Pruned — On landscape architecture and related fields — ArchivesFuture Plural@pruned — Offshoots — #Chicagos@altchicagoparks@southworkspark
Designing a Lunar Capital City

Still need something to do this summer? How about revisiting some of your much cherished childhood (or yesterday's) dreamscapes of a fantastical lunar city and then propping it (or not) with a bit of scientific credibility for SHIFTboston's Moon Capital competition.

When considering the moon destination, competitors are welcome to explore any concept, however, we recommend the submission address one of the following criteria:

PROTECTION The moon has no atmosphere. Envision shielding to protect the habitat from radiation, space debris, and temperature extremes.

MICRO-GRAVITY How would life and industry be in 1/6g?

FOOD A self-sustaining community that incorporates agriculture and food production.

ENERGY How would we harness or generate enough energy to run an entire community?

WATER production, purification and recycling.

How about a moon CULTURE?

How about a moon TRANSPORTATION?

This might be just the perfect opportunity for you to team up with those civil engineering students on the other side of campus to help you better understand constructing on indigenous soil material. If you're thinking of designing a lunar food system, surely you would want to exploit the expertise of a lunar farmer. Are you wondering if the entire moon could be turned into a gigantic battery? No doubt our readers already know who to consult first.

In any case, it's probably no different from designing for extreme environments here on earth, or a second Phoenix in a much harsher desert. Perhaps it's better to conceptualize your city as a company mining town, after all an independent moon would be more likely be supported by an exo-natural resource-based economy than tourism or scientific research, right?

Submission deadline is September 3, 2010.
Third Coast Atlas
Great Lakes Basin

Consider participating in the Third Coast Atlas project.

Third Coast Atlas is an unprecedented compendium of theoretical essays, maps, scholarly research and design provocations that facilitate a contemporary survey of the urbanization of the Great Lakes Basin, known as the Third Coast. This includes research, analysis and design from scholars and practitioners in the disciplines of architecture, urbanism, landscape, geography and ecology. The book [is] conceived as an atlas that positions the Great Lakes Basin as a synthetic regional territory with a population of 30 million people and investigates its landscapes as strategic events in the economic, infrastructural and ecological concerns and opportunities of the area. The publication recognizes the global significance of the Great Lakes as a crucial freshwater source by thorough documentation of the mechanisms that preserve and control the lake system as an operating hydrological resource. Mindful of rampant post-industrialization and the ongoing transformation of rust belt urbanism, the book also charts the complex relationship between urbanization, landscape and the material economies of the region. The Great Lakes is designated as one of the United State’s eleven Megaregions in the 2050 national plan. By applying a broad section of design scholarship to the research, analysis and speculation of regional territories, this publication is positioned as a reference guide for a future plan of the Great Lakes Megaregion. While specific focus is on the area called the Great Lakes Basin that forms the upper coast of the Great Lakes Megaregion, many of the issues addressed have universal appeal and are shared by many other territories worldwide.

The three editors spearheading this project are Clare Lyster (University of Illinois, Chicago), Charles Waldheim (Harvard) and Mason White (Toronto; Lateral Architecture; InfaNet Lab).

Submissions are due August 30, 2010.
Soft Pavilions
Soft Pavilions

To add unnecessarily to this year's particularly rabid pavilion season, here's our very quick and very dirty proposal for one. It's basically a giant version of iRobot's palm-size chemical robot, a new genre of robot that can roll around and squeeze into tiny holes by changing its state of blobbiness.

As it is funded by DARPA, it is being developed primarily with military application in mind. However, we are conceiving this soft pavilion for application in a different, though no less destructive, industrial complex: tourism.

Soft Pavilions

Specifically, we're imagining several dotting a long stretch of beach. Fully inflated and firmly berthed on the sand, their occupiable interiors can serve a variety of purposes. For instance, they can be used temporarily as vending kiosks, changing rooms, trash collection site, lifeguard houses, beach security command center and, of course, sex rooms.

Soft Pavilions

Embedded on their outer skin are sensing devices that constantly monitor environmental conditions. These external stimuli influence the dimensions and location of the pavilions, thus actuating a constant state of flux throughout the day, like the weather. No longer totally tethered to human agency, they adjust positions with the rising and ebbing of the tides, deform into a more aerodynamic shape against strong winds, deflate in cold temperatures.

There may be times, perhaps most of the times, when the pavilions are too slow to react during a storm or the occasional hurricanes and are thus tossed wildly about before they can burrow themselves safely beneath the sand or find a tight space to squeeze themselves in.

Soft Pavilions

For the lucky few beachfront home owners, some pavilions might seek shelter in the company of others and in the process coagulate temporarily into a giant sandbag.

Soft Pavilions

With the return of clearer skies and calmer winds, those pavilions that have burrowed themselves will emerge out of the sand, like geoglobules secreted by the earth, while the others will ooze out of their confined spaces.

Like a herd of tumbleweeds or a colony of amoebas, they will migrate together towards the shoreline, honing in on the sound of waves breaking, then instinctually retreating a few paces back when their protruding pseudopods touch seawater.

