Over 1900 acres of the city’s building fabric sits atop unstable ground. The harvesting of the Left Bank’s limestone and gypsum base has created a dense network of underground tunnels, canals, reservoirs and vaults – effectively resulting in a sponge-like foundation for the city.
The extraction began as early as 2000 years ago when Roman settlers began harvesting the stone. During the latter parts of the Middle Ages the quarrying supplied material for Paris’ construction boom. While these sites where originally located beyond the city’s edges, Paris continued to grow outward and the subterranean quarry sites that supplied the materials for projects such as the Louvre and Notre Dame were now directly (up to six storeys) below the sprawling city.
The first major collapse happened in 1774. As time went on more and more holes opened up; swallowing neighborhoods and their inhabitants and exposing the voids in the city’s foundation. Stabilization efforts began during the reign of Louis XIV and continue to today as the Inspection Générale de Carrières (ICG) patrol the tunnels in search of weak spots in the network now spanning hundreds of miles. Ironically the ICG’s activities have expanded on the original network through the addition of a new labyrinth of maintenance access tunnels. Inevitably, small collapses continue to occur with the largest of the recent past occurring in 1961 – killing 21 people.
The voided space of this network was partially filled when Paris’ over-crowded cemeteries began to leak in the late 18th century, resulting in a public-sanitation emergency. As a solution, the government brazenly began digging up the gravesites and transporting the remains to the former quarry locations. After almost a century of this practice, over 6 million skeletons were displaced to these new catacombs.
Other somewhat unexpected official/permitted occupants of the network exist today: There are the plump fish swimming in the 50 meter wide reservoir below Opéra de Paris Garnier and the opera staff who feed them. The Paris police force trains their underwater skills in the very same water body. The Banque de France built a vault 25 meters below ground in the 1920s. The vault is estimated to hold 2,600 tons of the country’s gold reserves.
The tunnels are accessed through entrances scattered across the city in places such as hospital basements, subway tunnels, church crypts and wine cellars of private residences; not to mention the thousands of manholes servicing the sewer system. While many of these access points have been blocked off by the ICG and entering the underground was made illegal in 1955, an unauthorized population continues to occupy the tunnels.
On one hand there are the ‘cataphiles’ – urban explorers who value the spatial qualities of the space as well as the feelings of liberation from society’s rules. On the other hand is the loosely formed collective known as les UX (for Urban eXperiment). While others appreciate the tunnels on their own terms, UX’s time in the underground is not spent wandering around but instead spent on improving some of Paris’ forgotten corners. For UX, the catacombs are a means, not an end. The group takes advantage of the highly connected network to infiltrate buildings from below and restore/repair valuable artifacts found above ground. Most notably, a UX team, working covertly at night, repaired the Paris Pantheon’s clock – which, with UX’s efforts, chimed for the first time in 50 years on December 24, 2006. Other improvements attributed to UX include restoring medieval crypts, building an underground cinema, and producing theatrical productions in monuments afterhours.
One of the first articles written about the secretive collective was written by Jon Lackman for Wired Magazine in February 2012. Neil Shea's article "Under Paris" and Stephen Alvarez's photographs in National Geographic (Feb 2011) are also great resources.
All lectures are in the Milstein Hall Stepped Auditorium at Cornell University and open to the public.
Eva Franch i Gilabert
“Ecologies of Excess”
February 13th, 2013; 10am
MH Stepped Auditorium
DIRECTOR, STOREFRONT FOR ART AND ARCHITECTURE
“Extraction Urbanism - Resource Development & Infrastructural Territories”
March13th, 2013; 10am
MH Stepped Auditorium
regionalArchitects / Harvard GSD
“A Thousand Years of Frontier Technologies”
April 15th, 2013; 5pm
MH Stepped Auditorium
LECTURER, CORNELL DEPT. OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE / LANDSCAPE ARCHIPELAGO
April 24th, 2013; 10am
MH Stepped Auditorium
DIRECTOR OF URBAN DESIGN, HARVARD GSD
The Territorial Infrastructure Lecture Series was curated by Neeraj Bhatia with the support of Cornell University, Department of Architecture
Studio-X NYC is delighted to host the New York City book launch and discussion for[bracket] goes soft. Edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Lola Sheppard of Infranet Lab, this second volume in the impressive [bracket] series “examines the use and implications of soft today – from the scale of material innovation to territorial networks.”
In a back-to-back series of short presentations, [bracket] editorial advisors and contributors Neeraj Bhatia, Fionn Byrne, Michael Chen, Leigha Dennis, Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, Geoff Manaugh, and Chris Perry will discuss some of the collection’s most innovative soft proposals—a diverse set of projects ranging from sonic urbanism to repurposed pay-and-display whose softness lies in the way that they propose “systems, networks, and technologies that are responsive, adaptable, scalable, non-linear, and multivalent.”
Refreshments will be served and copies of the book will be available for purchase. Free and open to the public; no RSVP necessary.
Bracket [Goes Soft] Toronto book launch will be hosted by creatures:collective on March 1st, starting at 7pm. Editors Lola Sheppard and Neeraj Bhatia will launch the book, which will be available for purchase.
Free and open to the public, no RSVP is required.
The Public of Lagos Agency of Trash Formation, Organization, Remediation, and Management (PLATFORM) is a graduate thesis project by Brian Lee of Rice University. The project addresses the issue of waste management in slum neighborhoods of Lagos. Lagos, Nigeria is a significant commercial, financial, and population center in Sub-Saharan Africa and the world. It is a city of rapidly shifting conditions and perpetual crises with issues of over population, pollution, limited circulation, waste management, density, poverty, and social disparity. For Lagos, an estimated population growth of nearly six percent equates to about a half a million new residents per year. The largest and fastest growing city in Sub-Saharan Africa, Lagos barely manages to support the influx of migrants and rural transplants seeking work in the region’s financial and commercial center, let alone the extreme internal birth rate of its own people.
