defining infrascape

In naming this blog, I chose a contraction of two topics that greatly interest me: INFRAstructure & landSCAPE. These are the basic premises for my nascent design practice and my teaching. For me, infrascape’s are occupied territories surrounding and permeating our cities that are shaped by eco-technical systems *. These systems aren’t just dumb concrete pipes or taut wires stretched from pylon to pylon, but are dynamic organizations that respond to changing inputs and stimuli. But this hybrid ecology and infrastructure is a concept that is far from reality in most places.

In most cities, there is a binary opposition between infrastructure and landscape. Most infrastructure is uninhabitable, except by urban explorers and squatters. A few get occupied through an mechanized interface such as highways and cars, or railway tunnels and subway cars. Most infrastructure is not intended to host an ecological community, but to provide a shortcut to keep nature away from our buildings as David Gissen explores in Subnature.

Riverbank State Park, NYC – a great example of an infrascape.

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The beauty of sustainability

I’m working on a grant proposal that intends to use funds provided to ‘beautify the campus’ to implement a range of sustainable site strategies. For the past few weeks, I’ve been letting the idea that sustainability is embedded in the definition of beauty (at least in the landscape) simmer in the back of my head. Here’s my first take at putting the idea into prose.

Ian Hamilton Finley, Little Sparta

This is subject that John Dixon Hunt skirts in his teaching & writings of landscape/garden history. The notion that beautiful landscapes contain the sublime is a long standing meme that can be traced to both the English landscape garden tradition and to chinese gardens that inspired Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and more recently to Ian Hamilton Finely. The pastoral landscape attempts to create a stasis between nostalgic ruins and the ever growing and successional pressure of plants. So the modern understanding of sustainability – balance between current needs and future needs – seems quite apt.

But for me, the sublime thrill of standing on a precipice captures my feelings about trying to mitigate climate change through the practice of landscape architecture and urban design. We can see the peril and hazards on the horizon and know that there are measures that we can implement to hold those terrors at bay. It’s not just about buying some insurance as Thomas Friedman argues, but about rectifying long perpetuated injustices humans have inflicted on the biosphere.

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Superbowl infrastructure

A few thoughts about the big game that I won’t be watching..

Big events like the Superbowl require the deployment of temporary infrastructure from electrical generators, cell phone towers, hundreds of port-o-potties, pedestrian and traffic controls, public safety command centers, to all the broadcast equipment (cameras, lighting, sound, computers, control rooms, broadcast gear, satellite uplinks, et cetera). This doesn’t even start to include the logistics of selling the tickets or folks traveling to the event.

To put on its broadcast, NBC will have 200 crew at the game, and more than 450 total production and engineering staff in Tampa. And the effort will feature 52 high-definition cameras, 45 vehicles (including control trucks, mobile units, office trailers and a horse trailer), 24 digital video replay sources, eight digital post-production facilities (five Avid suites and three Final Cut Pro suites), 20 hand-held cameras, five robotic cameras, two RF hand-held cameras, one “cable-cam” camera that is suspended above the field, 50 miles of camera and microphone cable, 93 microphones, and much more. – CNET

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