish anti-hero of an undercover cop discovering immigrants from Eastern Europe arriving by boats on the blue-toned, cinematically tempestuous North Sea and then being sent off, if not to the brothels, to work unsurprisingly at slave wages in the commercial greenhouses of a light-deprived Norfolk, where the glass-walled foliage provides as much cover from the Home Office as the urban jungle of council estates — those scenes reminded us of Thanet Earth.

Thanet Earth

Thanet Earth

Thanet Earth, as described by The Guardian last year, is “Britain's biggest greenhouse development.” Located in Kent, “80 football pitches' worth of greenhouse” will accommodate “1.3 million plants, growing in seven greenhouses, each up to 140m in length and fed by its own reservoir.” The entire complex will be heated by seven power generating stations located on site, and any excess supply of electricity will be sent to nearby towns. It is estimated that when all the greenhouses are completed, the UK's crop of salad vegetables will increase by 15%.

It's huge, massive, perhaps so gargantuan that migrant workers might go undetected among the wild thickets of cucumbers and peppers, lost in the din of pneumatic harvesters, sonorous simulant thunderstorms and the reverberated rustlings of tomato leaves. It's just huge, massive, gargantuan.

Thanet Earth

Or maybe Thanet Earth is so technolicious, so heavily under surveillance that no stray variable can ever escape its sensors. Speaking to Will Wiles of Icon Magazine, Steve McVickers, Thanet Earth's managing director, says, “We're measuring all the time. Temperature, humidity, the amount of water in the Rockwool; we're looking at the growth of the plants, we're looking at the ventilation, we're looking at where the sun is, we're looking whether it's raining, we're looking at the wind direction. The greenhouse is constantly adjusting itself.”

Thanet Earth

Phantom EU neo-gypsies displaced by the econopocalypse, non-functioning CCTV cameras, a food crisis, humorless Dutch efficiency experts, a rogue transgeneticist, guerrilla gardeners and allotment nutters, the insufferable Jamie Oliver and the sublime Heston Blumenthal — all converging in that one giant patch of the earth excised from geography, from the cycles of time and even from itself, one day infiltrated by a Northern Irish anti-hero of an undercover (food) cop after reports that tomatoes coming out of these Crystal Palaces have suddenly and improbably started tasting better, sweeter, juicier than Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's organic heirlooms, right after the children have also started going missing. This is a story pitch to the BBC.
Disaster City

Popular Science paid a visit to Disaster City in College Station, Texas. It isn't a city, of course, but “a vast disaster-simulation center designed to look and feel as close to catastrophe as you ever want to be. Each hairline crack, each mangled car, all the mountains of rubble are modeled on wreckage from real disasters, like the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles that killed 72 people and injured nearly 12,000. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing inspired the collapsed parking garage, with cars dangling off the sides like spiders from a ceiling, while the 12-foot-deep rubble catacombs resemble those from Ground Zero.”

This “Jerry Bruckheimer set” is where search-and-rescue teams go to train.
Reclaiming Saemangeum

Saemangeum is an estuarine tidal flat on the western coast of South Korea, just south of the port city of Gunsan. With the completion in 2006 of a 33-kilometer seawall, perhaps the world's longest, it is now essentially a 400-square-kilometer artificial lake.

It won't be a lake for long, however, because this is the site of what's been dubbed as “the world's largest reclamation project.”


To put its gargantuan scale into perspective, the project site is roughly two-thirds the size of Seoul, the South Korean capital.

The last major land reclamation project in Asia was the construction of Hong Kong International Airport, an artificial island formed out of Chek Lap Kok island. At the time, 80 percent of the world's dredging equipment was involved. But at just a little over 12 square kilometers, the airport is a mere sandbar compared to Saemangeum.

The current record holder for land reclamation is the Palm Deira, currently under construction in Dubai. Saemangeum will be 8 times larger.

So what will all that reclaimed land be used for?


The original plan was to turn 70% of the estuary into farmland with the rest set aside for industries. Because of political and economic realities, however, the ratio of agricultural use to non-agricultural use has flipped. Instead of mainly agricultural, the new plan calls for most of the reclaimed land to be developed for industrial, financial, residential and tourist facilities.

Sure to excite many and appall the rest, Saemangeum is now envisioned as the Dubai of Northeast Asia.


