12/24/2012

Exo-landscape exploration

First Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays.

A series of projects I found on David Garcia's new website MAP Architects. David Garcia is the editor of the little publication MAP that I presented several months ago.
These projects are part of the department of Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes at Lunds University. The Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes Master Course explores the role of the architect in a mutational environments. The Fall semester course 2012 consists of a three-week workshop, site visits, lectures, and one to one meeting with engineers, architects and astronauts at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. According to the website, the course addresses the exo-landscape of space, but not as astronauts. The aim is to develop a critical perspective of the traditional typology capable of adapting to a future of conditions.
Those with a strong interests in 'Landscape Futures', including exo-landscape exploration (Mars, etc.) will certainly appreciate these projects.
Below I post a selection of these projects:
Mars Presentation | Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes | © Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
© Andrea Marcu ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes | © Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
© Andrea Marcu ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes | Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Marshab | © Elin Persson ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes | Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Marshab | © Elin Persson ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Camping on Mars | © Franscesco Montresor ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Camping on Mars ı A Tensile Integrity Nomad Lab | © Francesco Montresor ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Inhabitable Mobile Mars ı Water Harvester Rover | © Lindberg and McDermott ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Water on Mars | © Lindberg and McDermott ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared Lunds University
Making the Most of Plants | © Susana Alvarez ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University
Making the most of plants | Susana Alvarez ı Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes || Lunds University
Originally appeared on Lunds University

More projects available at Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes, Lunds University





12/20/2012

The Editor's read: The Anatomy of Special Economic Zones by Maurits Ruis

I will post in the following days three book reviews that I warmly suggest my readers to read: Future Practice. Conversations from the edge of architecture by Rory Hyde; The Anatomy of Special Economic Zones, by Maurits Ruis, and Making the Geologic Now edited by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse (of Smudge Studio).
I will start with the review of Rory Hyde's book. I hope to have a conversation with him. I am currently reading the two other books.
Below, I post an abstract of Maurits RuisThe Anatomy of Special Economic Zones.
A very short ebook, 57 pages. Those who are familiar with Keller Easterling's research on Extra Statecraft will certainly appreciate this ebook as Maurits Ruis addresses closely related issues.


A critical History
Special Economic Zones have in some way or another for hundreds of yeas, but the modern SEZ developed significantly in the period after the Second World War. In this period, the SEZ has been able to benefit from growing international specialization, the expansion of the manufacturing activities of transnational corporations and an increasing orientation towards export (ILO 2008). The first known instance of a modern SEZ was industrial park set up in Puerto Rico in 1947 to attract investment from the USA (Dohrmann 2008).
An important catalyst in the development of the modern SEZ was introduction of the standardized shipping container in 1956. The container caused loading cost of cargo to drop from $5.86 per US ton to just under 16 cents (Poston 2006), which made it possible for firms to benefit from lower labour cost overseas whilst remaining cost-effective. Illustrative for the dependency of SEZs on shipping containers is the fact that nowadays there are very few landlocked countries that have adopted free zone regimes (Bost 2001).
The first SEZs appeared in Asia in the 1960s, which would become the nursery home for the modern SEZ in the years to follow. In these years, The US semiconductor industry began offshoring intensive manufacturing activities such as assembly to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This move allowed the semiconductor industry to remain cost-competitive as new foreign rivals emerged in countries such as Japan (GAO 2006). At that point, the only benefits for SEZ host countries were the creation of jobs and income of foreign exchange generated by the exportation of products, but no further benefits to the local economy were provided (Cowaloosur 2011).
Urban Laboratories
Although the first SEZ in Asia was established in Kandla, India in 1965, the history of the modern SEZ has very much turned out to be a Chinese history. China has been instrumental in the development of the modern SEZ, and has also been most successful in reaping its benefits, growing its domestic economy significantly, and lifting millions out of poverty. When India introduced its national SEZ policy in 2005, it was modeled closely after the Chinese model (Leong, n.d.).
Perhaps China's success with SEZs is owed to the fact that China was not unfamiliar with the concept of designated areas with an exceptional status. As early as 1557, Macau was rented to Portugal by the Chinese empire as a trading port, and in 1842, the French, British and America concessions were granted in Shanghai following the 1839-42 Opium War. The introduction of the modern SEZ in communist China was due to the decision of Deng Xiaoping in 1980 to start using SEZs to experiment with the free market economy, a move he referred to as 'crossing the river, feeling the stones one at a time'. To that end, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen and Shantou were given the status of Comprehensive Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) (Leong, n.d.)

