Buy a Prison

[Image: Prisons for sale; photo by Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times].

The State of New York is hoping to sell its old prisons.

"One property, in the Hudson Valley, includes a 16-car garage, a piggery and hundreds of yards of lake frontage," the New York Times explains. "Another offers 69 acres of waterfront land on the west shore of Staten Island, complete with a two-story gymnasium, a baseball diamond and an open-air pavilion." Some of the sites actually sound amazing:
Among the facilities the team is considering selling are 23 state-owned residences set aside for prison superintendents. Some are quite lavish: one in Auburn, to be auctioned this summer, is an 8,850-square-foot brick mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, an attached gazebo and a barn-size garage.
The article somewhat ironically suggests that "the ideal buyer" of one the prisons would be "someone who craves space to spread out."

Despite the piece's pessimistic tone—"You couldn’t make it into a hotel. You couldn’t make it into an apartment complex. You’re talking millions of dollars to renovate. Who’s going to do it?"—I can't help but wonder if someone couldn't buy one of these places anyway, admit that most of the complex will simply be left to ruin, consumed by weeds and filled with pigeons, but then transform some core part of it into a kind of architectural research center, its very setting the most intense spatial lesson of your time spent writing and studying there.

(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: Buy a Tube Station, Buy an Archipelago, Buy a Map, Buy a Torpedo-Testing Facility, Buy a Fort, Buy a Church, Buy a Silk Mill).

Hotels in Zero-G

[Image: "Zero-Gravity Design" at the Domus Academy in Milan].

Given all the justifiable excitement in the past few days about the successful launch of SpaceX, Milan's Domus Academy is hosting a rather well-timed two-week design intensive this summer called "Zero-Gravity Design: Products & Microenvironments for Orbiting Hotels."

It runs from July 2-13, 2012, and will be taught by "aerospace entrepreneur" Susmita Mohanty.

From the studio brief:
As the race to open up the space frontier to tourists revs up, so will opportunities for designers and architects. The participants of this course will design products and microenvironments for living aboard future Orbiting Hotels. The Space Tourists, will have to, after all, eat, drink, sleep, cleanse, exercise, work, play, improvise, relax, move, stay still, contemplate, congregate, seek privacy and look out of the window. These everyday tasks, and more, open up an infinite range of design possibilities.
Participants will be challenged to "come up with creative antidotes for isolation, confinement, boredom, sensory deprivation, bone-muscle atrophy, as well as social-psychological-and-cultural stressors characteristic of living in cramped spaces where privacy is limited and so are resources."

Perhaps, best of all, "this course will groom designers and architects to work for space tourism companies."

[Image: "Zero-Gravity Design" at the Domus Academy in Milan].

More information is available at the Domus Academy website.

(Thanks to Rajeev Thakker for the tip!)

There's No One There / Man-Made Lands

[Image: Art by Joe Alterio].

New Yorkers, stop by Studio-X NYC tonight, Wednesday, May 23rd, at 7pm for free drinks and the launch of Man-Made Lands, "a collection of seven stories and five real architectural and landscape proposals for cities around the world," the first chapbook from Ninth Letter.

The chapbook, guest-edited by Scott Geiger and including work by Bjarke Ingels Group, James Corner Field Operations, Steven Holl, Will Wiles, and many others, explores, in Geiger's words, "marbled boundaries: between cities and nature; between the infinity of the digital and the analog of every day life; between the past and our present, our present and many possible futures; between fictions we envision and the facts that we construct to transform lives."

Geiger will also be interviewing contributors Seth Fried, Dong-Ping Wong, Archie Lee Coates, and Joe Alterio in a live conversation about the book, about the influence of fiction on architectural design (and vice versa), and on some speculative future possibilities for urban design here in New York.

[Image: The +Pool, featured in Man-Made Lands].

Even better, we'll also be kicking off a small exhibition of new work by Joe Alterio, who some of you might recognize from, among other things, his work in The BLDGBLOG Book, where he and I collaborated on two graphic storyboards featured in the book's inside covers. Tonight, Joe will be premiering several gorgeously screen-printed new posters, called "There's No One There," originally commissioned for Ninth Letter, as they go on display at Studio-X NYC.

Meet Joe, say hey to Scott, pick up a copy of Man-Made Lands, and enjoy our Manhattan views from the 16th floor at 180 Varick Street, Suite 1610; here's a map. Hope to see you at 7pm!

