Augmented Metropolis

Keiichi Matsuda, a recent graduate—with distinction—from the Bartlett School of Architecture, whose film Domestic Robocop was featured on BLDGBLOG several months ago, has a new project out: Augmented City. And it's in 3D.

The film "focuses on the deprogramming of architecture and the spontaneous creation of customised, aggregated spaces," Matsuda writes. We see its central protagonist surrounded by pop-up menus and projected touchscreens, able to switch urban backgrounds—graffiti to gardens—in an instant. From the project description:
    The architecture of the contemporary city is no longer simply about the physical space of buildings and landscape, more and more it is about the synthetic spaces created by the digital information that we collect, consume and organise; an immersive interface may become as much part of the world we inhabit as the buildings around us.
    Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging technology defined by its ability to overlay physical space with information. It is part of a paradigm shift that succeeds Virtual Reality; instead of disembodied occupation of virtual worlds, the physical and virtual are seen together as a contiguous, layered and dynamic whole. It may lead to a world where media is indistinguishable from 'reality'. The spatial organisation of data has important implications for architecture, as we re-evaluate the city as an immersive human-computer interface.
The film is even better, Matsuda points out, with 3D glasses. Watch it here, over at Vimeo, or on YouTube.

(Related: Transcendent City).

Pallet House

[Image: The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann, photographed/copyright by Mila Hacke, Berlin].

The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann is a structure made entirely from shipping pallets, ground anchors, and tie rods. Designed to be easily assembled and dismantled, and then entirely recycled at a later date, the resulting building is intended as a temporary meeting place.

[Image: The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann, photographed/copyright by Mila Hacke, Berlin].

As the architect writes, the shipping pallets are "characterized by a complex geometry of open and closed surface portions," with the effect that a staggered stacking of each unit produces "interesting netlike structures." They add that the deceptively curvilinear form becomes a "cave."

[Image: The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann, photographed/copyright by Mila Hacke, Berlin].

The unexpected modular reuse of everyday materials is nothing new in architecture—seemingly every term in architecture school brings with it experiments in the tiling of things like cable ties, styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, and so on—but the spatially dramatic effects of this particular experiment in large-scale, off-kilter pallet-stacking are worth seeing. In fact, a kind of micro-village of equally fluid forms built entirely from pallets would be fascinating to see.

[Images: The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann, photographed/copyright by Mila Hacke, Berlin].

The pavilion at night, lit from within, is also pretty eye-popping—though it might be interesting to see if there's some strange way to turn the whole structure into a stationary zoetrope of some sort, i.e. the light shining outward is given content, projecting images on the landscape outside. The pallet building as planetarium-machine.

[Images: The Palettenpavillon by Matthias Loebermann, photographed/copyright by Mila Hacke, Berlin].

On the other hand, perhaps pallet architecture is not universally interesting; this recent experiment in London is what Jonathan Glancey calls "a shrine to the humble timber pallet."
    Until a few weeks ago, these hundreds of pallets were being used to stack fruit and vegetables in Covent Garden market. Cheap, strong and hugely adaptable, they also happen to have a distinctly architectural look, especially when flipped on their sides and turned into walls. Some will be left as they are, others clad with sheets of plywood to keep the rain out and to usher in the darkness needed inside an auditorium.
But I'm left unmoved by the available photos of that structure; its use of pallets is simply to turn them on their side and build references to walls, doing nothing, as far as I can see, to explore the geometric implications of architectural misuse.

In any case, for more info on the Palettenpavillon—albeit in German—stop by Loebermann's website.

Hives and valves, filters and membranes

[Image: Detailed view of Hylozoic Ground's "Protocell" assembly; courtesy of Philip Beesley Architect].

Philip Beesley's Hylozoic Ground installation opens this coming Friday at the Venice Biennale, where it is installed inside the Canadian pavilion. It is a "suspended geotextile that gradually accumulates hybrid soil from ingredients drawn from its surroundings."

As Beesley explains, "Hylozoic Ground is an immersive, interactive environment that moves and breathes around its viewers... Next-generation artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and interactive technology create an environment that is nearly alive." Indeed, he adds, "hylozoism is the ancient belief that all matter has life."

[Image: Detail from Hylozoic Ground; courtesy of Philip Beesley Architect].