The growth of Lagos has led to a conflict between two types of development. As the formal publically planned urbanization strategies have failed to keep pace with current growth rates, new inhabitants advance the expansion of informal slums. These slums rely on access from the water, bypassing existing modes of urban circulation and development. Large, dense communities have arisen along coastal regions, some settlements actually built on the water. The slums act as infill to the cities minimal vacant space and ignore the geographic boundaries of the city by expanding into the coastal waters of Lagos Lagoon. Not only do these slum areas face extreme challenges of poverty and sanitation, but predicted levels in sea-rise over the next one hundred years indicates that much of the territory of the coastal slums will be over taken by water.
The crises of waste management has become an opportunity and given rise to innovation within Lagos. Entire communities have developed around the disposal and organization of trash. Armies of sorters wait alongside dump trucks searching for valuable materials that can be sold and reused. Along the coastal edges garbage is used as fill. The trash is dumped into the water, covered in sawdust and sand and slums settlements are built on top of the newly acquired land. As a result, much of the water surrounding the slums has become contaminated.
The social and ecological extremes of the West-African center, however, have not thrown the city into an imbalance or disorder that the traditional model of urban planning would have predicted. These problems have been managed by an unconsciously collective effort from the citizenry. They are seen as opportunities for their inherent processes; a way to survive for the individual. Speaking of Lagos, Koolhaas said, “[the] shortcomings have generated ingenious, critical alternative systems, which demand a redefinition of ideas such as carrying capacity, stability, and even order”. This condition of adaptability and resourcefulness presents an interesting environment for an intervention that can better exploit innate aspects of the existing systems.
The radical conditions of Lagos promote new solutions for the city. Within each of these problems reside inherent processes and qualities that can become interdependent and beneficial to each other. Garbage provides the mass for coastal expansion, and defense from sea-rise. Expansion of the coastline provides new territories for the growth of slums. Geometry can maximize efficiency and minimize contamination.
P.L.A.T.F.O.R.M. seeks to make use of the processes associated with Lagos waste management and the expansion of the slums, while mitigating the harmful effects of contamination and providing a defensive barrier against sea-level rise.
PLATFORM was awarded the Thesis Prize at Rice University, and was recently published in MONU Magazine's issue on NEXT URBANISM
 Rem Koolhaas Mutations, Project On The City: Lagos p. 652
The Petropolis of Tomorrow is a design and research project, which examines new Petropolises — cities formed from resource extraction — associated with offshore oil extraction in South America. To date, infrastructure tied to natural resource extraction has rarely been designed using long-term, holistic planning. Despite the growing logistical landscape dedicated to oil extraction, little design effort has been afforded to engaging and empowering the unique social, cultural, environmental, and economic challenges which that faces these new communities. The Petropolis of Tomorrow is a multidisciplinary project undertaken in collaboration with The South American Project (SAP), Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Cornell University, and Rice University’s School of Architecture. Its aim is to provide new templates for architecture, urbanism and infrastructural design tied to resource extraction that privileges a systemic symbiosis between economic, political, environmental and social systems.
For more information visit www.petropia.org
Bracket 3 invites the submission of critical articles and unpublished design projects that investigate the potentials when situations extend beyond norms – into the extremities. We are conditioned, as designers of the built environment, towards the organization of people, programs and movement. Indeed the history of modern urbanism, architecture and building science has been predicated on an anti-entropic notion of programmatic and social order. But are there scenarios in which a state of extremity or imbalance is productive?
Ulrick Beck, in “Risk Society’s Cosmopolitan Moment” suggests that being at risk is the human condition at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While risk produces inequality and destabilization, he argues, it can be the catalyst for the construction of new institutions. The term extreme is defined as outermost, utmost, farthest, last or frontier. Bracket [at Extremes] seeks to understand what new spatial orders emerge in this liminal space. How might it be leveraged as an opportunity for invention? What are the limits of wilderness and control, of the natural and artificial, the real and the virtual? What new landscapes, networks, and urban models might emerge in the wake of destabilized economic, social and environmental conditions?
Bracket [at Extremes] will examine architecture, infrastructure and technology as they operate in conditions of imbalance, negotiate tipping points and test limit states. In such conditions, the status quo is no longer possible; systems must extend performance and accommodate unpredictability. As new protocols emerge, new opportunities present themselves. Bracket [at Extremes] seeks innovative contributions interrogating extreme processes (technologies, operations) and extreme contexts (cultural, climatic). What is the breaking point of architecture at extremes?
Guest Editorial Board: Keller Easterling, Michael Hensel, Alessandra Ponte, François Roche, Hashim Sarkis, Julien De Smedt, Mark Wigley
Deadline for submissions: February 20th, 2012
For more information on Bracket and submission requirements visit: www.brkt.org
Editors: Maya Przybylski & Lola Sheppard
Editorial Advisors: Keller Easterling, Michael Hensel, Alessandra Ponte, François Roche, Hashim Sarkis, Julien De Smedt, Mark Wigley
[at Extremes] will examine architecture, infrastructure and technology as they operate in conditions of imbalance, negotiate tipping points and test limit states. In such conditions, the status quo is no longer possible; systems must extend performance and accommodate unpredictability. As new protocols emerge, new opportunities present themselves. Bracket [at Extremes] seeks innovative contributions interrogating extreme processes (technologies, operations) and extreme contexts (cultural, climatic). What is the breaking point of architecture at extremes?
Our Friends at Animal Architecture are launching the inaugural Animal Architecture Awards. The competition seeks "exciting projects that engage the lives, minds and behaviors of our alternate, sometimes familiar companion species — insects, birds, mammals, fish and microorganisms – each one with unique ways of world-making. As our society re-examines its place in the global ecology Animal Architecture invites your critical and unpublished essays and projects to address how architecture can mediate and encourage multiple new ways of species learning and benefiting from each other – or as we say it here: to illustrate cospecies coshaping." Cospecies coshaping is an intriguing ecological principle that has the potential to integrate the "human" world with the "animal" world, so in fact we can eliminate these "terms" altogether. What interests me most is that architecture is sought as the mediator to bridge these two worlds (not just human but any species). I am very curious to see the projects from the competition and happy that it will expand our knowledge on the relationship between form and symbiosis. If you are interested in applying, the deadline is May 15th, and all information can be found here.