Mobile Surroundsound

Two design competitions that might catch your eyes and ears:

1) Legendary L.A. radio station KCRW is looking for a mobile sound booth: a "space where conversation can happen amidst the urban chaos. A comfortable space that isolates sound for good recording, but also gives the listener a sense of place."

KCRW is hoping to go on the road, "taking this booth all over the city—to churches, food fairs and schools. To rock, jazz and cumbia concerts. We will be at the park, at the coffee shop and hanging at the tamale hot spots. We’ll be setting up and closing shop alongside food trucks and observing public transportation from bus stops and corner shops."

[Image: Theatre for One].

Remember LOT-EK's Theatre for One? Do something even better, and watch—or listen to—your interview booth as it moves around Los Angeles. More specific info is available at KCRW.

2) Alternatively, design a floating cinema.

[Image: Ole Scheeren's "archipelago cinema" in Thailand].

Britain's Architecture Foundation, in collaboration with UP Projects, have announced a fairly straight-forward brief: for those of you who never thought you'd never be on a boat, "this vessel will need to accommodate intimate on-board film screenings, larger outdoor film events as well as provide a base for film related talks and activities. The Floating Cinema will navigate the waterways that connect the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney with the new Olympic Park, hosting events, activities and also tours into the Olympic Park."

A bit more information is available via the Architecture Foundation.

Vitamin C and Aloe

Hidden in an article about New York City's first million-dollar parking space is the somewhat incredible fact that, up in the apartment building this parking space will be attached to, "the shower water will be pumped full of vitamin C and aloe" for the building's economically distinguished residents.

Like the home vodka tap we joked about years ago, this enhanced water supply seems to be further evidence that literally every aspect of the human environment can not only be redesigned, it can be aggressively capitalized upon in its ensuing augmented state.

The article also mentions, for instance, that even the building's "lighting patterns and air quality" have been re-designed so as to maximize the quality of residents' sleep, bringing to mind Stalin's "sleep labs," in which aromatherapy and ambient music would have been used to lull stalwart workers of the CCCP back into bed each evening:
At either end of the long buildings were to be situated control booths, where technicians would command instruments to regulate the temperature, humidity, and air pressure, as well as to waft salubrious scents and "rarefied condensed air" through the halls. Nor would sound be left unorganized. Specialists working "according to scientific facts" would transmit from the control center a range of sounds gauged to intensify the process of slumber. The rustle of leaves, the cooing of nightingales, or the soft murmur of waves would instantly relax the most overwrought veteran of the metropolis. Should these fail, the mechanized beds would then begin gently to rock until consciousness was lost.
It doesn't seem far-fetched that New York City buildings will add, to their already existing stock of doormen and cleaning crews, lifestyle technicians working behind the scenes like conductors of a sensory orchestra, recalibrating sounds, scents, and lighting intensity, even dialing up barometric pressure at certain key times of day, for the strangely mummified people living inside.

[Image: Konstantin Melnikov's "Sonata of Sleep"].

Specialty mixtures of air—perhaps even air subscriptions—could be piped in through luxury ducts as atmospheric brewmasters toggle dials in the basement, frantically trying to zero-in on domestic perfection for expectant customers breathing calmly above.

Under Angeles

Design writer Alissa Walker recently took a tour of L.A.'s original subway system, one whose tunnels are no longer in operation, though they remain down there—

[Image: L.A.'s original subway, now walled-off beneath downtown; photo by Alissa Walker].

—bricked off and all but forgotten beneath buildings downtown.

[Image:Photo by Alissa Walker].

Cue horror movie soundtrack here, with hapless apartment dwellers in a newly renovated downtown loft complex finding strange things coming up from the facility's voluminous basement floors; the power flickers on and off; pets disappear; strange sounds skitter and thump down the corridors at night, leaving muddy trails; then somehow, someone, as in the following photograph—

[Image: A walled-up sign announces, "TRAINS"; photo by Alissa Walker].

—knocks a hole in the wall, perhaps accidentally losing their grip on a piece of furniture as they move their new table or couch into the building, revealing the eery, abandoned subway tunnels below. And, soon, they go down to find the answers to what's gone wrong in their otherwise perfectly photogenic multimillion dollar building, only to open the door to something altogether much worse.

[Image: Photo by Alissa Walker].