Part of this artificial life comes from the "intricate lattice of small transparent acrylic meshwork links" that make up the project, as well as the "network of interactive mechanical fronds, filters and whiskers" that form its periphery. Together, these allow the installation's edges to "arch uncannily towards those who venture into its midst, reaching out to stroke and be stroked like the feather or fur or hair of some mysterious animal."

[Image: Detail from Hylozoic Ground; courtesy of Philip Beesley Architect].

The resulting structure is "similar to a coral reef, following cycles of opening, clamping, filtering and digesting. Arrays of touch sensors create waves of diffuse breathing motion, luring visitors into the shimmering depths of a forest of light."
    Akin to the functions of a living system, embedded machine intelligence allows human interaction to trigger breathing, caressing, and swallowing motions and hybrid metabolic exchanges. These empathic motions ripple out from hives of kinetic valves and pores in peristaltic waves, creating a diffuse pumping that pulls air, moisture and stray organic matter through the filtering Hylozoic membranes. "Living" chemical exchanges are conceived as the first stages of self-renewing functions that might take root within this architecture.
The sculpture's "chemical exchanges" were engineered in collaboration with architect Rachel Armstrong (whose TED talk on lifting the city of Venice out of its encroaching lagoon by growing an artificial reef beneath the city is worth checking out).

[Image: Detail from Hylozoic Ground; courtesy of Philip Beesley Architect].

There is also an accompanying book coming out in time for the Biennale, and I'm excited to say that I've got a short essay in it; it also includes texts by Rachel Armstrong, Detlef Mertins, Neil Spiller, and many more, and it explores the various architectural, scientific, and technical implications of Beesley's work.

Briefly, as I suggest in my own essay, Beesley's work deserves a much wider audience than architectural Biennales. Living geotextiles that double as soil-producing landscapes—that is, they create their own biomass—these would not even be out of place in conversations about experimental agriculture and even large-scale terraforming.

If Mars, for instance, as we read earlier this week, is actually "ideally suited for crop farming," then I can easily see how a massive, self-unfolding custom geotextile, designed by Philip Beesley, could origami itself out from a NASA landing pod and begin the generations-long process of making another planet habitable for terrestrial life (there are, of course, very clear moral and biochemical objections to the idea of spreading Earthly life beyond our planet, but I am willfully overlooking those right now).

[Image: NASA/KSC Mars Greenhouse Project].

If the above image, released by the Mars Greenhouse Project to illustrate the possibilities of offworld agriculture, instead depicted Beesley's Hylozoic Soil sprouting hives, valves, filters, and membranes to form a future living system, then perhaps the hidden value of these sorts of architectural experiments might be revealed.

In any case, if you're in Venice this week, stop by the opening of Hylozoic Ground at the Biennale.

Car Jack Planet

An article published today in the Los Angeles Times contains several fascinating details, including scenes of researchers from the Southern California Earthquake Center digging trenches into land surrounding the San Andreas fault.

[Image: Photo by Ricardo DeAratanha, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times].

There, they use "carbon dating and sophisticated imaging technology known as lidar to find signs of earth movements," and, in the process, are "able to detect earthquakes dating back to the 15th century." Seismic historiography meets the earth-archive.

The other detail worth highlighting, however, is what you see in the image above: "Sarah Robinson, 23, a graduate student at Arizona State University, runs along a trench at the Bidart Fan sector of the San Andreas fault in June 2009. She is on a team of geologists trying to construct a history of earthquakes on the San Andreas fault by reading lines of sediment in the earth." Robinson is running alongside one of these excavations, a clearly defined cut that yawns open like a wound in the earth's surface—implying the possibility of faults artificially held open, like something from a dream by Lebbeus Woods. It is a scar, poised on the verge of healing, but for these metallic insertions, spatial implements squeezed into the planet like car jacks, bringing new tectonic plates into existence from the top-down.

Imagine a rogue, university-funded team of geologists researching ever-lower levels of the earth, forcing themselves downward with separating devices that pin open rocky wounds to split whole landmasses along unanticipated faultlines. Using these tools—terrain deformation grenades gone linear—they create islands in the earth's crust, like walled castles of geology, carving out new blocks in the landscape.


[Image: Woodworms by Zimoun].

