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Stormproofing Cities
New Orleans


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

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


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

The deadline is 31 August 2013, meaning you have plenty of time to develop your submission or multiple entries. There is also no registration fee.
The Super-Shelterbelt City
Tarim Desert Highway


Yesterday's post about the global importation of aerosol reminded me of the Tarim Desert Highway, which crosses the great expanse of the Taklimakan (or Taklamakan) Desert in western China, the region I referred to as a Hell Mouth. I've blogged about it several times over the years, first briefly appearing as a pruning, which I later expanded into a full post, before using it as a starting point for some speculative terraforming scenarios.

The thing that so absolutely fascinates me about the highway, second only to its shelterbelt, is its maintenance crew—a total of 110 couples, according to The Telegraph's math—who are “housed in huts every four kilometers along the road. Life in the desert was judged too lonely for single men, so only couples could apply for the job.” Their duties include turning on the irrigation pumps in the morning to water the plants and…that's about it. The rest of the day is spent “pretty much doing nothing.”

Perhaps it's me augmenting their lives spent in spartan cubicles in the middle of utter wilderness with the romantic image of life as a lighthouse keeper that explains the interest: solitary figures living in the open dune sea, guiding caravansaries through fog banks of atomized earth; park rangers in their lookout towers, peering out for wildsands that might snuff out their midget forests; caretaker pilots of deep space mining ships, ensuring critical resources are safely navigated through interstellar deserts, with Mother or Father as their only companion. These desert ashrams may be fully connected to the rest of civilization via television and mobile devices, but there's always that undertone of the monastic.

Tarim Desert Highway


Perhaps China, faced with a future of persistent drought, accelerating desertification, and an afforestation program in total failure (the combination of which may mean more intense and more frequent sandstorms that smother the most economically dynamic cities in the world, degrading their already poor urban air quality into a public health hazard), will expand the Tarim shelterbelt to cover the entire Taklimakan Desert (and the Gobi Desert, too), grafting a checkerboard of midget forests that not only will protect a strategic oil route but also suppress the creation of sandstorms or at the very least weaken them and shorten their reach.

This Super-Shelterbelt would be a megalopolis of sorts, the largest city in the world in terms of area, gridded out into four-square-kilometer parcels. In a corner of each plot will be a blue house with a red roof, of course, where the comparably small populace will live in pairs. One wonders what social structures will emerge out of this gigantic urban air conditioner land grabbed from the hinterlands. What manner of urbanism will something so utterly centerless, diffused, but altogether bound by fealty to distant megacity overlords, generate?

Defense Aerosol Research Projects Agency



Last year, NASA and university scientists released a study revealing that half of the airborne particles, or aerosols, in the skies above Canada and the United States come from foreign sources. (“That's a huge number — half.”) Indeed, analysis of satellite data showed that “64 million tons of dust, pollutants, and other particles cross the oceans and mix into the air over North America each year. That’s nearly as much as the estimated 69 million tons of aerosols produced domestically by natural processes, transportation, and industrial sources.”

While particulate pollution from Asia usually gets the most attention, most of the imported particles, or 88 percent (56 million tons) of the total, is naturally produced dust, which, like man-made pollution, can have a direct impact on human health, weather and climate. As you can see in the upper left screen corner of the animation embedded above, “strong source points” of these fine grains are located in central China near the Taklimakan Desert, that large gaping wound bleeding out a vermillion sea. The Hell Mouth of a grotesque earth body.

Taklimakan Desert


It's universally accepted that high-speed surface winds kick up the fine desert particles into the air, fountaining pulverized earth all the way through the mega-cities of East Asia. If Beijing's recent airpocalypse was bad, imagine if it had been springtime, the high season of sandstorms.

But there's another culprit: China's Defense Aerosol Research Project Agency (DaRPA). Zoom in on those so-called “source points” on Google Earth, and you'll find the playgrounds of aberrant geologists, gonzo climatologists, avant-gardeners and desert shamans.