Last year, several teams were invited to participate in an ideas competition and submit conceptual masterplans for this Korean Dubai. Last November, three teams were chosen as co-winners.

One team comprised of designers from MIT, ORG and Office dA. In their masterplan, Saemangeum is divided into an industrial North and a more leisure-oriented South.

The North is organized into a regimented system of 330 ‘landscape chambers’ – rooms of varying sizes, bounded by trees and canals and able to host multiple kinds of development. These chambers might contain factories, a science park, a university, or even a space port. By contrast, the South has the spatial configuration of a ‘constellation.’ Similar to stars in the sky or jewels on a crown, small cities are dispersed along the landscape on a series of small hills surrounded by areas of agriculture or nature, connected by roads and pointing to each other.

One of the advantages of this scheme is that “by spreading many cities over the land, transportation is reduced as industry grows alongside residential communities, rather than commuting-distance away from it.”


Another team was led by Jeffrey Inaba. Whereas the MIT team's scheme is both orthogonal and geomorphic, the Inaba team's scheme is wholly orthogonal, organized based on symbiotic pairings.

For instance, quoting one of the presentation boards, “wetlands are coupled with industry, agriculture and buildings to filter effluents, run-off and household grey water” and “alternative energy zones are paired with agriculture and water to harness energy through biomass processing and hydro-electric production.”



A third team was led by Florian Beigel and Philip Christou from Architecture Research Unit based at the London Metropolitan University.

As described by Kieran Long in a recent article of The Architectural Review, their scheme “envisages a city of islands that combines a self-consciously artificial landscape with a logic born of land reclamation and the depth of the lagoon. Beigel's work has always pursued his concept of ‘landscape infrastructure’, where the landscape is built first and helps to define a non-programmatic urbanism born of geography and typology.”

Kieran Long, as well as Ellis Woodman in Building Design, noted the introduction of existing, Western urban typologies. Implanted into the islands are Barcelona's Cerda grid, Cambridge University's quadrangles and the “kilometre style” perimeter developments of Kay Fisker’s Copenhagen, among others. This is Collage City, and this is how one might “create a sense of place out of nothing.”


These three teams will submit their finalized proposals by the end of this month. The government will then select which of the schemes to work with. It may also elect to choose more than one team or even combine aspects from two or all three masterplans in its phased development project. Or none at all.

In any case, just a couple of decades after it's finished, Saemangeum's checkered islands and constellation cities will burst out of their seawalled compound, stimulated into runaway mitotic subdivision by population growth. Like a Suprematist painting in the works, New Saemangeum will meet up with China's own territorial expansion, sustained by immigrant soil from abraded post-glacial, post-Tibetan Himalayan mountains.

Then no sooner than the two meet, climate change will come in and undertake its own reclamation project.

Flemish Island Constellation
A world of spin and flame is born in the head of the dreamer, blue suns, green whirlwinds, birdbeaks of light pecking open the pomegranate stars

The Wetland Machines of Ayala
Ayala Water And Ecology

Israel is in the midst of a water crisis. Climate change, a rapidly growing population, extensive agriculture and a very developed industry are all putting pressure on the few and extremely contested sources of freshwater.

Desalination creates more problems than it solves, because the process is energy intensive, expensive, and besides freshwater, ironically produces highly toxic byproducts as well. Though not as egregiously unsustainable, wastewater treatment plants function under a similar ecological imbalance. More efficient and creative ways to offset water demand are therefore needed.

This is where Ayala Water and Ecology comes in.

Ayala Water And Ecology

Ayala is an Israeli company which specializes in designing and building artificial wetlands to treat contaminated water from agriculture, industries and urban areas. The treated water will definitely not be potable, but at least it could still be re-entered into the system and be used in some way again, thus reducing the need to extract more from already dwindling supplies. And if it isn't reused and instead gets dumped immediately, at least the effluent will not pollute these precious supplies much.

Ayala Water And Ecology

We have described the principle of these eco-machines before in numerous posts, but to repeat, they take advantage of the ability of certain water plants not only to extract pollutants from the soil and water but also to render them inert. With the help of microorganisms, such as microbes, bacteria and fungi, they can take in toxins, heavy metals, greasy substances and pathogen agents. They can even phytoaccumulate and phytoremediate, to use the technical terms, substances that more technologically advanced systems cannot.

