Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ecotopia Emerging – First Response + Questions to Consider!

Happy Hurricane Day, everyone!

Here is my first response and some thought-provoking questions regarding this week’s reading:

Chapter III from Ecology Emerging illustrates a number of speculative futuristic scenarios that examine ways in which humanity might interact with a variety of world environments. The scenarios include both purely aesthetic proposals as well as cases that are intended to serve specific functions in the changing and evermore important relationship between humanity and world ecosystems we live within. Some of the cases pay close attention to the engineering and the ecological sub-systems at play, while others suggest captivating scenarios that would likely never happen, but still raise interesting questions about our changing world, and how the human presence is affecting it.

Some of the proposals, such as The Transcendent City, suggest alternative futures where human consciousness is no longer responsible for moderating the relationship between the artificial and the natural. I found this speculative futuristic state particularly interesting. The Transcendent City suggests a future where “structures and circuits are seamlessly merged together to form a hierarchy of mechanical components that, when combined together, form an “autopoietic” machine.” Do you think that this future is possible? What would have to happen for this to come true?

The Freshwater Factory explores a potential solution for minimizing freshwater consumption. The project depicts a tall and narrow futuristic structure that is heavily inspired by the Buckminster Geodesic Dome. This proposal, though it is intended to serve a specific engineering function, pays strong attention to aesthetics. Many of the other project proposals similarly attempt to solve an engineering issue, but have incredibly elaborate architectural designs. In my mind, this raises the question, how important are the aesthetics of a design? Are many of these proposals feasible or are they too ambitious in their designs?

Climate change is a major theme that exists in many of these alternative futuristic environments.  Which projects seem like feasible solutions to the world’s changing environment? Which projects seem improbable and why? Do you think any of these project proposals that seem beneficial in theory might actually be counter-productive in reality?

Physical proximity of cultivating and transporting resources is a recurring theme in many of these projects. It seems that the world would be a much more efficient place if everybody lived in major cities, and all agriculture, livestock, and farming took place locally. Is this a reality? What would have to happen to the environment/world in order for this to be a necessary reality? How would this affect the psychology of people?

Overall, there is a strong sci-fi vibe to many of theses proposals. Do you think that science fiction plays a role in affecting real change in the world? Can you think of old examples of science fiction that are now a reality or seem like they could be soon? Which of these speculative future environments would you want to see come to life and why?

Hopefully we see each other on Wednesday.


Guerrilla gardening

Hey. here’s what I was talking about in class earlier. I posted these together with my reading replies, but the bunch disappeared.

Guerrilla gardening. When interviewed Richard Reynolds admitted that he “is not building big community gardens, growing food or hijacking neglected, privately owned land to critique the capitalist system. Instead, he is planting strictly ornamental arrangements of flowers and shrubs on roundabouts, roadsides, tree pits and other slivers of public land that have fallen into disrepair. He is fundamentally an aesthete. And at first glance, there’s a confounding innocence to it all.” Here’s the complete article

The reading reminded me of what I saw when I visited New York in 2010; an ‘instant’ garden at Spring St and Lafayette St. I first thought it was an “art” piece, but it turns out to be a form of Guerrilla Gardening of sorts.

“As seen here in the photos taken last night on the corner of Spring and Lafayette, the numerous white, empty advertising boards at street level—many illegal and now empty due to recent enforcement actions by the DOB—make perfect pop up parks; green graffiti if you will.” – nyctheblog

While the “instant” garden may not last, I feel that they’re a clever reminder about transforming privatized “public” spaces in our urban areas to something the public could enjoy.

Gardening in the public space

Artist Stephen Glassman created Urban Air. It seeks to subvert that daily alienation — one billboard at a time. The idea is pretty simple: Take disused billboards, remove the commercial facade, and install a living, breathing cloud forest of bamboo. Glassman’s current Kickstarter project is raising funds to implement a pilot forest high above an LA freeway. Click on the hyperlinks to watch the video.