While we're on the subject of acoustic botany, it's worth recalling Swiss artist Zimoun's Woodworms installation, whose minimalist set-up simply reads: "25 woodworms, wood, microphone, sound system." You can watch—and listen to—a video of the piece here.

Don't miss Zimoun's other work, however: a machinic delirium of motors mounted on walls and tabletops, all oscillating in and out of phase with one another and ebbing with the off-kilter sound of endless drones.

(Huge thanks to Greg Smith and Paul Prudence!)

Acoustic Forestry

[Image: From Acoustic Botany by David Benqué].

We saw David Benqué's Fabulous Fabbers project here on BLDGBLOG a few months ago, but his more recent work, Acoustic Botany, deserves similar attention.

Acoustic Botany uses genetically modified plants to produce a "fantastical acoustic garden," where sounds literally grow on trees. "Desired traits such as volume, timbre and harmony are acquired through selective breeding techniques," the artist explains.

[Image: From Acoustic Botany by David Benqué].

As Benqué writes:
    The debate around Genetic Engineering is currently centered around vital issues such as food, healthcare and the environment. However, we have been shaping nature for thousands of years, not only to suit our needs, but our most irrational desires. Beautiful flowers, mind altering weeds and crabs shaped like human faces all thrive on these desires, giving them an evolutionary advantage. By presenting a fantastical acoustic garden, a controlled ecosystem of entertainment, I aim to explore our cultural and aesthetic relationship to nature, and to question its future in the age of Synthetic Biology.
There are thus "singing flowers," "modified agrobacteria" that ingeniously take "sugars and nutrients from the host plant to encourage the growth of parasitic galls and fill them with gas to produce sound," and "string-nut bugs" that have been "engineered to chew in rhythm" inside hollow gourds.

[Image: From Acoustic Botany by David Benqué].

The symphonic range of sounds is then fine-tuned and modulated inside an acoustic lab using specialized equipment; out in the field, this takes the form of pruning trees into living chords, so that "harmonic note combinations" can bloom on a single branch.

Upscaling this to the level of all-out acoustic forestry would be an extraordinary thing to hear.

[Image: From Acoustic Botany by David Benqué].

I'm reminded of at least two quick things here:

1) Several years ago in the excellent British music magazine The Wire, there was an article about Brian Eno and "generative music," in which the acoustic nature of backyard gardens was described quite beautifully based on the seasonal popping of seedpods, the rustle of leaf-covered fronds in evening breezes, and even, if I remember correctly, the specific insects that such plants might attract and support. Does anyone reading this have experience with planting a backyard garden based on its future acoustics?

2) Alex Metcalf's Tree Listening project (which I have also covered elsewhere). "The installation," Metcalf writes, "allows you to listen to the water moving up inside the tree through the Xylem tubes from the roots to the leaves." Headphones hang down from the tree's canopy like botanical iPods, and you put them on to lose yourself in arboreal surroundsound. Imagine a shortwave radio that allows you to tune not into distant stations sparkling with disembodied sounds and buzzing voices from the other side of the world, but into the syrupy tides of trees spiked with microphones in forests and sacred groves on every continent.

More images of Benqué's project can be seen on the artist's website.

(Spotted on Core77, thanks to a tweet from @soundscrapers).

On the Road Again

[Image: Muscovites forced to masks against smoke from the burning forests and peat bogs of a drought-stricken Russia; photo by Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters].

I'll be on the road for the next week or more, driving west, reading The Dead Hand on our long-delayed move back to Los Angeles, so things will be a bit quiet here. In the absence of regular posts, however, some links worth checking out include Pruned's proposal for a "conflict zoo," or a wildlife arena "that only exhibits animals affected by man-made disasters."
    Instead of showcasing the planet's marvelous natural beauty and ecological diversity, it collects living artifacts from sites of disturbances, where culture messily intersects with the wilderness... In addition to refugees from the Gulf Coast oil spill, it would also house samples of local fauna affected by other large oil spills, including the one in Dalian, China, koalas saved from bushfires, elephants displaced by civil wars, gorillas smuggled out during outbreaks of genocide, and tropical birds caught in the crossfires between loggers, indigenous tribes and the Landless Workers' Movement.
While you're there, Pruned's idea for animals repurposing themselves as a kind of living GPS system is pretty amazing, and the Embassy of the Drowned Nations, also featured on that blog, is worth a gander.