Of course, no single species can neutralize all contaminants. There isn't even a master matrix of plants and microorganism that works in every scenario. The trick is in finding the right combination that, in a sustainable manner, most efficiently removes the target pollutant and yields the purity level one is aiming for.

Ayala Water And Ecology

Ayala has been doing just that for nearly two decades and has deployed their wetlands machines all over Israel and in other places further afield. You can find them in domestic settings treating household sewage so that the reclaimed water can be used for irrigating the garden. Higher up on the urban scale, they can be found treating municipal wastewater and also the stronger stuff, the poisonous waste, from industrial sites. The company has also been involved in projects to treat landfill leachates and to rehabilitate degraded rivers.

Ayala Water And Ecology

Ayala Water And Ecology

Ayala Water And Ecology

Of course, Ayala isn't the only company applying ecological solutions to wastewater treatment. There's John Todd Ecological Design, possibly the most popular of them all, or at least the one with the most media coverage; Natural Systems International, who co-designed Sidwell's educational wetland; and Worrell Water Technologies, who holds, to our surprise when we first learned of it, the registered trademark for Living Machine®. It's a crowded field, thankfully.

But who besides Ayala is also working on contested terrain? Who could also say that their artificial wetlands have a geopolitical dimension to them? We're not saying that Ayala's eco-machines are co-conspirators, but who else could possibly say that theirs might be helping to entrench settlement of lands with varying narratives of provenance, with conflicting claims of true ownership? Who else is potentially employing Nature, albeit a Frankenstein version of it, as an instrument of occupation and hegemony, of erasure and amnesia? Who else could be, just maybe, quite possibly, after the deepest parts of our spatialist hearts?
The Artificial Desert Lake of Turkmenistan
Golden Age Lake

Setting the stage for the Central Asian Hydrological War — a side conflict of the future Great Sino-Indian Hydrological War — Turkmenistan has started flooding a natural depression with runoff water funneled from the country's heavily irrigated cotton fields via a network of canals. The goal is to create an artificial lake in the middle of the desert.

Because it's called the Golden Age Lake, one wonders if the country's former nutso overlord, Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov, who dreamt up this “Soviet-style engineering feat,” and his (perhaps equally nutso) successor who's continuing apace with the project, got the idea for the name from the ancient nutso Nero and the artificial lake he landscaped for his Golden House.

In any case, the lake will be huge, almost 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) with a depth of around 70 meters (230 feet). Another estimate puts the lake at 3,500 square kilometers, or nearly the area of Utah's Great Salt Lake.

Project boosters say it will make the desert bloom; open up degraded areas for agriculture, thus increasing food production and security; attract migrating wildlife; and ensure the nation's water security in a region of severe water scarcity.

Critics counter by saying that the lake may never fill up, as the water will evaporate and leech faster that it could collect, leaving behind unevaporated salt and chemicals spread out all over the desert for winds to pick up and coalesce into toxic dustclouds that will cross borders into other countries.

Moreover, these skeptics predict that Turkmenistan will compensate by siphoning off water from Amu Darya river, which Uzbekistan relies on for irrigation, thus further angering its neighbors.

Unadulterated optimists and eternal give-damners will imagine the creation of a techno-utopia in which petroleum-guzzling treatment plants are replaced with constructed wetlands lush with genetically modified phytoremediators to purify agricultural runoff laden with pesticides and fertilizers; water-guzzling fields with post-botanical farms yielding record bushels from just a tiny amount of water; miles of canals that are no more than elongated salt ponds with an innovative water distribution and collection network; and an artificial Dead Sea with an actually thriving wildlife preserve, unironically dubbed the Hydrological Peace Park of Central Asia.

Michelangelo rolling over on top of Bernini

More screen captures, this time from a trailer of Roland Emmerich's film 2012, which looks as if it's aspiring to be classified in the bukakke subgenre of disaster porn. Retinal outbursts of apocalyptic carnage will be numerous and their delivery relentless and furious, nonstop until of course the FX shops have exhausted themselves and not because of some narrative obligations.