Quoting a Wikipedia article yet to be written:

The Defense Aerosol Research Projects Agency is a blue-sky thinking agency charged with developing new aerosol technologies for use by the military. Current research include [1] weather weaponization, such as granular blitzkrieg; [2] homeland soil transport through air corridors for island building in claimed extraterritorial waters; [3] nano-drones for domestic and foreign intelligence gathering; [4] dust cloud urban pacification for city-wide protests, a project codenamed Curfew; and what the international media and their beat reporters have dubbed the [5] Great Blurwall of China.


If you're wondering why the progress of the Green Wall of China has been painfully slow, if not a downright failure, one reason is the stalling attempts of DaRPA researchers, as an afforested desert would certainly ruin their experiments.

But it must be said that not all the work by DaRPA are quite so malevolent. You might recall the discovery that one of the “world's most desolate places,” the Bodele Depression in north central Africa, is keeping “one of the most lush,” the Amazon, stay lush.

Bodele Depression


Quoting an actual article:

About half of the 40 million tons of dust that are swept across the Atlantic from the Sahara to the Amazon each year come from the Bodele Depression, a small valley that accounts for only 0.2 percent of the entire Sahara and is only 0.5 percent the size of the Amazon itself. The discovery of this surprisingly large single source of mineral dust raises many fascinating questions about how far-flung parts of the Earth system are connected, including how large the dust reservoir in the Bodele depression is, how long it has been emitting such a huge amount of dust, and how long will it continue to fertilize the Amazon.


You can go a long way in answering such questions after realizing that this foreign soil exchange, this planetary umbilical whirligig, is [6] a Land Art installation by DaRPA. An aerosol garden of earth-fountains evoking the extinct, aggregated landscapes of Gondwana, thus an art that disregards not only political boundaries but also the barriers of Deep Time.

Howling, suffocating, blinding, Marvelous, it's a Spiral Jetty for the troposphere, which just happens to be a new form of [7] mineral trade that bypasses conventional resource extraction and established global fertilizer supply chains. Counter-desertification strategies in the works. Foreign Phosphorus Aid.

Bodele Depression


The US — misinterpreting this monumental piece of performance art as a manifestation of China's African Century and BRICSmanship, the objective of which is a further entrenchment into the geopolitical spheres of Africa and South America — start their own DaRPA within the original DARPA.

Glacier National Park
!melk Glacier


In what seems like a natural reaction to the extreme weather events in Australia, from wildfires to off-the-color temperatures to “agonized dryness,” the northern latitudes produced their own antipodean freak shows. One of the more hyperborean images is arguably that of a Chicago building encased in ice. Firefighters were called to put out a blaze in an abandoned warehouse, but with subzero temperatures plaguing the region for days, the water from their hoses froze once it hit the building. If there's a spectacular way to announce the end to the city's record streak of snowless days, then that is it.

3737 South Ashland, Central Manufacturing District, Chicago


It certainly recalls, among other things, the Detroit house, also abandoned, plastered with frozen water by artists Greg Hold and Matthew Radune in 2010, and the speleological winterscape found more recently inside the Fulton Market Cold Storage Company building, again in Chicago. The later wasn't caused by a natural meteorological event per se, but it does speak to the growing strangeness that awaits us in the climate changed future and to the even more bizarre schemes we'll take up to keep ourselves warm, cool, dry and irrigated.

Might trees be soon genetically manipulated to grow roots of icy stalactites to air condition Central Park in a New York City of average 115°F days?

Fulton Market Cold Storage Company


Speaking of New York, there's that frozen fountain in Bryant Park. What better way to revive some of the deader corners of the city in winter than a fountain metastasizing into a Fortress of Solitude, something fit for Tilda Swinton? (Cai Guo-Chang's pyrotechnics?) But let's not forget about all the Arctic hysteria in the UK.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these collectively compelled someone to troll the internet:



That he is Australian (never mind his US citizenship), so presumably is fully aware of what's happening in his native country, his tweet is all the more astonishing. No doubt he's trying to outdo @realDonaldTrump.

