Friday, December 4, 2009

Cash Flow


This movie, which was recommended to me by Jessica (thanks!), portrays the global processes of water privatization. Quite an insightful documentary shedding light on how scarce this resource really is, even in places where we believe it is ample. Furthermore, it tells the stories of many communities around the world whose water resource was destroyed or their access to it denied by large corporations basing their operations on water extraction in these sources. These corporations are often promoting large development projects meant to 'resolve' water scarcity, where the reality is that water 'produced' through these operations is only available to those who can pay. The ethical question is then: who owns water? and Can water be sold as if it was private property? The issue is now relevant more than ever in the context of Israeli water crisis. As drought years become more frequent, underground resources and surface water are pumped at a substantially higher rate than they are replenished, the solution being promoted is extensive desalination. Not to mention the ecological issues of desalination and the enormous energy consumption these plants require, this an obvious trend towards privatization of the water sector. Desalination plants (providing 85% of domestic consumption) will be owned by private investors alongside the power plants enabling their activities. Negative impact on public beaches is an obvious drawback. Worse might be the reality that not all could afford water for everyday life. To put this in context, as of last month a new drought fee has been reinstated in Israel, whereby water allotment per person has decreased and surplus charges have gone up significantly. This means that for many, water bills have gone up by a ten fold. Gardening is no longer a viable choice, and many ordinary people need to consider if they can afford taking a shower, turning on the washer or having a glass of water. Will all this tax money go into desalination initiatives only to emerge as developer profit in the end of the day? A positive alternative is presented in "Flow", through localized initiatives of community members who start harvesting rainwater and treating wastewater locally, for the long term benefit of their communities.

To watch the preview- Flow preview
The full movie on DVD is available for loan at the Cambridge libraries.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Potential mapping

The 3 systems layered, overlapping with existing roads and borders.
(not sure why this uploads so strangely)

Water opportunities

Energy opportunities

Soil opportunities

In the next few weeks I will be compiling information on rainwater collection systems in arid zones, to be used as a precedent and basis for the water system design. This seems to be the limiting factor of this hybrid system, and so needs to be resolved to establish the foundations or basic assumptions of the project. Later on the same approach will be applied to overlay the energy systems and the greenhouse agriculture. Hopefully the effective hybridization and appropriate form will then emerge...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dune city


An intriguing proposal by Magnus Larsson for a linear city made of solidified sand dunes acting as a sand shield across the Sahara desert. Larsson is proposing using a special bacteria which will solidify the sand and produce habitable and arable cavity structures which will help stop the rapid movement of dunes thus combating the effects of further desertification.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Networks, cities and trees


Occupying and connecting. Frei Otto. 2009. P.51

The image above is provided by Otto in support of his argument that human spontaneous networks of urbanity follow similar patterns to ones formed in nature through the structures of leaves, insect colonies or soap bubbles. The attractive part of this argument has to do with an energy analysis. Since none of these networks mentioned is formally planned, their form is the outcome of an evolutionary process favouring systems with a minimal energy path or more accurately an energetic equilibrium. In a similar manner our own organic non-planned communities, such as medieval villages follow those patterns, which minimize energy expenditure. This may lead us to one of two possible conclusions: 1. we need not bother with urban planning, as the emergent self organization would take care of itself in the most efficient way, or 2. our planning should be informed by these processes and at best imitate their operations to 'become one with nature'.


Network types by Paul Baran, developer of the distributed communication network system, early 1960's

In criticism of some of these interpretations, as well as his own earlier assumptions, Christopher Alexander's article from 1965, "A city is not a tree", claims that the tree (or centralized, hierarchical) structure is simplistic, limited and limiting when applied to city planning. Alexander argues that our current needs embody a higher level of complexity than the tree structure permits. He proposes a three dimensional 'semilattice' network (not unlike the distributed system above) which allows for multiple overlapping to occur, as well as provides non hierarchical means of connectivity. Although published almost half a century ago, these ideas may still prove relevant especially with our growing familiarity with distributed complex communication networks such as the Internet. As we develop our social network understanding in a more distributed way, the question still remains: how does this affect city planning? Is the omnipresent grid laid out obliterating any landscape and context the way to go? Minimal energy path tree structure with its obvious limitations? Or could (and should...) the semilattice network materialize and be manifested beyond the virtual world? I would love to get some comments on these issues from anyone out there..


