Category Archives: Shared Heritage

Why women are the architects of our sustainable future

While I fully agree that this is what  it should be – I wonder when it will be so really? from  ecobuiness.com. Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, but there is also a growing number of sustainable development solutions by and for women worldwide. Sustainia’s global communication lead Katie McCrory highlights three examples.

shutterstock_312215270_news_featured

Girls peeping from a classroom in India. Globally, as many as 62 million girls are denied an education, and women’s knowledge is often overlooked in the quest to find sustainable solutions and business models. Image: Shutterstock

Lilia Caberio is from Sulangan, in the Philippines. In 2013, her house was destroyed by the 170 mile per hour winds and 6-metre high storm surge during Typhoon Haiyan, and for a while she lived with her family in a tent erected where her home used to be. The typhoon was frightening enough for Lilia, but homelessness must have felt even more so. Until Elizabeth came along.

Dr Elizabeth Hausler Strand is the founder and CEO of Build Change, an organization based in Colorado, USA, established to build disaster-resilient homes and buildings in emerging nations. Elizabeth also happens to be a qualified bricklayer.
She and her team worked with Lilia to build a new, resilient home that will last a lifetime. Elizabeth is, quite literally, building a sustainable future for families like Lilia’s in disaster-prone parts of the developing world, and in doing so she is empowering women all over the region to become the architects of their own lives.

Build Change is just one example of the many sustainable development solutions bubbling up from the ground which are designed by and for women. In a world faced with the social, economic, and environmental consequences of climate change, it is women and girls who risk losing the most. Lilia and her family were lucky to survive Typhoon Haiyan, but many didn’t – and many more won’t.

The statistics show that women and girls are more likely to die in natural disasters than men. What’s more, women around the world aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. Globally, as many as 62 million girls are denied an education, and as working women they still only earn about 77 per cent of their male counterparts’ salary.

These are awful, unacceptable facts, and for too long they have resulted in women being depicted only as victims. In 2014 a UN Women report on gender equality and sustainable development drove this point home by saying, ‘Women should not be viewed as victims, but as central actors in moving towards sustainability.’ I couldn’t agree more.

read more

Advertisements

Elements of Venice – Actor Network Theory applied to historical urban design?

Guilio Foscari’s book Element of Venice, while modelled on a process described a being similar to that of Rem Koolhaas’ at the Venice  Biennial , appears to me to be, in the vein of Bruno Labours Actor Network Theory (ANT), an  examination of the city’s history,  in urban design and architecture in terms that show how the city we as tourists see and take of granted as being “real” a 16th century authentic historical  city, is in fact an assemblage and pastiche, not much  different to the shopping centres so popular in the post-modern era of the nineties such as Canal Walk in Cape Town’s Century City.

I remember seeing how the famous Roman churches used faux marble paint effects above the dado rails and real marble below, where it could be touched,  these are the standard  “theming ” techniques of any restaurant or five star hotel establishments decorative chicanery , so denounced by the authentisicm   of contemporary architecture.

From ArchDaily by Guilia Foscari

The following is an excerpt from Giulia Foscari’s Elements of , a book that applies the dissection strategy  explored in “Elements of Architecture” at this year’s Venice Biennale. The book aims to demystify the notion that Venice has remained unchanged throughout its history and addresses contemporary issues along with strictly historical considerations. Read on for a preview of Elements of Venice, including Rem Koolhaas’ introduction to the book. 

FROM THE FAÇADE CHAPTER: Pedestrian Reform.

Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers 
Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers 

The new pedestrian streets cut into Venice’s ancient urban fabric (in which the old walkways connected the insulae without guaranteeing the same capillary reach of the current network) would have appeared with brutal evidence had the construction of new buildings along the sides of these streets not acted to “cauterise” the incisions made by the numerous demolitions. The pedestrian reform, put to motion in the early 19th century, was the result of a substantial shift in governance of the city.

