The Snow Mine

[Image: The "Blythe Intaglios," via Google Maps].

After reading an article about the "Blythe geoglyphs"—huge, 1,000-year old images carved into the California desert north of Blythe, near the border with Arizona—I got to looking around on Google Maps more or less at random and found what looked like a ghost town in the middle of nowhere, close to an old mine.

Turns out, it was the abandoned industrial settlement of Midland, California—and it's been empty for nearly half a century, deliberately burned to the ground in 1966 when the nearby mine was closed.

[Image: Midland, California, via Google Maps].

What's so interesting about this place—aside from the exposed concrete foundation pads now reused as platforms for RVs, or the empty streets forming an altogether different kind of geoglyph, or even the obvious ease with which one can get there, simply following the aptly named Midland Road northeast from Blythe—is the fact that the town was built for workers at the gypsum mine, and that the gypsum extracted from the ground in Midland was then used as artificial snow in many Hollywood productions.

[Image: Midland, California, via Google Maps].

As the L.A. Times reported back in 1970—warning its readers, "Don't Go To Midland—It's Gone"—the town served as the mineral origin for Hollywood's simulated weather effects.

"Midland was started in 1925 as a tent city," the paper explained, "with miners in the middle of the Mojave Desert digging gypsum out of the Little Marias to meet the demands of movie studios. All the winter scenes during the golden age of Hollywood were filmed with 'snowflakes' from Midland."

[Image: The abandoned streets of Midland, former origin of Hollywood's artificial snow; photo via CLUI].

Like some strange, artificial winter being mined from the earth and scattered all over the dreams of cinemagoers around the world, Midland's mineral snow had all the right qualities without any of the perishability or cold.

See, for example, this patent for artificial snow, filed in 1927 and approved in 1930, in which it is explained how gypsum can be dissolved by a specific acid mix to produce light, fluffy flakes perfect for the purposes of winter simulation. Easy to produce, with no risk of melting.

[Image: Midland, California, via Google Maps].

I've long been fascinated by the artificial snow industry—the notion of an industrially controlled climate-on-demand, spraying out snowflakes as if from a 3D printer, is just amazing to me—as well as with the unearthly world of mines, caves, and all things underground, but I had not really ever imagined that these interests might somehow come together someday, wherein fake glaciers and peaceful drifts of pure white snow were actually something scraped out of the planet by the extraction industry.

As if suggesting the plot of a deranged, Dr. Seussian children's book, the idea that winter is something we pull from a mine in the middle of the California desert and then scatter over the warm Mediterranean cities of the coast is perhaps all the evidence you need that life is always already more dreamlike than you had previously believed possible.

(Very vaguely related: See also BLDGBLOG's earlier coverage of California City).

Urban Giants

The wife & husband team of director Davina Pardo and journalist Andrew Blum—the latter of whom you might also know as the author of Tubes and a prolific writer on architecture and design—have released a short documentary about the literal architecture of the internet: the huge buildings looming amongst us here in New York City, inside of which sit much of the telecommunications equipment that switches, routes, and relays global internet traffic.

These "urban giants," in the filmmakers' words, are over-built monsters, their titanic foundations, floor plates, and empty rooms reinforced to hold early telegraph machines. Yet they are also surprisingly delicate and beautifully detailed Art Deco structures. The internet is a kind of chandelier of controlled light, beaming information through fiber optic lines all over the world, relying on anchorage points and cables strung deep inside buildings like these.

"Between 1928 and 1932," the film explains, "Western Union and AT&T Long Lines built two of the most advanced telecommunications buildings in the world, at 60 Hudson Street and 32 Avenue of the Americas in Lower Manhattan. Nearly a century later, they remain among the world's finest Art Deco towers—and cornerstones of global communication. Urban Giants is a 9-minute filmic portrait of their birth and ongoing life, combining never-before-seen-construction footage, archival photographs and films, interviews with architectural and technology historians, and stunning contemporary cinematography." That cinematography is by David Sundberg from Esto.

The film is embedded above or you can watch it over on Vimeo—and Blum's descriptions of these buildings and their inner machinery in Tubes are not to be missed.

Mathematical Equations as Architectonic Forms

[Image: From the Altgeld Math Models Collection at UIUC].

Architects—or really anyone captivated by complex geometric forms—should find something of interest in a small set of images posted over at Wired. From the Altgeld Math Models Collection at UIUC, the photos show complex mathematical equations modeled as architectonic forms, and many of them are stunning.