Mary And The Grange

  • Utopian projects often fail because of the way in which they are executed. What, in your opinion, are projects that might have been successful had they been implemented in a different way? Would they be more cooperative? Non-hierarchical? Structured? Inclusive? Exclusive? What does it mean to “fail” or “succeed” as a utopian project?
  • How are Mary’s projects or The Grange enacting some of these past ideas? What are they doing differently? How are they benefitting from being part of this contemporary moment?
  • Looking at the work of both Mary and The Grange from the perspective of a Dystopian and Utopian views, I think it comes down to optimistic vs pessimistic, both are optimistic, but I believe the dividing line is, in Mary’s project she explores more of the possibilities of what the future might be, that what ifs which could be an excellent way to prevent what’s to come. it’s a strong project became it outline many of the problems we are faced with today. and if we could implement some of those ideas into The Grange, it would maybe help to address problems with hunger as Mary’s highlight displacement and homelessness. I think Mary’s project is for a great cause and might someday aid us well in the future. Non-Zero-sum found.
  • the reason I thing most Utopian projects fail is because they are not open to the community so everyone can contribute what they feel might be best for the group, it always a uniform based on one mans ideologies. so if your ideas aren’t open for debate no-one will ever see the mistakes until it’s too late. that’s the biggest lessen to be learned. no man is an island alone. everyone must be given a fair chance. and that doesn’t go in these Utopias. there can’t be any division.

Mary Mattingly reading response

Reading Response Questions:
  • Archigram, Buckminster Fuller, and other visionary architects are often critiqued for producing ideas that are impossible to execute. Do you think that this is a problem? What is the role of the visionary in society today? How might the impossibility of realization act as a strategy of resistance?
  • Utopian projects often fail because of the way in which they are executed. What, in your opinion, are projects that might have been successful had they been implemented in a different way? Would they be more cooperative? Non-hierarchical? Structured? Inclusive? Exclusive? What does it mean to “fail” or “succeed” as a utopian project?
  • How are Mary’s projects or The Grange enacting some of these past ideas? What are they doing differently? How are they benefitting from being part of this contemporary moment?
  • Mary Mattingly says she is less interested in utopia, which she describes as something that lives in our imagination, that she is in the idea of heterotopia, which Foucault described as environments where every day rules are turned upside down, like a brothel, or carnival. Mary said she tried to situate the Waterpod this way, as somewhere between real and imaginary, by designing it to be a modular system that was continuously able to change, to be constantly be new. From your research in the project, do you think that actually happened? What changes do you think could / should be made for her upcoming WetLand project to be more of a heterotopia?

Continue reading

Reading Response Oct. 17th

  1. I think that community gardens ONLY work in an urban context… The density is what makes it a thriving opportunity for life and interaction. In an urban context, people not only lack the space, but also the sense of place and belonging. Even though a city is full of people, people seem to get caught up in the daily grind of things and forget about what really makes us happy: human interaction. In an urban context we get swept away by ambition, success, and climbing up the social ladder. Human relationships start to become less about the people, but more about what they can do for you. Having a community garden puts people who visit it at an equal level, and inspires them to work together, regardless of race or social class, to achieve a common goal.  Like the reading stated: “…for the relief of the poor, the benefit of the rich, and the delight of all…”
  2. Guerilla gardening reminds me of how ABC NoRio was once a revolutionary act for community artists and squatters, but how the essence of it being “revolutionary” was lost once it was more commonly done. Maybe to some degree, we, as New Yorkers, are numb to the constant popping up of “new” and “radical” ideas.. that we are now numb to these new and radical ideas. However, the Guerrilla gardening as an act of defiance against capitalism and mainstream consumer culture was actually started as a result of the Depression “to provide a dignified way for people to work towards self-sufficiency.” While Guerrilla gardening’s origins are rooted out of necessity, it evolved into a political statement. It moved from something forced to something chosen.
  3. Globalization, globalization, globalization. This is what Fuller seems to be emphasizing. If he is not emphasizing the globalization of resources, he is emphasizing the globalization of information. In an era just briefly preceding the information age, his proposal seemed dream- like, but to some degree, what he wanted is already happening now. “Society’s subconsciously established confidence in the computer” is carried on even today. However, just as the grassroots movement is taking a step back and re-evaluating, we will also take a step back a realize the limitations of computers and hard quantifiable facts.