[Image: The Embassy of the Drowned Nations by OCULUS].

The opening image of this post, meanwhile, comes from the ongoing fires in Russia, where 30% of the nation's grain has been destroyed. These drought-induced fires, however, might soon get a lot more frightening:
    As if things in Russia were not looking sufficiently apocalyptic already, with 100-degree temperatures and noxious fumes rolling in from burning peat bogs and forests, there is growing alarm here that fires in regions coated with fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 24 years ago could now be emitting plumes of radioactive smoke.
But were these fires predicted? Are they simply the expected outcome of an already long-thawing landscape—part of what has been described as the "methane time bomb" hiding in the soils and seabeds of the Arctic region? As such, the "coils of pungent smoke [that] threaded into apartment buildings, offices and metro stations" in Moscow—a city where 700 people are now dying everyday—might be a more regular occurrence in the years to come.

Speaking of grain harvests being interrupted and destroyed, NPR recently interviewed Evan Fraser—who was an electrifying speaker at Foodprint Toronto last week—about "how food empires fail and if America [sic] is next." One of Fraser's explicit references is a failure of the grain harvest in Russia.

In any case, some other headlines to read (though many continue this unexpectedly apocalyptic tone): Google is buying unmanned aerial drones, because they're "brilliant for mapping entire neighbourhoods"; a 53,000-year old "Neanderthal bedroom" has been discovered in a cave in Spain; Dubai is plagued with "deserted highways, empty hotel rooms, [and] miles of unsold residential and office space," but don't tell that to the city's boosters, who disappointingly rely on taking quotations out of context to get their point across; just as we read that a globally vital seed bank, where "more than 90% of the plants are found in no other research collection or seed bank," is on the verge of being destroyed by property developers, we also read that genetically modified crops have escaped into the wild in the U.S., where they threaten to become herbicide-resistant "super-weeds" (like something out of the fiction of John Wyndham); and, amidst all this, Elon Musk, a "brilliant entrepreneur who made a fortune from the internet and has invested vast amounts of it in building his own private space rocket company," is "planning to retire to Mars."

Perhaps, once he's there, he could find a use for robots that "swim through sand like a fish through water," transforming that desert planet into an unlikely ocean.

See you in LA!

(Some links via @serial_consign, @HawthorneLAT, and @clasticdetritus).

Documents, Maps, and Files of a Fictional Architecture

[Image: The Nesin Map by Protocol Architecture].

One of the more interesting student projects I've seen in a long time used a "document-based" approach to architecture to fabricate an entire fictional world—one in which top secret underground research labs, militarized bacteria, artificial earthquakes, and much more were all found conspiring beneath the streets of Berlin, Baghdad, and Istanbul.

A group project by three students at Columbia's GSAPPYuval Borochov, Lisa Ekle, and Danil Nagy, under the guidance of professor Ed KellerProtocol Architecture was pitched as a team that "investigates potentials for future design through the creation and analysis of hyper-fictional documents. These document sets create evidence for future scenarios that string together a specific history of political, social, and technological developments." As such, Protocol's work becomes less architectural than it is archival:
    By focusing on the space of the document, we can avoid simplistic predictions of the future while creating a database of potential evidence which can be analyzed and interpreted by a wider audience of designers.
The resulting fictional archives—or "fabricated histories," as the architects describe them—allowed the group to question "the role that fact and evidence plays in how we perceive our own history and our place as designers within it."

[Image: The Nesin Map (detail) by Protocol Architecture].

As Yuval Borochov explained to me in an email: "Protocol Architecture is a forum for investigations that challenge the traditional design process and situate every project in its own tangential line of history. We found that... the design opportunities within the plot holes of history are quite liberating. You know, I read a statement by Rem Koolhaas, in a book of his conversation with Peter Eisenman, where he explains his attempts to become the 'architect as journalist.' I think Protocol Architecture is akin to this mode of operation. Perhaps architects as historiographers."

Their semester's worth of work was remarkably varied—and mind-bogglingly prolific—and it can all be explored on their website. However, I want to focus here on three aspects of their document-based approach: The Rühmann Notebook, The Nesin Map, and The Wilbert Contracts.