Barrick Gold’s recent bid to acquire copper miner Equinox Minerals suggests that the bullion giant sees copper as the new gold. Both minerals are currently valued at record highs. The price of gold has doubled in the past two years on account of investor fears of inflation and political turmoil. Copper’s rise is even more dramatic as, in the same two years, its value has tripled. Copper’s ductility and conductivity make it an essential ingredient in electrical products like electromagnets, wires and circuit boards. In playing such an integrated role in the manufacturing industry, copper has effectively emerged as a proxy investment in rapidly industrializing nations such as India and China.
We may see demand for copper may outstrip its supply in 2011. As demand continues to rise 21 of the 28 largest operations have no room left for expansion and 2015 marks the date were many of the globe’s largest mines will be exhausted (Salon.com). With this supply-demand imbalance many new mining projects have been slated for development. South American nations such as Chile and Brazil are proposing new mining operations as are nations within Africa’s Copperbelt such as Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When we consider the price of copper against the price of fiber telecommunication cables, an entirely new type of mineral reserve becomes exploitable. Andrew Cohill of Design Nine, a US telecom consultancy firm, states that the world’s largest copper reserve is in the United States and its already been dug out of the ground. Cohill is referring to the hundreds of millions of pounds of copper hanging on telephone poles across the United States. On one hand there are the vast amounts of abandoned wires hanging from utility poles left by earlier economics where it was cheaper for telecom companies to lash new cables to utility poles without taking down the old ones. On the other hand, the remaining active copper wires could also be up for grabs as the value of copper telecom cables is higher (and continuing to rise) than the steady value of fiber-based conduit. Other operations have also made this connection. In the past few years theft of hanging copper wire in the US has been on the rise. Most notably three Colorado men were charged with stealing 20 miles of wire in October 2010! Interestingly, the copper price crisis could have a beneficial spin-off effect for many rural communities in the US. As abandoned copper wire is legally/ illegally cleared away, previously unavailable pole space can be claimed by new telecommunication networks desperate to piggyback on existing utility pole networks.
The “white space” of America has been used as a blanket term that encapsulates 75 percent of America’s land area and 25 percent of the population that does not reside within one of the 11 megaregions. The term “white space” hints at the common attitude toward this vast region as lacking identity, deprived, and empty. Part of this attitude emerges from the fact that several counties in this “white space” are deemed as underperforming with declining populations, employment and wages. Yet simultaneously, this area is at the central core of the country and filled with rich and productive potential. While America has tended to grow from the coast towards the interior, these regions have never been adequately connected by infrastructure to allow for developed and transforming economies. This proposal promotes balanced economic development in America, which extends the high-speed rail (HSR) into the edges of this white space, and by doing so, reveals the richness and diversity of such areas. A series of new HSR terminals interface with existing infrastructures — highways, roads and airports to “unlock” the identities, productive surfaces and vast economic potential of these communities which are newly linked to various megaregions and their associated global markets. Further, as these communities develop their economies, they will also have a ripple effect and stimulate new forms of economic growth in surrounding areas — from new technologies and manufacturing processes to developing knowledge and skill resources — further eroding the “white space.” The terminus, which operates as an activator, formally indexes and provides legibility to the productive aspects of the land and creates a new identity for these communities. The constellation of these end points provides a territorial legibility and a sense of place that eradicates the notion of “white space.”
With warmer weather just around the corner those of us who didn’t brave cycling through the winter months are preparing our two-wheeled transit for another season. We are not alone. In cities across North America bicycle ridership is on the rise. Montreal and New York City have both increased their ridership by 35 and 28% since 2008 respectively. While some advocate for a vehicular cycling model where the bike is just another vehicle that should use the road under the same conditions as their motorized counterparts, the more dominant model advocates for strategies confronting the culture of fear where cycling is made safer and more accessible to a wider range of people. At one end of this approach we find striped markings on roads suggesting territorial bounds between cars and bikes. At the other end we have entire networks of separated lanes with their own systems of snow-clearing and traffic lights. Wherever your municipality lies on this scale, one thing is clear: innovative (both soft and hard) infrastructures play a major role in the development of these networks. Across scales and degrees of permanence here are some projects worth noting:
Light Lane - Instant Bike Lanes (soft + small)
Recognizing the bike lanes are an effective means of improving safety for everyone involved while simultaneously acknowledging that the cost of such lanes, averaging $50,000 per mile, is currently prohibiting their wide-spread deployment the designers of Light Lane, Alex Tee and Evan Gant (Altitude) have the following objective:
“instead of forcing cyclists to adapt their behavior to the existing infrastructure, the bike lane should adapt to the cyclist”.
The LightLane is a bike accessory that projects a well-defined virtual bike lane onto the surface upon which the bike is moving. Staking out a wider territory is believed to add to rider confidence, making the bike a more viable commuting alternative.
Bixi Bike (soft + large)
With its highly successful launch in Montreal in May 2009, the BixiBike public bike system is poised to launch in Toronto and Ottawa this upcoming season. The system has three major components: bikes, docking and pay stations. Users simply pay, either through subscriptions or per-use fees, and have access to a bike. After the ride, users return the bike to the docking station near their destination. With over 400 docking stations and 5000 bikes in Montreal, Bixi has ensured the network is robust and highly convenient throughout the downtown. The docking stations can be deployed on any hard surface in a few hours and require no additional infrastructure; in many cases the docking stations occupy a single street-side parking spot from May to November.