Here are a few of my favorites, taken not from Wired but from the Altgeld Collection itself. This first model totally blows me away, for example. Imagine this thing blown up to the scale of urban infrastructure and built as a woven coil of multiple suspension bridges intersecting over a river, like some hyper-dimensional Brooklyn Bridge strung between cities.

[Images: From the Altgeld Math Models Collection at UIUC].

The models, of course, are not intended as architectural suggestions. So what were they, really?

"In 1893," Wired explains, "a prominent mathematician named Felix Klein brought a boatload of models from his laboratory in Göttingen to the World’s Fair in Chicago. These perfect plasters stood out in the pavilion showcasing Germany’s technical achievements. The scientists who walked by took note. Soon major American universities had ordered hundreds of surface models from thick catalogs, and had them shipped thousands of miles over the Atlantic. Large collections remain at MIT, the University of Arizona, Harvard, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose models feature prominently in this gallery."

[Image: Bridge proposal by Penda for the Salford Meadows design competition].

But, like one of my favorite speculative bridge projects of the last year or two—a proposal designed by Penda for the Salford Meadows competition—I just can't stop imagining how these could be translated almost exactly into suspension bridges, public plazas, or other works of urban infrastructure.

A city peppered with large, harped megastructures like these would be extraordinary, a kind of inhabitable catalog of topology. Or huge sewers like this, torquing and curling through pretzels of self-intersection beneath our feet. Barbara Hepworth as civil engineer.

Even the relatively simple-looking Math Model 8 would make a delirious pedestrian overpass or skybridge.

[Images: From the Altgeld Math Models Collection at UIUC].

You can read more about the collection over at Wired, but you can also see a lot more images at the Altgeld Math Models Collection itself—like the incredible Math Model 3 (imagine it extruded vertically into a cathedral or power station), the weird floating quasi-object of Math Model 81 (imagine that central vertex as a kind of urban overlook or observation deck), the looming innards of Math Model 44, or the slightly bonkers Math Model 39, seen below.

[Images: From the Altgeld Math Models Collection at UIUC].

You can also help support the collection's efforts to preserve the models; here is more info.

Drive-By Archaeology

[Image: From a patent filed by MIT, courtesy U.S. Patent and Trademark Office].

The technical systems by which autonomous, self-driving vehicles will safely navigate city streets are usually presented as some combination of real-time scanning and detailed mnemonic map or virtual reference model created for that vehicle.

As Alexis Madrigal has written for The Atlantic, autonomous vehicles are, in essence, always driving within a virtual world—like Freudian machines, they are forever unable to venture outside a sphere of their own projections:
The key to Google's success has been that these cars aren't forced to process an entire scene from scratch. Instead, their teams travel and map each road that the car will travel. And these are not any old maps. They are not even the rich, road-logic-filled maps of consumer-grade Google Maps.

They're probably best thought of as ultra-precise digitizations of the physical world, all the way down to tiny details like the position and height of every single curb. A normal digital map would show a road intersection; these maps would have a precision measured in inches.
The vehicle can thus respond to the city insofar as its own spatial expectations are never sufficiently contradicted by the evidence at hand: if the city, as scanned by the vehicle's array of sensors and instruments, corresponds to the vehicle's own internal expectations, then it can make the next rational decision (to turn a corner, stop at an intersection, wait for a passing train, etc.).

However, I was very interested to see that an MIT research team led by Byron Stanley had applied for a patent last autumn that would allow autonomous vehicles to guide themselves using ground-penetrating radar. It is the subterranean realm that they would thus be peering into, in addition to the plein air universe of curb heights and Yield signs, reading the underworld for its own peculiar landmarks.

[Image: From a patent filed by MIT, courtesy U.S. Patent and Trademark Office].

How would it work? Imagine, the MIT team suggests, that your autonomous vehicle is either in a landscape blanketed in snow. It is volumetrically deformed by all that extra mass and thus robbed not only of accurate points of measurement but also of any, if not all, computer-recognizable landmarks. Or, he adds, imagine that you have passed into a "GPS-denied area."

In either case, you and your self-driving vehicle run the very real risk of falling off the map altogether, stuck in a machine that cannot find its way forward and, for all intents and purposes, can no longer even tell road from landscape.

