Recently in Places

Two published this month;

Daegan Miller, On the liberation cartography of Henry David Thoreau, which concludes

It is tempting to read Thoreau’s river survey as a satirical anti-map, a snide rejection of disciplinary pretension that leaves its viewer wallowing in relativism. How could anyone measure anything with a tripolar scale whose differing notions of what an inch is babble over each other? But irony is only one of the tropes that Thoreau drew on. He was always more interested in improvement than deconstruction, and his countermodern map is affirming in its self-aware subjectivity, its desire to picture Concord as situated in a landscape teeming with life and human usage. This was a political choice. If Baldwin’s and Perham’s Concord River is anonymous and untouched and dead, an ahistorical space that denies change, a river that can be manipulated and controlled; then all those notes pinpointing where the plants grew, all those piles of figures and ghosts of surveys past, make of Thoreau’s a deep map — a view of an impressively interconnected world where nature, commerce, culture, history, and imagination all grow together — something nonfungible and specific: a full, a wild land living at once beyond and beneath the confined landscape of the town’s grasping improvers, both agricultural and industrial, who, despite their superficial differences, ultimately agreed that the best use of a river is to turn a profit.

Lizzie Yarina on Negotiating rhetorics and imaginaries of climate resilience, wherein she examines four large cities in Southeast Asia facing major climate risks: Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok. As she explains

Across Southeast Asia, infrastructures (often at incredible scales) are promoted as the answer to climate and environmental risks. Importantly, these projects provide an image of resilience, even if the actual merits are uncertain. But when I spoke with technical experts on the ground in these four cities, they emphasized the gap between what is attractive and what is needed….But the deeper and more insidious problem is that the technocratic language of climate adaptation rationalizes mass evictions….Too often, global media and institutions measure the impact of disasters by their monetary cost, rather than by the number of lives lost or impaired. We must ask, then, whether climate change adaptation is framed through the same lens. Do resilience projects truly alleviate risks for those who are most vulnerable to floods, storms, and heat? Or do they protect investments and foster speculative development by global elites? When adaptation planning is sponsored by developers or international banks, these categories become blurry. 


re: #climateurbanism #PortlandME #MadisonWI et al.

From the NYT we read Where can you escape the harshest effects of climate change?

The Northeast and Midwest are going to have plenty of water, and they’re not going to be subject to coastal flood issues…from a climate perspective, Boise outranked Denver and other Southwestern cities

“Glitches, Flash Crashes, and Very Bad Futurists”…


Last fall, Vincent deBritto and Ozayr Saloojee invited Rob Holmes to come visit their Resilient Infrastructures project at the University of Minnesota; his main contribution was to deliver the lecture above. The lecture examines a particular class of landscape problem, which he has provisionally described as “glitches and flash crashes”, argues that this kind of problem reveals a potentially (literally) disastrous flaw in the project of distributed design, and concludes by recommending that architects and landscape architects draw on the tools and methodologies of the discipline of futurism to become better futurists.


Steve Lansing on Bali’s water temples

Steve Lansing, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, discusses the Byzantine system for the distribution of water from a volcanic lake in Bali to over two hundred farming villages. Known as subak’s  are a type of water management (irrigation) system for paddy fields on Bali island, Indonesia. For Balinese, irrigation is not simply providing water for the plant’s roots, but water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem.[1] Paddy fields in Bali were built around water temples and the allocation of water is made by a priest. the system has been in use since the 12th century, and is an example of an egalitarian and sustainable (still in use) hydraulic infrastructure. What is particular interesting about the system however, is the relationship between ritual/religious and the engineered landscape(s). As Professor Lansing notes “It’s one of the few functioning, ancient democratic institutions that we know about. It’s kind of beautiful”.

amphibious or waterscape urbanism?

In an article for the Christian Science Monitor, Denis D Gray examines the the cutting-edge field of aqua-architecture. Examining projects in countries including the Maldives, Thailand and of course the Netherlands, Gray discovers that in order to prepare, for the already growing effects of sea-level rise and future climate change, these littoral countries are exploring new models.

To me the idea of a urbanism or architecture that is resilient and flexible enough to absorb/respond to this new situation seems to me more about the middle ground of both earth and sea, thus the use of the term littoral. However, in the article Danai Thaitakoo, a Thai landscape architect perhaps drawing on recent academic currents uses a different term. He explains “Climate change will require a radical shift within design practice from the solid-state view of landscape urbanism to the more dynamic, liquid-state view of waterscape urbanism“.

Yet, for me the term “waterscape urbanism” more readily recalls the post-war dreams of Japanese and Americans architects, for entire marine cities, to which the piece earlier alludes. Although the point, may simply be a semantic one, lost in translation.