New power structures, such as banking and insurance, and new public institutions, such as the chamber of commerce and the postal service – alternatives to those of the mercantile oligarchic Republic of the Serenissima – called for the construction of new representational buildings. New buildings were thus erected facing onto new streets, which, in turn, marked the discovery of “traffic” as a powerful tool of urban control in the hands of a “ruling class interested at once in political and commercial power”. At the expense of a traditionally compact urban fabric, the new government created, with public money, “urban voids” that were to become catalysts for representative buildings,commercial thoroughfares and modern infrastructure (such as electrical wiring).

Millions of tourists reaching San Marco from the Accademia or Rialto Bridge are thus deceived. The urban landscape they see as a striking testimony of ancient Venice is actually a particular collection of façades designed by 19th-century (academic and eclectic) architects, each responsible for designing a cluster of buildings along new circulation axes. Among these are projects by Giovan Battista Meduna near the ponte del Lovo in San Fantin, by the architect Pividor near Campo San Vio, by engineers Fuin and Balduin near San Moisé and on the Riva degli Schiavoni, by engineer Calzavara in the Frezzeria, and by Berchet and then Ludovico Cadorin at San Trovaso. All devoted to the notion of “revival” and “reusing of architectural styles” (Bellavitis, Romanelli, 1985) these architects could be grouped according to two separate tendencies: “the party using terracotta, emphasising on polychrome solutions with reference to late central-Italy and Lombard Renaissance style (practised by Cadorin, engineers Calzavara and Romano, for example); and the party referencing to severe Lombard architecture of the quattrocento, featuring Istrian stone and scarce use of ornament – Meduna, Fuin, Trevisanato” (Giandomenico Romanelli,1998).

There are no longer banks or institutions in the buildings flanking these pedestrian thoroughfares, which are now described as “Venetian bottlenecks”, given the density of persons found in these very streets at any given time. Fashion boutiques from the world’s most famous brands have taken their place. This is yet another example of how Venice has gone from being the capital of the mainland area of Padania, as it was still at the end of the 19th century, to being a capital of global tourism.

Reciprocal Contamination. Icons.

Our contemporary world, in which forms quickly dissolve into one other, is thirsty for icons. Each tourist – the common denominator of a mass phenomenon – is hunting for images, travelling the world without letting go of his camera, his smartphone, his iPad. Icons are not histories or phenomena. Thus a tourist does not know, is not interested in knowing, the history behind the city’s pedestrian reform, or distinguishing an ancient building from a 19th-century construction. He does not wonder whether tourism helps or harms the city. He is searching for images. One such icon could easily be the Doge’s Palace, or St Mark’s bell tower, or the Rialto Bridge. Even lesser things suffice: gondolas, winged lions, pigeons walking, horses held high in the air. Even masks. By propagating her symbols, Venice has reached the entire world and has become a commoditised image. Enterprising managers – perhaps better than intellectuals – have understood and seized the (conceptual) reality of this contamination, reproducing Venetian icons on a vast scale, as if they were masks of their own identity, to use on their casinos and on customers visiting shopping centres, the special fascination created by the allure of entering an imaginary world (a “fantastic mutation of normal reality”, as Thomas Mann would write in Death in Venice) and leaving – if for a while – the at times oppressive contingency of reality.

Read More

Trevor Manuel – Minister of Planning: South Africa

From Daily Maverick – an interview with Trevor Manuel Minister of Planning – South Africa – on what the planning commission means and what it intends for working on South Africa’s extremely unequal demographics and poverty.

ryland fisher Trevor Manuel interview.jpg

Interviewing politicians can be difficult, because they hardly ever give a straight answer, and Minister for Planning in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, is a consummate politician. But in a wide-ranging interview, he spoke as openly as possible, among others, about how he has won over sceptics over the years, first as minister of finance and now as planning minister, about his displeasure at ministers whose utterances go against the Constitution, his anger at the policemen who killed a Mozambican man in Daveyton last week, his resignation in support of Thabo Mbeki and how his current job is very different from his previous one as minister of finance. He remained hesitant to speak about his future, however. By RYLAND FISHER.

We interviewed Manuel in his office at Parliament on Friday morning, a few hours after he had hosted a report-back meeting in the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain where he spoke about the need to rekindle the activism that was prevalent in the 1980s.