Then again, he's half right: those firefighters weren't trying to douse a five-alarm fire, rather they were testing out prototype ice-making machines for a future Glacier National Park in Chicago. A huge swathe of the city will be cleared of its foreclosed houses, to be replaced, in the garden tradition of fake ruin follies, with fake abandoned buildings, which will be structurally reinforced to bear the weight of mini-glaciers. To add variety, some landforms will be contoured.

Crested Butte ESPN Ice Wall


For the better part of the year, it's a replicant post-industrial wasteland, a playground for the Instagram set. But each winter, even after (no, especially after) Chicago has climatically migrated to Birmingham, Alabama, this urban national park will be sheathed in a “new ice age.”

Urban Ice Climbing


Unfortunately, as this is a parallel world cued by Rupert Murdoch, no Romantics will come to wonder around in a frozen Forum, no Thoreaus to abseil up vertiginous frozen lakes for deep Waldian introspection, no paleoclimate revelers for a Pleistocene Festival as marvelous as London's Frost Fairs.

Instead, they will come in droves. They are the bankers and the giant money managers from Goldman, Morgan Stanley and Bain Capital, the high-powered cogs in the engine of finance who sit behind desks with their ice picked scars unseen beneath crisp custom suits, the cubicle-bound King Leonidases yearning to wear shirts that read, “I don't get drunk, I get awesome” and “STDS” (short for “Super Tough Dudes”), to belt out “OO-rahs!” and to have a celebratory drink of Dos Equis after navigating one of the deeper urban crevasses, which are 9/11 on knees, which is not that different from the messy slog of foreclosing homes. In short, the offsprings of Rupert Murdoch's wet dreams in homoerotic glee.

REPOST: Pole Farm
[First posted June 2, 2009. See also this pole farm in Los Angeles where technicians learn how to climb utility poles. Via @nicolatwilley.]

Telephone Pole Farm


Another testing ground is this field of telephone poles located in Chester Township, New Jersey. It's an arboretum of sorts, “planted” with several hundred tree trunks, the total of which may have peaked close to a thousand, carved out of different arboreal species and preserved using various methods. All are arranged in a formal grid and tagged with data-rich metal plates.

Here, AT&T and then other telecommunication companies subjected their lifeless midget forest to the elements of time. A menagerie of woodpeckers and pocket gophers were brought in to attack the poles. Humans and their spiked boots, too, ran rampant about the place in a balletic dance of ascents and descents, empirically choreographed.

All that just to create the perfect telephone pole.

Once a research center partly turned into a weird kind of aviary or a petting zoo or an even weirder sort of artificial ecology, the site is now part of a recreational area and an archive of our infrastructural past.

Mapping Ancient Algorithms for Artificial Weather and Atemporal Seasons
Ancient Merv

Liverpool Tornado
Anthony McCall


As part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, artist Anthony McCall will be spinning an artificial, mile high tornado in Liverpool. Called Column, this swirling micro-climate will be created “by gently rotating the water on the surface of the [River] Mersey and then adding heat which will make it lift into the air like a water spout or dust devil.”

Outside with the “[in]coherent convection” of the elements and without the controlled environment of some cavernous atriums, no doubt McCall and his engineering team will encounter some complications. But we're hoping the final piece will look as legible as the image, or at least on favorable days.

Flutter Field
Paisajes Emergentes & Lateral Office


Lateral Office and Paisajes Emergentes have teamed up together to design a “shape-shifting energy generation park” in Abu Dhabi for the Land Art Generator Initiative competition.

Paisajes Emergentes & Lateral Office


The team's project statement is worth quoting at length:

Unlike current renewable energy fields where technologies are publicly inaccessible, static, and always on, WeatherField offers a range of public engagement dependent upon wind, sun, and moisture. Energy generation becomes a public performance, dynamic, reactive, and interactive. The park is active when weather events are active, and calm when weather is calm, in each instance offering the public a compatible experiences.

The park is organized and designed to respond efficiently and creatively to climate. The intention is that the park serve as a barometer of regional weather events. WeatherField is simultaneously a public space, a dynamic energy icon, and a public weather service. The field is a registration of daily weather events including weather events such as Shamals winds, dense fog, and sandstorms, among others.