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

format options

Format 1-

Format 2-


The three column option seems more flexible, it allows better variation between text and images, so I may be leaning towards that direction. Though it doesn't quite sit right yet, any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

tighten her up

Abstract take IV, similar to the third version, slightly tighter. Still needs work. Some design input will be useful...


Terrain Vague-

“When architecture and urban design project their desire onto a vacant space, a terrain vague, they seem incapable of doing anything other than introducing violent transformations, changing estrangements into citizenship, and striving at all costs to dissolve the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete in the efficacy.” -Ignasi Moralés Rubio

The term ‘Terrain Vague’, commonly interpreted as ‘Wasteland’, is most often used when referring to reclamation of abandoned or non developed sites within a dense urban fabric. The desert’s genius Loci embodies this dual quality of the ‘Terrain Vague’; it is an ambiguous territory, conceived as void of all life while at the same time impregnated with sublime qualities and the imminent potential for a genuine, even cosmic existence.

Unlike the city condition, where the ‘Terrain Vague’ lifts its head underneath a carpet of urbanity, in localized and isolated exceptions, the vastness of the terrain dominates the desert and patches of urbanity are an anomaly. Nevertheless, in a similar manner we aim to conquer the wilderness, establish boundaries, order mechanisms and control devices enabling the annihilation of the void. In fact, this act is in the very essence of architectural utopianism.

However, the desert is not truly a void, nor has it been so in the past. It is a realm of ample history and presence of natural and human life. Desertification processes are affecting a fifth of the world population, and further regions are developing increased vulnerability to aridity. In Israel, the Negev desert, accounts for 2/3 of the land area. It is a site of continuous environmental and social experimentation, situated in the southern blind spot of Israel. Existing practices of settlement and resource management, particularly water and energy infrastructures may reach an inevitable end in the wake of an escalating global energy crisis, and trends of climate weirding. Nevertheless, there exists an innate and often disregarded capacity in the desert for solar energy generation, water collection and livelihood. This thesis aims to unveil these embedded potentials through developing an understanding of the ecological, cultural & political dimensions of the systems in question, and their interactions.

Under the conviction that aggression towards the environment and towards other human beings is rooted in a similar affliction, this work aspires for a relationship of empathy between the land and its inhabitants. It wishes to highlight the often neglected qualities of the desert via a proposal for a hybrid of solar, water, greenhousing & urban infrastructural system with the natural system of Wadi Pharan. The system proposed is intended to capitalize on the qualities of this unique territory, while resisting its violent abuse.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pharan floods- site I


First try at mapping wadi Pharan seasonal variations and flooding patterns. This is the first site out of 3 which I am planning to map. Each site has a different condition in terms of the workings of the wadi. At this site, site I the wadi intersects with the Jordanian border, the Jordan rift valley (Arava in Hebrew) and road 90. This is also the only place along the wadi which is currently populated. As seen in the maps, the small settlement placed to the south of the wadi is Moshav Pharan named after the wadi. The moshav, consisting about 100 families, was founded in 1971 as a Kibbutz and then converted into a moshav structure. Meaning there is still collaboration on agricultural activities, yet other aspects of life are managed individually. The moshav relies on agriculture export for its source of income, mostly flowers and peppers, which are grown in the extensive greenhouses seen above. Some families run dairy farms, and recently solar fields are promoted as an upcoming source of income.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ephemeral lake



Winner of UNCCD2009 international photography contest on themes of global desertification. Indian photographer Chetan Soni capturing an Indian girl fetching water from a distance, walking through the now dry bed of lake Kal Bhairav.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mapping the unknown


Ancient courses of the Mississippi River meander belt.
Harold N.Fisk, 1944


Looking now at 'Mississippi Floods' by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha.
This book is an interesting and beautifully executed mapping essay by the authors documenting and synthesizing maps, surveys, photography, paintings and models of the Mississippi river and its varying Meanders, Flows, Banks & Beds.