12/12/2012

Invisible borders…

I'm over busy these recent days so that some posts have been delayed including an interview, a new edition of The Architecture Post Review, and three book reviews. Saying this…

I just discovered a tumblr tweeted by Archis Volume, earlier this morning on an event, named Invisible Borders, currently in Mexico City. This event explores the concept of borders: borders in megacities, borders in neighborhoods, borders between rich and poor, between dense and sprawl, ecological borders, moral borders, urban borders. The location: Mexico City, which, as Archis Volume describes,
seems to be full of telling borders that generate ideas on the past, present and future of the city.
Border is a symptom, a dilemma of spatial, social, cultural, economic, moral, ecological, and urban disequilibrium. Quoting the case of San Diego and Tijuana borders, Teddy Cruz, probably one of the best specialists of the problematic of borders, says:

[The] border region is emblematic of a crisis that will redefine the world's cartography in the next decades: the emerging conflicts across shifting geopolitical boundaries, natural resources and communities, the politics of water, the re-definition of density and the meaning of citizenship everywhere.
Another example of borders is the border conditions of current states of ecological systems and desired states of ecological systems. 
The hydrologic basin of Mexico | © Rodrigo Remolina / Ciudad Futura
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisibles

Ecological borders generate critical conditions and heterogeneity from landscape degradation to water issues, to habitat and spatial fragmentation, amongst others. Vulnerable areas to flooding events, or drought. High risk of habitat and landscape deterioration prone to be sensitive to increasing random events, pushing human, and other species to flee for better places. 

Urban borders reveal new forms of inequalities, urban disconnection, lack of interaction between people, isolation, urban tensions, physical degradation of areas and its components. In the recent LSE/Urban Age conference The Electric City (December 2012) in London, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, claimed that bad cities usually provide inequalities. Pushing people to live far from the center reducing mobility, interaction and access to jobs and leisure, inequalities generate clusters of disconnected spaces coinciding in reinforcement of invisible borders between cities and peripheries, rich and poor. 
As Eyal Weizman (See Weizman, 2007; Brown, 2010) pointed out, the border,
has become a discontinuous and fragmented series of self-enclosed barriers that can be better understood as a prevalent 'condition' of segregation — a shifting frontier — rather than one continuous line cutting the territory in two.


Dominant Housing Type by AGEB neighborhoods in Mexico City, 1990
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisibles
Housing shortage, difficult access to basic infrastructure and water supply, are other forms of outcomes to urban borders. 'Invaded buildings' with precarious system of electrical and water supply, and a very basic form of waste and garbage disposal in areas initially occupied by neighborhood disrupt these areas into a series of discontinuous areas leading to emergence of invisible borders, worse, untenable tensions between 'illegal settlers' and local residents. An example: a series of destruction by local residents of illegal Romani settlements in France.

Back to Invisible borders event in Mexico City, I will finish with, below, a series of pictures and maps from this tumblr Fronteras Invisibles
Build-up area of Mexico City and Metropolitan Area.
Graphic design © Flor Martin
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisibles
Border Machine San Jeronimo 04 © Wissel
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisibles.
> "The fence as a machine for managing 'personal border-conditions' (1). An architectural invention found in San Jeronimo, Tecamac, State of Mexico in 2009.
(1) Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: the rituals, pleasures, and politics of cooperation.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Border map mx
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisibles

Casas en Tecamac | © Moritz Bernoully, 2011
Originally appeared on Fronteras Invisible



References:
Weizman Eyal, 2007. Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation, (London: Verso books).
On the concept of borders but in a political viewpoint, I suggest to read Wendy Brown's Walled States, Waning Sovereignty:
Brown Wendy, 2010. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, (New York City: Zone Books).


12/03/2012

Video | Soft infrastructures

Unconventional solutions is part of a series of videos (including Conventional solutions and Cleaning up) on climate-proofing New York City providing tactics and strategies to problem-address increased climate- and natural disaster-based issues.
Recent events in Haiti, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern United States have revealed the commons on which we are ultimately dependent on nature.
They remind us in particular the vulnerability of man-made landscapes, cities, infrastructural as well as socio-economic conditions. In short we need to reconsider a new approach that promotes connection of human ecology with natural ecology. In Resilient Infrastructures, published in the forthcoming second volume of Bracket, titled Goes Soft, Neeraj Bhetia defines human ecology as our political, economic, and social spheres, and natural ecology as design of landscape, infrastructures, urban form, impact of environmental conditions such as geology, weather and ecosystems, amongst others.
What could disappear? | New Orleans || © The Sunday Review - The New York Times
Originally appeared on The Sunday Review - The New York Times
> 5 feet: Probable level in about 100 to 300 years.
88% of New Orleans area would be flooded.
If levees breach, almost all of the city would flood. The surrounding region is also mostly flooded. (The Sunday Review - The New York Times)

