The stretch of I-20 between Abilene and Midland-Odessa, Texas, passes through what might be the most thoroughly harnessed land in the U.S. Here, the exploitation is complete: Water is pumped from aquifers and used to irrigate corn, cotton, and sorghum fields on the surface, where cattle and poultry are also raised; oil and natural gas are mined from the Permian Basin, the most productive such reservoir in the country, and home, some believe, to trillions more barrels of oil and cubic feet of gas; and thousands of wind farms fill the horizon, the most concentrated part of a statewide infrastructure that nominally churns out 22,637 MW per hour, which is more than any other state. While each of these components is remarkable in itself, the layering of them within a single landscape is sublimely breathtaking. Oil and gas pump jacks and refineries, tanker trains and semi-trucks, water towers and windmills, agricultural fields and center pivot linear irrigation systems, wind turbines and transmission lines create a sci-fi tableau reminiscent of fantasies about terraforming other planets, especially when this scene is compared to the relatively barren desert to the west and south. In this part of West Texas it is possible to see the Anthropocene writ large.
Posts tagged with "Anthropocene":
The Continuous City: Fourteen Essays on Architecture and Urbanization Lars Lerup Park Books, 2017 $39.00 Lars Lerup, the Swedish-American designer and writer, has published a new book. The Continuous City (Park Books, 2017) presents his latest thoughts on architecture, cities, and the people who inhabit them by way of 14 disparate but interconnected essays. The handsome volume is bound in a matte cover featuring René Magritte’s painting Panorama Populaire (1926), which depicts buildings, a forest, and a seashore stacked atop each other, the ground plane of each upper level sawed away to reveal the strata beneath. The picture turns out to be a perfect signpost for what lies within, as its suggestion that these (and other) seemingly discrete realms are inextricably linked is precisely the crux of Lerup’s otherwise episodic inquiry. Lerup’s two previous titles—One Million Acres & No Zoning (Architectural Association Publications, 2011) and After the City (MIT Press, 2001)—took on the postindustrial car city as a subject of serious study. They look beyond the European-oriented urbanist’s dismissal of such environments as merely “sprawl” to find and examine the often-surreal juxtapositions embedded within that type of built fabric. Both books show Lerup’s fascination with Houston, where he first moved in 1993 from Berkeley, California, to take the job of dean at the Rice School of Architecture, a position he held until 2009. He is currently a professor there. Houston was to architecture in the 1980s what Dubai is to the field today—a petro-capital spending big money on ambitious development projects without paying much attention to the rules. Lerup’s championing of this subject matter in architectural academia (his has been one voice—there are others) has done much to save the discipline from self-inflicted obsolescence, an observation driven home by the fact that approximately 80 percent of currently existing global urban environments are designed and constructed around the automobile. His leadership also supported and propelled other academics who have done important work in this area, including Rice colleague Albert Pope, whose seminal volume, Ladders (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), laid the groundwork for serious consideration of the postwar American city, and former Rice assistant professor Keith Krumwiede, whose latest book, Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction (Park Books, 2016), explores speculative futures of suburbia. Another of Lerup’s preoccupations is subjectivity. In the 1970s, during a sabbatical from UC Berkeley, Peter Eisenman invited him to the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York (Rem Koolhaas was writing Delirious New York just down the hall). Lerup’s design work exhibits ties to that lineage of formal exploration and defamiliarization, but where Eisenman seeks to liberate architecture from the user, Lerup’s ambition has been to explore the problems of the urban inhabitant. For example, he did several years of research with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., on how people in nursing homes panic and escape buildings that are on fire. The result was a series of publications compiled into Learning from Fire: A Fire Protection Primer for Architects, composed of a series of hand-drawn comic strips that depict nurses and patients reacting to infernos. In Continuous City, Lerup says hello to the Anthropocene. Quoting from the introduction: “The Anthropocene brings with it the realization that we live in a new (catastrophic) geological era of our own making. This is no longer a squabble between liberty or community, but a need to avert disaster. Lacking easy answers, we now seek opportunities for change, skirting the dark side of the new city, which the earlier books dealt with, to find in architecture a device for positive movement forward.” He argues that conceptual distinctions between urban and suburban, or urban and rural, are no longer productive. “The urban,” he writes, “is inescapable. The city is everywhere.” Lerup’s hunt for constructive examples takes the reader on a journey that spans the globe and delves into the history of human settlement. He establishes links between the plan of Teotihuacán and OMA’s Seattle library, investigates the coexistence of natural and built environments in the work of Roberto Burle Marx, considers the synergies of Herzog & de Meuron’s Miami garage, and worries the uneasy relationship between users’ topological experience and the planner’s topographic approach. His findings are as revelatory as they are perturbing. If humankind is to survive the era of global warming (the Anthropocene’s most threatening result), there remains much more work to be done.
Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural posits that ambiguity, rather than certainty, is what drives intellectual and aesthetic inquiry. The exhibition, which was first shown at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, takes on the question of complex contemporary environmental and humanitarian issues, and the role that architects, landscape architects, and artists play in addressing them. Organized and curated by Kathy Velikov, Chris Perry, Cathryn Dwyre, and David Salomon, the show originally ran in September and October, but will also be on display in New York in the coming year. Divided into three categories, Ambiguous Territory brings together an exhaustive list of over 40 young practices working along the blurry edges of the architecture field. The categories include “I. Above: The Atmospheric,” “II. On: The Biologic,” and “III. Below: The Geologic.” In each case, contributors were asked to show work that specifically engaged with the "post-natural era." This includes addressing climate change, concepts of the Anthropocene, and artificial and altered ecologies. As the show’s title hints, these categories are understood in decidedly ambiguous terms. The work in each engages with much more than the physical or scientific connotations implied by the category titles and many projects span multiple, if not all the groupings. This intermixing of ideas is at the core of the show, which hopes to engage with the contemporary sensibility of bringing together "unlike things into singular forms or images." As such, visitors to the show will find everything from remote sensors, robots, and satellite imagery, to plant languages, rock piles and point clouds. Considering the wide range of often invisible, and sometimes ephemeral, forces and concepts, contributions to the show dabble in an equally wide range of representational and annotative techniques. In many cases, drawings and image-making techniques are borrowed from a number of fields and pushed beyond their conventions to visualize concepts that are often hardly visible. The three-dimensional objects in the show take a similar approach to fabrication, producing a number of uncanny, if not unsettling forms which defy typical descriptions. In the “Above” category the work of contributors such as Sean Lally, Mark Nystrom, and Lateral Office & LCLA, looks at the movement and capturing of atmospheric conditions, such as wind and heat, are address. Other offices, such as NaJa & deOstos and Kallipoliti & Theodoridis, look more directly at the impact and possibilities of architecture and its relationship with the atmosphere. Offices working in the “On” category explore biological conditions that are either affected by or which affect humans. Works by firms such as The Bittertang Farm, Future Cities Lab, and pneumastudio each provide spatial constructs for species, living or extinct, other than humans. On the other hand, Terreform ONE’s In Vitro Meat Habitat and Office for Political Innovation’s Landscape Condenser mediate the relationship of humans to constructed biological systems. The “Below” category is filled with practices exploring the more substantial aspects of the show through material and geology. Firms Smout Allen, The Open Workshop, and Design Earth each look to the future of the subterranean, while Formlessfinder, Lisa Hirmer, and Alexander Robinson examine physical material properties through crushing, piling, and vibrating. The first showing of Ambiguous Territory was accompanied by a symposium, which included discussions by many of the show's participants as well as keynote addresses by Liam Young and David Gissen. While the show closed in Michigan in October, it will be remounted at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, from December 2018 through January 2019.
On Friday, December 4th—while hundreds of officials gathered in Paris for the COP21 UN climate change conference—scholars, historians, scientists, architects, and designers came to Columbia GSAPP’s Avery Hall for a similarly urgent conference, “Climate Change and the Scales of Environment.” The urgency lies in the fact that buildings are accountable for approximately half of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States today. At the December 4 conference, the range of experts discussed this issue across multiple scales—ranging from a single molecule to the planet as a whole. At what scale should architects engage? And how do the different scales tie together? Dean Amale Andraos explained to AN that using these disciplinary questions of scale to enter a cross-disciplinary discussion on climate-change kept the conversation focused.