Landscape Forensics Lab

A suggestion that Landscape Architects might move towards a revision of their disciplinne by  extending their survey and mapping techniques with new digital and other technology tools to become  forensic designers  .. from faslansyc This idea of surveying and mapping hidden clues both of temporal events and current trends  through traces left in the ground or by making visible digital movement traces and paterns of evidence, might become an  the anthropology of the landscape…

 
[a forensic mapping of the Exolgan logistics depot along the Riachuelo Canal in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the image is a composite of google aerial photos over 10 years- areas that are blurry have been subject to more structural movement; areas in blue are 2001 structures- including roads and sand piles; yellow are 2005 structures; red are 2010 structures; it becomes clear that a new path has developed crossing the highway in the top right corner, likely due to the new housing by the highway; the central area has largely fallen in to disuse, with the blue/yellow building to the right being deconstructed and the boat loading ramp falling in to disuse; this means that the luffing cranes are now standing idle, with informal paths now crossing to the newly paved tow path road]
Recently we were driving through Indiana in our Volvo station wagon munching on some granola and listening to NPR when we heard a short bit about one of our favorite subjects- landscape archeology.  The piece highlighted the work of Harvard urban archeologist Jason Ur and the work he is doing pairing high resolution declassified spy satellite photos with powerful image recognition software to identify sites where soil has been disturbed according to patterns consistent with sites of human occupation.  He then uses a powerful computer algorithm that is able to pinpoint the locations of likely sites of ancient inhabitation for a given photographed landscape through extremely close pattern analysis.  The computer algorithm is that are more accurate by an order of magnitude than the traditional method of gridding off a plot and traipsing through the field.
And that gets us thinking.  A landscape architect should open up shop as a landscape forensics lab.  Forensics in this case wouldn’t be limited solely to the realm of legal arguments- although that is being done in fascinating ways- but rather would be the methods and techniques used to reconstruct highly specific evidence for argumentation reinforcing some position.  Built on the landscape architectural tradition of close and detailed site readings, and relying heavily on the excellent Archeology of Garden and Field, this lab would also incorporate radical new methods:  balloon aerial mappings allowing for specific high resolution aerial maps of contested terrains in change, D.I.R.T. Studio’s deductive mappings of generalized industrial processes onto historical Sanborn maps, F.A.D.’s 1-to-1 scale mappings with genetically engineered seeds designed to sprout purple in the presence of chromium, or composite photographs showing the accretion and removal of structures, machines, and landforms.
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