Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, by Robert Smithson

Image available here

In September 1967, land artist Robert Smithson took a tour over Passaic in new Jersey* and created a short photo-essay to report his journey, entitled “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” later published in “Artforum” magazine, December edition. Interestingly, he names profane objects such as pipes and derelict spaces as monuments:

The bus passed over the first monument. I pulled the buzzer-cord and got off at the corner of Union Avenue and River Drive. The monument was a bridge that connected Bergen County with Passaic County (…) Along the Passaic River banks were many minor monuments such as concrete abutments that supported the shoulders of a new highway in the process of being built (…) As I walked north along what was left of River Drive, I saw a monument in the middle of the river—it was a pumping derrick with a long pipe attached to it (…) Nearby, on the river bank, was an artificial crater that contained a pale limpid pond of water, and from the side of the crater protruded six large pipes that gushed the water of the pond into the river. This constituted a monumental fountain that suggested six horizontal smokestacks that seemed to be flooding the river with liquid smoke (…) The last monument was a sand box or model desert.

Read the full Smithson article here

Smithson, says Maarten Overdijk in his ‘Monuments and Mental Maps‘ article in OASE 98, rejected conventional ideas about perception and cognition precisely because they did no justice to his experience and offered him no method to analyze or describe it. Instead, he had a preoccupation with space and the changing relations of place, location and map. In his ‘literary’ narrative of the Passaic, continues Overdijk, Smithson attempts a montage of descriptions; observations and reflections while shifting between different layers of time: “the psychological time of the individual, the social time of culture and its symbols, and the time of geological change.”

* Ellen Mara De Wachter revisited the locations captured in the photo-essay through a short film

Oslo Architecture Triennale, Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth

Image available here

The theme of the 19th Oslo Architecture Triennale, Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth plays with the explosive power of this word to open up new debates into how much the pursuit of economic growth has damaged the environment and of the need to try out new solutions in architecture (floornature). The curators (Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, Cecilie Sachs Olsen and Maria Smith) argue that “architects are mistaken if they believe they can confront the climate crisis by merely rethinking the way they design buildings. Instead, it is the economy and the very armature of our civilisation that requires a rigorous redesign.” (AR)

You must be brave to peel back the skin concealing the ugly ribcage of our economic system, its guts ingesting gas, coal, trees, animals, minerals, water and clean air and flatulently defecating an endless stream of clothes, plastic bags and neat packets of processed food. (AR)

The program develops in the “Academy,” the “Theatre,” and the “Playground,” until November 24. (Official site)

The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building & The Growing Pavilion

The Growing Pavilion is unique in the way in which a large number of biobased materials, such as wood, hemp, mycelium, cattail and cotton, come together to form a special building. Image available here

This Embassy comprises ​​partners who are working on this future scenario through practical design assignments and by exploring new approaches. The key questions are: how can we scale, what does a new circular construction chain look like and which new design language is associated with using biobased building materials?

More info available here

The Growing Pavilion is a collaborative endeavor between The Embassy and the Company New Heroes and will be displayed during the Dutch Design Week 2019, from the 19th up and until the 27th of October

The value of detailed maps at the neighborhood level

Image available here

The author claims the need of a systematic approach “that brings together the design of built environments with the best scientific knowledge of processes of change in complex natural and social systems.” Urban planning must work within these systems that require local info (through participatory practices) and the creation of technical solutions. He thinks the challenge is mapping informality as cities grow in unpredictable ways. He also claims that cities are about connections: “the socioeconomic and physical links that allow each one of us to make a living, obtain services that make our lives easier, and learn and invest our time and resources.”

The effects of connections can be traced as the concentration of social networks in space and time where the value of a group is not proportional to the group’s numbers, but to its interactions. GPS tracking, and smart phone technologies can help track the networks.

New methods from urban science allow the accelerated evolution of these neighborhoods to follow natural urban processes. They are based in part on the mathematical analysis of detailed maps, including the development of algorithms to optimize building access, delivery of services, formalization of land, and taxation, with minimal disturbance and cost.

Planning through the development of detailed maps at the neighborhood level is also an effective way to capture local, person-centric knowledge, providing a clear vehicle for better local politics via the coordination of priorities and action from communities, local governments, and other stakeholders. The convergence of a networked science of cities, quantitative methods of spatial analysis, and information technology tools is key to allow users to participate.

Full text available here

Luís M. A. Bettencourt (2019) Designing for Complexity: The Challenge to Spatial Design from Sustainable Human Development in Cities Technology|Architecture + Design, 3:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/24751448.2019.1571793

Vetements@Harrods: establishing new ethics for clothes production

Image available here

VETEMENTS  was started in 2014 as a French clothing and footwear “design collective” and brand founded by Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia and CEO Guram Gvasalia in 2014. The brand was designed by a collective of their friends who had previous experience working for various known brands. Championing a more ‘pragmatic’ approach to fashion, Demna reflects the ‘down to earth nature’ that he says is reflected in what today’s youth wear. Operating from a philosophical and methodological approach to his designs, Demna propelled Vetements to world class status in just three short seasons (wiki).

Vetements is now trying to raise awareness on clothes overconsumption, overproduction and wastefulness by amassing tones of unused clothes on Harrods window displays. Clothing production is the second-biggest polluter on the planet and the company is trying to encourage companies to have their supply meet their demand.

For more information click here and here

Closing the Loop Documentary

Closing The Loop is the world’s first feature length documentary on the zero-waste / circular economy, supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Responsible Production and Consumption. The film is presented by global sustainability expert Prof. Dr. Wayne Visser, in collaboration with Emmy and two time Telly Award winning director Graham Ehlers Sheldon. The film ranges across three continents and includes commentary from global experts and centres of excellence like the World Economic Forum and the University of Cambridge. A number of innovative circular economy cases are also featured in detail. The Circular Economy Club (CEC) is a communication and promotion partner of Closing the Loop. A film by Kaleidoscope Futures Lab. and Stand Up 8 Productions.