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 Moral├ęs 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.