Numerous studies have demonstrated that the bulk of humanity is concentrated along or near coasts on just 10% of the earth's land surface. By 2025, then, — to limit to the United States in respect with the video below — nearly 75% of Americans may live in coastal zones. As a result, these zones are becoming sensitive to random events from pollution to habitat degradation and loss, from invasive species to growing increased coastal hazards, such as rising temperature and rising sea-levels. A recent article published in The New York Times' Sunday Review examines consequences of rising sea-levels on the coastal United States. Consider 5 feet as a probable level in about 100 to 300 years. 7% of New York City but 88 % of New Orleans would flood. Much of Jacksonville (Florida) area's low-lying wetlands (3% of Jacksonville) would disappear too. As a consequence, these random events will be having a serious impact on coastal United States' infrastructural system.
What could disappear? | New York City || © The Sunday Review - The New York Times, 2012
Originally appeared on The Sunday Review-The New York Times
> 5 feet: Probable level in about 100 to 300 years. 7% of New York City's area could be flooded.
The East River starts to eat away at La Guardia Airport. Port complexes are flooded (The Sunday Review - The New York Times)
What could disappear? | Los Angeles area || © The Sunday Review - The New York Times
Originally appeared on The Sunday Review - The New York Times
> 5 feet: Probable level in about 100 to 300 years.
1% of Los Angeles would flood while 7 % of Long Beach and 27 of Huntington would be flooded.
Low coastal areas, like the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, disappear (The Sunday Review - The New York Times)

Humans = Human activities = Nature
Ecosophy, as Felix Guattari termed in The Three Ecologies, posits the balance of three scales that comprises self-understanding, the society we live in and the ecosystem we inhabit. Put it succinctly, urban spaces organized through the relation of politics, economics, ecosystems, and cultural values, as Guattari put forward, must be re-negotiated as rooted in the model of interdependencies of human, economic life and environment throughout a series of processes. Another French philosopher, Michel Serres, underlined interdependencies of humans, human activities and environment, in particular in The Natural Contract,

Today our expertise and our worries turn toward the weather, because our industrious know-how is acting, perhaps, catastrophically, on global nature, which those same ancestors thought didn't depend on us. From now on, not only does it doubtless depend on us, but, in return, our lives depend on this mobile atmospheric system, which is inconstant but fairly stable, deterministic and stochastic, moving quasi-periodically with rhythms and response times that vary colossally.
(…) What serious disequilibria will occur, what global change must be expected in the whole climate from our growing industrial activities and technological prowess, which pour thousands of tons of carbon monoxide and other toxic wastes into the atmosphere? As of now we don't know how to estimate general transformations on such a scale of size and complexity. (…) [D]o we know a richer and more complete model of global change, of equilibria and their attractors, than that of climate and the atmosphere?
Here we are faced with a problem caused by a civilization that has now been in place for more than a century and that was itself engendered by the long-term cultures that preceded it; it's damaging a physical system millions of years old, a system that fluctuates and yet remains relatively stable through rapid, random, and multicentury variations. Before us is an anguishing question, whose principal component is time, especially a long-term time that is all the longer when the system is considered globally. Mixing the waters of the oceans requires a cycle estimated at five thousand years.


Soft infrastructures
The video below problem-addresses the question of soft infrastructure as possible, if not primary, responses to challenge uncertainty and instability of post-natural coastal landscapes. As stated in The Mother Jones, soft infrastructure here (See also: Field Journal of Architecture: Ecology; and the forthcoming second volume of Bracket: Goes Soft) is defined as a technique that borrows from nature to improve resiliency from enlarging wetlands to creating reefs and archipelagoes to seeding oyster beds. As pointed out in previous posts, a soft infrastructure should consider dynamism, immateriality, indeterminacy, flexibility as central in response to fluctuations, as Neeraj Bhatia writes.

As complex feedback systems, ecosystems are non-linear and self-organizing. Not only does designing coastal infrastructure require a specific language based on understanding and learning from global and local ecosystems, but global and local ecosystems must be considered as interconnected to address indeterminacy and flexible conditions that programmatically, temporally, politically, socially configure ecosystems.