Below is an edited extract of the interview:

RF: When you were appointed minister in charge of planning in President Zuma’s Cabinet, there were obviously some sceptics who did not quite understand what it is that you had to do. Now that the National Development Plan has taken centre stage in our political life and, indeed, our economy, do you feel vindicated?

TM: I don’t actually set out with that objective. I think that too frequently we start out not being given the benefit of the doubt. What it entails is just working hard to get things right and if, in the process, you disprove the sceptics, that’s okay, but you start out to get things right.

In the last few years of Madiba, in spite of the fact that many people told him he was crazy to appoint me minister of finance, I did not set out to prove the sceptics wrong, but I hoped that through my efforts I would be able to win the trust of Madiba and the organisation that gave me the opportunity to do so. What is important is that one is able to take decisions and learn in the process.

I understand very clearly that if the only thing you want to do in a position of leadership is to please people, the quality of your leadership is going to be severely compromised. If you try and do things that go against the grain of your belief system, then you will be unhappy and feel compromised.

If you want to deal with these issues, you have to ask questions constantly about what your reference points are, about what is your value system. Some people use the term “compass”: so where are you heading and why?

The ability to think past ideological rigidity is also important.

If I take these points and try and use them to answer the question about the National Development Plan, it makes for an interesting read.

The commission [National Planning Commission] itself is an interesting construct. I’ll be bold enough to say that my initial thought was to have the commission structured more along the lines of the Indian Planning Commission which has about half a dozen ministers on it. It is chaired by the prime minister and often the president or the deputy president could chair it and I would do the spade work inside. I lost that battle, and it was not about wanting to be a prime minister. It was about wanting to follow a construct whose relationship to implementation would be understood.

The second thing about the plan and the commission is that its composition actually lives out !ke e: ǀxarra ǁke (Khoisan for “diverse people unite”). It is quite a diverse group of people and that’s a real strength.

When we approached people to participate, on the recommendation of the president, some of them said: “Why are you approaching me? I’m not even an active member of the ANC.” However, everyone accepted. There were some people who felt rejected by the ANC. In putting this together, a lot of these people got a new lease on life and have given the commission a new lease on life. It has been very important for that reason.

The third issue is that, in many ways, when, 13 months into the process, the diagnostic report was released, it was a coming out for the commission. If people thought it was a lapdog, then the release of the diagnostic report – which deals with issues such as the unevenness of the public service, the breakdown of unity, the need to tackle corruption, etc. – spoke volumes about the way so many South Africans feel.

But it also spoke to the fact that the president, in inviting the commission to take a long-term, independent view, was actually not curtailing that. There was no censorship about the views of the commission. He allowed it to happen and has built on the momentum created by the National Planning Commission. It is going to be quite important because it was a commission started on his watch and it has been allowed to generate the unity and momentum. It is something that he wants to see through and that is very positive.

Read More

Networks Matter – Urban Migration or The Alternative Liveable Cities Index

After posting the previous report on Global Cities: Quality of Life, Liveability and Cost of Living Surveys 2012 – What are they worth? it occurred to me that there might be a variety of alternative rankings of where the best places to live are and this would obviously depend on who you are,  your financial situation and  the quality of life  you currently experience in the place you wish to leave. So I did a little research and although  I could not directly find what I was looking for here are some musings and links that might be of interest in countering the impression that we all have to move to Helsinki or Melbourne.The majority of the worlds population live where they  are – that is where they were born . I am one of them and have happily lived and worked my whole life here in Cape Town unlike many of my school friends, relatives  and business associates who emigrated to Australia , Europe or the USA in the Apartheid era.  However, for those unable or unwilling to stay in the untenable or desperate situation they find where they were born, they decide or are forced to move – usually to the nearest town or closest city they can get to – where they hope they will be able to find work and a place to stay,  in deciding which city to “trek” to they definitely don’t have access to any of the aforementioned elite media  or a high speed internet connection to check out  what city to live in.My own parents, poor(-ish), but educated, white South Africans  made the transition from a rural  farming background  in the pre- 2nd World War depression era to leave their   rural life which was plagued by drought and uncertain farming commodity markets  to seek a better future in the city and to find jobs then said to be available in government as a teacher and a Posts and Telegraph technician in Cape Town.  Their parents were in turn descendants of European migrants who, several generations earlier, had fled from religious persecution in rural France and from famine and wars  in Ireland and staking everything on flimsy evidence and penniless had immigrated to South Africa, landed n Cape Town and eventually found a place to settle in the somewhat desolate North West of the country in Namaqualand. My parents in their move to the city soon after they married, took advantage of kin-ship networks of family who had already moved or had strong ties with trade and professional work in the Mother City. With much less opportunity but probably from similar conditions, currently waves of rural and small town inhabitants are migrating to the cities nearest to them or to more distant cities which offer the promise of a better life or at least hope of survival where their current conditions seem to be hopeless.

