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”

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.

re: the deep Anthropocene

ArchaeoGLOBE reveals that human societies transformed most of Earth’s biosphere much earlier and more profoundly than we thought – an insight that has serious implications for how we understand humanity’s relationship to nature and the planet as a whole...Over archaeological timescales spanning hundreds to thousands of years, land use can be thought of instead as a tapestry of ever-evolving anthroecosystems with higher or lower degrees of transformation – more or less human-shaped, or ‘domesticated’ environments.

via Aeon

Envisioning a new architecture of discomfort

This again is the role of architecture, even or perhaps especially in retrofits. To make discomfort desirable. To help us all find pleasure in a new causal chain, one that starts with the less-conditioned interior, extends to the less carbon-filled atmosphere, and resolves itself by tempering the inequity, exploitation, and destruction that increases with climate instability. Discomfort, that’s to say, is not a bad thing. We will be discomforted either by design or by default.

Daniel A Barber at Climate Futures II: Design Politics, Design Natures, Aesthetics and the Green New Deal via Open Transcripts

Q1 2020, in Places

Back in January, Liat Berdugo penned a piece about; her childhood, ‘The Jerusalem Forest‘ and afforestation as an act of settler-Zionism erasure and geo-politics.

Thus we read;

Zochrot asks us to remember: the state of Israel was not founded on a naked land calling out for Jewish stewardship, but on land already inhabited by Palestinians…the majority of KKL-JNF forests are situated on the ruins of Palestinian villages, in an effort to cover them over. 34 …KKL-JNF’s historicization of its forests routinely erases Palestinian inhabitation, because to acknowledge an Arab village, to recognize it, would mark a rupture with Israeli nationalist vision, which seeks a forest free of consequence, accountability, or priorhood.

Student protest poster by Atelier Populaire, 1968. [via Beaux-arts de Paris]

Then Shannon Mattern visited the smart-city-in-progress aka Sidewalk Toronto, which led to questions about what it means to “participate” in civic design.

One concern, “engagement theater“. 34

“Civic design tools such as participatory maps and community engagement apps help keep urban data and oversight powers in public hands. Yet those same tools can be co-opted by savvy tech developers who have mastered the techniques of discursive engineering…deployed as part of a public performance wherein the aesthetics of collaboration signify democratic process, without always providing the real thing. A disingenuous use of maps, apps, and other tools of participatory planning — call it mapwashing — threatens to undermine the democratizing, even radical potential of civic design.”

Finally, in March Lucas Crawford published ‘The Crumple and the Scrape‘ a personal “meditation on texture as a vector for genderqueer experience“.

As Lucas argues

It is well-accepted that we observe (and intervene in) the gendering and sexualizing of the visual through the symbolism of color. We must add: we can observe the gendering and sexualizing of the haptic via the symbolism of texture.” Further explaining “This is not a call to develop an architecturally-focused list of verboten terminology. It is to propose a higher standard of writerly self-awareness. When you turn to a metaphor (Gehry is a Kardashian) or to hyperbolic diction (theatrical, gymnastic), ask yourself: what do I really want to say? Moreover, why do I want to say it without quite saying it? What conflations or refusals am I permitting myself with this … coyness?