The Production of Space

“[Agree To All] offers an immersive but unsettling glimpse of how the future urban experience might look like for some, with smooth, frictionless landscapes, smart technologies in control and elite access to differentiated services. […] Whether a city will look like this or not, it will invariably be a part of a very unequal ‘winner-takes-all’ societies, which ‘thrive on debt and cheap money and the quick and massive burning of fossil fuels’. It’s in this kind of society that half of our cities will still have to be built […] We wonder however – what if these ‘alternative urban configurations’ don’t materialize? What if the dystopian imagination in the opening installation becomes reality? Let’s imagine what that city would look like.”

“Hajer writes that ‘real estate has given rise to an ever more speculative economy, especially during the last couple of decades. Instead of social need, it focused on the opportunity to make money on offices, shopping malls and housing for the upper class’. It did indeed, and cities of the future will see an even more powerful real estate sector and the increasing influence of the corporate sector on the production of space in general. This also means that decisions made democratically will gradually be replaced by decisions taken in corporate board rooms. Likewise urban interventions with a social or cultural dimension will increasingly be replaced by projects that produce the highest possible financial return.

“Money made in the real estate sector, but also elsewhere in the city, will quickly leave and end up in the hands of a few, and most likely in some tax havens as well. The urban economy will rapidly become an ‘extractive economy’, as Hajer calls them. Cities will increasingly open themselves up for extraction, competing for global flows of money through city-marketing campaigns aimed at foreign investors and visitors. This will result in a race to the bottom, and erode social and cultural capital at the local level. A crucial development allowing this extractive economy to expand is the continuing flexibilisation of the housing market. State-owned or rent-controlled housing is being rapidly sold off, providing investors with a host of new opportunities. The simultaneous elimination of housing rights allows for a quicker succession of rent hikes and will further consolidate the position of large real estate owners.”

Text: What the city of the future looks like if we don’t change course, Failed Architecture.

Pic: Eliel Saarinen’s Munkkiniemi–Haaga town plan. Aerial view from the north.

Our Grandparents Had A Future

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analemma-tower-clouds-architecture-office-conceptual-supertall-skyscrapers_dezeen_2364_col_3“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition”

Text: William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Pics: “In a bid to get around terrestrial height restrictions, Clouds Architecture Office has proposed suspending the world’s tallest skyscraper from an asteroid, leaving residents to parachute to earth.New York-based Clouds Architecture Office drew up plans for Analemma Tower to “overturn the established skyscraper typology” by building not up from the ground but down from the sky by affixing the foundations to an orbiting asteroid.”Harnessing the power of planetary design thinking, it taps into the desire for extreme height, seclusion and constant mobility,” said the architects, who have previously drawn up proposals for space transportation and a 3D-printed ice house on Mars.”If the recent boom in residential towers proves that sales price per square foot rises with floor elevation, then Analemma Tower will command record prices, justifying its high cost of construction.”- Supertall skyscraper hangs from orbiting asteroid in Clouds Architecture Office concept, Dezeen.

New Safe Confinement

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“World leaders jostle with global executives and anonymous men dressed in full camouflage as platters of shrimp, foie gras and cheesecake are passed around by white-gloved staff. It would all seem quite normal were it not for the fact that we’re just 100m (330ft) away from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history.

“A hospitality tent has been erected just inside the gates of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Pripyat in Ukraine. The tent has many windows, to ensure everyone gets a good view of what’s about to happen.

“These guests are here to witness the final stage of a 30-year clean-up job that has been underway, on and off, since one of the plant’s reactors exploded in 1986. The Chernobyl disaster still casts a pall over nuclear power. And other serious accidents, such as that at Fukushima in Japan in 2011 – the only other incident to be classified a maximum Level 7 in the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale – are weighed against it.

“It also set in train a series of measures to ensure nuclear safety around the world. Now the whole site is about to be encased inside a vast structure known as the sarcophagus, sealing in some of the most dangerous waste material in the world for at least 100 years.

“The behemoth 35,000 tonne structure beside us has spent the past few days inching along a set of purpose built tracks towards its final destination. This sarcophagus – or New Safe Confinement (NSC) – is taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger than Wembley stadium. But what it resembles most is a very large metal shed.

“Its appearance belies its historic importance, however. The NSC is not only the largest object people have ever moved, it’s also a symbol of what we can achieve when the stakes are highest.”

Text: A Vast New Tomb for the Most Dangerous Waste In The World, BBC.com

Pic: Field of Thorns, “But what if the day in question is not today, not tomorrow, but 24,000 years from now, when no known languages are spoken? What if the enemy is not some foreign power, but an ancient civilization? And what if the great threat to human life is no longer a bomb dropping down from above but waste creeping up from below? Will art come to our rescue then?” -WILL ART SAVE OUR DESCENDANTS FROM RADIOACTIVE WASTE?, JSTOR Daily

A Matter of Time

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“As Iraqi forces continue their military operation to take Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), another equally important battle to save the Mosul Dam, located 60km north of Mosul, is under way. After six months of frantic security and logistical preparations, an Italian company has kicked off the repair works to beef up the dam, under the protection of five hundred Italian soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

“The Italian company,TREVI, will have about 18 months to prevent the foundations of the dam from plunging deeper underground, averting an impending catastrophe. Experts warn that if the dam collapses, up to 11.11 billion cubic-metres of water known as Lake Dahuk, will submerge Mosul and create an inundation that will affect the lives of millionsof people living along the banks of the Tigris river.