An evidence: these proposals in this video are not sufficient to attain an equilibrium state. They may be considered as short-term solutions to cope with long-term, far-reaching issues. As we live with immediate reckonings, upon which most of our power depends, we are incapable of setting long-term answers, to say with Michel Serres. Targeting a long-term, far-reaching problem, thus, must at least be equal to the problem in scope, Michel Serres continues. Yet, on the horizon of increasing climatic and geologic mutations, the difficult task for practitioners is to disentangle this triple challenge: complexity, instability and uncertainty…



credit video: The Mother Jones | Unconventional solutions

11/28/2012

ULGC Guest Editing The Funambulist: Natura Non Facit Saltum, On the Concept of Adaptation

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was invited to write a text for a blog that I read with a certain pleasure. This text titled "Natura Non Facit Saltum: On the concept of Adaptation" is now online on The Funambulist. The Funambulist was founded by New-York-based architect and theoretician Léopold Lambert. He is also the author of the book Weaponized Architecture. The Impossibility of Innocence, published by dpr-barcelona, if you remember I mentioned my impatience to get my copy. The book will be available in France very soon (French readers, I will let you know  about the date and the bookstores where you will get your copy. And this will be a great opportunity to have my interview with dpr-barcelona on their editorial, publishing, and curatorial activities). For now, the book is available at Amazon UK.

Back to my contribution. If you don't know The Funambulist yet, this will be an enjoyable occasion and opportunity to discover this blog. Léopold Lambert addresses topics such as urban military, spaciocide, architectural-urban-politics, and other interesting topics. It's a theoretical blog very close to blogs like Subtopia, to limit to only one example, and Eyal Weizman's essays.

The story behind this guest editing project is simple. Two months ago, I received an email from him to guest edit a special post. While being editorially different, I accepted his invitation since it is an honor to be invited by The Funambulist. Let me add a second reason: I am a passionate reader of The Funambulist.

My text addresses the concept of adaptation, a concept very important to weave new hypotheses not only in architectural-urban term, but also in political, economic, social and ecological terms in a time when changing issues are drawing an uncertain and unstable future. It is also a research in progress for future posts at some point.

Below an abstract:

Several weeks ago, I was passively listening to a French radio, an evening economic programme in which two economists were polemically discussing France's economic situation in times of economic crisis. As this discussion, as usual, smoothly shifted into a very cacophonie (in French in the text), my interest for this programme faded away…, when an unexpected comment came to my notice: one economist admitted that, in a period of economic depletion, when future is uncertain, we are forced to adapt to pressing issues. Yet adaptation being a short-term solution in contrast with resilience, we consequently have to redefine our economic model.
I shall be introducing with a definition of adaptation. While being disputed in the biological field, I shall propose a common definition from the biology side. In evolutionary biology, adaptation is defined as a trait, a process of the continuous adjustment of a system to its environments. Adaptation, then, contributes to the fitness and survival of individuals or organisms(1). Environment, then, thus, is defined as a dynamic performative micro and macro milieus, which, in turn, together generate an ecosystem, a non-linear interrelationship of environmental topographical and structural intensities, and human and nonhuman activities. In few words, environment is made of stimuli that impact its components which, in turn, are forced to fit with these changes,… or go extinct. Human being, as an individual, is able to respond to environmental changes with socio-cultural physiological growth adjustments.
(…)
Adaptation is becoming implicit in a part of the architectural field. Morphogenetic design investigates the discipline of biology — evolutionary biology, genetics, synthetic life research, developmental biology —, borrowing its vocabulary such as adaptation, differentiation, cell growth, self-organization, mutation, emergence, so on. The introduction of biological field allows a shifting spatial paradigm and advanced sustainability that connect material systems with environmental stress, the resulting provisions and opportunities for inhabitants(2) (initially note 5). A part of research in morphogenetic design focuses on how an individual or organism responds, then, adapts to environmental input. When a habitat is affected, three main consequences appear that will impact its population: habitat tracking, genetic change or extinction. By exploring adaptation of individuals or organisms to their environment, morphogenetic design explores different ways of strategizing morphological and ecological behaviors reliant on an evolutionary design process(3) (initially note 6).

The full article is available on The Funambulist.


Endnotes
(1): Kitano Hiraoki, 2002, Systems biology: a brief overview. Science, Vol. 295. See also: Krimbas Costas B., 2004. "On fitness. Biology and philosophy", Vol. 19, Issue 2.
(2) (in the original text: note 5): Hensel Michael, Menges Achim, Weinstock Michael, 2006. "Towards self-organisational and multiple-performance capacity in architecture", in Architectural Design, Vol. 76, Issue 2.
(3) (in the original text: note 6): Menges Achim, 2004. "Morpho-Ecologies: Approaching complex environments", in Architectural Design, Vol. 74, Issue 3.


11/27/2012

Towards an Adaptable Infrastructure?

I am hardly working on a series of posts, including that on Kate Orff. The video below can be related to the forthcoming post on Kate Orff insofar as it deals with the current condition of New York State's infrastructure (about the question of infrastructure: if you have a chance, I recommend to read Quaderns' issue 262 on Para-Infrastructure, among many other papers, magazines, essays on this question of re-calibrating infrastructure).