Copenhagen Cycling Railings (hard + small)
In a commuter cyclist mecca such as Copenhagen, small details continue to make a difference to the city’s cycling culture. Physically this piece of infrastructure offers little more than convenience – allowing cyclists to avoid dismounting their seats thereby waiting more comfortably for the light to change. Outside of this, this network of railings speaks to a mature cycling culture that has moved beyond meeting minimum requirements to look towards second generation innovation.
D.C. Union Station Bicycle Transit Center (hard + large)
As a peripheral extension to Union Station, already serving as a hub for trains, subway and buses, the Bicycle Transit Center (KGP Design Studio) seeks to connect the bicycle network to this the multi-modal terminal. Providing bike parking, change rooms, lockers and bicycle related retail and service the transit center further supports the bicycle as a viable transportation option.
The 2011 Phyllis Lambert Seminar, organized by Alessandra Ponte, is centered on the theme of the North. It is titled “New Northern Cartographies” and we are honored to be among the architects, artists, film-makers, geographers, and climatologists included in what will be a fascinating two days. Ponte positioned the North relative to geographer Louis-Edmond Hamelin who identified that there are “many Norths in this North.” She goes on to describe the context of the seminar to acknowledge an intensity of interest today in the North that parallels that of the 1960s and 1970s. Ponte writes: “During the last two decades, the end of the Cold War and subsequent realignment of the balance of powers, together with massive climate changes, have in fact redefined, once again, the map of the Arctic region and rekindled a passionate interest in the North.”
Should you be in or near Montreal this weekend, here is the schedule:
Friday, February 25, 2011
Opening Remarks: Anne Cormier, Directrice, École d’architecture, Université de Montréal Introduction: Alessandra Ponte
First Session, 10:20 – 13:00
Respondents: Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec, Université de Montréal
Peter Fianu, architecte, atelier braq, Montréal
Lateral Office/InfraNet Lab (Lola Sheppard, Mason White, Toronto, Prix de Rome 2010):Next North: Infrastructures for a Shifting Landscape. [10:20 – 11:00]
Caroline Desbiens (Chaire de recherche du Canada en géographie historique du Nord, Université Laval, Québec): Nordicité et culture de l’hydroélectricité au Québec: science, paysage, tourisme. [11:00 – 11:40]
Marie-Hélène Cousineau (cinéaste, isuma.tv, Montréal): Montre-moi sur la carte : cartographie virtuelle sur isuma.tv, portails des réalités autochtones contemporaines. [11:40 – 12:20]
Second Session, 14:30 – 17:00
Respondents: Denis Bilodeau, Université de Montréal
Kelly Crossman, Carleton University, Ottawa
Arctic Perspective Initiative (Matthew Biederman, Montréal): An Open Sourced North. [10:00 – 10:40]
Territorial Agency (John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London): North: Escalation. [15:10 – 15:50]
70°N arkitektur (Gisle Løkken / Magdalena Haggärde, Tromsø, Norway): Impacts of Global Pressure on Vulnerable Landscapes and Societies: Planning for Unknown Futures in Maniitsoq, Greenland. [15:50 – 16:30]
Saturday February 26, 2011
Third Session, 10:00 – 12:40
Respondents: Patrick Evans, UQAM, Montréal
Stephan Kowal, Université de Montréal
Charles Stankievech (artist, Yukon School of Visual Arts, Dawson City): Under The Rainbow: Outpost Architecture + Electromagnetic Infrastructure in the Arctic. [14:30 – 15:10]
Future Cities Lab (Jason Kelly Johnson, San Francisco): The Aurora Project and other Dynamic Cartographies. [10:40 – 11:20]
Kelly Nelson Doran (regionalArchitects, Toronto, Prix de Rome 2009): Repositioning the Remote. [11:20 – 12:00]
Thanks to those that came out to Storefront for Art and Architecture on a chilly Friday in late January to celebrate the publication of Pamphlet Architecture #30: COUPLING and to hear provocative / entertaining manifestos as delivered by some of the brightest minds we know. This was part of the series called MANIFESTO and the theme was Infrastructural Opportunism, which came out of Pamphlet subtitle. Through collaboration with Storefront, we asked each participant to include 10 images and 10 (concise) manifesto points on the challenges and opportunities facing infrastructure in the 21st century. This led to a 100-point collective manifesto. Our dream team list included: MIMI ZEIGER on manifestos // INTERBORO on exclusion // DIANA BALMORI on realignments // PLANETARY ONE on stripping down // LYDIA KALLIPOLITI on remedies // ANDREW BLUM on tubes // JOYCE HWANG on interventions // MAMMOTH on expanding fields // JANETTE KIM on highjacking // and we put our money where our mouth is too ... INFRANET LAB on contingency
Mimi has already published her Infra-Opp manifesto, so we thought we would follow suit with ours. After all, what is an un-disseminated manifesto?
1. Know That There is a System of Systems
Arthur Jensen, played by Ned Beatty, in the 1976 film Network said: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it, is that clear?! You think you have merely stopped a business deal -- that is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians. There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars! petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars!, Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels! It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today! That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone!
2. Architects as Expert Generalists Buckminster Fuller, labeled a dilettante and a dabbler in his age, was instead the forerunner of a new breed of designer / thinker that we like to call the expert generalist. Long live the new expert generalists!
3. Be Alert to What Has Just Happened; Be Entrepreneurial.
After a multi-day traffic jam in Hetaocun, China, Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times wrote: Stranded drivers chain-smoked, stomped their feet against the chill and cursed the government for failing to come to their rescue. As the night wore on, fuel lines froze and cellphone batteries died. The residents of Hetaocun, however, saw the unmoving necklace of taillights from their mountain village and got entrepreneurial. They roused children from their beds, loaded boxes of instant noodles into baskets and began hawking their staples to a captive clientele. The 500 percent markup did not appear to dent sales.
4. There is Always Missing Information, Use it. Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous 2002 speech yielded a term that now has its own Wikipedia entry: unknown unknowns. He said: [T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
5. Agile Maneuverability Rewrites Protocols
Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2007 film There Will be Blood says: Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I’m so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see? You watching?. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake!