[Image: From a patent filed by MIT, courtesy U.S. Patent and Trademark Office].

Stanley's group has thus come up with the interesting suggestion that you could simply give autonomous vehicles the ability to see through the earth's surface and scan for recognizable systems of pipework or other urban infrastructure down below. Your vehicle could then just follow those systems through the obscuring layers of rain, snow, or even tumbleweed to its eventual destination.

These would be cars attuned to the "subsurface region," as the patent describes it, falling somewhere between urban archaeology and speleo-cartography.

In fact, with only the slightest tweaking of this technology and you could easily imagine a scenario in which your vehicle would more or less seek out and follow archaeological features in the ground. Picture something like an enormous basement in Rome or central London—or perhaps a strange variation on the city built entirely for autonomous vehicles at the University of Michigan. It is a vast expanse of concrete built—with great controversy—over an ancient site of incredible archaeological richness.

Climbing into a small autonomous vehicle, however, and avidly referring to the interactive menu presented on a touchscreen dashboard, you feel the vehicle begin to move, inching forward into the empty room. The trick is that it is navigating according to the remnant outlines of lost foundations and buried structures hidden in the ground around you, like a boat passing over shipwrecks hidden in the still but murky water.

The vehicle shifts and turns, hovers and circles back again, outlining where buildings once stood. It is acting out a kind of invisible architecture of the city, where its routes are not roads at all but the floor plans of old buildings and, rather than streets or parking lots, you circulate through and pause within forgotten rooms buried in the ground somewhere below.

In this "subsurface region" that only your vehicle's radar eyes can see, your car finds navigational clarity, calmly poking along the secret forms of the city.

In any case, for more on the MIT patent, check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

(Via New Scientist).

London And Its Dead

[Image: By Andrew Winning, courtesy of Reuters, via National Geographic].

In her excellent and morbidly fascinating book Necropolis: London and Its Dead, Catharine Arnold describes in detail how parts of the London Underground were tunneled, blasted, picked, and drilled through a labyrinth of plague pits and cemeteries.

To no small extent, she makes clear, the subterranean presence of corpses can be found throughout the British capital. Dead bodies were basically buried everywhere, to the point that, as Arnold pithily states, "London is one giant grave." The city is saturated from below with the dead.

In one of my favorite examples of this from the book, Arnold explains how the London Hospital maintained its own burial ground from 1849 to 1854. Somewhat astonishingly, however, we learn that housing projects for the medical staff were then built over these old graveyards—and the coffins were not very far below the surface.

As Arnold describes it, this led to some rather unsafe ground conditions: 
The remaining part of the burial ground became a garden for nurses and medical students, complete with tennis court, "where they are in the habit of capering about in their short times off-duty, and where it sometimes happens that the grass gives way beneath them—an ordinary occurrence when the subsoil is inhabited by coffins!"
In other words, these tennis-playing nurses "capering about" on their grass tennis courts would occasionally and literally fall through the surface of the earth only to find themselves standing in a maze of rotting coffins hidden just beneath the soil, an infernal honeycomb of badly tended graves like something out of Dante. 

This image—of young women frolicking in their 19th-century sports gear suddenly falling through the earth into coffins—is absolutely astonishing and surely belongs in a movie coming soon to a cinema near you, a London-based, hospital-themed remake of Poltergeist.

[Image: An otherwise unrelated London cemetery, photographed by Louise McLaren/Creative Commons].

Of course, as London's population exploded, so too did the number of its dead; and, thus, some local churches got in on the financial action of corpse disposal by accepting dead bodies (and the high fees associated with their interment) only to do nothing at all with the corpses but toss them down into the cellar.

One church was so bad, Arnold explains, that its parishioners would often become light-headed and even pass out from the horrible smell of rotting and partially liquified bodies wafting up from beneath the floorboards.

A particularly nightmarish location described by Arnold is Enon Chapel, a Baptist church founded "as a speculative venture." That is, the minister—Mr. W. Howse—was in it purely for the money. 

Arnold's own description of what happened next says it best: 
Worship there was a dangerous business; for members of the congregation frequently passed out—yet, because nobody guessed at the minister's appalling secret, it never occurred to them that the cause of their sickness lay beneath a flimsy layer of floorboards, in the vault of the chapel.