Mapping as the first act of agency, seeks to create order in the undefinable. An entity as powerful as a river or a wadi, which is also inconstantly changing and is manifested in a scale beyond human comprehension both in time and space is not simply harnessed. The map, as a base for the plan is an extremely powerful mechanism in defining the existing, forgetting the unwanted and prophesying the future.

I am now struggling with how to map wadi Pharan, on which little information is available. This is a crucial moment which has implications on the argument, the organization of information and ultimately the proposal. The scarcity of existing information on itself is evidence of an alternate set of priorities, favoring certain investigations than others. From a more positive standpoint, finding that appropriate 'voice' to a map enables a more sensitive interaction.

"The elusiveness of these terrains has not stopped the corps from pursuing their definition. The efforts of the corps have resulted in interventions that match the Mississippi in magnificence. These interventions have an impact not only on the river but on larger lands of the Mississippi's making. They also bring life to these lands, forcing them into the inexhaustible gray zone between man and river that marks the lower Mississippi landscape." (p.9)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Terrain Vague

The thesis abstract is now going through major modifications, which in turn brought about a new title for the blog and potentially the thesis itself. For now, I am satisfied with 'Terrain Vague' as a working title, which I feel is a better representation of the content in question. Here is take 3 of the working abstract:


Terrain Vague- a desert survival kit

“When architecture and urban design project their desire onto a vacant space, a terrain vague, they seem incapable of doing anything other than introducing violent transformations, changing estrangements into citizenship, and striving at all costs to dissolve the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete in the efficacy.” -Ignasi Moralés Rubio

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Than we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism.” -Walter Benjamin/ Illuminations

The term ‘Terrain Vague’, commonly interpreted as ‘Wasteland’, is most often used when referring to reclamation of abandoned or non developed sites within a dense urban fabric. The desert’s genius Loci embodies this dual quality of the ‘Terrain Vague’; it is an ambiguous territory, both void of all life and hope while at the same time impregnated with sublime qualities and the imminent potential for a genuine, even cosmic existence.

Unlike the city condition, where the ‘Terrain Vague’ lifts its head underneath a carpet of urbanity, in localized and isolated exceptions, the vastness of the terrain rules the desert and patches of urbanity are an anomaly. Nevertheless, in a similar manner we aim to conquer the wilderness, establish boundaries, order mechanisms and control devices enabling the annihilation of the void. In fact, this act is in the very essence of architectural utopianism.

Despite an abundance of constructed memories, the desert, as other colonized territories is not truly a void, nor has it been so in the past. It is a world of ample history and presence of natural and human life. At present, the Negev desert, comprising 60% of the land area is a site of continuous experimentation, situated in the southern blind spot of Israel. In the wake of an escalating global energy crisis, and trends of climate weirding, numerous other regions are developing vulnerability to aridity. Nevertheless, there exists an innate and often disregarded capacity in the desert for solar energy, water collection and livelihood. In order to survive and prosper under these harsh circumstances, we ought to become increasingly more educated on the inner workings of this ecosystem while reconsidering our previous value systems.

Under the conviction that aggression towards the environment and towards other human beings is rooted in a similar affliction (Shezaf), this thesis aspires for a relationship of empathy with the land and its inhabitants. It wishes to highlight the often neglected qualities of the desert. The thesis proposes a hybrid of infrastructural systems with the natural system of Wadi Pharan. The system proposed is intended to capitalize on the qualities of this unique territory, while resisting its violent abuse.




Monday, August 31, 2009

a 1000 wells


Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.

"Isaura, city of the thousand wells, is said to rise over a deep, subterranean lake. On all sides, wherever the inhabitants dig long vertical holes in the ground, they succeed in drawing up water, as far as the city extends, and no farther. Its green border repeats the dark outline of the buried lake; an invisible landscape conditions the visible one; everything that moves in the sunlight is driven by the lapping wave enclosed beneath the rock's calcareous sky.
Consequently two forms of religion exist in Isaura. The city's gods, according to some people, live in the depths, in the black lake that feeds the underground streams. According to others, the gods live in the buckets that rise, suspended from a cable, as they appear over the edge of the wells, in the revolving pullyes, in the windlasses of the norias, in the pump handles, in the blades of the windmills that draw the water up from the drillings, in the trestles that support the twisting probes, in the reservoirs perched on stilts over the roofs, in the slender arches of the aquducts, in all the columns of water, the verticle pipes, the plungers, the drains, all the way up to the weathercrocks that surmount the airy scaffoldings of Isaura, a city that movesentirely upward."