One could consider them a new type of “organism”, a taxonomic hodgepodge of flora, fauna, geology and architecture, encoded with new ethology to be played out in their newly classified biome.
The Labyrinth of Ikea

In a windowless room in some nondescript corporate building, but with IKEA furnishings, a clandestine team of crowd physicists and spatial hackers is busy modeling a switching IKEA labyrinth in which these tracings and trajectories of consumerist boredom are whirled unto themselves.

These men who stare at IKEA furniture have been tasked to design a store that can snare cool hunters into a continuous delirium of consumption, only releasing them when bankruptcy is just one shelving unit purchase away. Show rooms seem to flow endlessly into other show rooms, never towards an exit. Countless bounds but boundless. The same corner sofa with the taste-affirming Swedish appellation is passed by a dozen times. On the thirteenth pass, comes overwhelming desire, mortgage payments be damned.

Next door, meanwhile, a fellow employee is also busy crunching numbers. This rogue among rogues has been tasked to weaponize the work of his colleagues, to design an IKEA store as simulant city in which one could trap would-be occupiers and confuse them with self-knotting streams of generic spaces, a labyrinth within labyrinths, until they can be neutralized.

Pedestrian Labyrinth
Prison Wetlands
Shimo la Tewa

In March, Circle of Blue reported that the Shimo la Tewa prison near Mombasa, Kenya, is to replace its broken sanitation infrastructure with an artificial wetland to clean its wastewater. Funded in part by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), it is the first project of its kind in Kenya.

Shimo la Tewa’s new system uses gravity to pipe waste water 200 meters away from the main prison buildings to a screen that traps the solid waste. The remaining effluent enters a septic tank to break down anaerobically before it flows through the wetland, which is filled with plants that naturally filter pollutants, such as water hyacinth.

When the wetland is completed in April 2010 it will provide the added benefit of recycled water that the prison can put to economic use. Shimo la Tewa will install aquaculture ponds that will create work for prisoners at a neighboring minimum security facility, [Shimo la Tewa's Senior Sargeant Paul Cheruiyot] said. Any excess water will irrigate plants on the prison grounds.

As estimated by UNEP, “operating and maintenance costs for the constructed wetland are roughly $50 per person served, compared to $300-$500 per person for the pumped systems.”

Though mindful of the ethical implications of using inmates as guinea pigs, we're nonetheless tempted to think that prisons are, or most likely have always been, ideal testing grounds in which to form and develop new and alternative systems to redress conditions of resource scarcity. It's not shockingly revelatory to say that these carceral spaces are really miniature cities or the whole world condensed, continually concerned with issues of food, health and shelter. Increasingly burdened with over carrying capacity and diminishing financial inputs, they're on a perpetual crisis mode, a disaster in waiting, just like the world outside their walls. One could thus understandably assume that such threat of catastrophe would turn a prison into a hotbed of innovations.

POSTSCRIPT #1: See The Walking Dead.
Roman Night
Pedestrian Labyrinth
Toulouse Crowd

Vis-à-vis the Switching Labyrinth over on BLDGBLOG, here's a recently published paper on a largely ignored aspect of crowd behavior: the need to socialize.

Most current models of crowd displacement assume the individuals to act independently, simply trying to reach their destination without collisions. Using video recordings in urban areas, the team of Guy Theraulaz (Research Center on Animal Cognition, CRCA, University of Toulouse/CNRS), in a straight collaboration with Dirk Helbing of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, showed the 50 to 70% of pedestrians do not move alone but in small groups of 2 to 4 people. The study of the spatial organisation within these groups reveals that they walk side by side as long as space allows it, but switch to more complex shapes when crowding increases, with the central persons waking behind the others. This leads ot V shapes in groups of three and U shapes in groups of 4. While these configurations facilitate the communication within the group, they slow down the whole group speed. These concave configurations simply make straight walking ahead more tedious and complicate avoidance manoeuvres. On the whole crowd scale this leads to a roughly 17% traffic reduction compared to a situation where pedestrians move independently.

As with many efforts to understand how crowds behave in urban environments, how they are affected, for instance, by bottlenecked entrances, dueling streams of pedestrian traffic and “turbulence” in shoulder-to-shoulder mobs, this new model of crowd dynamics will help urban planners develop safer and more flock-friendly public spaces.

Not quite related but somehow we're compelled to twin it with the above is the CyberWalk.


Developed by a consortium of several European research labs headquartered at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, it's “an omni-directional treadmill, which together with markerless tracking, optimized control and several perceptual tricks enables humans to walk through Virtual Worlds in a natural and unconstrained fashion.” It's the largest such platform in the world, we are told.

You can see it, or rather the virtual explorer, in action here.


For a much larger treadmill, cover the ribbon belts with turf, plant a few trees and some shrubs, screw in some decorative boulders and glue in a water feature. Introduce some fauna as well. Then turn on the machine, go for a stroll, and watch as this deterrestrialized earth rotationally reconfigures itself into myriad combinatorial landscapes.

Josh Keyes

Pedestrian Laboratory
—— Newer Posts Older Posts —— Home