The Yas Island energy park is comprised of a field of 200 “Para-kites,” each is equipped with a base station of two flexible posts. Except for the posts that tether the para-kites, the ground and aquatic ecology is undisturbed. The para-kites use a parafoil system to remain aloft and a Windbelt™ system to harvest “flutter” energy from the wind.

At the Yas Island test site, the 200 para-kites extend across the site in a 60 meter grid that marks the tide levels. Each para-kite is capable of 6,220 kwh annually. Preliminary calculations generate approximately 21.6 kwh/month for each cell of the para-kite. With 24 cells per para-kite, that yields 518.4 kwh/month for each para-kite. Across the WeatherField, we calculate 1.24 GW annually, or about 620 energy-efficient homes. Or, more colloquially, each para-kite is able to power three homes for a year.


Whether these calculations are accurate or not, it should be noted that the competition is an art competition, and entrants were briefed to conceive their installations as art first and power plants second. The goal was not to design and engineer a device that provides cost effective renewable energy generation. Rather, the proposal should function primarily on a conceptual and aesthetic level.

Paisajes Emergentes & Lateral Office


Paisajes Emergentes & Lateral Office


Quoting the brief again at length:

As a park, visitors or residents can witness and experience their commitment to renewable energy field in many different ways. They can be stake holders, investing in a single generator para-kite. The investor receives energy equivalent to that harvested by that generator, as well as a live feed view of the landscape from the para-kite into their home. This in house artwork serves a weather gauge and a ‘living’ landscape painting. Visitors to the energy park can also approach the support posts and have a ‘periscope’ view from the ground of the para-kite’s view. And finally, a visitor, may elect—with managed permission—to ride up in a para-kite. This allows the economic models for the implementation of the project to be distributed either before, through residential stakeholders, or after capital costs, through tourism. The project has an entrepreneurial spirit.

The park generates other phenomenal events such as playful shadows on the ground and dynamic patterns in the sky. These geometries could be commissioned to environmental artists, or could be coordinated with regional events or seasonal holidays.

Unlike large-scale energy infrastructures that are out-of-scale, off-site, and off-limits, WeatherField is interactive, and its energy capacity is scalable to the size of a single-home. In other words, energy use is quantifiable and qualitative at the scale of a single user, promoting energy efficiency and energy consciousness.


Be sure to check the Land Art Generator Initiative website for other entries, which are being posted one by one on their blog until the winner is announced in January 2011 at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dbahi.

Paisajes Emergentes & Lateral Office



Parque del Lago
Rainwater Harvesting in Quito
A Proposal for an Aquatics Complex
Four Plazas and A Street
Clouds

See also:
Balloon Park
Personal Artificial Sun
i-weather


When we set out to upgrade our Blogger Classic Template to Blogger Layouts (or is it Blogger Design?), we planned on streamlining the layout down to just one column. But then we accidentally stumbled upon an embeddable personal artificial sun. We were instantly smitten, and knew we had to incorporate it into the new design, single column be damned.

Courtesy of Philippe Rahm and fabric | ch, this sun now flickering above is simply the background color mutating through a 25-hour cycle of bright hues, from warm oranges to fresh greens and cool blues, then back again. These retinal oscillations are an attempt at creating an artificial climate, one which satisfies “the metabolic and physiological requirements of a human being in an environment partially or completely removed from earthly influences: mediated reality, networks and netlag, the disruption of the body clock that comes with air travel, as well as with extra-terrestrial trips and holidays.”

Accessible everywhere and to everybody thanks to the Internet, this artificial climate called i-weather makes it possible to live in a situation completely removed from natural locations by producing an artificial circadian rhythm synchronised to match the inner cycle of the human hormonal and endocrine system. In the absence of the natural terrestrial cycle of day and night, it becomes apparent that this inner cycle in fact lasts around 25 hours, and that body temperature, the alternation between sleep and wakefulness, and the accumulation and secretion of substances such as cortisone and oligopeptides, all depend on it.