From: Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino




Venice, Italy

While I am well aware that 'Invisible Cities' has been quoted to death, in any imaginable context, this excerpt seems so relevant to the Wadi condition, I just couldn't resist, so bear with me while I get it out of my system.

As Marco Polo is describing the wonders of Venice to Kublai Khan, each time as if it were an entirely different city, I can't help but remembering the wonder I felt sitting in a Venetian Piazza, wondering if it would have been such a great public place if it weren't for the fountains in the center. Since most of them are today out of use, thanks to modern sanitation systems, one is kept wondering, what could replace these ancient wells. What would be a current necessity of the urban infrastructural kind, that doubles as a mechanism for the creation of a public realm. It has to do with need. Of course, the necessity preceded the emergence of a public space, I imagine these places became Piazzas because people congregated there to draw water from the well. Nevertheless, the symbiosis works tremendously well. With regards to the two gods of Isaura- one of them is the natural system; the lake or the wadi. The other is the man-made infrastructure that enables the use of the natural resource. One can not exist without the other. Both combined enable the prosperous life in Isaura. A depleted lake would not sustain a city, no matter how ingenious its infrastructure may be. The wadi alone, without a mechanism to manage its flows, can bring loss and devastation, with proper flood management and water harvesting it could be a source of desert livelihood.


Neve Tzedek, Tel-Aviv, Israel




Ein-Karem, Jerusalem, Israel

Friday, August 21, 2009

directions

Unrelated yet informative...



This is borrowed from:
http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/
a site well worth exploring for its abundance of random maps, revealing unsuspected trends, which are of curious interest.
As a side note on mapping- I realize more and more how mapping carries with it a very particular kind of deceiving agency. This is the kind of agency that does not own up to its own impact. The author of a map, much like the author of an excerpt in the museum, remains anonymous. Thus his narrative is transformed to an uncontested truth. The agency of mapping has the power to rewrite the memory of our past, be a focal lens of the present and direct the construction of the future. All this, while camouflaged as a tracing of reality.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

arid waters

Now you can view this video at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLyXlpZThTE

Monday, August 17, 2009

hot, flat and crowded



What better day than today to be reading 'Hot, flat and crowded' by Thomas L.Friedman... Summer is upon us in full fierce, and even if only for 3 days, in Canada too we comprehend, by the pores of our skin, what difference only a few degrees make. Now imagine this as a daily average for 4-5 months of the year. Imagine 10 degrees more during reoccurring heatwaves. Imagine very little shade, no air conditioning and depleting water resources. For many this is the current state of reality. For many more (estimated by Friedman at about 5 billion) it will become so by 2050. The good news are that Canada, North America and parts of Europe will likely not take much of the heat. The bad news is that we should still care. According to Friedman population is growing mostly in underdeveloped countries, which are also surprisingly close to the equator. The world is flattened by the internet and communication revolution, and all these billions of people who are soon to be born will want to turn on the light, drive a car and post on their blogs. So we then realize global growth is something we need to manage, since it can not be avoided. However, the effects of its carbon footprint, at its current emission rate, on global climate change may be well beyond our ability to set things right, once the process is beyond a certain tipping point. "Avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable", in Friedman's own words. Friedman's green revolution is not a revolution of feel good recycling and efficient light bulbs. It is an infrastructural revolution of global magnitudes. The goal is to avoid doubling CO2 emissions by 2050, while still supporting growth. One of the strategies suggested, as a part of a global solution, is to increase solar power seven-hundred fold and eliminate all coal fired power. Our 5 billion friends by the equator might be able to help with that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

lattice topographies


Experimentation with Lattice modifier in 3ds. Still need some help with global lighting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mx


MX reviews last week were quite useful in establishing new goals and resolving some contradicting trends. The outcome points towards a triple threaded infrastructural "package": solar energy, water harvesting + desalination, and greenhouse agriculture. The package would operate symbiotically with a wadi condition to promote desert survival and prosperity. The "package" system could then theoretically be applied as an infrastrcutural thread connecting existing communities, forming new ones, or potentially be free standing.