It would be great if some of the shots in the trailer each provided the basis for a landscape/architecture studio, an ideas competition or the instigation for a series of micro blog posts. For instance, Michelangelo's dome rolling over on top of Bernini's piazza could be the starting point for a studio in which students are tasked to formulate a master plan for a post-apocalypse Rome. They will be following in the footsteps of some of the greatest (or at least most interesting) builders and urban planners in history: the emperors, the popes and the fascists.

With such illustrious precedents, the pressure on students to outdo them will cause sleepless, sweaty and scream-filled nights. However, one will be soundly dreaming about Michelangelo's still decapitated dome, lying on its sides, fully restored and repurposed as public housing, then elevated on a rainforest of recycled columns above Bernini.


Another maybe could explore what urban lessons can be gleaned from the floating, nuclear city of USS John F. Kennedy and speculate on their applicability to landborne cities.

If you can incorporate the aircraft carrier omelette-flipping onto the White House into your proposal without getting pelted by assorted vegetables and laughed out of your final critique, you will win a very plump traveling fellowship.


And lastly, how about landscape architecture via tectonic attenuation?
Water Infrastructure At Its Most Magnificent
Tarsem's The Fall

InfraNet Lab continues its unbroken string of phenomenally wonderful posts with a report on stepwells, those “inverted ziggurats excavated from the earth” that were the Subcontinent's answer to the extreme seasonality of its water supply. During the too few monsoon months of hydro-excess, the stepwells would fill up and the collected water would be used for the upcoming drier months.

The stepwells also were occupiable public spaces. According to Nerraj Bhatia, “As a subterranean landscape, the base of the inverted pyramids provided a cool microclimate to escape the hot conditions at grade. As such, these became central public spaces of gathering and architectural significance. The collection of water also attracted large ecosystems of bees, fish, lizards, parrots, pigeons, and turtles amongst other species. Each monsoon would reinvigorate these stepwells and promote new life. As a functional, religious and social infrastructure, these became the central spaces for many communities to gather, bathe and converse.”

Short of purchasing the standard text on stepwells, Morna Livingston's Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India, you can read more about them in this article also written by Livingston, who says of their demise:

It was only with the British rise to power in India in the early nineteenth century, that opposition to stepwells as key elements of the Indian water system emerged. To the British, stepwells were a sanitary disaster. The installation of rural taps became a top priority of the Raj. Not without reason, the British colonialists feared disease from the mixing of bathing and drinking water; moreover, the stepwells hosted a waterborne parasite, the guinea worm.

Meanwhile, one stepwell, the Chand Baori, made a brief appearance here in a post which has been postscripted through the years.

Rainwater Harvesting in Mumbai
Out of Water
Liat Margolis and Aziza Chaouni

The Out of Water Project is both a traveling exhibition and a book scheduled to be published by Birkhauser Publishers in 2010.

Organized by Liat Margolis, co-author of Living Systems, and Aziza Chaouni, of Bureau E.A.S.T., the exhibition currently features 24 international case studies of innovative projects and technologies for water scarcity on multiple scale, plus 10 Futures Scenarios designed by invited young designers such as Fletcher Studio, Proxy and MatSys. The book will be more comprehensive in scope and will include a set of self-generated mappings of global water scarcity, as well as an in-depth catalogue of cross-referenced case studies and future scenarios.

The exhibition will travel to Ohio State University this Fall semester. Previously, it was presented at the Daniels Faulty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto. Mason White, who is a faculty member there, posted some of the projects in his blog, InfraNet Lab.

Below are some of the other projects, courtesy of Liat Margolis.

One is Porous Skin by Wayne Jenski.

Wayne Jenski

Quoting the project brief in full: “Porous adaptive membrane was developed as a deployable structure for a clinic for Doctors without Borders. The membrane consists of dispersed micro-pore structures. Those form a series of self-adjusting thermal flues, intended to regulate the temperature of the air as well as the collection of air-borne moisture. The morphology of the pore was developed to open and close in response to changes in ambient temperature, solar gain and humidity. The skin, through its pores collects, then conveys condensation via an inner skin down to a large water bladder. The bladder acts as the foundation ballast but is also used to filter and store local water for sanitation and drinking use. Condensation replenishes water supply. The bladder is oriented to absorb solar energy, utilizing the water as a heat sink to filter the collected water by solar radiation. Both skin and bladder operate in accordance with solar radiation to collect, convey and convert water.”