Hopefully, then, if you stare for a while at our twinkling blog, any temporal and spatial displacement resulting from marathon coding or CADing sessions might be mitigated.

Of course, you could also hack a TV to blast your room with a pastel maelstrom. At airports all over the world, there could also be coin-operated Artificial Weather Rooms for One in which the eternally jet lagged stabilize themselves with a refreshing technicolor shower. Should such enclosures be considered a security threat, perhaps an iPhone reconfigured as a portable weather machine might be enough to spatially and temporally normalize yourself.


POSTSCRIPT #1: New layout and new look implemented today.



Tropicalia


Deep Space Public Lighting, Chilean Coper-Gold Mines, Rare Earths Geopolitics, and iPhones as Portable Artificial Suns
#glacierislandstorm
For Glacier/Island/Storm Week, we rummaged through our archives for some thematically relevant material. Rather than simply linking to the analogous hashtags (our #ice for #glacier, for instance), we decided to do a bit of curating, ending up with 10 posts per hashtag. We've got nuclear-powered glaciers, a proto-Archigram city in quasi-flight, a pyramid for serving glaciers, ice caps turned space observatories, Thoreau's frozen New England pond reconfigured vertically, avalanche protection structures, an anti-hurricane toy for the rich and famous, vapour cities and more. Go see. #glacier #island #storm

Morris Island Lighthouse


Meanwhile, above is the Morris Island Lighthouse, which has been standing on the same spot on the South Carolina coast since 1867. As the island migrated towards the mainland (as barrier islands wont to do), fans of the lighthouse decided to save the historic structure from certain collapse by armoring its base. The island kept on retreating, and they kept on fortifying. Once it overlooked a wide stretch of beach, but now the lighthouse is itself an island located half a mile out to sea, an immovable geoglobule secreted by its parent island. However, the two islands may yet rejoin, perhaps in the next Ice Age. Or it might attach itself to a different nomadic island just passing by. No doubt that after awhile, it will be secreted once again. Other islands, other shores and other continents will come and go, and the lighthouse will fuse and disentangle with them all, a static marker recording not just the dynamic processes of geomorphology but also the irrational geopolitical mechanics of coastal development and the mercurial aesthetic tastes of those that will (or will not) seek to preserve it for eternity.


Nomadic Hotels and Lighthouses
Strange Weather
Sydney


Continuing a visual meme of late, above is a thick vermillion fog re-landscaping the city of Sydney anew. Writes The Sydney Morning Herald, “Sydneysiders have woken to a red haze unlike anything seen before by residents or weather experts, as the sun struggles to pierce a thick blanket of dust cloaking the city this morning.”

The photograph is just one of hundreds documenting this freak meteorological event. No doubt there will be thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, taken before the last grain of sand settles down. And as these images find their way into each and every blog in the universe, alighting twitter, Facebook and forums, and yes, even as they infiltrate the local evening news, the water cooler and the rest of old media, it's worth quoting again from Diller + Scofidio's Blur: The Making of Nothing.

When we speak about weather, it's assumed that more meaningful forms of communication are being avoided. But is not the weather, in fact, a potent topic of cultural exchange - a bond that cuts through social distinction and economic class, that supersedes geological borders? Is not the weather the only truly tangible and meaningful thread that glues us all together? Is not the weather the only truly global issue? In truth, contemporary culture is addicted to weather information. We watch, read, and listen to weather reports across every medium of communication, from conventional print to real-time satellite images and Web cams. The weather channel provides round-the-clock, real-time meteorological entertainment. Boredom is key. But boredom turns to melodrama when something out of the ordinary happens. Major weather events are structured like narrative dramas with anticipation heightened by detection and tracking, leading to the climax of real-time impact, capped by the aftermath of devastation or heroic survival.


Transgenic Storms
Permitted Habitats


We're paying a return visit to the Center for PostNatural History, this time for Permitted Habitats, their infographic on genetically modified organisms allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for field tests since 1987. This map shows where these neo-florae have been released into the environment, which institutions have applied for the permits to conduct the experiments, and what enhancements these organisms have been engineered with, for instance, drought tolerance and fungal resistance.