Before I go much further, though, I have to say that I genuinely think this approach—and the resulting work—bears comparison to books by writers like China Miéville or Franz Kafka, even filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, for whomever might find those coordinates intriguing. These fictional documents frame entirely self-contained imaginary worlds, and each one of these ideas deserves radical expansion elsewhere, in forms beyond architectural design; as such, they seem at least as appropriate for discussing with a literary agent as they are with the dean of an architecture school.

[Image: The Rühmann Notebook by Protocol Architecture].

The Rühmann Notebook
The first part of Protocol Architecture's project, the so-called Rühmann Notebook, was produced, we're told, in early 2002 when Berliner Martina Rühmann "documented her observations of a linear pathway across former East Berlin. The path connected the Berlin Wall in the north to the wall in the south, cutting across the site of the former Palace of the Republic."

What Rühmann's mapping project allowed her to discover was a linear network of "small but prominent science research centers" beneath the surface of the city.
    It was believed that the hidden route (subsequently discovered and documented by Rühmann) was used for communication and transfer of scientific documents and material in the 1970s and 1980s between the East and West, a time when West German scientists were making significant early discoveries in the fields of microbiology and nanotechnology.
The story here has shades of Lebbeus Woods—for instance, Woods's ingenious proposal for a film called Underground Berlin. That film revolves around a disillusioned architect, a missing twin brother, neo-Nazi activities in the divided city of Berlin, metallic underground tunnels connecting east to west, and "a top-secret underground research station rumored to be somewhere beneath the very center of Berlin." There are even rogue planetary scientists investigating "tremendous, limitless geological forces active in the earth."

In any case, Rühmann's labs, we learn, were studying bacterial technologies—specifically the use of Bacillus Pasteurii, "a bacteria with adhesive qualities... to stabilize ground in earthquake-prone cities," and Shewanella, "a bacteria capable of naturally producing electrically conductive nano-tube filaments, now able to produce nano-electric devices." The architectural implications of these bacterial species begin to loom large in the overall narrative. (If you like the sound of this, by the way, don't miss Magnus Larsson's work, featured here on BLDGBLOG in April 2009, or our earlier look at geobatteries).

The locations of these underground biotechnological seismology research labs are what we see documented in the The Rühmann Notebook. The "notebook" itself consists of photos and notes collaged inside a Moleskine.

[Image: Istanbul's Galata Tower, as depicted on ephemera related to The Nesin Map by Protocol Architecture].

The Nesin Map
We now move from Berlin to Istanbul, where The Nesin Map documents a seemingly unrelated network of "concealed buildings" in the city:
    Harem Nesin, a Turkish journalist for the Istanbul newspaper Dünya Gazetesi, began photographing concealed buildings in Istanbul sometime in 2017 for his personal records. The buildings captured by Nesin had recently been destroyed by a fire or evacuated due to some other instability of the structure, and were later covered by scaffolding, tarps, or screens. Nesin correlated his collection of photographs to a map of Istanbul, indicating the location of each abandoned building. Through the mapped locations Nesin discovered a triangular geometric pattern across a portion of the city on the European side, from the Golden Horn to the Bosphorus. Nesin used the Galata Tower as a place to survey the buildings in question, indicated by his collage of aerial photographs taken from the Tower. Additionally, in his observations Nesin recorded the means of concealment (tarp, wood, fence, screen) and the address for each structure.
First of all, this is an amazing set-up for a story, somewhere between Borgesian urban paranoia and Debordian psychogeography; and, second, the map itself is very, very cool. Here are the two images of it again.

[Images: The Nesin Map by Protocol Architecture].

So what did Nesin discover as he correlated his data and began to map it all out? A diagrid of "injection points" located at geologically precise points around Istanbul: "Harem Nesin's map reveals strategic locations used by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality as injection points for Bacillus Pasteurii, a microbe able to transform sand into sandstone by depositing calcite (calcium carbonate) throughout the granules, fusing them together."

The authorities, in other words, were earthquake-proofing the city from below, in "the first application of the bacteria, which had been under development since the mid 1970s through joint research between Germany and the US."