6. Software Can be Big and Physical, Like Hardware
The Medusa Bag was conceived in 1988 to meet the anticipated requirement for large scale water imports to California as well as to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Others at the time were looking into tanker conversions and pipelines, but no practical economic embodiment of these ideas was found. The bags size and shape have been optimized and the first prototype bag will be built using industrial polyester fabric and special straps. A bag containing 0.5 gigaliters of water would be 465 meters long and 110 meters wide, while a 1.5 gigaliter bag would be 670 meters long and 160 meters wide.
7. Be Resourceful
Thilafushi Island in the Maldives has grown at the rate of a square metre a day, as more and more rubbish is dumped here. Mountains of rubbish – plastic, metal tins and rusty oil barrels – extend as far as the eye can see. Unlike the adjacent resort islands, the only visitors here are the Bangladeshi workers who wade through the sludge and brave the stench to burn the tonnes of refuse that arrive at the island every day. Spotting the potential to generate revenue from the mushrooming island, the government decided to lease part of it for industrial purposes. Additional terrain was created using white sand and now giant cement cones, oil drums and the skeletons of future boats can be seen dotted around. Metal compactors compress junk into blocks for sale to India. Each tonne sells for US$175. The island has grown to such proportions that it now has a café, a restaurant, two mosques, a barbershop, a clinic, a police station and rather unexpectedly, a makeshift zoo.
8. Measurements Can be Misleading, But Oh So Fruitful
Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves is a book about a book about a movie about a house. A series of surveying measurements initially reveal that the house is larger on the inside than on the outside. The discrepancy is less than an inch, but is a sign of things to come. One day a small, closet-sized room appears in the home, although the outside dimensions remain unchanged.
9. Scalar Indifference
A thermokarst lake, also called a thaw lake, refers to a body of freshwater, usually shallow, that is formed in a depression by meltwater from thawing permafrost. This landscape operates by scalar indifference as pools appear and disappear under freeze and thaw.
10. Live By Strategy, Play by Tactic The Russian chessplayer Savielly Tartakower said: Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.
InfraNet Lab is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a conference entitled ‘Fourth Nature: Mediated Landscapes’ at the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture, in Cambridge, ON, this Friday, Feb. 4th and Saturday, Feb. 5th. The conference brings together scholars and practitioners working at the disciplinary intersection of architecture, infrastructure, landscape and environment to present research and projects that propose emerging models for understanding ‘nature’, in its various scales and guises, in the 21st century. From the territorial to the nano-scale, mutant environments which fuse natural and artificial, technologic and infrastructural have been proliferating. Natures are monitored and controlled, ecologies are amplified or manufactured and interior landscapes are conditioned, with the intent of augmenting performance, controlling the flow of resources, monitoring data or redressing environmental imbalances. In the current scenario, the dialectic is no longer nature versus city, or natural versus artificial, but positions within a spectrum of mediation and manipulation of nature, landscape and built environment.
François Roche (R&Sie(n))
Fourth Natures: New Contexts
Cary Wolfe (Rice University, Series Editor of Posthumanities )
Alessandra Ponte (Universite de Montreal)
Christine Macy (Dalhousie University)
Andy Payne (University of Toronto) (Moderator)
Fourth Natures: New Disciplines
Lydia Kallipoliti (Cooper Union, Columbia University, Director of Ecoredux)
John J. May (UCLA and University of Toronto, Millions of Moving Parts)
John McMinn (University of Waterloo) ( Moderator)
Fourth Natures: New Practices
Martin Felsen (Illinois Institute of Technology, Archeworks, Director of UrbanLab)
Janette Kim ( Columbia University, Director of Urban Landscape Lab)
Sean Lally (University of Illinois at Chicago, Director of WEATHERS)
Liat Margolis (University of Toronto) ( Moderator)
Detailed information about the conference schedule and speakers can be found at:http://www.architecture.uwaterloo.ca/fourthnatures/
Editors: Neeraj Bhatia & Lola Sheppard
Editorial Advistors: Benjamin Bratton, Julia Czerniak, Jeffrey Inaba, Geoff Manaugh, Philippe Rahm, Charles Renfro
Bracket [goes Soft] examines the use and implications of soft today – from the scale of material innovation to territorial networks. While the projects in Bracket 2 are diverse in deployment and issues they engage, they share several key characteristics — proposing systems, networks and technologies that are responsive, adaptable, scalable, non-linear, and multivalent. Certain projects reveal how soft systems rely on engagement with their larger environment, collecting and sensingenvironmental atmospheric information, and through feedback, adapting the system to augment performance. Other projects examine how soft systems can function as interfaces with the environment – whether mitigating or harnessing it – operating at the scale of a wall, a building, or a landscape.Moreover, a particular strand of projects presented in Bracket 2 are tactical and strategic in nature, enabling them to operate, often covertly, within existing organizational structures, subverting rules and limitations for opportunism, to support new ecologies – whether natural, economic or political. Intelligence in other work lies in the organizationandformat of the system, accommodating transformation by rejigging components of the system itself. Adapting to extrinsic as well as intrinsic factors, enabling them to anticipate, recover and transform in unexpected situations, renders other speculations resilient to disturbances. Instead of mitigation, contingency in these soft systems is typically opportunistic.Lastly, select projects expose how the networking of smaller units or interventions, diffused across a larger territory, can generate, collect, or respond at a vast scale. Agile, these tentacular networks can diffuse or retract as resources or needs change.
A current exhibition at the Museum of London entitled ‘Postcards from the Future’ attempts to imagine how climate change will affect London. The illustrators, Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones touch on issues such as the food crisis, rising sea levels, informal housing, etc. to give a vision for types of adaptation.
