e-tat / digital wasteland

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Fenciful, Fencival Charrette

Prunings Twenty-One
Affencive design:
Apropos fifty fences, perhaps Kenna would be interested in snow-draped fences along the USA-Mexico border. Some ten million of them would fit in the 1,951 mile stretch. One suspects, however, that these little snow fences are not what planners have in mind. The New York Times sees it differently, and asked ten designers to come up with alternatives to the sheet metal and wire standard. (Thanks, as always, to Anne)

This is reasonable, given the cost estimate for extending the existing style of fence, some forty billion dollars. If the State Departments figures are pertinent, the standard fence will equate to 60 days worth of cross-border trade. But how much of that can be diverted to pay for the project? Perhaps the smart alternative is to get the fence to pay for itself. A couple of respondents to the NYT indicated as much. But I suspect that they have barely scratched the surface of what it might mean to develop a national barricade as a self-sustaining economy. For one, it might be necessary to expand the permiter to include the boundary region, and think more comprehensively about how that might be affected, and integrated into the design.

So perhaps it's time to open a design charrette for constructing a national boundary. Something more sustained than that of the NYT charrette, some on-line studio for the presentation and consideration of design functions and elements. How might such a thing get started? Have any design schools taken it up already? Through a competition to design a 1,951 mile long carpet, perhaps?

Of Design and Diplomacy?

Brilliant! So many opportunities for intervention, for querying the state of things, for making relationships manifest. There are so many potential 'people of the fence' that one could run an ongoing workshop to take in the multitude of views and aspirations. What is a fence to the displaced of New Orleans? Or to the people who fly over it on holidays? To the people on the 'inside'? Contrast this with the Berlin Wall and the Israel/Palestine wall, and ask whether those walls performed as intended; to enhance socialism on the one hand, and preserve national identity on the other. Such barriers are never simply about keeping people in or out: they are meant to serve - or preserve - social priorities.

I also wonder if this is a return to the cordon sanitaire, the liminal space between states, a space of passage, or of blurring the distinctions between one side and the other? Could it be designed in such a way that those inside are welcome to stay indefinitely, as an alternative to living in the departure lounge of an airport?

If the space can assume utopian qualities, can it also function as the dystopia both nations require? Is the fence meant to keep people in as much as it's meant to fence people out? Could the wall be a prison, to an equal or greater extent than it is a place of passage? Perhaps designers should be asking about what the fence is meant to express on behalf of people either side of it. Should the northern side appear welcoming, open, transparent? As indiative of peace and freedom? Or should that be the face of the southern side?

Slum Design

Of Cities and Slums
"All interesting, but I'm left wondering when "urban" and 'city' become synonymous with 'slum'?"

Perhaps the term reflects planners' despair at the prospects for planned cities. Perhaps they've given up on the dream of an orderly urbanity and their disappointment comes through in nihilistic language.

Just guessing. But have been thinking along somewhat similar lines the last day or so.

Also, regarding Vancouver, here's an interesting post.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Urban form as an expression of poverty

After the spate of posts about the futures of urban architecture, the development of peri-urban settlements, squatter cities, and changing perspectives on urban density, I am wondering what future high rise buildings have as an architectural and planning response to poverty. Put bluntly, is the architecture of poverty abandoning the high-rise in favour of the gecekondu and shantytowns?

I think a significant part of the argument (pro or con) revolves around issues of density, where some cities find that high-rises work well (Hong Kong somes to mind) and others find that towers are invariably spaces of abjection. With urban squatters increasingly taking matters into their own hands, there is also a question of whether fornal urban renewal schemes can expect to provide more than a fraction of housing needs, whether such schemes will be abandoned in favour of the DIY approach, and what the architectural expression of urban poverty will look like.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Comments while Blogger is broken

Blogger comments have been busted of late, so I've posted comments here while waiting for things to get fixed. I've also subscribed to Haloscan, but haven't pointed it anywhere just yet, so cannot direect anyone there.

The surface of the earth, transformed into objects

"the theory that biology itself - life itself - is geology pursued by other means."
This sounds like a good contender against ID. Give the rocks some agency and they'll be brewing up humans in no time! Trouble is, if humans have been developed in relation to a particular geological project, we are eitehr doing that project very well, as intended, or we have fucked it up something awful. What will the rocks make of that?

"Theory in/to practice"
Entirely off the cuff and after spending too long in the sun, and breathing too much of the fumes from someone else's badly lit barbeque, I'd say that both of you feel a bit put out by the appropriation by the military-commercial complex of ideologies you're fond of. But Debord was clear on this point. The spectacle consumes everything, including its own critique. So there's no future in any given critique. It means that the military and capitalists cannot always be depended upon to be the enemy.

"Networked things and the old/new objectivism"

Moi? I'm not sure I follow Phil's line of thought. Maybe after I find some time to think about it again.

I know I had a question about this phrase: 'what it means to manipulate words, to shape things'. It's ambiguous.

I also meant to say that the remark about being aggressive sounds like the kind of thing someone would say to you in an underhand attempt to be manipulative. Or out of confusion. I would take a remark like that with a large crystal of salt.

Meanwhile, let me mix things up a bit by referring you to this and this with the hope that they will entertain and possibly inspire some other thinking about objects.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Can't Get There From Here

while producing geology from objects...

Inspiration strikes again in the form of a comment that's a bit too long, in response to this BLDGBLOG post.

If McPhee were to take in this earlier post, he might find that Bishop was once part of Bingham Canyon, or that Nigeria was in Canada, so that some parts of your television might have been joined in some other fashion a long time ago. The exception would be those nails from the Mesabi Range, because we know that the Upper Peninsula has been untroubled since the Early Pennsylvanian era when Spain, Florida and Morocco were all within walking distance of each other.

The continents have been bumping and grinding along like dancers in a packed nightclub, and on more than once occasion have left various bits of themselves with their various partners. So we might consider that today's televisions are merely returning to their roots, their places of origin, in some sense.

An interesting alternative is to think about things and places that don't move much at all cf. those that travel a lot. What are the 'object' equivalents of the Upper Midwest, and what are the equivalents of the West Indies? What object always travels far, and which almost always stay near home?

And speaking of travel, here is an interesting isochronal map of rail versus car travel times from Cambridge to everywhere else on the island. The most interesting thing is that there's an island of inaccessibility. Hawick, about 50 miles south of Edinburgh and 40 miles northeast of Carlisle, cannot be reached by public transport/taxi in less than one hour from the nearest train station. This is a relative inaccessibility, of course, but prompts the thought that there must be such islands of each place in relation to another, and of each place in relation to an object. How many goods in Hawick have never left town, and as McPhee is indicating, how many goods have been assembled from the most diverse number of places and gone travelling around before alighting, or passing through, Hawick?