In any case, absent of these clichéd public-transit-is-a-source-of-horror motifs, Alissa's write-up of the tunnel visit is worth reading in full—and, even better, they will be leading another such visit again some time soon. You'll see sights like this.

Sign-up on the Design East of La Brea website for this and other such events, and don't miss any future announcements.


I finally became a paying member of Subterranea Britannica this week, a website and historical organization whose interests (and influence) cast a long shadow over this blog's early years.

Joining is £28 a year for overseas members and seems well worth it so far, having received my first issue of their internal newsletter, Subterranea, just last night. From Irish souterrains—described as "the 'underground castles' of early medieval Ireland, used as strongholds and escape tunnels," or, in the words of Current Archaeology, "secret tunnels dug to outwit marauding Norsemen"—to World War I tunnels in La Boisselle, France, and from plans for future deep-level "supersewers" beneath both Milwaukee and London to, amongst many other fascinating things, a project I can't wait to learn more about called the London Power Tunnels, a mafia boss who was captured in an "underground hideout" built twelve miles outside Naples ("access from within the house was via a sliding door on rails in one of the bedrooms," Subterranea explains), the fact that Northern Ireland had "secret contingency plans" for surviving a nuclear war and they involved stockpiling "more than 100,000 pieces of plastic cutlery," to the enormous "stacks of gold bars worth £156 billion stored in an old canteen deep below the streets" of London in a former WWII air-raid shelter now used by the Bank of England, there is a mind-boggling amount of interesting things to read.

Even better, membership comes with otherwise unobtainable invitations to events and underground site tours throughout the UK. Consider joining, if this sort of stuff piques your interest.

Secret Soviet Cities

[Images: From ZATO: Secret Soviet Cities during the Cold War at Columbia's Harriman Institute; right three photographs by Richard Pare].

Speaking of Van Alen Books: earlier this week, they hosted a panel on the topic of "Secret Soviet Cities During the Cold War." These were closed cities or ZATO, "sites of highly secretive military and scientific research and production in the Soviet Empire. Nameless and not shown on maps, these remote urban environments followed a unique architectural program inspired by ideal cities and the ideology of the Party."

The ZATO, we read courtesy of an interesting post on the Russian History Blog, was a "Closed Administrative-Territorial Formation (Zakrytoe administrativno-territorial’noe obrazovanie, ZATO)":
[T]he cities themselves were never shown on official maps produced by the Soviet regime. Implicated in the Cold War posture of producing weapons for the Soviet military-industrial complex, these cities were some of the most deeply secret and omitted places in Soviet geography. Those who worked in these places had special passes to live and leave, and were themselves occluded from public view. Most of the scientists and engineers who worked in the ZATOs were not allowed to reveal their place or purpose of employment.
In any case, there are two main reasons to post this:

[Image: Photo by I. Yakovlev/Itar-Tass, courtesy of Nature].

1) Just last week, Nature looked at Soviet-era experiments in these closed cities, where "nearly 250,000 animals were systematically irradiated" as part of a larger medical effort "to understand how radiation damages tissues and causes diseases such as cancer."

In an article that is otherwise more medical than it is urban or architectural, we nonetheless read of a mission to the formerly closed city of Ozersk in order to rescue this medical evidence from the urban ruins: "After a long flight, a three-hour drive and a lengthy security clearance, a small group of ageing scientists led the delegation to an abandoned house with a gaping roof and broken windows. Glass slides and laboratory notebooks lay strewn on the floors of some offices. But other, heated rooms held wooden cases stacked with slides and wax blocks in plastic bags." These slides and wax blocks "provide a resource that could not be recreated today," Nature suggests, "for both funding and ethical reasons."

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the idea of medical researchers helicoptering into the ruins of a formerly secret city in order to locate medical samples of fatally irradiated mutant animals is a pretty incredible premise for a future film.

[Images: (top) photo by Tatjana Paunesku; (bottom) photo by S. Tapio. Courtesy of Nature].

2) More relevant for this blog, you only have five days left to see the exhibition ZATO: Secret Soviet Cities during the Cold War up at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, featuring "ZATO archival materials, camouflage maps of strategic sites, secret diagrams of changing ZATO names/numbers, [and] ZATO passports."