There are a few observations that can be deduced upon examination of the postcards. Firstly, the city will be succeeded by ‘nature’, further blurring the boundaries of the contemporary metropolis. Secondly, infrastructure and (select) monuments will be some of the last remaining elements in such a metropolis; and thirdly, that housing will take the form of dense informal settlements or ‘slums’. If one were to use these postcards as warnings, they would suggest more current design emphasis on infrastructural deployment, housing, and incorporating productive nature into the city. More importantly, the extreme visions reveal a lack of resilience in the city.
While these images are certainly provocative, they give little evidence of actual researched scenarios of climate change. The two typical depictions of such crises often are utterly utopian or dystopian (think archigram vs. archizoom), both of which are problematic. It is difficult for all to understand the exact ramifications of climate change, and that being said, I am interested on the role of nature and infrastructure depicted within these images. ‘Nature’ is presented as a violent force (ice, floods) or a productive element (the rice paddies, tidal energy), both of which co-exist within dense urbanity. Infrastructure is rendered as a centralized point condition (Kew Nuclear Power Station) or as a distributed field (Tidal/ Wind) in the absence of people (through the photomontages). These various depictions of both nature and infrastructure not only exist today but also are fairly traditional. Some of the more innovative postcards examine the merging of nature, infrastructure and the public in new ways. In this regard, the distributed field of infrastructure and the productive use of nature are interesting because they both embrace a larger surface condition, and therefore a notion of landscape. But this isn’t a picturesque or formal landscape of the English or French Gardens; it is a multivalent condition that could provide more resilience to the future metropolis.
The provocative images are on display from October 2010 to March 2011.
As the year winds down, I wanted to touch on two books – one that was released a few months ago and one to be launched… any minute- that may be of interest to our readers. The first is a recent publication from the GSD entitled ‘Ecological Urbanism’. Edited by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty, the book is essentially a tome that features both articles and projects that emerged/ presented at conference at the GSD in April of 2009. As the title implies, the book examines how the characteristics of ecologies – feedback loops, interdependence, shifting hierarchies, resilience, etc. can be used as a formal model for the design of the city (or metropolis). While Geddes planted the seed for this discussion almost a century ago, the shear number of voices encapsulated in this book depicts both the current interest and sense of urgency with respect to the topic.
Mohsen’s article that begins the book essentially sets the foundations of the topic. Moving between Guattari’s Three Ecologies, Branzi’s Weak Metropolis and Banham’s study on Los Angeles, Mohsen examines the political, economic and social ramifications of the Ecological Project. His text reads as an elaboration to his earlier piece “Landscapes of Urbanism” in the Manual put out by the AA in 2004, provoking the obvious question “What is the difference between Landscape Urbanism and Ecological Urbanism?” And while Mohsen does not answer this directly in his text, the implicit suggestion is that Ecological Urbanism is a model for the entire metropolis, whereas Landscape Urbanism - which originated in the brownfields of the rust belt of the US – typically operates within the drosscape produced by the contemporary metropolis. In that sense, the projects in the book do not seem afraid of form or necessarily position form in opposition to ecology.
Organized into sections ‘Anticipate’, ‘Collaborate’, ‘Sense’, ‘Curate’, ‘Produce’, ‘Interact’, “Mobilize’, ‘Measure’, ‘Adapt’, ‘Incubate’, etc. the table of contents reads as a generational ‘to-do’ list. Within these sections, projects and articles range from the scale of the city to the design of the envelope. As an ecological structure, it is refreshing to see the scalar indifference and the interconnected loops between building skins, form and the metropolis. Those familiar with the topics of landscape and ecology may feel that some editing needed to occur in this book, which often seemingly loses focus of its title. Simultaneously, however, it is a great introduction to the topic and a useful resource. I particularly enjoyed Charles Waldheim’s piece on Branzi’s Weak Metropolis and Pierre Bélanger’s Redefining Infrastructure. I would suggest picking up a copy if you are interested on the current debates of this subject or want an introduction to new forms of urbanism.
Now the second book that I am looking forward to (and have only seen glimpses of) is AD’s next issue entitled ‘Eco-Redux’ (edited by Lydia Kallipoliti). The book builds on Kallipoliti’s research which can be seen on the Eco Redux website, and features other interesting articles/ projects by Anthony Vidler, Mark Wigley, Francois Roche, Alexandros Tsamis, Eva Franch Gilabert and Mitchell Joachim, among others. The journal examines the radical projects from the 60s and 70s and current trajectories in Ecological Design. What is of particular interest is the ‘Soft’ Project that emerged during this time period, which this issue of AD touches on (and will be elaborated on in Bracket 2). More details on this issue of AD can be found here.
Authors: Neeraj Bhatia, Maya Przybylski, Lola Sheppard & Mason White (Authors)
Princeton Architectural Press, Paperback, 80 pages.
The 20th century was witness to both an infrastructure boom and bust. It is the 21st century that will need to project not only how to address crumbling, insufficient, and ineffective infrastructure, but also how to position new infrastructures that confront urgent issues of climate change, sustenance inequality, and environment degradation. The globe’s networked ecologies of food, water, energy, and waste require new infrastructures and forms of urbanism. Coupling strategizes new formats for the physical infrastructure required in the wake of these shifting conditions.
Coupling argues, through a body of design/research proposals, that infrastructures are in fact ecologies, or natural systems artificially maintained and calibrated. The opportunity for projecting a future infrastructure lies in embracing this condition in a more inclusive manner by bundling multiple processes with spatial experiences. The intention is to declare infrastructures as soft systems, adaptive and responsive to environments and use. Rather than a New Deal approach of massive engineering or iconic infrastructure, Coupling employs adaptable, responsive, small-scale interventions that operate at a massive territorial scale. Easily replaced or upgraded, these infrastructures double as landscape life support, creating new sites for production and recreation. The ambition is to supplement ecologies at risk rather than overhaul them. The included projects meld existing landscapes with emergent systems to catalyze a network of ecologies and economies for a new public realm.