This superstorm Sandy revealed the obsolescence and vulnerability of New York State's infrastructural model (see a selection of papers, articles: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). I will not go deeper in this question as I am working on this aforementioned post related to Kate Orff. In few words, I will posit that concepts of response, change, adaptation, non-linear, softness, differentiation, mitigation, vulnerability, problem-addressing, scalability, self-sustained, self-reliance, mutability, adaptability…, pose new hypotheses in terms of re-calibrating landscape infrastructure. Sandy — but also Irene, Katrina, Xynthia (in France),  and other natural disasters not related to climate changes such as Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami, to limit to these examples — has revealed that humans and infrastructures are not only interconnected as well as reliant upon landscape.

In this video, Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, argues that climate change will have a serious impact in New York State's infrastructural system. 'Critical structure' as she termed: bridges, sewage systems, but also public health and agriculture.

With a clear evidence: coastal and waterborne zones are concerned with natural disasters, global warming consequences. Unpreparedness will become more and more critical.

This, of course, raises loads of questions: What do these natural disasters and these global-warming-related natural shifts teach us about our relation with landscape, our approach to implementing and our uncertain futures? How can we problem-address these mutable, unpredictable issues?

In the framework of The Taubman College Symposium organized by Etienne Turpin, Seth Denizen and Paulo Tavares propose a first path,
Scaling our designs and desires to the geologic would require us to assemble responsively with the non-human scale of geo-forces in play on this planet.
In a simplest word, making a geologic turn as a possible way to re-articulate infrastructures, communities, and imaginations in relation with landscape.


credit video: A Crisis Foretold: Studies Warned New York Infrastructure Critically Threatened by Climate Change, originally appeared on The Democracy Now.

Source: The Democracy Now!

11/25/2012

Global Infrastructure | Keller Easterling ı The Geopolitics of Subtraction, Domus 963

While impatiently waiting for Keller Easterling's new piece, Extrastatecraft, I continue my investigation on this theoretician of architecture with a new piece, written by Keller Easterling for Domus magazine issue 963.
In this piece titled The Geopolitics of Subtraction, Keller Easterling explores what she calls a new counterintuitive economic model: the infrastructure of subtraction. The place: Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, known to be the most biologically place on earth… but also the place of unexploited reserves of 846 million barrels of oil. That is: a conflicted landscape.

[A]t Yasuni, another project further complicates the puzzle and mention of it brings all enthusiastic meetings about "being Yasunised" to an awkward silence. The Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), a coalition of South American nations, plans to engineer a widened river channel that would allow freight to flow all the way to the Pacific, thus bypassing the Panama Canal and directly contacting shipping routes to Asia and the rest of the world. This Manta-Manaus multimodal corridor would connect the free zone port of Manaus on the Amazon River in Brazil with the Pacific port of Manta in Ecuador. The NAPO River although narrower than the Amazon, would receive westward traffic, thus saving 25 days of shipping time. There are plans to put an additional container port on the Napo en route just to the west of the Yasuni preserve. While the corridor is seen as the source of new business and new relationships with other countries in South America, this shortcut to China would draw containerships full of Brazilian goods through the middle of the Yasuni-ITT preserve and other forested areas on the Napo basin. The development engine — galvanised around a familiar tune — is already at work on the project.
This would be an extraordinary example of global collective action, that would allow not only reduce global warming, which benefits the whole planet, but also introduce a new economic logic for the 21st century, which assigns a value to things over than merchandise.
The president Rafael Correa said.


Originally appeared on College of Chemical & Life Sciences
The ITT oil block, the College of Chemical & Life Sciences said, is located in the easternmost corner of Ecuador's Amazon region, within Yasuni National Park, an area of 9,820 sq. km, between the Napo and Curaray rivers in Napo and Pastaza provinces in Amazonian Ecuador. This park is mostly a rain forest, and the home of 150 amphibian species, local-scale trees, bat species, birds and mammals.
Yet this area also is the subject of a series of threats from oil extraction to colonization, to deforestation and landscape degradation, particularly watersheds to illegal logging and hunting, to colonization due to road building, and so on.