Interestingly though, the amount of information passed through the refugee and  rural urban migration  networks must include a vast and largely  undocumented information resource on the opportunities, dangers and “how to get by” in the foreign and unknown urban environment.  There is a growing body of work on these migrant networks and the implied social capital of their ethnic and kinship networks e.g the work of Abdou Maliq Simone “Moving Towards Uncertainty: Migration and the Turbulence of African Urban Life”  who along with many other researchers on the urbanism of the global South such as the paper Networks matter : the value of kinship ties in the Zimbabwean migration landscape” presented by Khangelani MOYO  at a the African Migrations Workshop in Dakar Sengal  in 2010, are increasingly drawing different conclusions about African migration and what makes a city liveable and that these metrics are very different to those  that are cites by the World Bank, UNEP and simialar organisations who participate in African Aid and in cause what some authors  term “African Dependance”

The cultural and social capital that is exhibited here in Cape Town by migrant Malawians that obviously informs them on how to use photocopied/printed  slips of paper detailing their availability, skills as gardeners, domestic help or similar jobs they are willing to do,  which they deposit in suburban houses letter boxes or hand out  at traffic lights, is a unique attribute of a specific nations social capital.  The conditions that drive these quite well educated job-seekers to leave their homeland, and take on menial work in order to be able to sustain themselves and send income to supplement their  families livelihood in the home country, is in all respects the same as that drove my ancestors and parents to migrate and seeks a better life for themselves and their children..

UN Refugee agency 2012

Similarly refugee Somalians must have an extensive social network  that allows them tobecome street traders or “spaza” shop owners in the local townships, at transport interchanges and on the streets around major shopping areas, often displacing less organised or networked locals and  even to opening small cafes and shops in the periphery of  central Cape Town. This has been postulated a the source of xenophobia and a smouldering resentment can be palpably  felt amongst the traders on the Grand parade for example and at places like Bellville Transit interchange where the dominance of foreign nationals as traders is visible in the religious dress of the women and the presence of mosques in and prayer time  observances on the pavement, more suggestive of a North African city that post-apartheid Cape Town e.g.  Zaheera Jinnah’s paper  Making Home in a Hostile Land: Understanding Somali Identity, Integration, Livelihood and Risks in Johannesburg”

More recently the  Gauteng City-Region Observatory released is Quality of Life Survey which included a range of reports, for example on  ‘Xenophobic attitudes” which reported: “A shocking 69% of respondents in a recent survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “foreigners are taking benefits meant for South Africans”.

While this might seem like a unique South African problem in the context of  the history of Apartheid, forced migration and urban segregation, it is not  and in Simone Abram’s   discussion of the concept(s) of culture  and national identity in his recent book, “Culture and Planning”,  he quotes a study by Marianne Gullestad which compares attitudes of two authors to race and xenophobia in Norway from both the perspective of Norwegians and that of ethnic and religious minorities and situates these problematic differences of points of view in a what, to non- Norwegians, appears to be a fairly racially homogenous country which is yet culturally diverse.  She states ” It is not the white Norwegian’s encounter with persons of colour which is significant, but the meaning of this encounter in a much broader and enduring history that extends the geographical reach into colonialism, and the anti-Semitic and eugenics movements between the two World Wars” This is of course particularly relevant in the light of Anders Behring Breivik’s recent trial guilty verdict, 21 year jail sentence of and his defiant attitude and belief that his killing of  77 people  last summer was an act of “National Defence”

What this might mean in terms a “liveability” is debatable – is a liberal and sustainable but cold and rarely xenophobic Norwegian city more liveable that a hot  North African or Middle Eastern city where there are no jobs and incessant warfare but you are in  a close-knit web of family and religious  networks – which is more liveable?