Editors: Maya Przybylski & Mason White
Editorial Advisors: Fritz Haeg, Heather Ring, Michael Speaks, Nathalie de Vries, Charles Waldheim
Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information,energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community. Whether cultivating land, harvesting resources, extracting energy or delegating labor, farming reveals the interdependencies of our globalized world. Simultaneously, farming represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming a remutable, parametric, and efficient. From terraforming to foodsheds to crowdsourcing, farming often involves the management of the natural mediated by the technologic. Farming, beyond its most common agricultural understanding is the modification of infrastructure,urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.
We are excited to be launching the second almanac of bracket with our fantastic team of Actar,Archinect and graphic designers, Thumb. We are also thankful of the generous support from theGraham Foundation.
Bracket 2 invites the submission of critical articles and unpublished design projects that investigate physical and virtual soft systems, as they pertain to infrastructure, ecologies, landscapes, environments, and networks. In an era of declared crises—economic, ecological and climatic amongst others– the notion of soft systems has gained increasing traction as a counterpoint to permanent, static and hard systems.
Bracket 2 seeks to critically position and define soft systems, in order to expand the scope and potential for new spatial networks, and new formats of architecture, urbanization and nature. From soft politics, soft power and soft spaces to fluid territories, software and soft programming, Bracket 2 questions the use and role of responsive, indeterminate, flexible, and immaterial systems in design. Bracket 2 invites designers, architects, theorists, ecologists, scientists, and landscape architects to position and leverage the role of soft systems and recuperate the development of the soft project.
The editorial board and jury for Bracket 2 includes Benjamin Bratton, Julia Czerniak, Jeffrey Inaba,Geoff Manaugh, Philippe Rahm, Charles Renfro, as well as co-editors Lola Sheppard and Neeraj Bhatia.
Deadline for Submissions: December 10, 2010
Please visit www.brkt.org for more info.
Bracket is a book series structured around an open call for entries that highlights emerging critical issues at the juncture of architecture, environment, and digital culture. It is a collaboration between InfraNet Lab and Archinect. Conceived as an almanac, the series looks at emerging thematics in our global age that are shaping the built environment in radically significant, yet often unexpected ways. "On Farming" looks at the capacity for architecture to address ideas and issues of productive landscapes and urbanisms. Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information, energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community and represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming are mutable, parametric, and efficient. Farming is the modification of infrastructure, urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.
For complete information on the Bracket Series, including upcoming issues and calls for submissions please visit the Bracket's website.
Editors: Mason White & Maya Przybylski
Editors: Neeraj Bhatia & Lola Sheppard
Editors: Maya Przybylski & Lola Sheppard
It has been a very exciting and busy summer at InfraNet Lab. We are delighted to announce a few recent projects--some completed, some on-going, and some only just starting. We have had a phenomenal team of InfraNetters this summer including: Fionn Byrne, Andria Fong, Cecilia Hui, Matthew Spremulli, Fei-Ling Tseng, Ceara Watters, and Shannon Wiley.
1) First, we are happy to announce that the launch issue of Bracket, our collaboration with Archinect, is officially at the printers. Through the stunning graphics and coordination of Thumb, and the editorial work of Maya and Mason, we expect to see copies of Bracket: On Farming on shelves this October. The fine folks at Actar will be publishing and distributing the issue. We will have information forthcoming about launch events in various locations: Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. And we are only a few weeks away from announcing a call for issue #2, which has a fantastic jury lined up (including Benjamin Bratton, Julia Czerniak, Jeffrey Inaba, Geoff Manaugh, Philippe Rahm, among others) and a theme that we think is timely and potent. Neeraj and Lola will be editing the second volume with generous support from the Graham Foundation. More on that soon.
2) We are also delighted to announce that Pamphlet Architecture #30, co-authored with Lateral Office, is almost at the printers. We are in the home stretch in working with Princeton Architectural Presstoward a tight complete representation of our work. We cannot write too much but we have 6 projects and texts from 3 guest authors whose thinking and writing have percolated through ours (via the work). The issue, titled Coupling: Strategies for Infrastructural Opportunism is available Dec 1, 2010.
3) Neeraj has recently been selected as a Wortham Fellow at Rice School of Architecture, so we will be consoling ourselves over his departure from Toronto (for now!), and scheming on the next phase of our international cross-climate collaborations with him down there in the city of no zoning. Neeraj was also awarded the prestigious L B Anderson award from MIT for research he will be conducting on housing in the Arctic, related to the on-going Next North project.
4) Lola and Mason (Lateral Office) were recently awarded the Professional Prix de Rome from theCanada Council for the Arts. The award recognizes a portfolio of work and a research travel proposal titled Emergent North. They will be traveling in 2 or 3 individual trips to the Canadian Far North during 2010-11.
It has been a busy few months, so we apologize for the infrequent blog postings. We hope to be back on to a more regular schedule in September. In the meantime, thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting.
Coming off the contagious energy of the Foodprint.TO event last weekend, and the whirlwind of conversations (now thankfully on video) on Toronto’s food infrastructures, it was a pleasure to see the finalists of the ONE Prize competition included an agro-centered proposal by students - Drew Adams, Fadi Masoud, Denise Pinto, Karen May, and Jameson Skaife - from the University of Toronto. The ONE Prize competition had asked for proposals of productive landscape strategies in urban contexts. This team’s proposal re-considered the extensive network of publicly-owned hydroelectricity corridors cutting through urban infrastructures. They identified its potential as a food line - turning a land-use detractor (powerlines) into a land-use amenity (agriculture). Here is an accurate portrayal of a typical hydroelectric corridor from Toronto’s resident flaneur.
The Hydro Field design team writes that:
Within a 125 mile radius of downtown Toronto, there is approximately 8,145 acres of space to grow within Greater Toronto’s Hydro Corridors. This is the equivalent of 51 full 160-acre commercial farms, or 294 28-acre urban farms, or 58,500 0.14-acre community gardens. Such vast amounts of arable land suggest not only considerable feasibility but significant potential for a reduction in imported produce.