That exhibition documents everything from the "special food and consumer supplements given as rewards for the secrecy and 'otherness' of the sites," to the cities' eerily suburbanized, half-abandoned state today: "Today there are 43 ZATO on the territory of the Russian Federation. Their future is uncertain: some may survive; others may disappear as urban formations within the context of Russian suburbs." Check it out if you get a chance.

More info at the Harriman Institute.

Perhaps it is not a city

[Image: Michael Maltzan's Inner City Arts building, Los Angeles; photo by Iwan Baan].

I'll be speaking tonight, May 17th, at Van Alen Books with architect Michael Maltzan about his book No More Play: Conversations on Urban Speculation in Los Angeles and Beyond, edited by Jessica Varner, previously discussed on BLDGBLOG here. The book includes interviews with Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Charles Waldheim, Qingyun Ma, Catherine Opie, Edward Soja (who quips that "architects should think more like good geographers"), and many more, and will be available for sale this evening, if you can stop by.

Things kick off at 7pm at 30 W. 22nd Street, near the Flatiron Building; here's a map.

[Image: Los Angeles; photo by Iwan Baan, from No More Play].

As Maltzan writes in the book, "we have reached a point where past vocabularies of the city and of urbanism are no longer adequate, and at this moment, the very word city no longer applies" to Greater Los Angeles. "Perhaps it is not a city" at all, he suggests, but something altogether different and more formally interesting than that (see a slightly longer discussion of this earlier on BLDGBLOG).

When discussing this resistant, indefinable character of Los Angeles, I'm always reminded of a description from the beautifully written but, sadly, now scientifically out of date 2-part book The Music of the Spheres by Guy Murchie. At one point, Murchie describes the surprising lack of density in certain stars, even when those stars, nonetheless, seem structurally coherent to an outside observer.

He explains, for instance, that the surface of the sun "is really a thousand times more vacuous than a candle-flame on Earth, and even the concentrated moiling gases hidden a thousand miles below it are a hundred times thinner than earthly air." In fact, other stars—such as E Aurigae I, so huge it could "contain most of our solar system, including the 5.5-billion-mile circumference of Saturn's orbit"—are often "described as 'red-hot vacuums,'" Murchie writes, "because their material, though hot, averages thousands of times thinner than earthly air and is normally invisible, so that you might fly through them for days in your insulated space ship without even realizing you were inside a star."

You might fly through them for days without even realizing you are inside a star.

[Image: Los Angeles; photo by Iwan Baan, from No More Play].

Applying this to the urban condition of Los Angeles—a kind of sidereal city, measured by different stars, able to make you feel as if you will never really arrive—it becomes an oddly apt analogy for that region, with its loose outer edges and unclear points of entry into an often off-kilter system of road grids.

In any case, stop by Van Alen Books tonight at 7pm, where we'll be discussing Los Angeles, density, crime, and, who knows, even my own willful misunderstanding of astrophysics—or, as Van Alen Books puts it, topics such as "real-estate speculation and future urban development, infrastructure, resources, site density, urban experience, political structure, commerce, and community, attempting to transform our understanding of how each affects present-day Los Angeles."


[Image: Wifi-blocking wallpaper from the Grenoble Institute of Technology].

1) A collaboration between the Grenoble Institute of Technology and the Centre Technique du Papier has produced wifi-blocking wallpaper: a printable electromagnetic shield that "only blocks a select set of frequencies used by wireless LANs, and allows cellular phones and other radio waves through."

As The Verge explains, the wallpaper uses "conductive ink containing silver crystals" printed in an otherwise innocuous abstract snowflake pattern. In other words, only if you know exactly what to look for—or in a strange moment of speculative paranoia—would you realize that the paper on the walls around you is actually an electronic device.

Competitively priced with standard wallpapers, it might soon be decking and protecting the walls in a house or office near you.

[Image: Printed electronics produce 2D loudspeakers; photo by Hendrik Schmidt, via Printed Electronics World].

2) 2D printable loudspeakers have become a reality. Fully functioning speakers can now be "printed with flexography on standard paper" using "several layers of a conductive organic polymer and a piezoactive layer."

Like something out of The Ticket That Exploded, we read that "paper loudspeakers could, for instance, be integrated into common print products. As such, they offer an enormous potential for the advertising segment." In other words, books, newspapers, and magazines could soon literally be yelling at you to buy more products. Less cynically, though, this also raises the fairly fascinating possibility that we could someday release songs inside pamphlets, audiobooks inside the very hardcovers they narrate, field recordings inside road maps, or even add strips of ambient acoustics to rooms through loudspeaker wallpaper.