Having taken many joyrides over the years throughout Illinois, which according to the map has hosted many of these real world trials, we may have driven past by one or two of these plots. But we wouldn't know. Some protocols may have been set up so that no rogue environmentalists will come and uproot the plants, say, electrified fences or surveillance sensors, but perhaps the best form of quarantine is anonymity and apparent ordinariness. One passes by them oblivious, because they are as unremarkable as the next hundreds of thousands of rows of corns. But of course they're not. To once again borrow from Trevor Paglen, these are genomic dark spots in the landscape, fully alight with the Midwestern sun.

Permitted Habitats


One of the things we like about this map is how the icons pop in and out, sometimes massing together and swelling to shroud an entire state before desiccating gradually. Quiet passages of solitary icons here and there, then a massive pileup; transgenic thunderstorms developing over some skies somewhere, possibly flooding an uncontaminated gene pool with a deluge of foreign DNAs. It's like watching the time-lapsed maps of The Weather Channel.

Permitted Habitats


Or the as yet uncommissioned The Transgenic Weather Channel. Instead of actual meteorological events, it will track these genetic fringes, these dark topographies shrouded in secrecy by Big Agro, Big Pharma and their patent lawyers, for any signs of quarantine breaches. When something jumps over the fence, periodic bulletins will be issued.

High 70s. Clear in the a.m. Thick fog of insulin pollen in the p.m.

Sirens will blast across the whole county.
Pole Farm
Telephone Pole Farm


Another testing ground is this field of telephone poles located in Chester Township, New Jersey. It's an arboretum of sorts, “planted” with several hundred tree trunks, the total of which may have peaked close to a thousand, carved out of different arboreal species and preserved using various methods. All are arranged in a formal grid and tagged with data-rich metal plates.

Here, AT&T and then other telecommunication companies subjected their lifeless midget forest to the elements of time. A menagerie of woodpeckers and pocket gophers were brought in to attack the poles. Humans and their spiked boots, too, ran rampant about the place in a balletic dance of ascents and descents, empirically choreographed.

All that just to create the perfect telephone pole.

Once a research center partly turned into a weird kind of aviary or a petting zoo or an even weirder sort of artificial ecology, the site is now part of a recreational area and an archive of our infrastructural past.

Arrangement of Test Specimens at Treat Island Natural Weathering Exposure Station
Treat Island


To register once more our fascination with testing grounds, or sites of experimentation and simulations, here is the rack map of concrete slabs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' materials testing facility at Treat Island, Maine.

On the island, material specimens are exposed to natural severe environmental conditions to test for durability. They are subjected to between 100 and 160 freeze-thaw cycles, cyclic inundation of saltwater and air-drying, chloride intrusion, wetting and drying, and abrasion-erosion. There and in many other testing grounds, arranged in museological, Donald Judd-like intervals of solids and negatives, these perfect geometries are coming undone. The building blocks of future cities and monuments fracture and decay in a way that belies their solidity and intended permanence. Bit by bit, atom by atom, structures get nullified and give way.
“rising like alien plants on the terraformed lakebed”
Owens Lake / Bubblers


One of the interesting things — and there are definitely many — that you will read about in Kazys Varnelis' paean to the “networked ecologies” of Los Angeles, The Infrastructural City, is the dust control system at Owens Lake.

After decades of monumental water projects that have diverted the lake's “life-giving liquid” to quench a distant city's thirsty populace, to ensure the perfect shade of green for their lawns, and to turn their swimming pools into aqueous micro-paradises, the now parched lake has become a health hazard.

Writes Barry Lehrman, author of the first chapter:

Wind gusts above twenty miles an hour lifted over fifty tons per second of “Keeler Fog” off the lakebed. Often reaching over two miles high, these dust storms sent 130 times the United States Environmental Protection Agency's limit for particulate matter into the atmosphere, blowing the dust over 250 miles from the lake. Such storms occurred two dozens or more times each year, generally in the spring and fall. Composed of microscopic particles smaller than ten microns (PM10), the dust contains significant levels of toxic metals like selenium, arsenic, and lead along with efflorescent salts. The largest single source of PM10 pollution in the country, these dust storms were a clear threat to the 40,000 people in the immediate region.