Ecuador is one of a coalition of countries that have both tropical rain forests and oil — a block that may be changing the rules about resource extraction from developing countries. In Dubai in the 1970s, access to oil and gas resources was granted in return for an offset. Investors had to fund an auxiliary, non-oil industry led by a Dubai national that would augment the economy. The supposedly cast-iron logics of dominant forms of capital might characterise the offset as a pre-capitalist form of bargaining. Yet as countries like Ecuador exercise similar forms of leverage, they are perhaps creating a more ingrained habit of capital, one that recognises multiple markets and values where social contagions are a currency — one equal in importance to carbon credits or other financial vehicles. Since it was launched in 2010, the protocol has proven to be especially mediagenic, attracting the support and funding of movie stars and world leaders, and enough of the 3.5 billion to continue the project. In a world that can monetise anything, this mixes leftist politics with the fecundity of nature ad the symbolic capital of doing the right thing. At the Yasuni-ITT headquarters they even use a word that somehow substitutes monetise — "Yasunise."
Threats also are at any scale: from local, to regional, to, even, global scales.
Yet, at Yasuni, another project further complicates the puzzle and mention of it brings all enthusiastic meetings about "being Yasunised" to an awkward silence. The Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), a coalition of South American nations, plans to engineer a widened river channel that would allow nations, plans to engineer a widened river channel that would allow freight to flow all the way to the Pacific, thus bypassing the Panama Canal and directly contacting shipping routes to Asia and the rest of the world. This Manta-Manaus on the Amazon River in Brazil with the Pacific port of Manta in Ecuador. The Napo River, although narrower than the Amazon, would receive westward traffic, thus saving 25 days of shipping time. There are plans to put an additional container port on the Napo en route just to the west of the Yasuni preserve. While the corridor is seen as the source of new business and new relationships with other countries in South America, this shortcut to China would draw containerships full of Brazilian goods through the middle of the Yasuni-ITT preserve and other forested areas on the Napo basin. The development engine — galvanised around a familiar tune — is already at work on the project.
Read the full article in the recent issue of Domus for a better understanding of Keller Easterling's concept "Infrastructure of subtraction" as this is a very complex but important issue at any scale: ecological, economic, social, environmental, infrastructural…



While writing this post, I am watching a lecture Keller Easterling presented at GSAPP Columbia University, in 2010. The title is Disposition. In this lecture, she examines a series of concepts around her favorite topic, global infrastructure, such as disposition, but also active form, quality, meaninglessness/irrationality, and so on. It's an interesting lecture for those of us with an interest on global infrastructure, and more broadly architecture and theory.

Credit video: Keller Easterling | Disposition || GSAPP, Columbia University

11/13/2012

Weekread 002 ı Everything Else

I am currently read Future Practice again, a book based on a series of conversations with architects, designers, urban activists, historians, speculators, etc. His author, Rory Hyde, is also architect, editor — Volume Magazine; he seems to appreciate audio format — he defined himself as an occasional broadcaster; he co-broadcasted an audio program during the first week of the Venice Architecture Biennial — as a medium to discuss architecture. I let his biography aside as I am planning to interview him about his book in an broadcast format very soon (hope the end of this November or the beginning of December).
I propose, again, some glimpses of his book Future Practice. As wrote in a previous post Rory Hyde discussed with his guests about their point of view on the future of architectural practice, and more broadly the future of architecture: from Jeanne Gang to Bruce Mau to, Wouter Vanstiphout, to Natalie Jereminjenko, to Bryan Boyer
Below some glimpses. I am starting with Natalie Jeremijenko:
RH: One of your strategies to challenge this pervasive notion is to let animals back into our world, our parents told us animals were carriers of germs and diseases, but in your projects we can text the fish, the birds can talk to us and we should be lucky to cohabit with mice. Can a closer communication with animals paradoxically make us healthier?
NJ: Yes, it's absolutely critical. I suppose the big representational challenge we face is to overcome this ethnic cleansing-inspired myth that germs are bad, when in fact we know that's not true. A robust and resilient system is a biodiverse one, and vice versa. A healthy biodiverse system is actually what will give us the capacity to endure a less predictable climate, and that's by definition the system we need to maximise the most. To look at it from a body perspective, our own human macro biome is made up of more nonhuman cells than human ones. So this idea that we could get rid of germs is primarily the reason why we've got there excruciatingly high levels of crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases and digestive issues. The body is a landscape for many other organisms, and we have to understand the landscapes we inhabit as complex socio-ecological systems that are health and work when they are biodiverse.
RH: This idea of the edge is a central theme of your thesis, what you call the zone 'between the lived and the built'. You state this 'is the domain that presents the architect with a great deal of difficulty', and yet to many architects this space is probably invisible, or it is at least accepted that there's an inevitable break between what is designed and how it is inhabited. How do you conceive of this space, and why is it difficult?
MD: It hinges on the presumption that the role of architect is to design a building, and when the work is finished, you leave and the building then goes into a second stage occupation. This idea that you're somehow an expert because you design buildings always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It's frustrating that the discipline of architecture is poorly understood; it is both culturally critical and pervasive, but at the same time as an architect you get pigeonholed into the production of buildings alone. So there's an idea that maybe you can extend your role beyond the final completion — maybe there's an overlap, and maybe you're interested in the way people occupy buildings, and the way you might make very small changes to intercede in those occupations. I just enjoy not having an explicit boundary of what is considered architecture.
Camila Bustamante:

