2/05/2014

News: Call for competition, Conditions Magazine, Designing for Free Speech, Bracket 4, two suggestions to read

My deepest apology for not having posted for a long while. I'm working on a draft on designing coastal regions in the age of technology, storms, flooding, and sea level rise. It's less a post on the topic of designing water-related regions than a point of view on four design research I found particularly relevant.

I profit to suggest two books that you may already have read. If not yet:
Spoil Island: Reading the Makeshift Archipelago by Charlie Hailey. I don't remember whether mammoth, Free Association Design, Landscape Archipelago, or maybe bldg blog talked about the book. Anyway, I warmly suggest its read. A spoil island is an "overlooked place that combine[s] dirt with paradise, waste-land with 'brave new world,' and wildness with human intervention" as the author describes. I found this book very interesting. In particular this statement: "to examine the marginalized topography of spoil islands is to understand emergent concerns of twenty-first-century place-making, public space, and natural and artificial infrastructure."  An abstract:
On our passage along the chain of spoil islands, we are able to read the topographic record of their formation. Islands closer to the shore, and consequently in shallower water, are higher because dredging was deeper. Vegetation on the islands diminishes along with contour, and the last is marl and sand. From above, you would see the clarity of the tapering archipelago's plan, with islands larger in area closer to land, and the last seaward mark visible as a spectral bank or reef just below the water's surface. Angled a few degrees south of due wet, the datum that controls this island chain's incipient logic is the channel that also hints at this area's unlikely history as an industrial landscape. The channel is the terminus of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, partially dredged between 1964 and 1971. The consistency of its controlling depth and width yields greater volume of excavated material in she shallower waters closer to shore. History is made legible in topography.
The second suggested book is Out of Mountains. The Coming Age of Urban Guerrilla by David Kilcullen, an Australian strategist, counterinsurgency expert, and founder of Caerus Associates, a strategy and design consulting firm. If you want a longer review on the book, I suggest to read Geoff Manaugh's article on Gizmodo.
As I wrote on Goodreads, I read Out of Mountains in the light of landscape-architecture-planning. While I admit I have no knowledge on military strategy, this book nonetheless is worth reading. Out of Mountains is on future conflicts and future (coastal) cities. With a population growth, a littoralization of the world and a displacement of conflicts toward coastal cities, Kilcullen calls for a new approach to designing coastal regions. Rapid urbanization of coastal regions, if not well-planned, well-controlled, could trigger a series of interlinked complexities from urban poverty, floodings, through other anthropogenic and natural pressures. In particular in low-income countries, but not only. A particularity, given these factors I mentioned, lies on the connectivity of these areas: each house is equipped with satellite TV, cell phone and the Internet generating a complex network of coastal cities. As the author argues, these three trends, that is, population growth, littoralization and connectedness, will be making our world more complex as well as more open, more unpredictable as well as likely more violent with an increase in tension at small scale but with a global repercussion. I am certain those with a strong interest in military strategy will appreciate this book.
Needless to say that the active agent/landscape-architect-urban designer-planner-infrastructuralist has a precious role to play in proposing a more holistic, resilient, integrated approach to designing coastal regions. This is one of the messages that the book delivers, at least the message that concerns my interest. An abstract:
Thus, just as climate projections don't say much about tomorrow's weather, projections of current trends say little about future wars. But they do suggest a range of conditions — a set of system parameters, or a 'conflict climate' — within which those wars will arise. This because, as the anthropologist Harry Turney-High suggested more than thirty years ago, social, economic, political, and communications arrangements influence war making so profoundly that "warfare is social organization." Thus, the specifics of a particular war may be impossible to predict, but the parameters within which any future war will occur are entirely knowable, since wars are bounded by conditions that exist now, and are thus eminently observable in today's social, economic, geographic, and demographic climate.
If we accept this idea, along with the fact that war has been endemic to roughly 95 percent of all known human societies throughout history and prehistory, it follows that warfare is a central probably a permanent human social institution, one that tends (by its very nature as a human activity) mainly to occur where the people are. This is especially true of nonstate conflicts (guerrilla, tribal, and civil wars, or armed criminal activity such as banditry and gang warfare), which tend to happen near or within the areas where people live, or on major routes between population centers. And it follows that since the places where people live are getting increasingly crowded, urban, coastal and networked, the wars people fight will take on the same characteristics.
We can summarize the conflict climate in terms of four drivers, sometimes called megatrends, that are shaping and defining it. These are population growth (the continuing rise in the planet's total population), urbanization (the tendency for people to live in larger and larger cities), littoralization (the propensity for these cities to cluster on coastlines), and connectedness (the increasing connectivity among people, wherever they live). None of these trends is new, but their pace is accelerating, they're mutually reinforcing, and their intersection will influence not just conflict but every aspect of future life.
This book could be an interesting subtopic for Conditions Magazine's discussion on architecture in this new era, as is proposed in its 13th issue 'The End of the Beginning'.
As I announced several months ago, I wrote a piece, an editorial for the 13th issue of this Norwegian magazine. My piece discussed architecture's vulnerability to the techno-culturo-climatic-ecological shift. I will post an abstract of my piece later this week. This issue 'The End of the Beginning" is more like an open issue, a platform to discuss architecture's reaction to future, to uncertainty and, of course, the status of architectural practice today and in the future. I've not read the other contributors' piece yet. Conditions Magazine has gathered a set of editorials by Neyran Turan, José Vela Castillo, Rebekah Schaberg, Anna Ulak (see also her blog The Architecture of Villains), Rachel Armstrong, dpr-barcelona (and of course their blog), Superpool, Marco Vanucci, Thomas Mical, Brendan Cormier (and Volume Magazine), Ole Moystad, NTNU, Johanne Borthne, Davide Tommaso Ferrando, Dan Handel, Philippe Rahm, Patrik Schumacher (and of course), Arno Schlüter and Sasha Cisar, Clark M. Thenhaus, Pavlina Lucas, Rutger Huiberts, Edgar Gonzalez, Joanna Grant, Julia Sedlock, Ylva Frid, Martin Abbott, Mauro Gil-Fournier, and me (Annick Labeca).