The threat, according to Lehrman, came in the form of higher rates of cancer, respiratory disease, and eye problems.

Owens Lake / Bubblers


To combat these carcinogenic storms, Los Angeles grafted onto the desiccated corpse of the lake a hydro-network as monumental as the existing network responsible for the situation it is tasked to offset: “over 300 miles of pipe (some as large as five feet in diameter), more than 5,000 irrigation bubblers, and hundreds of miles of fiber optic control cables and valves.”

[T]he dust control projects on Owens Lake is roughly equivalent to that of a waterworks for a city of over 220,000 people. Construction of the first five phases, treating the worst thirty square miles of dust-emitting soils on the playa, has cost the City of Los Angeles $425 million dollars to build. But that sum doesn't factor in the lost revenue from the water being appropriated for the project (around $15 million/year) or the operations and maintenance budget, some $10 million per year.


“[R]ising like alien plants on the terraformed lakebed,” the bubblers flood the playa with shallow water, creating the merest suggestion of a lake, a perverse reminder of Lake Owens' former self.

Owens Lake / Bubblers


However superficial such observations may be, we couldn't help but see similarities between these bubblers and fountains.

Firstly, much like the fountains at Versailles, behind these water spouts is a staggering hydrological infrastructure. Among other things, Versailles had the Machine de Marley, considered the greatest engineering marvel of its time; Owens Lake is part of what is probably the greatest water engineering project of the 20th century.

Secondly, since time immemorial, fountains have been creating micro-climates, cooling gardens, palaces and sartorially bedecked aristocrats. The array of bubblers, you could say, is also a type of weather modification system: an anti-dust storm. Moreover, fountains like those at Columbus Circle in Manhattan can provide a sonic barrier, making one unaware of the tumult outside; with some conjecture, probably forced, you could say that the bubblers don't do much to make Los Angelenos more aware of the negative environmental effects their mode of living is contributing outside the city.

Thirdly, if one can only speculate that fountains have ameliorative effects on one's mental state, you probably don't need to speculate the positive health effects of the bubblers.

Fourthly, fountains like those in Rome are objects for aesthetic consumption; these ebullient and rather photogenic desert sprinklers, thanks to CLUI, have been appropriated into a staged aesthetic experience.

Lastly, and most significantly, they are the products of a complex network of intermingling social, technological, political, economic and geographical conditions, the manifestations of competing ideologies and agendas. They're not mere water features, in other words.

Owens Lake / Bubblers


In any case, we recommend the book.


On fountains
Desert Station
Death Valley Weather Station
“On evacuation and atomization uses his self-energy and on drifting atomization sea waters skywards”
Anti-hurricane machine


After going through Josef Solc's website detailing his designs for an anti-hurricane ship, you will most likely come away unconvinced that his machine will actually knock off hurricanes and typhoons dead on their tracks, or that it would at least dampen their cyclonic strength far down to an appreciable level — that is, kill maybe just one or two people and cause a few million dollars in damages instead of wiping off entire cities and slashing in half the GDP of Haiti.

What you might come away with instead — perhaps apart from a strange liking to the guy's beautifully whacky prose, like Yoda attempting Walt Whitman or a UN interpreter on crack — is a suspicion that the whole thing is merely an elaborate Nigerian scam to bait our grandparents anxious to protect their retirement homes from hurricanes and trick incompetent FEMA directors into parting with taxpayers' money to fund useless disaster mitigation schemes.

But in all earnestness, we don't really care. That thing should be built, regardless of buildability, scientific merit and cost.

Anti-hurricane machine


And then instead of sending it out to sea to wait for the next Category 5 storm, you put it on wheels or, better yet, make it hover on its own aeolian power, after which you let it loose on your own private national park, totally misunderstanding the idea that disasters — like wildfires — can sometimes be beneficial and are actually an essential part of an ecosystem.