In warm, damp weather, local residents were assaulted by a peculiarly disgusting smell. Occasionally, when a fire was lit in a nearby building, an intolerable stench arose, which did not originate from the drains. Vast numbers of rats infested the houses; and meat exposed to the atmosphere turned putrid after an hour or two.
The parishioners could even taste it, apparently: an acrid, oily slick on their tongues, resulting from the humid corpse-fog that filled the church, a kind of artificial weather system created by the dissolving bodies of the dead jumbled up in the darkness below them.

Mind-bogglingly, when all of this was finally discovered, how many corpses do you think London city authorities found down there? Several dozen? A few hundred, perhaps? They found twelve thousand corpses. 12,000 corpses all turning into jello and contaminating the local water supply. 

[Image: London's Abney Park Cemetery, photo by BLDGBLOG].

Yet those churchgoers were lucky to escape with their own lives, we read. At times, London's urban burial grounds simply exploded, their cheap coffins dangerously over-pressurized from within with corpse gas. 

The resulting blasts and long-burning subterranean infernos, for the most part limited to the crypts and basements of churches, were physically repellent and not at all easy to extinguish. "In the 1800s," Arnold writes, "fires beneath St. Clement Dane's and [architect Christopher] Wren's Church of St. James's in Jermyn Street destroyed many bodies and burned for days."

To help prevent these corpulent bombs from bursting, sextons of the churches were required to "tap" the coffins now and again; this tapping would jostle the bodies within and thus "facilitate the escape of gases which would otherwise detonate from their confinement."

Entrepreneurial architects were not going to stand idly by, however, as a new market for spatial ideas took shape. Designers of speculative necropolises were beginning to ask: why bury when you can build? 

Specifically, Arnold explains, an architecturally inclined businessman named Thomas Willson "proposed a huge pyramid for Primrose Hill. At an estimated cost of £2,500, this massive mausoleum, higher than St. Paul's, would contain five million Londoners." 

[Image: The great London pyramid of the Pyramid General Cemetery Company, via Wonders & Marvels].

Intended to invoke solemnity, inspire awe, and earn lots of money, Willson's colossal geometric structure was to be funded through subscription and run by a new corporation called the Pyramid General Cemetery Company: 
Constructed from brick, with granite facing, the plans comprised a chapel, office, quarters for the Keeper, Clerk, Sexton and Superintendent, four entrances and a central ventilation shaft. A series of sloping paths would allow bodies to be moved. Each catacomb took up to twenty-four coffins and could be sealed up after all interments had been completed. Resembling a beehive, it would be a thing of awe and wonder to all who saw it.
The pyramid was never constructed, of course, but perhaps in our own era of London megaprojects, some brick and granite Giza might yet emerge on the marshy edges of town to support and protect the dead of southeast England.

All of which finally brings us back to the real reason I started writing this post, which was to tell the story of how these corpses—the city absolutely littered with burial grounds and plague pits—came to influence the construction of London's Underground train system. It's a brief anecdote, but it's both ghoulish and interesting.

As Arnold points out, there is an otherwise inexplicable shift in direction in the Piccadilly line passing east out of South Kensington. "In fact," she writes, "the tunnel curves between Knightsbridge and South Kensington stations because it was impossible to drill through the mass of skeletal remains buried in Hyde Park." I will admit that I think she means "between Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner"—although there is apparently a "small plague pit dating from around 1664" beneath Knightsbridge Green—but I will defer to Arnold's research.

But to put that another way, the ground was so solidly packed with the interlocked skeletons of 17th-century victims of the Great Plague that the Tube's 19th-century excavation teams couldn't even hack their way through them all. The Tube thus had to swerve to the side along a subterranean detour in order to avoid this huge congested knot of skulls, ribs, legs, and arms tangled in the soil—an artificial geology made of people, caught in the throat of greater London.

London's Tube thus sits atop, cuts around, and tunnels through a citywide charnel ground of corpses, its very routes and station locations haunted by this earlier presence in the ground below.

For much more info on the geography of London's dead, check out a copy of Necropolis.

(An earlier version of this post was previously published on Gizmodo).

A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere Built to Track the End of the World

[Image: Photo by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Cavalier County, North Dakota, is the focus of an amazing set of images hosted by the U.S. Library of Congress, showing this squat and evocative megastructure in various states of construction and completion.