Another documents an existing infrastructure for effluent reclamation in Israel. The main organization in charge of this is KKL (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael), or JNF in English (Jewish National Fund), which is the philantropic organization overseeing all aforestation projects in Israel for the last 50 years. In the last 20 years or so, they started building waste water recycling infrastructure for agricultural irrigation.

Effluent reclamation in Israel

Again quoting the project brief in full: “Israel's reuse of wastewater accounts for 75% of crop irrigation and alleviates severe shortage of drinking water, which is comprised of 10% desalinated water (project to increase to 50% in the next 20 years). Without treated effluent, intensive agriculture would be impossible. This national program (KKL-JNF) consists of an interlinked network of over 200 open-air reservoirs, with static volume of 150 MCM and a dynamic volume (emptying and refilling) of 270 MCM of treated effluent a year. Those distribute water seasonally via an extensive pipe infrastructure. In the case of the Jezreel Valley, the most production valley in Israel, 15-20 MCM of effluent per year enable irrigation of 4000 ha of cotton . While loaded with fertilizing nutrients, effluent environmental quality is significantly ungraded due to settling and oxygenation, microbial breakdown of remaining organic matter, and UV to suppress pathogens.”

Next is a network of water storage units by Ruth Kedar. It is modeled after indigenous water management systems.

uth Kedar

Yet again quoting the project brief in full: “The cistern is a contemporary adaptation of historical and regional desert technologies. The modular storage structure utilizes available and pre-cast concrete to offer a kit of parts that can be sized and aggregated according to the catchment area, topographical conditions, and inhabitant demand. The cistern network is modeled after the Nabatean systems of runoff agriculture, which used very low channels and surface modification to collect water from great catchment areas. The reservoir employs the principles of the Qanat, an underground tunnel that diverts runoff into a series of vertical wells. Each cistern is outfitted with an outlet to interlink them together, but also allow for diversion toward irrigation. As the need for water increases, the system can be expanded to accommodate additional catchment and storage. Specifying a smaller reservoir and a shorter exposed conveyance distance can reduce evaporation.

Last is the Dixon Land Imprinting Machine, which was covered by InfraNet Lab but it's so cool that we're going to replicate it here and enter it into our archives.

Dixon machine

Final copy-paste: “Absorptive soil ensures against the devastation wrought by the twin desertification hazards of drought and deluge. The Dixon Land Imprinting machine restores the microroughness and macroporosity of compacted and barren soil to accelerate infiltration and revegetation processes. It is most effective in areas with low rainfall, degraded-, brushy-, rocky-, sandy-, and clayey soils, overgrazed ranges and abandoned agricultural land. The roller drops seeds onto the soil surface and imbeds them in the imprint surfaces. The imprinter forms interconnected water shedding and absorbing v-pockets, which function as rain fed micro-irrigation system. Down-slope furrows feed rainwater into cross-slope furrows where it collects and infiltrates. Revegetation is rapid because the imprints hold rainwater in place and captures seed, water and windblown plant litter, which works as mulch to suppress evaporation.”

We'll be pining for the rest of the projects, and if permitted, we'll post them here as they come in. We will certainly be posting updates on where and when the exhibition will be traveling to next. Keep a look out here for those.
Dymaxion Sleeps
Dymaxion Sleeps

When we posted this garden installation, called Dymaxion Sleeps by Jane Hutton and Adrian Blackwell, along with a few others from this year's International Garden Festival at Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens, we only had that one illustration to use. The following day, thankfully, the duo sent us a few photos of their project as built.

The name of the installation comes from Buckminister Fuller’s Dymaxion World Map, whose geometry is copied for the garden's horizontal surface. This surface is made of nylon netting by Creations Filion, specialists in circus and performance safety nets. It is taut when empty and becomes hammock-like when the kids wade in. Should one choose to relax or sleep on one of the triangular spaces, below are beds of aromatic plants — lemon geraniums, lavenders, peppermints, catmints, etc. — to help you unwind.

Dymaxion Sleeps

Dymaxion Sleeps

It's probably one of the few gardens in the festival that's easily transferable to a modest backyard garden. If we had a garden, we'd install one.

