Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feral Ruderality- I like a landscape that drinks from the bottom shelf

In Gowanus news (really, we ought to just open up a desk at this point), there is an open competition around the Canal titled the “Gowanus Lowline”.  While the brief seems incredibly vague, they’ve assembled a great jury and an array of photos, maps, and community contacts.  We’re hoping that at the very least something more substantial than a park-ified Canal will emerge from the brief, a sentiment we presume we share with the organizers, given the clever title-as-jab.
[Brooklyn in 1874, showing the upper reaches of the Gowanus Canal (top left), note the crenelated edge of the East River, and the Navy Yards to the North (left); image courtesy of David Rumsey maps]

[Brooklyn in 1874, showing the mouth of the Gowanus Canal (top left), note the Eerie Basin of Red Hook (now occupied by IKEA); image courtesy of David Rumsey maps]

If you’re considering entering, check out this compilation of historical maps by one of the members of the organizing committee Gowanus by Design.  Registration is still open and submissions are due April 17th.

In vaguely related news, Fallow City by the studio Feral Office aims to take “the current crisis of the suburbs as a chance, and the most extreme situation of Detroit as its site… to develop new scenarios and new typologies for the emerging fallow cityscapes. The interventions propose more imaginative and public ways of using or mis-using the suburban forms.  A fallow season creates an interruption where unusual uses and forms can flourish.”

We agree with this notion, and have characterized it as the ability of terrains vague to generate new cultural mythologies.  Perhaps more than the video-game like populated environment created by Feral Office, we love their simple Google Earth observation of the marks left on the vacant lots of Detroit.  They posit that they are from the excavators that came through to knock down the houses, the tracks being rendered visible when the grass is cut.  This type of aerial espionage and speculation reminds of the more substantial recent post over on F.A.D. exploring “wetland glyphs” found in the Mississippi delta.  Both are worth checking out.
[Aviary Tower, "Fallow City", by Feral Office]

[Detroit as creative-class play pen]

[Excavator operations + aerial mapping = post-urban earth art]

[Comparing the differing patterns for variable size lots suggests what there]

 [anomalies, superimposed geometries suggest what might be emerging]

The notion of crisis a chance for opportunistic is very feral, or ruderal, and is something that was addressed in the recently released Berkeley Planning Journal.  Wonderful work is being done in this field by the Detroit UnReal Estate Agency, which we were introduced to in the recent release of Scapegoat Journal.

It’s good to see these types of ideas being developed, and we love the awkward first stabs at implementation and execution of concepts and ethics that folks like Julie Bargmann have been talking about for decades.  It promises the emergence of a new aesthetic that gets beyond “ruin porn.”
[undertaken in 1998, works like the conceptual sight plan for Roundhouse Park in Evanston Wyoming still serve as a harbinger of a still-emerging landscape aesthetic]

[landscape architecture beyond the park and the garden]

For us, we think the critical question remains this- can landscape/architecture contribute to the regeneration of the landscape in a way that gets beyond the massive infusions of money, power, and control that are inherent to the capital project?


  1. The desire paths shown in the Google images are fascinating artifacts, too.

  2. indeed. the desire-lines are interesting formally. Figuring out the reason for those patterns would be instructing, i bet.