A Walk with the Rocky Mountain Land Library

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Editor’s note; a version of the below text appeared in the May 10th Walk2Connect Co-op newsletter

See also; over at Twitter

I had the pleasure to spend May 4th walking and workshoping in Globeville, with the Rocky Mountain Land Library; a 501c3 nonprofit co-founded by Jeff Lee and Ann Marie Martin. Two long-time employees of the iconic Tattered Cover Bookstore. Their “ultimate vision is to open Buffalo Peaks Ranch as a year-round, residential retreat center and library, while hosting additional programs and outreach through our Metro Denver locations.

The Globeville location is one of three locations they have. I visited their Waterton Canyon branch on one of the early High Line Canal walks, with Chris Englert aka “the Walking Traveler”. Last year I visited their location on the South Platte in Fairplay, to attend Re/Calla curated art and communal experience that celebrates the natural environment…the intersection of art and nature…the ethereal and tangible.” The Globeville branch is their current/main book storage/processing location. It also has a special ‘Walking and Trails’ collection/room.

Our group, led by Ann Marie, spent the first part of the morning walking along the South Platte. After foraging for ink-making feedstock, we spent the next few hours experimenting with: charcoal, terra-cotta, willow-flowers and more. Do you even know how to mordant..? I didn’t before, but I do now!

On our walk we encountered a rich urban ecology of flora/fauna: dicots, wild-rose and willows. Birds of prey, coyote tracks and hooded merganser ducks. We even saw signs of beavers rewilding.

As I read that day, Wendell Berry writes

“Think of the genius of the animals,

every one truly what it is:

gnat, fox, minnow, swallow, each made

of light and luminous within itself.

They know (better than we do) how

to live in the places where they live.

And so I would like to be a true

human being, dear reader – a choice

not altogether possible now.

But this is what I’m for, the side

I’m on”

six key principles of codesign

Over at Common | Edge, Steven Bingler writes about Community CoDesign. An idea, for him, based around the methodology of “the roundtable…reinforced by six key principles.” After running through each of these principles he closes with

“I am convinced that a legacy of service to the community is worth fighting for. And the fight will be formidable. Climate change is upon us: given current rates of sea level rise, it’s likely that millions of people will be forced inland in the decades ahead; others will be faced with increased wildfires, drought and water shortages. Our maps will be radically redrawn. All of this will present unprecedented challenges for planning.”

Autumn 2020 in Places

Last September Reinhold Martin penned a review for two newly reissued classics of New Deal literature, ‘Black Metropolis‘ and ‘Modern Housing‘.

He begins by noting their masked or “measured anti-capitalism” and suggests they’ve “acquired new relevance to anyone concerned with recovery from crisis, even as Delirious New York begins to show its neoliberal age.

The next month Kofi Boone took a first pass at an expanded History of Black Landscape Architecture.

The Yard, Howard University, Washington, D.C. [Google Earth]

Arguing “It is time, then, to think not only about how landscape architecture, as currently constituted, can better serve Black communities, but also about how the profession might be radically reconceptualized.

His proposed and expanded canon of lesser known deeply Black yet American landscapes includes; the rice fields of South Carolina to “The Yard” at Howard University, or the HUD funded “Soul City“.

Right: Soul City advertisement, created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. [Wikimedia Commons]

Finally in December, Shannon Mattern offered up A Cultural History of Plexiglass. As she makes clear acrylic architectures of protection and security theater predate, but have exploded post-pandemic.

Yet the plexi shields and hoods are little more than the architectural equivalents of hydroxychloroquine, snake oil neatly packaged in capsules and vials — jury-rigged shells mocked up so that we can keep working and consuming and pretending that social space hasn’t split open at its long-deepening fault lines; that the worker on the far side of the screen isn’t standing there all day, at risk.

Summer 2020 in Places

In July, Rob Holmes arguedWe need to engage troubled landscapes without presuming to fix them. Notes toward a history of non-solutionist design.” Aka “what if the river is a problem that will not be solved?

Yet he clarifies “I am not arguing against solutions, but solutionism, the recurring temptation to see landscape design through the prism of known solutions.

Finally, Holmes reviews various methodologies for a non-solutionist landscape architecture. Including, fieldwork, synthetic cartography, “explanatory scenarios“, “Participatory design processes” or “transdisciplinary design“, modeling, “Designed maintenance” and most importantly “epistemic humility“.

As well as a few new models for practice.

Renaturation of the River Aire, by Atelier Descombes Rampini + Superpositions. [Easytomap]

While in August, Gideon Fink Shapiro reviewed the exhibition / eponymous book, Kiruna Forever which recently opened at ArkDes.

Shapiro finds it “dense, layered, and messy in a good way…Kiruna Forever introduces visitors to superhuman systems and forces while also taking care to balance its grand analytical gestures with human-scale narratives and artifacts“.

Kiruna’s new city hall (lower right), designed by Henning Larsen and constructed 2018, is located two miles east of the old center. Photo by Hufton + Crown. [Henning Larsen via ArkDes]

Spring 2020 in Places

Back in April, Shannon Mattern explained why How we listen to the city is as important as what we are listening for. She writes “Auscultation — mediated listening — is fundamental to modern life. Indeed, Sterne links the instrumentation of medicine to the growth of industrial cities.

Mattern also touches on the public health history of the portable audiometer and acoustimeter, “algorithmic auscultation“, the “acoustic panopticon” aka “the panacousticon“. Plus a history of works which “auscultate infrastructure, to render it sensible” et al.

In May, William O. Gardner traced the evolution of the concept of “Liquid Cities” through Japanese architecture and science fiction from the 1960s into the 1990s. “Liquid” in this case referring to among other things, an imagined future where the “informationalized postmodern” city means urban space is dematerialized, fluid and even virtual.

Tange Kenzō, A Plan for Tokyo, 1960-.

Finally in May, Johan Pries revisited the history of People’s Parks (Folkets parker) and People’s Houses (Folkets hus) in turn of the 20th century Sweden, in order to “displace urban planners and policy technocrats as the inevitable protagonists of the social democratic story, and to suggest a larger role for a mobilized and inclusive democratic coalition“.

Thus we read

No doubt the growing political power of the early social democrats was due to many factors; but the creation of movement-sponsored spaces was an essential (though today largely forgotten) strategy in the construction of a base of popular support. Just as crucial was the fact that these spaces were open to everyone, not just party members; this inclusiveness allowed the social democrats to claim the moral high ground in the struggle for universal suffrage, which was the dominating political question of the day. All of which is to emphasize that the Houses and Parks were intentionally made into truly democratic spaces.