Or above a patch of rainforest, first spiraling around thickly trunked trees and then jutting out like tendrils above the canopy. Or out in the middle of the ocean, moored to floating buoys, a respite for pirates, climate change refugees and Pacific Garbage Patch docu-cineastes. Or above just about anything.

Sonic Garden
Poule mouillée!
Lago Navona
Lago di Piazza Navona

This is a postscript to our post on the sewer zeppelins and artificial lakes of Rome.


Every weekend during the sweltering month of August, from 1652 until 1866, the drains of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi were blocked so that the waters would overflow and flood much of Piazza Navona, a sort of aqueous reincarnation of the naumachiae, or mock naval battles, that were once staged on the same site more than a thousand years ago. Or perhaps this aberrant hydrology was an attempt to mimic the floodplains of the real Quattro Fiumi. It could even be described as the temporary, theatrical reemergence of the marshy landscape on which the Eternal City was built.

In any case, it was one of the most popular midsummer festivals in Rome, the “merriest of them all,” according to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Members of the nobility and gentry came in droves in their carriages. Watched by gazers crowding the shores of this artificial lake or looking out from the windows of the palaces surrounding the piazza, princes and nobles would parade side by side with peasants and farmers around and around the water's shallow periphery or crisscross across deeper parts. It probably didn't take long until the water became just a dirty puddle, but one could still churn up microgusts of cooling breezes. On the dry portions of the piazza, entertainments were set up, as well as booths for refreshments.

This urban hydro-spectacle would go on all day, until sunset, sometimes even into the night. Then the piazza was drained, and the water once again contained in its Baroque basin.


As a postscript to this postscript, check out Millennium Park's Crown Fountain, whose seasonal artificial lake swarms with hyperactive, overheated, giggle-infected kids (and adults) every summer.

Once a year, after a multi-million dollar renovation, the twin spouts of Crown Fountain will be allowed to gush out as though they were gigantic fire hoses, flooding the entire park. Frank Gehry's sunken pavilion becomes an inland sea in which concert goers ply the waters on gondolas. The Lurie Gardens transform into a wetland prairie. Anish Kapoor turns into an island. The new Nichols Bridgeway is repurposed as a water slide. And everywhere waterfalls cascade down Neoclassical stairs.

That or truck in a few dumpster pools as counter-pavilions to the two pavilions commissioned for the anniversary celebrations of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago.
Rainwater Harvesting in Mumbai

Like so many cities all over the world, Mumbai is facing a water crisis. In fact, according to BBC News, it is experiencing “one of the worst water shortages in its history.”

Mumbai receives most of its water from lakes that are heavily dependent on monsoon rainfall. Rainfall figures this year, however, are “alarming” as “one lake has enough water to last for the next three weeks, while two others have reserves for about two months.”

In response, authorities have reduced the amount of water going to the city and asked people to conserve the supply that they do get. They are also considering cloud seeding, we read.


Other options for Mumbai are explored by Robyn Perkins in emergeMUMBAI. Last year, this project was one of the winners of 2008 ASLA Student Awards. Quoting the project statement:

emergeMUMBAI addresses flooding at a regional level, water management and public social spaces for housing redevelopment sites, and most importantly, it alleviates the insufficient water supply for the individual citizen. The project uses modern techniques combined with Indian models to provide solutions that work within Mumbai’s culture and maintenance/implementation regimes. Each block of the colony becomes self-contained in terms of water management, while supplying enough water to meet its consumption demands.

The full description, which we will not attempt to summarize here, can be found on the ASLA website. But here are some diagrams of proposed hydrological flows.


emergeMUMBAI started by creating the first ever map of flood points in greater Mumbai,” writes Perkins. “This investigation of where and why the flooding occurs led to regional solutions the city could use. This analysis determined the location of high-risk sites, including government housing sites possibly up for redevelopment. The investigation continued by focusing on one critical, 100-acre site.”

At that site, rainwater is directed to a collection tank system under the courtyard. The water gets filtered and its sediment load allowed to settle.




When needed, “a play pump brings water to ground level where it flows through the slow-sand-dobi-ghat filtration tank. The end result here is grey water, but is clean enough for laundry and bathing.” And perhaps enough to alleviate Mumbai's water shortage.

Rainwater Harvesting in Quito
Rainwater Harvesting in Al-Andalus
Terraforming Versailles on the Moon
Astrobotic Technology Inc.