The Wilbert Contracts
Finally, to Baghdad. The The Wilbert Contracts are a series of files tracing the work of John Wilbert and Co., a quasi-military subcontractor working on a project for Monsanto "between the years 2028 and 2031" in Iraq. Monsanto's SoilStone® initiative used soil-stabilization biotechnologies to replace concrete walls with more flexible barriers, such as elastic membranes and bacterially-activated sand (i.e. SoilStone®).

[Images: The Wilbert Contracts by Protocol Architecture].

We learn, however, that "linear connections can be perceived" between the multiple sites at which Wilbert and Co. used this technology—indeed, "certain documents from the US Army which are still classified imply that underground tunnel systems were dug between 2028 and 2030."

It is further inferred, the architects explain, that "pre-programmed nano-bots" were being used in the project as construction machines, selectively injecting Bacillus Pasteurii bacteria into the sands. This technique thus created a semi-mobile, makeshift system of subterranean spaces through which the US military could move. The Army is down there, in other words, stabilizing classified tunnels beneath the streets.

[Images: From Berlin 2050 by Protocol Architecture].

In the end, after a fascinating internal design competition that I simply don't have the time to cover here—with a jury that included Reza Negarestani of Cyclonopedia fame and Jamie Kruse of smudge studio, among many others, and with entries that ranged from sentient clouds of nano-flies to stabilized earthquakes as a form of urban planning—the group assembled all of their ideas into a proposal for underground spaces in Berlin. These final proposals, however, as well-rendered as they are, simply don't hold the imaginative appeal for me that the earlier studio material all but burns with.

And that's the rub: at the end of the day, most architecture students—unsurprisingly—think they have to take this stuff, put it all together, and produce something clearly definable as a building. But the research, in many cases, is more worthy of attention (and well worth the time it takes to produce it). In other words, the research—the preliminary material, the periphery, the narrative excess, the unwanted fringe—is very often most provocative before it becomes a building, when that inchoate mass of possible future projects, storylines, techniques, and more offers a million alternative directions in which we have yet to go.

[Image: The Wilbert Contracts by Protocol Architecture].

I only say this here because it is extraordinarily exciting to see a project like this, that out-fictionalizes the contemporary novel and even puts much of Hollywood to shame—to realize, once again, that architecture students routinely trade in ideas that could reinvigorate the film industry and the publishing industry, which is all the more important if the world of private commissions and construction firms remains unresponsive or financially out of reach. The Nesin Map alone, given a screenwriter and a dialogue coach, could supply the plot of a film or a thousand comic books—and rogue concrete mixtures put to use by nefarious underground militaries in Baghdad is an idea that could be optioned right now for release in summer 2013. HBO should produce this immediately.

My point is not that architecture students should somehow be expected to stop doing the very thing they are in school for—i.e. to learn how artificial enclosures are designed and constructed. I just mean that they should never overlook the interest of their own preliminary ideas, notes, sketches, and scenarios. After all, with just a well-timed email or elevator pitch, all of that stuff—all those bulletin boards, browser tabs, sketchbooks, notes from late-night conversations, site maps, and more—needn't become just more crap to get filed away in your parents' house somewhere, but could actually be turned into the seed of a film, novel, game, or comic book in another cultural field entirely.

Don't give up on your ideas—and don't overlook the value of something simply because it can't be turned into a building.

Check out Protocol Architecture's work in their own words—and with many more images—over on their website. And consider supporting the trio by purchasing their book on Lulu.

(Thanks to Ed Keller for inviting me to see Protocol Architecture's work as a guest critic).

Working the Line

Tomorrow night in Los Angeles, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, David Taylor will be presenting his project "Working the Line."

[Image: U.S./Mexico border marker #184; photograph by David Taylor].

Taylor has been documenting "276 obelisks, installed between the years 1892 and 1895, that mark the U.S./Mexico boundary from El Paso/Juarez to San Diego/Tijuana. He will present this work, and describe his experiences along this often remote and dramatic linear and liminal space."

