Monday, December 8, 2008

research_discordant harmonies

In the book Discordant Harmonies by Daniel Botkin, the author discusses a "new ecology for the 21st century." Its introduction in particular is quite revelatory in that it begs for a new approach to environmentalism, one different from its often negative attitude and tries to avoid the stipulations of the past, ie nature is the machine, nature is the creature, nature is divine. All of these conceptualizations often create a "nature knows best attitude." They omit the fact that in the history of the world change has been inevitable. On p.9, Botkin states, "Change now appears to be intrinsic and natural at many scales of time and space in the biosphere. Nature changes over essentially all time scales, and in at least some cases these changes are necessary for the persistance of life, be life is adopted to them." This condition suggests that change is a natural process, and perhaps making any intervention even more frightening.

I find the point Botkin makes in opening of his book particularly compelling. He begins with a photograph of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy. He describes it as, "heavy but graceful architecture, set against the motion of the coastal waters." The foundation of the church was sed to be made by driving 1,106,657 trunks of alder, oak and larch into the muddy lagoon to build a foundation. Submerging these tree trunks under water protected them from air, and therefore decay. This still serves as the foundation today. The Venetians faced the problem of stabilizing the ground. They moved to the area during the 5th and 6th centuries in order to avoid the fleeing Germanic tribes (Lombards) destroying the Roman Empire. They were forced to move to the marsh lands as they were defensible.

Botkin relates our position today to those of the Venetians one thousand years ago. He states, "While impelled by necessity, the first Venetians did not go to those marshes so long ago empty-handed, without the benefit of civilization. They brought with them three things: ideas, techniques, and a perspective of the world--how nature works, how people might change nature, and how the world in the future might be different from the world they had known in the past. Today, we are in a position in relation to the environmnet of our entire planet similar to that of the ancient settlers of Venice in relation to the marshes of the Adriatic. We see problems shifting before us whose solutions are unclear." What are the ideas, techniques, and perspective of the world today that we can use to address urbanism? To address rising sea-levels?


Nicolette Mastrangelo said...

Hi Marina,
Have you heard of this dutch firm called 'Waterstudio'? Check this article on them out and then decide to meet me in the netherlands on part of your spring break extravaganza!

Nicolette Mastrangelo said...

And one more reason to arrange a rendezvous to the netherlands:

Travel Pick: Art and Archaeology in Netherlands
2nd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

2nd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam: The Flood

A month of exhibitions, conferences (mostly in Dutch), excursions and a City Program all dominated by ‘The Flood’. The second International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam focuses on the relation between water and architecture in the Netherlands and around the world. Curator is Adriaan Geuze, landscape architect and director of West 8.

The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam is also a research project. Taking the topical theme of water, it identifies forces that influence our surroundings, analyses these, outlines future scenarios, and develops alternatives. The conference program of the biennale offers room for discussion and formulation of ideas for the design disciplines (architecture, urban design and landscape architecture) as well as governments, developers, builders, scientists and a larger audience.

luke w perry said...

it's interesting to think about cities and places in the order of time and development. someone said that in many cases developing world cities are like 50 years behind in some ways. in other ways, they are not. and they are plowing through it ridiculously fast. it is hard to know how the venetians would REALLY know how humans would affect nature and the future reality of it. problem is we know now, and we have been through and seen the problems and the impact and cost of the more developed societies is wreaking havoc on the developing world. but, they are generally repeating teh same mistakes. it's a great topic, but tying architectural and spatial solutions to larger understandings and reasonings about sea level change will really be interesting.

luke w perry said...

reminder: the world without us.

i think you'll really dig it.