RH: I know the project is not about politics and you don't mention it explicitly, but I think it's important to discuss because for you, and perhaps for people from Lima, the politics is implicit…
CB: Yes, I don' really talk about it that way because I was also a little scared/ Once you do a project with the metro, it's immediately related to president Garcia, especially as he is now back in power again twenty years later. Which is more or less why I chose the map and the signage as a platform. I wanted to work with an established set of 'neutral' symbols, to try to address this issue in a more pragmatic and tangible way. So I tried to be careful to mention this as something neutral. Because, yes, I was also scared…
Bruce Mau:

RH: It's probably useful to now discuss you efforts to tackle these challenges through the work you're doing with the Massive Change Network, and this transition you've made from a designer in a studio to more a public figure spreading the word. In particular, I'm interested in this word 'network' and what that means in terms of how your organisation is put together.
BM: I think you're onto the key idea, which is network. A little over a year ago I stopped working in the studio, I'd got to a certain point in my work where it wasn't satisfying for me for a lot of reasons, I'd done it for twenty five years and it just became time. And we saw this other opportunity around education and design that needed to be developed, and as we got into the research we discovered that less than one percent of the word's population has had access to education beyond high school. And just think of the revolution of possibility that we've produced with this tiny fraction. When I first read it I was just like 'that can't be true! Is it true?' [laughs] Most people think it's between twelve and twenty percent, and you realise wow, they're off by an order of magnitude.
Before, having Rory Hyde on board for an audio discussion, I warmly suggest to grab a copy of the book.
In my wish list, you will find two highly expected book (it seems that The Landscape Future would be expected in December): Bracket 2 Goes Soft and Alejandro Zaera Polo's The Sniper's Log. These two books are announced for this month…

Another book in my wish-list: The Space of Agonism by architect Markus Miessen and theorist Chantal Mouffe published by the excellent Sternberg Press. If you are familiar with Markus Miessen's research, The Violence of Participation includes a conversation between the architect and the theorist. Chantal Mouffe has been developing a research on conflictual consensus, also known (I admit to vulgarly summarize her thought into a few words) agonism
As announced on the website, the conversations "were alternately driven by Miessen's specific concerns regarding his ongoing investigation into conflict-based forms of participation as an alternative (spatial) practice in democratic systems, and Mouffe's understanding and theory of a "conflictual consensus." This book gathers a set of conversations from 2006 to 2011 and envisions new approaches to countering and responding to the globalizing thrust of neoliberalism.
Below an abstract from The Violence of Participation — MM for Markus Miessen, and CM for Chantal Mouffe:

MM: Any form of participation is already a form of conflict. In order to participate in any environment or given situation, one needs to understand the forces of conflict that act upon that environment. How can one move away from romanticized notions of participation into more proactive, conflictual models of engagement? What would you refer to as micro-political environments, and what and where do micro-political movements exist?
CM: Concerning the issue of space, I don't think that there is such a big difference between what you call micro-political, macro-political, and geo-political, because I think that this dimension of the political is something that can manifest itself at all levels. It is important not to believe that there are some levels that are more important than others. In a way, it is coming back to what I have said before in regards to organize the European Social Forum, they were against the idea, because they were saying the struggle should be at a global level. There is no point in having a European Social Forum, because it automatically privileges Europe. But I think that it is very important to have social forums at all levels: cities, regions, nations — all those levels and scales are very important. The agonistic struggle should take place at a multiplicity of levels and should not privilege the geo-political one or the micro-political one, but should instead realize that the political dimension is something that cannot be localized in a privileged space. It is a dimension that can manifest itself in all kinds of social relations, whatever the specific space is like. As many recent geographers have insisted, space is always something which is striated, to use an expression which Deleuze and Guattari are criticizing. Because what they are thinking of is a smooth and homogeneous space, while Doreen Massey argues that every form of space is always some configuration of power relations. It means that what I would call the hegemonic struggle, or the political struggle, must take place at all of those levels. There is a multiplicity of levels in which the agonistic struggle must be launched. This is why I think that there is a potential for politicization at multiple levels, and it is important to engage with all of those levels and not just to simply say, oh well, the global struggle is the most important one, because that is not the case. We need to really try to transform and articulate power relations at all levels at which they exist.