As geographer Michael Dear—who spoke about border issues back at Postopolis! LA—describes these obelisks:
    The monuments erected by the boundary survey played a pivotal role in securing the line after the Mexican-American War. These obelisks and stone mounds literally marked on the ground the southernmost edges of the nation; they became fundamental points of reference in subsequent boundary disputes (of which there were many) and in the resurvey of the border that took place at the end of the 19th century.
In the context of Taylor's project, it's interesting to read a 2006 discussion about "GeoCaching the Mexican Border Obelisk Monuments," in which a project nearly identical to Taylor's was presented as "extreme & dangerous," and thus all but impossible to achieve. Rhetorically speaking, I also want to point out CLUI's use of the terms "remote and dramatic" to describe what the geocaching site sees as "extreme & dangerous"—an intriguing insight into the spirit of the two approaches. In any case, the ensuing conversation there includes fascinating technical details of the obelisks themselves—their materiality and scale—as well as precise coordinate locations for several dozen of them.

The talk kicks off at 7pm, on Wednesday, August 4, at CLUI's gallery space in Culver City; here's a map.

(Random book link: Obelisk: A History).

The Encounter Circus

The following project by Lys Villalba Rubio—then a student at ETSAM's Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos in Madrid—is pitched as a way of using architecture as "an active element" in the "regeneration of degraded places."

[Image: From a project by Lys Villalba Rubio].

Based on my own non-existent Spanish (and the help of Babelfish), it seems that the project specifically proposes a "hospital of cities." Villalba Rubio suggests that this is a new building type; acting like a social enzyme, it "activates in each place an urban regenerative process," allowing spatial healing to begin.

There is also a "toolbox" and an "encounter circus," the latter of which encourages "citizen participation in the regenerative process: a place in which all contribute, from the expert to the anonymous citizen."

[Image: From a project by Lys Villalba Rubio].

Those three programs—toolbox, hospital of cities, and encounter circus—would be constructed atop a foundation system that is so easy to assemble and disassemble that it would leave no architectonic trace of its existence, Villalba Rubio writes.

Like an instant, inhabitable roller-coaster of pedestrian paths and new tent-like social spaces, complete with wind turbines and routes of mechanical transport, all coiling above formerly dead zones of the city, Villalba Rubio's installation would being a strange flash of activity back into the urban skies—before disappearing altogether, leaving no traces, the architect claims, but in memory.

(Via Archidose's Tumblr, launched earlier this summer).

Sussex Dew Mine

John Becker, a former student of mine from the Glacier/Island/Storm studio at Columbia's GSAPP, has had his final semester project published on Dezeen. John's intensely detailed images depict "the future headquarters of a fictional company that sells bottled water harvested from dew."

[Image: From An Atmosphere Excavated by John Becker].

He approached the whole thing as a false-historical narrative told through a variety of representational styles; these ranged from stippled and picturesque rural landscapes to yellowing 1960s photography, ending up with both 1990s-style graphic posters and hyper-slick renderings from the year 2074.

The overall story explored vernacular techniques for "harvesting, storing, and distorting the landscape," including harvesting aerial humidity using dew ponds and then bottling that water for market.
    Entitled An Atmosphere Excavated, the story starts in 1786 and continues to 2074, when the “dew pond” system has been commercialized by the Ethereal water brand... In order to meet growing demands, a series of dew collecting nets were pioneered by a London based architecture firm—MJB Architects—which allowed for a 25 fold increase in production. Due to peak production vs. bottling time, storage bladders were constructed on the hillside to provide short term storage for water during the process. The Bladders were placed under the surface of the earth to provide protection from the sun, and to retain the water’s desired temperature.
It was a lot of fun talking to John as he put this together—in fact, one of our in-studio conversations inspired a post on BLDGBLOG earlier this year—so it's great to see his project get this exposure. Congrats, John!

Check out his work in more detail over at Dezeen.

Transcendent City

Richard Hardy, a recent graduate from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, produced this eye-popping video—exploring an all-encompassing machine-forest populated with mechanical flowers and fluttering urban biotechnologies, with architectural sponges perched high atop masts—for Nic Clear's Unit 15.

Called The Transcendent City, the film documents what Hardy describes as "an autonomous artificial machine that extends across the earth adapting to the natural eco-systems it encounters while deriving its energy from the renewable resources available at each particular site. The systems desire is to maintain homeostasis within itself whilst maintaining homeostasis within the greater system, Gaia. Its processes are engineered on the molecular scale by nano technologies controlled by molecular computers that monitor and analyse the environment."

You can see a handful of Dr. Seussian stills from the film over on Hardy's Flickr stream.