The Alternative Liveable Cities Index – or “how to get by wherever you are “. Enough for now more to come soon………

India on Wheels

For many non Indian visitors being driven around in India is like Russian Roulette, but as we all find out it is our preconceptions that are  chalenged and it seems very little damage is done to our bodies – the rate of car sales and the difficulty of providing public infrastructure in some parts of india must make one wonder about the  divide between the public good and business interests – in this article we see the Modernist tendency of focusing on the object a car and its appeal to the individual broadened to include its social significance but little or no consideration of its impact on the urban fabric it inhabits – at this stage design still sees its role in a narrow funnel of proving value to individuals and companies profits from where it derives its own functions and income – we have yet to understand the implications of this consumerist approach applied to the rest of the planets population. A good design article by Harsha Kutare at DESIgn MASALA

The Indian automobile industry is set to become the sixth largest passenger vehicle producer in the world, growing 16-18 percent to sell around three million units in the course of 2011-12. The passenger vehicles sales trend has shown an exponential growth in past few years and it is expected to grow further in coming years.

The Indian market presents several challenges to car manufacturers and dealers. After researching a bit online about the current car scene in India and talking to car owners, I came up with the factors that make the Indian car market stand out from others in the world.’

Harsha goes on to describe the factors he sees as influencing the Indian automobile market naming  Traffic and Road conditions; Way Finding; Huge numbers of first time buyers; Financial factors; Social Influencers; Cultural Significance/Unique features as areas which make the Indian market different from others

Social Influencers: There is lot of social influence from friends, family or relatives when it comes to buying a car. Buyers reach out to their social circle for recommendations regarding car models and dealerships. Some of the online platforms that are influencing people’s buying decision arewww.carwale.comwww.teambhp.comwww.autocarindia.comwww.cardekho.com

Cars make a statement about the owner’s personality hence buyers are very cautious about the cars that they pick. Brands also play a vital part in projecting a brand image for e.g. Honda equals Pride, Mahindra is seen as a rugged brand and Maruti Suzuki equals good value for money whereas Mercedes signifies luxury. Brands carefully pick actors, sportspersons or celebrities as their brand ambassadors as Indian consumers, mainly youth is influenced by testimonials of celebrities.

First cars for most of the buyers are mid range hatchbacks. In most cases the buyer is the first person in the family to own a car. He takes his driving lessons from a driving school and prefers something easy to maneuver within the city with low maintenance costs and a great mileage.

Landscapes of Speculation – Case Brown

2010 Rome Prize Winner and P-Rex researcher Case Brown’s examination of the history of speculation makes fascinating reading , from when I first heard him discuss it in a Terragram’s interview to where I recently found this report  posted on his blog, it has struck a chord in me on how we view history and ourselves in relation to our context and restates the essentially global nature of cities from the earliest times till the present day, and that their formation, existence and survival is dependent on people and their inherent natures, which this article postulates are out of our control….

3 Questions:
-Is the primary economic object of speculation land?
-Are our herd-like speculation behaviors instinctual?
-Did speculation behavior first arise in Roman times?

Repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result generally describes insanity. Despite a four-hundred year period of successive speculative mania, populations continue to form asset bubbles decade after decade. The allure of profit from runaway growth triggers our most primal herd response while hijacking our risk perception. Theories abound as to the source of this group behavior–capitalistic abhorrence of limits, an intrinsic anglo-saxon sickness, ineffective regulation, or using the wrong economic model.

But what if the roots of the phenomenon are deeper? If the phenomenon crosses cultural lines, existed before true free-market capitalism, and occurs in various regulatory environments, then we may need to address speculation as part of our biological imperative, not our cultural contingencies. The following investigation comprises the first step in describing speculation as a behavioral trait of Homo economicus. It tentatively assesses whether the protean form of speculation lies scattered about in the rubbled foundations of the Roman villa system.

