Heizer’s Rock

Note: this blog is not affiliated with LACMA nor the artist Michael Heizer, no matter what Kunstler wrote. Updates on the Levitated Mass move are here.

update 12/27 –the NYTimes reports on the continued delay in securing permits to move the rock as it gets re-routed to avoid a bridge in Pomona that might not have the structural capacity to support the load.

Perhaps the heaviest work of art ever moved, Michael Heizer has finally found a 340 ton bolder to hover over a trench at LACMA to complete ‘Levitated Mass’ (not to be confused with his 1982 work of the same name). This is a work of art where the logistics (like most pieces by Christo) are just as interesting as the physical object. Moving the 21′ boulder will require a 22 axle truck moving at 6 or 7 miles per hour to cover the 120 mile route between the quarry and the museum. While the boulder was purchased for $120,000, the total cost of the installation (including the move) is around $10 million dollar. The move has been delayed several times already as the local municipalities and regulators grapple with the permitting process and trying to minimize disruptions to the public.

“You can’t cowboy this through,” said Rick Albrecht, the project manager for the move, leaning against a ladder, his sunglasses and hard hat covered in dust. “You have to be meticulous about this.” [LAtimes]

Emmert International, the megamover making this happen, has an impressive record of transporting buildings and various industrial artifacts. The move is as much about infrastructure as it is about art – the route was determined by height clearances and weight limits on roads and bridges, moving powerlines and other utilities out of the way, finding parking spaces for the 295′ rig, and other uses of the urban systems that are beyond their design specs. All the relocation and displacements are temporary, it is a missed opportunity to leave the streetscape in better shape by permanently reducing the spiderweb of tangled wires hanging above most of the streets along the route. Can art be found in burying telephone lines, co-axial cables, power lines, and all those other wires in a giant trench?

View the larger map of the route. Continue reading

Design Foundations

This fall, I’ve been regularly discussing what qualifications are needed to effectively teach first year design studios at both the grad and undergrad levels with my colleagues at Cal Poly.  Our discussions have ranged from the various pedagogies appropriate for the 21st century (is it time to move beyond the Bauhaus or Heyduk?), to do you need to be a landscape architect to introduce the principles of design to landscape architecture students (could an artist or architect be effective?). A parallel – though wider – discussion is over on Archinect too.

The catalyst of these discussions is my participation in the search committee for a new tenure-track faculty member to teach ‘design foundations’.  The search is officially open!  Applications are due January 3rd (see below).  So do you have what it takes to lay the educational foundation for a student’s successful career as a landscape architect? We hope folks with backgrounds beyond landscape architecture (MArchs, MFAs, MUPs, or other related fields), who engage with the landscape will apply too.

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Bike Pasture Update

Just got word that the Bike Pasture Project lead by Ms. Emily Lowery and Elizabeth Turner got $15k from the Minnesota Student Association! Can’t wait to see it built!

More info:




Book Review – SOAK: Mumbia in an Estuary by Anu Mathur and Dilip Da Cunha

[Originally published in Landscape Journal 30:2 (PDF) – this is my original manuscript.  The blog post includes additional links and photos.]

SOAK: Mumbai in an Estuary by Anuradha Mathur / Dilip da Cunha. Trapeze [Ram Sinam], Bangalore, Book & Exhibition Design. 2009. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. 216 pages (including: front/back piece, Note from the Director of NGMA, Foreword by Arjun Appadurai & Carol Breckenridge, Preface, Epilogue, Glossary, Image Lexicon, Notes, Author Biography). Color and black-and-white illustrations and photographs. Book Size: 9.5×11 inches. $125 [$195], hardcover. ISBN 9788129114801

By Barry Lehrman

SOAK: Mumbai in an Estuary by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha is a beguiling book that advances the leadership of landscape architecture in redefining our cities.  Moving between serious scholarship about the cartographic history of India, to creating an alternative mapping of Mumbai using sections and photographs, and concluding with proposing twelve design ‘initiations’ (08) that reintroduce the ability of the landscape to soak up the monsoon – the book expands our understanding of place-making.  The tension between applying scholarship to the design process is the reoccurring theme of their previous works, Mississippi Floods  (2001) and Deccan Traverses: The Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (2006), and their practice as landscape architects and educators.  With Soak, Mathur and da Cunha’s inquiry into iterative drawing has fully matured and engages in a larger cultural dialog (though perhaps a smaller terrain) then their previous works.

Soak emerged from an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi that was developed in response to the 2005 monsoon floods in Mumbai caused by almost a meter of precipitation falling in just one day.  The book’s thesis is that artificial delineation of land from water is impossible to maintain in the territory of the monsoon and requires a new approach to place-making that enables permeable boundaries between land and sea.

An estuary demands gradients not walls, fluid occupations not defined by land use, negotiated moments not hard edges. In short it demands the accommodation of the sea not the war against it…’ (04)

Soak is an appreciation of an aqueous terrain. It encourages designs that hold monsoon waters rather than channel them out to sea; that work with gradient of an estuary; that accommodate uncertainty through resilience, not overcome it with prediction.’ (09)

Historically, rainwater from the monsoon was captured on all available surfaces for use during the dry season, versus the engineered 20th century system of storm drains and sea walls that seek to move precipitation out to sea as quickly as possible and to prevent the tides from washing over former mudflats.  With the failure of the engineered system to handle the deluge of 2005, Mathur and da Cunha were invited to propose alternative landscape solutions that became the exhibition and the book.

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One of the research tools that I’ve recently become highly reliant on is Zotero.org‘s citation management plug-in for firefox & word. It’s the easiest way I know of to grab bibliographic information off the web and to keep track of all the articles that you’ve found during a literature review.

If you are interested in sharing research & citations about sustainable landscapes, infrastructure, and cities; integrating ecosystem services; urban heat island mitigation; landscape urbanism; or other related topics – I’ve created a Zotero group to be a clearinghouse: Continue reading