“I don’t know if it’s a race against time, but we have the know-how and the technology to make the dam safe for the time-being,” said a company source on the phone, on condition of anonymity for security reasons…

[…]

“But scientists say the repairs are just a temporary solution and that the Iraqi population should get ready to evacuate the Tigris’ banks. “No matter how much grouting and maintenance the company will do, it may expand the life span of the dam, but it is just going to delay the disaster,” said Nadhir al-Ansari, professor of water resources and environmental engineering at Lulea University in Sweden and a published expert on the Mosul Dam.

“Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ansari said the 3.4km-long dam, the fourth largest in the Middle East, is built on unstable grounds and its collapse is inevitable. “It is just a matter of time. It will be worse than throwing a nuclear bomb on Iraq,” Ansari said.”

Text: Mosul Dam collapse ‘will be worse than a nuclear bomb’, Al Jazeera.

Image: Thomas Hart Benton, Flood Disaster, 1951

Unknown Fields

“The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design research studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to bear witness to alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These distant landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine, are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. In such a landscape of interwoven narratives, the studio uses film and animation to chronicle this network of hidden stories and re-imagine the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. Here we are both visionaries and reporters, part documentarians and part science fiction soothsayers as the otherworldly sites we encounter afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.Previous expeditions include; The Texaco oil fields of the Ecuadorian Amazon; the Galapagos Islands; Area 51 and other US military outposts; A Container Ship across the South China Sea; Madagascar’s ‘wild west’ sapphire pits, The frozen Arctic sea ice, far north Alaska; The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine; Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the gold fields of the Western Australian outback and Rare earth mining in Bayan Obo, Inner Mongolia.”

Video & text: Unknown Fields.

A Sidewalk War

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“A sidewalk war has erupted in Lower Manhattan.

“Paul Proulx is caught in the middle of it. Just to get to his apartment in the financial district, he has to contend with hordes of commuters and selfie-snapping tourists clogging narrow sidewalks. But these are the least of his problems.

“Security barriers around landmarks and key government posts send him in circles if he forgets to plan ahead. Scaffolding stretches above him in an impenetrable line, ensuring that the walk home is dark and claustrophobic. He is not even safe on his side of the curb. Delivery trucks routinely park on the sidewalk as if they own it.

“If that was not enough, there is the trash. Supersize contractor bags of smelly, leaking garbage are stacked up to 10-feet high outside gleaming high-rise towers, ready to topple over on someone who is not paying attention, or is just really unlucky.

“We fight every day for every square inch,” said Mr. Proulx, 44, a land-use lawyer and soft-spoken father of three who moved to the area from Brooklyn in 2007.

[…]

“We have turned a corner out of the challenges we faced in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and we’ve gone much farther than I think a lot of us ever would’ve imagined already,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a meeting called “Getting Ready for Nine Million New Yorkers” hosted by Crain’s last month in Midtown Manhattan. “And this growth has been extraordinary.”

“Still, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, added that the “pathway to nine million” would not be easy. “It will come with challenges to say the least,” he said. “We all are experiencing the congestion in this city, and that is in part because we are victims of our own success.”

“Roughly seven out of eight neighborhoods now have more residents than in 1990, according to an analysis of census data by Queens College using neighborhood boundaries as defined by the city’s Planning Department.

“The biggest change was in Lower Manhattan-Battery Park City, which gained 30,502 residents for a total of 42,485 in 2014, up 255 percent from 1990.

“Crowding exists in other parts of the city,” said Patrick Kennell, 40, a lawyer who is also a member of the Financial District Neighborhood Association. “But it’s unique here because of the sheer amount of development that has happened post-9/11.”

Text: Downside of Lower Manhattan’s Boom: It’s Just Too Crowded, The New York Times.

Pic: Soylent Green, 1973.

Displacement Hotspots

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Data from the Sentinel-1 satellites acquired between 22 February 2015 and 20 September 2016 show that Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking by about 40 mm a year in the ‘line of sight’ – the direction that the satellite is ‘looking’ at the building. This translates into a vertical subsidence of almost 50 mm a year, assuming no tilting. The coloured dots represent targets observed by the radar. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets. Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015–16) / ESA SEOM INSARAP study / PPO.labs / Norut / NGU

“The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the centre of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimetres a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe.

“Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.

“To probe these subtle shifts, scientists combined multiple radar scans from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 twin satellites of the same area to detect subtle surface changes – down to millimetres. The technique works well with buildings because they better reflect the radar beam.

“It is also useful for pinpointing displacement hotspots over large areas, thanks to Sentinel-1’s broad coverage and frequent visits.

“Working with ESA, the team from Norut, PPO.labs and Geological Survey of Norway have also mapped other areas in the wider San Francisco Bay Area that are moving. These include buildings along the earthquake-prone Hayward Fault, as well as subsidence of the newly reclaimed land in the San Rafael Bay.

“An uplift of the land was detected around the city of Pleasanton, possibly from the replenishment of groundwater following a four-year drought that ended in 2015.
Text and Pic: Satellites confirm sinking of San Francisco tower, Physics.org