Last week, government and commercial websites in South Korea and the U.S. were targeted with denial-of-service attacks. In the U.S., “[the websites] of the Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department were all affected at some point over the weekend and into this week.” And in South Korea, “at least 11 major sites have slowed or crashed since Tuesday [July 7], including those of the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, the mass-circulation newspaper Chosun Ilbo and the top Internet portal”

There is evidence to suggest that the cyberattacks were instigated by North Korea, though a link to the rogue state may never be proven definitively.


From rogue states or not, from Russia or China, from the domestic front or not, cyberattacks like those of last week are real and significant threats to America's computer network systems. To develop defenses against such online attacks, the U.S. Defense Department has been creating specialized forces. For the Army, there is Army Network Warfare Battalion, which was activated last year. For the Air Force, there is the 57th Information Aggressor Squadron, whose hackers “spend their days and nights probing the military’s vast computer networks for weaknesses to exploit” in “a series of inconspicuous trailers” at Nellis Air Force Base. Meanwhile, at West Point and the other federal military academies, cadets can now choose to receive training in cyberwarfare.

“There is hardly an American military unit or headquarters that has not been ordered to analyze the risk of cyberattacks to its mission — and to train to counter them,” wrote the New York Times. “If the hackers were to succeed, they could change information on the network and cripple Internet communications.”


Also last week, New Scientist reported that the first node in space of the interplanetary internet went online. This newly installed system aboard the [International Space Station] could one day make communication automatic and less prone to data loses between earthbound networks and spacecrafts and astronauts orbiting the earth or in deeper space.

Astrobotic Technology Inc.

According to a press release prepared earlier this year by Carnegie Mellon, researchers at the university assisted Astrobotic Technology Inc. in developing conceptual robots capable of preparing lunar landing sites for a future moonbase.

Specifically, these lunar bulldozers would be tasked “to build a berm around a landing site to block the sandblasting effect” of multiple landings and takeoffs. Alternatively, a fleet of “small robots could comb the lunar soil for rocks, gathering them to pave a durable grit-free landing pad.”

It is envisioned that these robots would be sent to the moon in advance of human expeditions. In other words, these telepresent digging machines would be operated from earthbound venues — and thus prone to takeovers from hackers.

Not that that would be easily done. As far as we know, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity haven't yet been commandeered by hackers and programmed to dredge arabesque parterres on the surface of Mars.

Certainly, what would be easy is fantasizing about a rogue landscape architect with previous training in cyberwarfare at the National Security Agency. Because of the financial meltdown, he is between jobs, simmering and festering in soul-draining temp jobs, constantly bombarded by the cackles of gossiping colleagues in adjacent cubicles.

Clearly in need of a creative outlet, he sets up a botnet of thousands of infected computers to try to take control of the moon rovers. He will have to wait, however, until those robots have landed and their calibrations finished to start hacking the servers of NASA and what would then be a greatly expanded interplanetary internet. But once appropriated, he will upload a different set of instructions.

He will program them to terraform a full scale, regolithic Versailles on the surface of the moon.


Very briefly, as a postscript to an old post, the New York Times invited several people to comment on roadside memorials, no doubt inspired by the recent public exhalations of supposedly private grief over Michael Jackson's death. The editors asked: “Why do people feel a need to build them? Are they a distraction or a warning? Should restrictions be placed on them?”

As expected, the responses (and the many fascinating comments from readers) are incredibly diverse.
Land Art Generator Initiative
Christo and Jeanne-Claude / The Mastaba: Project for the United Arab Emirates

At the moment, there are no project sites, no deadlines, no jury and no sponsors to announce, let alone what coming in first place will mean, either receiving a cash prize or a commission or both. But if and when the logistics are properly set up, Land Art Generator Initiative could be a fascinating competition to follow.

From the project statement, emphasis theirs:

The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) is to design and construct Land Art / Environmental Art installations in the United Arab Emirates that have the added benefit of large scale clean energy generation. Each sculpture will continuously distribute clean energy into the electrical grid with each land art sculpture having the potential to provide power to up to 50,000 homes in the UAE.

How about a frozen desert artificially gouged with wind-damned canyons?

There is a blog, bLAGI, in which you can check for any updates.
Wave Garden v6.0.0
Ned Kahn
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