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Liberate the Horizontal and Integrate the Vertical Super-Surface
James Balog

A very quick reminder that today is the last Sunday of March. That means it's International Tree Climbing Day! Go out and find yourself a nice tree, or any tree for that matter, and shimmy on up. Go survey your city anew, replay forgotten moments from your youth, domicile with arboreal creatures for an afternoon, get splinters and bloody scratches, serenade below with songs passed down to us by our hominid ancestors. Don't forget to bring the kids!
Stormproofing Cities
New Orleans

Terreform ONE has released the brief for this year's ONE Prize Competition, challenging entrants to envision urban design strategies for coping with present and future “severe climate dynamism.”

How can cities adapt to the future challenges of extreme weather? The ONE Prize is a call to deploy sophisticated design to alleviate storm impact through various urban interventions such as: protective green spaces, barrier shorelines, alternative housing, waterproofing technology, and public space solutions. We wish to reinvigorate infrastructure and repurpose spaces towards environmental adaptation in order to put design in the service of the community.

Perhaps a network of smart dikes snaking through daylighted marshes and mangroves wherein retreating villages of soft pavilions inhabited by Ethel Mermans and Fred Astaires perpetually cycle through periods of colonization and diaspora? A city of a thousand and one artificial mesas?

The deadline is 31 August 2013, meaning you have plenty of time to develop your submission or multiple entries. There is also no registration fee.
The Bismuth Stepwell

One of the Marvelous detritus that Tumblr occasionally spits out is this large bismuth crystal. As with most things on Tumblr, no other information is given, especially whether this sample was found naturally occurring or artificially grown. It's most likely the latter, which would explain the highly pronounced stair-step lattice distinctive to hopper crystals like bismuth. This characteristic structure occurs due to the crystal growing faster along the edges than at the center. As more mineral molecules are attracted to the edges, leaving less and less to fill the interior sections, the crystal craters. As for its iridescent color, that is due to oxidation.

If you want to make your own bismuth crystal, there are certainly plenty of YouTube instructionals for that, including this. In fact, bismuth has a low melting point (271°C or 520°F) that you could probably use a regular stove and some old kitchen wares rather than a fully outfitted smelting lab.

Though perhaps the world needs a smelting lab dedicated solely to fabricating gigantic bismuth crystals. A fantamagical stepwell factory.


Out in the desert or deep in the rain forest or hidden in a mountain valley, pools of molten bismuth are allowed to cool and crater down into the mantel, spiraling as they excavate their own labyrinths, like divining rods probing the earth for water to fill their lidos in the making. Not the comparatively uncomplicated “inverted ziggurats” they are usually described as, rather these bismuth stepwells might be more akin to a cancerous mass of Borobudurs hybridized with fetus in fetu Ankor Wats, inverted.

And then the factory is dismantled and carted away, leaving these “deeply wrinkled surfaces,” as Mary-Ann Ray might put it, for travelers to discover. “Like pieces on a game board, travelers move around within and upon it, discovering possible relationships with other travelers, hiding, seeking, losing, finding, passing by, encountering, entrapping, nearly missing.”

Tarsem Singh eventually flies in to film his interpretation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
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