There, it will scour the landscape like a runaway garden-variety water hose, level trees as if inspired by the Tunguska event or Mount St. Helens post-1980, carve out a new drainage basin, reconfigure ecology with weather.

It's designing with nature.

Shedding all pretense of humanitarianism, then, Josef Solc will probably have to find private individuals to fund his project, for instance, a Hollywood celebrity who wants to balance out his well-publicized acts of philanthropy with something that's completely bizarre (even by the standards of Michael Jackson), something that's disgustingly but forgivably selfish like buying one humongous toy.

Anto-hurricane machine


Why buy silly motorcycles or start up yet another nightclub where you idle your time and money away when you could divert at least a part of your generous profit-sharing deal to making experimental landscapes. And by experimental landscapes we don't mean building artificial volcanoes in the middle of some pimped out Olympic-size swimming pool — though if it did actually spew out part of the Earth's core, that would be interesting.

Not that he has shown other overriding interests apart from furthering his metrosexual lifestyle but we think it would be fantastic to learn nonetheless that David Beckham has bought a sizable chunk of Public Lands in Nevada and plans to retire there as an avant-gardener. Instead of attending present and future Spice Girls reunion concerts, he's out there playing with his anti-hurricane toy, recreating storms past, designing new landscapes.

Instead of Britney Spears as the paradigm for celebrity living, there is a shift towards François Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville as a model for conspicuous consumption.

Obviously, Josef Solc need not ingratiate himself to an eccentric denizen of Los Angeles as there must be a private hedge fund manager, recently flushed with millions of dollars from rising oil prices, who is willing to patronize him, thus initiating the most fruitful patron-artist relationship of the age and engendering some of the most interesting landscape architecture ever — a collaboration not seen since the Sun King hired Le Nôtre or maybe since the popes hired Michelangelo and his contemporaries to remodel the Eternal City.

Instead of buying the latest Hermès satchel, Nicole Richie buys a weather machine.


Portable Hurricane
Portable Hurricane
Portable Hurricane


Our second anniversary is fast approaching, so we've been looking for something to treat ourselves with, the same way we treated ourselves to some passkeys to Kubrickian and Schnitzlerian sex orgies. A very promising candidate comes from the University of Florida: the world's largest portable hurricane wind and rain simulator.

According to the article linked above, the simulator has eight 5-foot-tall industrial fans that can whip up winds up to 130 mph (Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). Researchers at the university will use it to blast vacant homes not only with hurricane winds but also with high-pressure jets that mimic wind-driven torrential rain.

“The goal: to learn more about exactly how hurricanes damage homes, and how to modify them to best prevent that damage.”


Obviously, we'll have better use for it:

1) Take it to New York during Postopolis! and blast the Storefront to see how well Vito Acconci and Steven Holl can structurally withstand a Category 3, if its configurable façade is supple enough, malleable enough to respond to weather (architecture vs. landscape; objectified forms vs. enigmatic forces; formalism vs. uncertainty; fixed dynamism vs. ambiguous processes; starchitects and MoMA'd provacateurs vs. landscape architecture bloggers). That or to demonstrate the effects of climate change on the city with exceedingly more immediacy and greater visceral effects than some Google Earth overlay showing the city inundated by sea-level rise. In any case, we'll call it an art installation.

2) Take it to Montana where we'll seek out a Hollywood mogul with millions of dollars to spare, and because he is bored out of his wits, he's more than willing to fund our proposal for a landscape intervention: a hurricane-scoured Floridian landscape simulated on the badlands - terrifying, sublime, beautiful.

And 3) take it to our nearest constructed grove and then let loose our inner Axel Erlandson.
Granular Blitzkrieg
Sandstorm Moving into Al Asad, Iraq

Caught on film and uploaded to YouTube, of course.


Earth-Fountain
Earth-Fountain Redux
Mars Weather Report
Martian Clouds


For the afternoon of sol 956: Fair skies with wispy clouds gently drifting toward the west. Very cold.
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