Monte Circeo, 2000 Years of Investment, modern villas (left) and ancient villas (right)

The rise and crash of the Roman villa system reads eerily like the modern story of American foreclosures crisis-profit schemes of land speculation, frenzied landowners seeking to expand their profits beyond the average market growth, farming negotium(business) from one villa to derive otium (pleasure) from another. The modern financial industry terms this quasi-magical level of compounded profit alpha returns, in contrast to the more average beta returns. Investors, day traders and ‘quants’ spend their intellectual energy feverishly chasing the strategies that will achieve alpha level returns. Their debt-fueled schemes spin out risky ventures like one more residential development in the south Florida swamps or yet another artificial island off Dubai. If this maniacal pursuit of alpha spans two millennia and vastly different cultures, then the roots of our speculative tendencies are perhaps more biological than cultural.

Episodes of Speculation, 1600-2010
The systemic behavior that leads to overdevelopment, real-estate price crashes, avalanches, phase changes in matter, and population crashes are strikingly similar. Theoretical biologists are making the nascent strides in mapping how normal population behavior can build into the more radical swarming behavior that reaches beyond ecological tipping points. In parallel, complexity theorists and economists are attempting to describe the same phenomena in financial markets, forming a new discipline and lexicon called econophysics. The history of speculation provides fertile ground to explore the bio-physical tendencies of Homo economicus

The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector

Our image of ourself and how we communicate our ideas i.e. sell our ourselves is intimately connected with our “brand” even if we hate the idea – thats what people see – so getting it right for yourself or for your non-profit is essential if you wish to communicate with others, but much as the language used by marketers for people, consumers, is an anathema to urbanists, they use the same types of research into peoles behavior, culture and soiciety, so this article uses the concepts that are so well developed in the commercial world to situate  ‘brand image’ in language that is digestible to the rest of us and develope a toolkit for its use. From the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone

Nonprofit brands are visible everywhere. Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, and World Wildlife Fund are some of the most widely recognized brands in the world, more trusted by the public than the best-known for-profit brands.1 Large nonprofits, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross, have detailed policies to manage the use of their names and logos, and even small nonprofits frequently experiment with putting their names on coffee cups, pens, and T-shirts.

Branding in the nonprofit sector appears to be at an inflection point in its development. Although many nonprofits continue to take a narrow approach to brand management, using it as a tool for fundraising, a growing number are moving beyond that approach to explore the wider, strategic roles that brands can play: driving broad, long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, recently appointed Tom Scott as director of global brand and innovation. Oxfam International embarked on a confederation-wide “global identity project.” And GBCHealth was one of several organizations completing a rebranding process. Brand managers in these pioneering organizations were focusing less on revenue generation and more on social impact and organizational cohesion. Indeed, some of the most interesting brand strategies are being developed in endowed, private foundations with no fundraising targets at all.

“We’re catalysts,” says Scott. “Could we have greater impact if we leveraged our brand in different ways? What difference could it make to attach our logo to things to move conversations forward or elevate certain issues? Can we use our brand to elevate other brands?” The questions Scott asks aren’t about raising money. Instead, they are about how to leverage the Gates Foundation brand in the cause of greater public discourse and social impact.

Although the ambitions of nonprofit brand managers are growing, the strategic frameworks and management tools available to them have not kept up. The models and terminology used in the nonprofit sector to understand brand remain those imported from the for-profit sector to boost name recognition and raise revenue.

Nonprofit leaders need new models that allow their brands to contribute to sustaining their social impact, serving their mission, and staying true to their organization’s values and culture. In this article, we describe a conceptual framework designed to help nonprofit organizations do just that. We call this framework the Nonprofit Brand IDEA (in which “IDEA” stands for brand integrity, brand democracy, brand ethics, and brand affinity).