It's a huge pyramid in the middle of nowhere tracking the end of the world on radar, an abstract geometric shape beneath the sky without a human being in sight, or it could even be the opening scene of an apocalyptic science fiction film—but it's just the U.S. military going about its business, building vast and other-worldly architectural structures that the civilian world only rarely sees.

[Images: Photos by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

As Pruned described these structures back in 2008, it was a "mastaba-shaped radar facility reminiscent of the work of architect Étienne-Louis Boullée."

As such, Pruned suggests, it offers convincing architectural evidence that we should consider "the "U.S. anti-ballistic landscape as a subset of Land Art"—as lonely pieces of abandoned infrastructure isolated amidst sublime and almost unreachably remote locations.

[Images: Photos by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

The photos seen here, taken for the U.S. government by photographer Benjamin Halpern, show the central pyramid—pyramid, monument, modular obelisk: whatever you want to call it—that served as the site's missile-tracking station. Its omnidirectional all-seeing white circles stared endlessly at invisible airborne objects moving beyond the horizon.

The Library of Congress gives the pyramid's location somewhat absurdly as "Northeast of Tactical Road; southeast of Tactical Road South." In other words, it's ensconced somewhere in a maze of self-reference and tautology, perhaps deliberately obscuring exactly how you're meant to arrive at this place.

[Image: Photo by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

Yet the pyramid has become something of a roadtripper's delight in the last decade or two. When I initially published a slightly different version of this post on Gizmodo, commenters from around the world jumped in with their own photos and memories of driving hours out of their way to find these military ruins looming spookily on the horizon.

Most if not all of them then discovered that it was as easy as simply saying hello to the guard, walking unencumbered through the front gate, and then hanging out for hours, running up the side of the pyramid, taking pictures against the North Dakota sky, and enjoying this American Giza as a peculiarly avant-garde site for an afternoon picnic.

You can even see the structures, arranged like some ritual sequence of spatial objects—a chapel of radar aligned with war—on Google Street View.

[Image: The pyramid, seen somewhat jarringly in full color, via Google Street View].

One thing I like so much about these shots is how they resemble early expeditionary photos of the hulking Mayan ruins found at Chichén Itzá.

Check out these comparative shots, for example, where the latter image was taken by photographer Henry Sweet during a 19th-century archaeological journey led by Alfred P. Maudslay. The photo was featured as part of an exhibition at the University of North Carolina back in 2007.

[Images: (top) Photo by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress; (bottom) photo by Henry Sweet, courtesy of the UNC-Chapel Hill].

Of course, there is nothing really to compare outside of their same overall geometry—yet it's striking to consider the functional, if obviously metaphoric, similarities here as well. 

One structure was built as part of a kind of analogue system for tracking divine events and celestial calendars, as dark constellations of gods spun across the sky; the other was a temple to mathematics built for guiding and pinging missiles as they streaked horizon to horizon, a site of early warning against the apocalypse, as a new zodiac of nuclear warheads would burst open to shine their world-blinding light on the obliterated landscapes below. 

Trajectories, paths, horizons: both pyramids, in a sense, were architectural monuments for navigation of different kinds. Both timeless, strange, and seemingly inhuman: spatial artifacts of lost civilizations.

[Image: Photo by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

In any case, the original photos on the Library of Congress website are heavily specked with dust and some lens artifacts, but I've cleaned up my favorites and posted some of them here. 

[Images: Photos by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

This is how modern-day pyramids are made: huge budgets and ziggurats of rebar, as tiny figures wearing hardhats scramble around amidst gargantuan geometric forms, checking diagrams against reality and trying not to think of the nuclear war this structure was being built to track.

[Images: Photos by Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress].

(An earlier version of this post previously appeared on Gizmodo).

Where Borders Melt

[Image: From Italian Limes. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

One of the most interesting sites from a course I taught several years ago at Columbia—Glacier, Island, Storm—was the glacial border between Italy and Switzerland.

The border there is not, in fact, permanently determined, as it actually shifts back and forth according to the height of the glaciers.

This not only means that parts of the landscape there have shifted between nations without ever really going anywhere—a kind of ghost dance of the nation-states—but also that climate change will have a very literal effect on the size and shape of both countries.

[Image: Due to glacial melt, Switzerland has actually grown in size since 1940; courtesy swisstopo].

This could result in the absurd scenario of Switzerland, for example, using its famed glacier blankets, attempting to preserve glacial mass (and thus sovereign territory), or it might even mean designing and cultivating artificial glaciers as a means of aggressively expanding national territory.

