In the past decade or so many articles have been written and promising careers made by speculating on the potential of landscape and architecture for remaking infrastructure. The movement has even given rise to the “emerging field” of landscape urbanism, home of such new school luminaries as Chris Reed, Liat Margolis, Pierre Belanger, and Kate Orff. This movement, coinciding nicely with the rise of web 2.0 and parametric design capabilities, have given bldg blog and pruned a fertile field to plow. Budding young academics have taken the mandate to make beautiful, bombastic drawings about just how fun and beautiful things will be if we make all infrastructure social.
The adoption of this mindset is now ubiquitous to the point of becoming almost passe [sic]. Every thesis from Penn or Harvard deals with this subject, and the revolution is coming to a university near you. Despite all of this attention, the treatment of this new design paradigm is still largely superficial and celebratory, with little effort being made to discuss the real implications of a newly social/ecological infrastructure. And so we end up with proposals like a new water infrastructure for the city of Chicago that conjures images of the White City, or the remaking of the notorious Gowanus Canal into a neighborhood amenity that resembles the banks of the Sienne. Everything is beautiful and clean and new, except for the old things which are preserved as pretty relics.
Now, I should offer up here that most of the people making these proposals are much-esteemed and putting out intelligent work. However, the tone of the writings and renderings tend to be one of placation as opposed to provocation (Julie Barmann et al not included). There is a reticence to admit the fact that most of these operations they propose to incorporate into social urban spaces are messy. In fact almost any place where work is done is messy, be it a healthy forest floor where bacteria decompose the detritus of the previous growing season or a concrete plant. Yet, when designers claim they can take the stormwater infrastructure of a city and daylight it, making it a cultural amenity for all to experience we end of with projects like this.
Now, the above project riles me up. I love the idea, but the renderings are disingenuous. continue reading at faslanyc.blogspot.com
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