This said, a call for competition for 'Designing for Free Speech. Re-imagining spaces in New York City as Places for Free Speech, Assembly, and Creative Expression' launched by Theatrum Mundi, in partnership with the AIA New York. The aim is to transform New York City spaces into places for public demonstration, "to re-imagining and idealizing existing spaces that have the potential for animating the public, especially spaces that are not traditionally considered in this frame". This call for competition is not limited to architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners. It concerns other fields: activism, performers and "any other perspectives that have a relevant impact on the new design approach."

Below four items that may help you:
Is the space publicly-owned or privately-owned?
Is the space flexible for many public uses?
Is it open 24 hours a day?
Is it anchored by uses that attract movement throughout the day?

Well, if you're inspired by this call for competition, if you want to participate, you can have further information on their website Designing for Free Speech.

And this call for competitions reminds me another call, this time, for submissions.
Bracket has launched a call for submissions for its fourth issue Takes Action. Starting from Markus Miessen's quote: "When humans assemble, spatial conflicts arise. Spatial planning is often considered the management of spatial conflicts." In this sense, Kilcullen's book Out of Mountains could be a very productive inspiration for this call for submissions.
Visit the website for a longer presentation of this call for submissions. This issue poses a series of questions that reinforces its political 'touch': what are the collective projects in the public realm to act on? How have recent design projects incited political or social action? How can design catalyze a public, as well as forums for that public to act? What is the role of spatial practice to instigate or resist public actions?
I'm not sure if this edition is particularly interested in the tight relation between architecture and activism or if it poses the question of criticism within design practice.
I, then, am reminded of Miessen's installation for the Biennale de Lyon, France, in 2007 (unfortunately the page is in French for those who don't speak French), a design-as-politics-typed of installation, entitled The Violence of Participation. His installation was a discursive space to allow a heterogeneous group of participants — from those accustomed to the public discussion — critic, politician, architect, social actors — to the 'unsolicited' participant (the people) — to trigger conversations on concepts of participation, the inconsistence between democratic concepts (agonism, for instance), and what it means to live in Europe today. This installation was prolonged with a book The Violence of Participation published in 2007 by Sternberg PressFrom what Position is One Talking? (a discussion between Markus Miessen, Ingo Niermann, Ralf Pflugfelder,  Tirdad Zolghadr, in The Violence of Participation) can be a good point of departure to participate to Bracket 4's Takes Action
This fourth edition is looking for design work and papers that "offer contemporary models of spatial design that are conscious of their public intent and actively engaged in socio-political conditions."
If you want to submit your piece, visit Bracket's website for further information, deadline, etc.


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