After all, sound wallpapers are, incredibly, also possible, resulting in large-scale, acoustically active surfaces, from objects to interior walls. The rave of the future will be one person with a roll of paper, pasting up sounds till sunrise.

[Images: Lasercut survival kits by Steffen Kehrle].

3) However, if wifi-blocking wallpaper and printable 2D loudspeakers aren't your cup of tea, then you can also laser-cut any reasonably stiff 2D surface into an urban survival kit.

Designer Steffen Kehrle's work implies that, with the right laser patterns and a thin sheet of cardstock—even wood veneer—the keys to the city could be yours. Done right, this same approach could offer more than just tactical culinary devices, as seen above, but small-scale urban equipment: pop-out objects for navigating the built environment around you.

Mega City Soundtrack

[Image: A map of fictional mega cities, via 2000AD].

A short review in the most recent Wire discusses a new album by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury: a speculative urban soundtrack to Mega City One, a "post-apocalyptic sprawl covering the eastern seaboard of the United States" from Judge Dredd. "Portishead's Geoff Barrow and BBC soundtrack composer Ben Salisbury's instrumental interpretation" of the city, The Wire writes, "evoke[s] the gunmetal grey of life in Mega City One, its multilevel labyrinth of self-contained blocks, zipstrips and boomways reflecting darkly in the album's tarnished metallic textures and gridlike structures."

The retro-Alan Howarthian synthesizers, a "rigorously imagined sound map" of the city, can be streamed in full via Bandcamp.

For those of you in London, meanwhile, Barrow and Salisbury will perform excerpts from the "weirdly addictive"—or is it "hackneyed"?—album at Orbital Comics on 16 May.

Water vs. World

[Image: Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; courtesy of the USGS].

In Charles Fishman's compelling exploration of water on Earth, The Big Thirst, there is a shocking statement that, despite the apparent inexhaustibility of the oceans, "the total water on the surface of Earth (the oceans, the ice caps, the atmospheric water) makes up 0.025 percent of the mass of the planet—25/10,000ths of the stuff of Earth. If the Earth were the size of a Honda Odyssey minivan," he clarifies, "the amount of water on the planet would be in a single, half-liter bottle of Poland Spring in one of the van's thirteen cup holders."

This is rather remarkably communicated by an illustration from the USGS, reproduced above, showing "the size of a sphere that would contain all of Earth's water in comparison to the size of the Earth." That's not a lot of water.

Only vaguely related, meanwhile, there is an additional description in Fishman's book worth repeating here.

[Image: The Orion nebula, photographed by Hubble].

In something called the Orion Molecular Cloud, truly vast amounts of water are being produced. How much? Incredibly, Fishman explains, "the cloud is making sixty Earth waters every twenty-four hours"—or, in simpler terms, "there is enough water being formed sufficient to fill all of Earth's oceans every twenty-four minutes." This is occurring, however, in an area "420 times the size of our solar system."

Anyway, Fishman's book is pretty fascinating, in particular his chapter, called "Dolphins in the Desert," on the water reuse and filtration infrastructure installed over the past 10-15 years in Las Vegas.

(Via @USGS).

Lost Lakes of the Empire State Building

[Image: Sunfish Pond].

Something I've long meant to post about—and isn't news at all—is the fact that there is a lost lake in the basement of the Empire State Building. Or a pond, more accurately speaking.

After following a series of links leading off from Steve Duncan's ongoing exploration of New York's "lost streams, kills, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, burns, brakes, and springs," I found the fascinating story of Sunfish Pond, a "lovely little body of water" at the corner of what is now 31st Street and Fourth Avenue. "The pond was fed both by springs and by a brook which also carried its overflow down to the East River at Kip's Bay." Interestingly, although the pond proper would miss the foundations of the Empire State Building, its feeder streams still pose a flood risk to the building, rising up through the concrete during heavy storms. To a certain extent, this reminds me of a line from the recent book Alphaville: "Heat lightning cackles above the Brooklyn skyline and her message is clear: 'You may have it paved over, but it's still a swamp.'" That is, the city can't escape its hydrology.