The team suggests the origanization of a body called FeedToronto (similar to BuildToronto and InvestToronto) will modulate seeding, harvest and distribution. Though the current land is owned by the hydroelectric company, the team proposes a provocative solution of a split ownership of ground rights (for cultivation) and air rights (for electrical transfer).
Converting the corridor into an (economic) amenity will dramatically affect adjacent land uses. Toward this, the team offers a range of types to demonstrate various Hydro-field edge developments - residential, institutional, commercial, and light industrial. You can imagine the possibility of harvest time cruising down a corridor in a Gleaner combine harvester in a single, continuous line, experiencing the field as an urban section through the city’s back hydro-electric (agro-)avenue.
We were excited to catch word a while back now that the fine folks that cooked up Foodprint NYC - Nicola Twillley and Sarah Rich - were exploring future locales to extend the foodprint series. Thankfully, Toronto has proven productive enough territory in which to host the second edition. And even better is that it is now less than 48 hours upon us - starting promptly at 12:30pm on Saturday, July 31. Foodprint Toronto is hosted at the Wychwood Artscape Barns (601 Christie Street, Toronto). For background, there are two great interviews of the organizers and their intentions over at Pruned and another at Azure. The foodprinters continue their themes cultivated at the first edition including: zoning diet; culinary cartography; edible archaeology; feast, famine, and other scenarios. Though of course now it is applied to the Toronto / Canadian agro-context and food climate. So many possible discussions and conversations: How does the most multicultural city in the world respond to the challenges of food and diversity? How do food imports compare to other North American cities? With Ontario as the bread-basket of Canada, how does food movement infrastructure operate? What policies are in place to support the scope of that movement? Simply to understand a comparative geo-food pulse between NYC and TO would be fantastic. Lola Sheppard will be on a panel, as well as several good friends and colleagues: Robert Wright (Associate Professor of Landscape, University of Toronto), Chris Hardwicke (urbanism.org), John Knechtel (Alphabet City), Shawn Micallef (Spacing / murmur)... in any case, here is the fantastic lineup of panels and speakers. Below are some teaser images from a studio at University of Waterloo on the Toronto Greenbelt, called Productive Territories: Grey, White, Green Belts. The studio brief states:
In 2005, Ontario passed its Greenbelt Act, which protected 1.8 million acres of farmland and green space, with the intention of limiting sprawl, the destruction of green space and prime agricultural land. In the same year, the Places to Grow Act was passed, which identified 25 urban regions which must to achieve certain densification targets. In the context of the Places to Grow Act, one might read within the Greenbelt Act a somewhat nostalgic vision of the relationship of city and nature, the former threatens the latter. Nature is seen as something to be preserved, while the city evolves.
There is no doubt that the Greenbelt Act was crucial, and that it has indeed been identified as one of the most successful Greenbelts in the world, both because of its scope and the because of the quality of lands it protects. And, there can be little doubt that Toronto’s suburban sprawl indeed continues to threaten our open landscapes, and in this regard is socially, economically, and infrastructurally unsustainable. The question arises, however, is any development in, or at the margins of the greenbelt, conceivable? Most significantly, many of the cities targeted in the Places to Grow Act contain what is known as the White-belt, rural lands within each community’s jurisdictional boundaries, that are not protected. Most of the cities have slated these lands for development, with the exception of a few such as Markham, which have declared the desire to protect a large percentage of these lands to maintain a food-belt. The studio’s investigations will position themselves precisely at these boundaries, between urban and rural, between domesticated landscape and one less so – between the grey, white and green-belts. The studio attributes new roles to the architect – not simply problem solver, but cultural, environmental and spatial detective, bringing to light the forces (economic, cultural and environmental) at work within a given geography, and the physical networks at the service of these forces.
Increasingly, carbon emission issues will need to be addressed at a very large, even regional and urban, scale to offset a downward spiral. And nowhere is this more pressing than in parts of rapidly-developing China. London Metropolitan University’s Unit 8, led by CHORA (Raoul Bunschoten) and Tomaz Pipan is exploring just such an initiative in a studio titled “Urban Incubators.” They write that “Energy is the city’s new design force.” Unit 8 investigated this by inviting students to develop a energy map of an area of Xiamen, documenting it as a “cohabitation of processes.” Index maps and scenario-modeling, techniques and methods well demonstrated in much of CHORA’s work, provides a catalyst for a prototypical urban approach. Each proposal was held accountable to 4 criteria: branding, earth (site prototype), flow (processes and exchanges), and incorporation (development strategy). The scale of thinking is powerful and ambitious. There are many fantastic provocative projects that emerged from the studio - though we thought to only highlight a few here, as the website itself is very effective. Proposals range in terms of implementability, scale, and degrees of publicness. Below is Patrick Fryer’s “Peri-Urban Aquaponic Infrastructure.” This project strategically inserts a vein-like network organization of agriculture in a site of expanding industrial lands. Aquaponic greenhouses form the primary agent in site, with a complementary matrix of composting and other ground-based agro-processes. The center spine is host to an intensive nutrient flow system, integrating the greenhouses. Intermittently strung along the spine are public programs including housing and schools.
[Peri-Urban Aquaponic Infrastructure - Earth, by Patrick Fryer.]
Another provocative project is “Algal Economies” by Tom Down. This project recognized that much of China’s “urban villages” have limited access to land and have struggled to find agency other than as a overcrowded hub for transient populations. Instead, this proposal offers biofuel, specifically algae harvesting, as a new economy for the residents. Scaffolding-like structured farms are integrated into the village architecture in semi-public and semi-private spaces, such as roofs, patios, and courtyards. Banks of algae production line these structures, offering a new produce for the new city: renewable energy.
A third project is “Bamboo Components” by Benjamin Walton. This proposal capitalizes on the wasted land that has emerged through the combination of rapid development and land ownership laws of Xiamen. These sites are then tested for intense bamboo farming. Bamboo is harvested for engineered timber construction in newly constructed production towers.