Makoko Floating School is in progress… A school for a waterborne city Lagos and its population of 7,937,932, a density of 7,941/square kilometers, and a total area of 999.6 square kilometers. 
Adeola Adeyemo wrote for Bellanaija:

The Heinrich Boael Stiftung and its partner organisation NLE, led by the Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi, rather believe that people will cope better with the risks of erosion and flooding if they incorporate the water into their daily life instead of trying to dominate it. Just as the informal fishing community "Makoko", located in the lagoon waters of Lagos, has been doing it for over hundred years: It is a community without any government support or infrastructure, the traditional authorities are responsible for the social organisation of the over 100,000 members. They live in wooden houses on stilt, transportation is by canoe only.

Makoko Flooding School
Originally appeared on the facebook page of NLÉ

I, soon, will post a short email interview with Kate Orff about SCAPE's activities. Kate Orff and SCAPE, an agency she co-founded have been quoted in a recent article in the New York Times (See also these two articles from Inhabitat: Architects propose 'soft infrastructure' to protect NYC from the Next Big Storm; and New York Harbor School Students Suggest Oyster Reefs as Protection from Storm Surges). I asked her some questions about her work, and her approach to re-articulating coastal sites:
KO: When I say "the era of big infrastructure is over" I don't mean that we have to stop big, on the contrary, we need to think even bigger and strategically to be able to coordinate aggregate effects of many small and potentially dispersed and more effective and resilient infrastructure strategies - solar energy may be more dispersed, wind energy, agricultural systems, many of these systems can exist in small increments and be more effective and resilient to failure.
Oyster-Tecture | © SCAPE
Confluence | © SCAPE

November 15th, A twitter #citychat. MIT CoLab will organize a twitter chat on post-disaster planning, precisely on urban design and international humanitarian response after a disaster. This #citychat will start at 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 GMT 9:00pm CET and 12:00 noon (Pacific time)
About this topic of post-disaster this article I found on twitter. It is posted by Project for Public Spaces:

The term "community resilience" has been much debated in Government circles in recent years, with "resilience" commonly being defined as "returning to the previous state," or "bouncing back." Whilst this is a useful concept for Governments to consider, its use is limited when resilience is considered as a static "state" rather than a dynamic process through which community capacity is developed over time. It can be argued that community resilience is not just about returning to the previous state. In this context, community capacity can be thought of in terms of community attributes, such as the ability to self-manage and self-determine, the level of entrepreneurship, concern about issues/activism, volunteering and the general level of positivity/optimism about the future.
Architect Alison Killing of Killing Architects and her collaborator and architect Kate Crawford will discuss these topics this November 15th. Topics that I would like to submit are: zones-at-risk zoning, how to re-articulate traumatic areas, adaptive resilience in countries at-risk, among many others.
I recommend Killing Architects' research on post-disaster planning, a research titled (Re)constructing the city, which promotes integration of urban design into humanitarian response,

The rapid growth of cities has led to an urbanisation of vulnerability and a corresponding increase in urban disasters. Humanitarian agencies' experience over the past decades has been overwhelmingly rural, so that approaches to shelter and reconstruction and the tools and guidance which help to shape a response are rooted in a rural context. These rural approaches have too often proved to be inadequate to the challenges of cities, where humanitarians have been confronted by high population densities, a shortage of land and a complex and delicate economic and social ecosystem, a context for which their rural 'toolkits', assumptions and experiences have left them poorly equipped.
An initial study suggests that urban design practices do have an important part to play in the work of aid agencies in urban areas. These practices have not (yet) been adopted for two main reasons. Firstly, humanitarian agencies find it difficult to take a holistic approach to recovery, which it has been argued is necessary in the reconstruction of urban areas. The second issue is the mandates of humanitarian agencies and their focus on the individual, which creates difficulties in working at a larger, community scale, something which is regularly necessary in reconstructing urban areas.
An Urban housing collage in Champigny-sur-Marne, France by Paris-based Edouard François:
Urban Collage | © Edouard François Architects
This housing project is just completed.

I posted in my tumblr page a series of images that Polish photographer Pawel Starzec took years ago.
These images originally appeared on Cafe Babel. Fridom is a pan-European work-in-progress which documents squatting in Europe.
Warsaw | © Pawel Starzec
Image originally appeared on Cafe Babel
"Since 2010, Pawel has visited countries as diverse Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland and Denmark, to document squats and life inside. Pictured, the first day of Warsaw's new squat" [Cafe Babel]




Source: Project for Public Spaces, NLE, The New York Times, Inhabitat (article I, article II), Killing Architects, Sternberg Press, Cafe Babel

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