As student Marissa Looby interpreted the brief, there would be small watchtowers constructed in the Alps to act as temporary residential structures for border scientists and their surveying machines, and to function as actual physical marking systems visible for miles in the mountains, somewhere between architectural measuring stick for glacial growth and modular micro-housing.

But the very idea that a form of thermal warfare might break out between two countries—with Switzerland and Italy competitively growing and preserving glaciers under military escort high in the Alps—is a compelling (if not altogether likely) thing to consider. Similarly, the notion that techniques borrowed from landscape and architectural design could be used to actually make countries bigger—eg. through the construction of glacier-maintenance structures, ice-growing farms, or the formatting of the landscape to store seasonal accumulations of snow more effectively—is absolutely fascinating.

[Images: From Italian Limes. Photos by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

I was thus interested to read about a conceptually similar but otherwise unrelated new project, a small exhibition on display at this year's Venice Biennale called—in English, somewhat unfortunately—Italian Limes, where "Limes" is actually Latin for limits or borders (not English for a small acidic fruit). Italian Limes explores "the most remote Alpine regions, where Italy’s northern frontier drifts with glaciers."

In effect, this is simply a project looking at this moving border region in the Alps from the standpoint of Italy.

[Image: From Italian Limes. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

As the project description explains, "Italy is one of the rare continental countries whose entire confines are defined by precise natural borders. Mountain passes, peaks, valleys and promontories have been marked, altered, and colonized by peculiar systems of control that played a fundamental role in the definition of the modern sovereign state."

[Images: From Italian Limes. Photos by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

However, they add, between 2008 and 2009, Italy negotiated "a new definition of the frontiers with Austria, France and Switzerland."
Due to global warming and and shrinking Alpine glaciers, the watershed—which determines large stretches of the borders between these countries—has shifted consistently. A new concept of movable border has thus been introduced into national legislation, recognizing the volatility of any watershed geography through regular alterations of the physical benchmarks that determine the exact frontier.
[Images: From Italian Limes. Photos by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

The actual project that resulted from this falls somewhere between landscape surveying and technical invention—and is a pretty awesome example of where territorial management, technological databases, and national archives all intersect:
On May 4th, 2014, the Italian Limes team installed a network of solar-powered GPS units on the surface of the Similaun glacier, following a 1-km-long section of the border between Italy and Austria, in order to monitor the movements of the ice sheet throughout the duration of the exhibition at the Corderie dell’Arsenale. The geographic coordinates collected by the sensors are broadcasted and stored every hour on a remote server via a satellite connection. An automated drawing machine—controlled by an Arduino board and programmed with Processing—has been specifically designed to translated the coordinates received from the sensors into a real-time representation of the shifts in the border. The drawing machine operates automatically and can be activated on request by every visitor, who can collect a customized and unique map of the border between Italy and Austria, produced on the exact moment of his [or her] visit to the exhibition.
The drawing machine, together with the altered maps and images it produces, are thus meant to reveal "how the Alps have been a constant laboratory for technological experimentation, and how the border is a compex system in evolution, whose physical manifestation coincides with the terms of its representation."

The digital broadcast stations mounted along the border region are not entirely unlike Switzerland's own topographic markers, over 7,000 "small historical monuments" that mark the edge of the country's own legal districts, and also comparable to the pillars or obelisks that mark parts of the U.S./Mexico border. Which is not surprising: mapping and measuring border is always a tricky thing, and leaving physical objects behind to mark the route is simply one of the most obvious techniques.

As the next sequence of images shows, these antenna-like sentinels stand alone in the middle of vast ice fields, silently recording the size and shape of a nation.

[Images: From Italian Limes. Photos by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

The project, including topographic models, photographs, and examples of the drawing machine network, will be on display in the Italian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale until November 23, 2014. Check out their website for more.

Meanwhile, the research and writing that went into Glacier, Island, Storm remains both interesting and relevant today, if you're looking for something to click through. Start here, here, or even here.

[Image: From Italian Limes. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Folder].

Italian Limes is a project by Folder (Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual) with Pietro Leoni (interaction design), Delfino Sisto Legnani (photography), Dawid Górny, Alex Rothera, Angelo Semeraro (projection mapping), Claudia Mainardi, Alessandro Mason (team).