The framework is the result of an 18-month research project we led with colleagues at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and collaborators at the Rockefeller Foundation. Building on previous work in the field, we conducted structured interviews with 73 nonprofit executives, communication directors, consultants, and donors in 41 organizations. Then we analyzed these interviews to learn how leaders in the field are thinking about nonprofit brands today and how they see the role of brands evolving.

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.

Augustin Berque: Milieu and human identity: Notes towards a surpassing of modernity

In an ongoing  discussion on a Linkedin group LANDSCAPE URBANISM  on the most 10 most important texts for a  Landscape Architect /Urban Planner, the usual suspects came up, an interestingly a discussion ensued on the Western orientation of the suggestions and the name of 2009 Fukuoka Prize laureate Austin Berque was proposed as an entry into Japanese thought  – not having heard of him before, I could find nothing in English other than this brief review. The resonance of finding a holistic  worldview to counter the prevailing enlightenment view that seems to be responsible for our alienation from the environment we depend on. This resonates with me and  in my opinion  of the views of Konjian Yu in his The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu and the recent Prizer Prize Laureate Wang Shu Wang Shu Discusses Urbanization in China, that seem to be providing a way to value the environment of the present and the past without creating a”museum ” or “zoo” and on how we might find embodiment in our understanding of the landscape as a complex of the temporal natural and anthropocentric world. from SPACE AND CULTURE posted by Anne Galloway:

Reviewed by Andrea Mubi BrighentiDepartment of SociologyUniversity of Trento (IT)

After the catastrophic events that hit Japan, and particularly in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, a large scale debate about the sustainability of our energetic, economic and even civilizational model is badly needed. Such a huge task which is before us, and which calls for a general rethinking of our ecological approaches and aspirations, could perhaps start from some spatial and environmental insights that Japanese thought itself has transmitted to us.

The collection of short essays reviewed here provides an excellent introduction to the work of the French geographer and orientalist Augustin Berque (born in 1942), who has devoted most of his life to an exploration of Japanese thought and culture, with particular reference to its peculiar spatial and environmental attitudes. Not much of Berque’s oeuvre is available to English readers, yet his major theoretical works (Berque 2000a, 2000b) can be said to engage a dialogue with Japanese philosophical tradition in order to develop reflections that are more widely applicable to the contemporary world, rather than a merely philological reconstruction of certain sources – an intellectual project that somehow recalls what François Jullien has done with Chinese thought.

Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon

[CC image credit: Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon]

In a larger work that appeared nearly at the same time as the collection on milieu and human identity, Berque (2010) has explored the notion of the ‘ideal habitat’ and has questioned the contemporary transformation and sustainability of that ideal. In these shorter essays, written during the last ten years, the focus is rather on the notions of landscape, milieu, common heritage and identity. Starting from the acknowledgement that western modernity has produced a grave disequilibrium in the relation between the human species and the world – as landscape devastation, waste of natural resources and the many aberrations in the design of the urban built environment testify – the author advances a distinction between a western conception of landscape, pivoted around the subject, and an eastern conception, which instead focuses on the predicate–the latter logic being best represented by Nishida Kitarô’s basho no ronri, or logic of place, a text from 1966. Continue reading Augustin Berque: Milieu and human identity: Notes towards a surpassing of modernity

Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden

New photos of one of my favorite gardens , although I haven’t been there (yet) the ethno- botanical Garden in Oaxaca, Mexico has been an inspiration in both its contemporary form and its cultural/historical aspects to my work here in Cape Town, From Garden Design

Organ pipe cactus (Marginatocereus marginatus), planted here next to the mirror pool and around cochineal-covered nopal cactus, are traditionally used in Mexico as borders, corrals, and fences to keep out foraging livestock or strangers.

This inspiring  and influential garden was created by Mexican artists and activists in the 1990’s

The distinctive walkways parallel a canal flanked by Agave macroacantha on the left and fouquieria on the right.

The botanical garden  illustrates the relationship between plants and culture, with a wide mix of plants, textures, and colors.

Francisco Toledo’s water sculpture, La Sangre de Mitla, is made from slabs of Montezuma cypress.

 

To read more about the story behind the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca in Mexico, read Jeff Spurrier’s story, Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden.

See more inspiring pictures here