But perhaps this makes the Empire State Building as good a place as any for us to test out the possibility of fishing in the basements of Manhattan: break in, air-hammer some holes through the concrete, bust out fishing rods, and spend the night hauling inexplicable marine life out of the deep and gurgling darkness below.

Astrobiology and Drowned Nations

There's a lot going on again this week at Studio-X NYC. Two quick things to put on your radar, in case you're near New York:

[Image: NASA astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild measures solar radiation, via NASA].

1) Tonight at 6:30pm, we've got NASA astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild coming in to discuss her work, from extreme environments here on Earth, where scientists test for the limits of life, to the irradiated landscapes of Mars. We'll look at the nature of biology, the possibilities for synthetic life, unexpected alternatives to DNA, and other mind-bending experiments that ask, in Rothschild's words, "Where do we come from? Where are we going? and Are we alone?" Architect Ed Keller will be co-moderating this live interview.

2) Tomorrow, beginning at 6pm, we've got a massive line-up, including, I'm thrilled to say, an interview with Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, discussing "drowning nations and climate change law. The list of whole countries at risk from sea-level rise is both extraordinary and growing, from the Marshall Islands to the Maldives, posing a series of unanswered questions about migration, citizenship, geopolitical power, and even the very definition of a state. As a 2010 article on ClimateWire asks, citing Gerrard's work, "If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?"

[Image: Male, capital of the Maldives, via Wikipedia].

Gerrard was instrumental in organizing a conference last year called "Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate," inspired by the "unique legal questions posed by rising oceans." Central to our conversation tomorrow night will be what that last link calls "the sovereignty of submerged nations":
Would the countries continue to have legal recognition like the Order of Malta, which ceded its island territory long ago but continues to be treated like a sovereign for some purposes? Would they retain their seats in the United Nations and other international bodies?
Here, it's interesting to note recent suggestions that the "entire nation of Kiribati" might—or might not—move en masse to Fiji, to escape rising sea levels.

We will be interviewing Michael Gerrard only from 6-6:45pm, so don't be late.

Immediately following that live interview, we will kick off a roundtable discussion on the future of sovereignty, governance, citizenship, and the nation-state, looking at a range of unique geographic and spatial scenarios, from the Arctic to the Internet. Joining us—many via Skype—will be: Benjamin Bratton, director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at UC-San Diego; architect Ed Keller; Tom Cohen, co-editor with Claire Colebrook of the Critical Climate Change series from Open Humanities Press; science fiction novelist Peter Watts; architect and urbanist Adrian Lahoud, editor of Post-Traumatic Urbanism; and Dylan Trigg, author of, among other things, The Aesthetics of Decay.

Studio-X NYC is at 180 Varick Street, Suite 1610, 16th floor; here is a map. These events are free and open to the public, and no RSVP is required.

Performing Mars

[Image: Image via Karst Worlds].

An ice cave in Austria was recently used as a test landscape for experimental spacesuits and instrumentation systems—including 3D cameras—that might someday be used by humans on Mars.

The Dachstein ice cave was chosen, Stuff explains, "because ice caves would be a natural refuge for any microbes on Mars seeking steady temperatures and protection from damaging cosmic rays."

[Images: (top and bottom) Photos by Katja Zanella-Kux; middle photos via Karst Worlds].

Many images available at the Dachstein Mars Simulation Liveblog—including this series of 25 images courtesy of the Austrian Space Forum—document the testing process, which ranged from the beautifully surreal, as a fully space-suited man rolls strange devices down slopes of ice inside the planet, to the nearly postmodern, as crowds of normally dressed tourist onlookers are revealed at the edges of the show cave, watching this odd performance unfold.

And all this is in addition to the "obstacle course" developed for wearers of the spacesuit—reverse-engineering terrain from a particular type of clothing, or landscape design as an outgrowth from fashion—in the parking lot and nearby paved spaces of a research center in Austria. "The course included four snow-mountain passages, almost 40 meters of rock climbing and more than 60 meters of slushy snow terrain amongst others"—including "drawing bright 'rocks' to make the simulation happen" accurately.

Walking amidst painted representations of geology, wearing a suit designed for the atmosphere of another planet, and temporarily moving below the surface of the earth to throw pieces of specialty equipment down ice slopes, attached to ropes, the team was able to, by means of props and in William L. Fox's words, "perform Mars on Earth."

(Spotted via Karst Worlds).