Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Landscape futures

Geoff Manaugh was in London today to launch the BLDGBLOG book, so I popped over to the Architectural Association this evening to hear him give an entertaining whistle-stop tour of its contents. It had been a day of strange weather with a massive downpour earlier, like something out of the book's 'Redesigning the Sky' chapter (aggressive cloud seeding during the Vietnam War). The book is fascinating and beautiful to look at, with a lot of on landscapes and soundscapes. Some of the people I've discussed here before crop up - Simon Norfolk, Christian Bök, W.G. Sebald, J. G. Ballard (of course). So here are Ten More Reasons to read the book (in addition to those given on the BLDGBLOG site) - examples of the book's 'architectural conjecture :: urban speculation :: landscape futures'.

The idea that...
  • the Mesolithic landscape of Doggerland, which lies under the North Sea, could be made to re-emerge behind massive ring cities in the form of hydrological projects, encircling the flooded landscape
  • John Milton anticipated the Manhattan Project in his description of the preparations for 'an insurrectionary terrorist invasion of Heaven' in Paradise Lost - a 'mineral activation of the Earth as a resource for high-tech weaponry'
  • the fountains of Rome could be turned into a sequence of liquid cinemas
  • a kind of Sir John Soane museum of historically important architectural fragments culd be established, exhibiting items like the window JFK was shot from, detached like a Gordon Matta-Clark building cut
  • a new set of sound mirrors should be built in the landscape to create specific sounds at specific times - 'a distant gully that moans every year in the second week of November'
  • bands should start doing cover versions of environmental sound recordings - Godspeed You! Black Emperor providing a perfect rendition of a Brian Eno recording of Bayswater Road
  • Rachel Whiteread should begin filling whole cave systems with plaster
  • with a version of the inflatable architecture designed by Swiss architecture firm Instant, you could inflate 'an entire borough that has never otherwise existed, sprawling across the marshy plains of east London. Call it Hackney 2, or Stoke Airington' (a reference to Stoke Newington, where I'm now sitting and writing this)
  • hurricanes could be averted by storing winds in an Aeolian Reef, inspired by the 'weather breeding isle' in Virgil's Aeneid: 'Here in a vast cavern King Aeolus /Rules the contending winds and moaning gales /As warden of their prison. Round the walls / They chafe and bluster underground. The din /Makes a great mountain murmer overhead...'
  • 'a distant heir of J. M. W. Turner returns sunburnt from the tropics to find London an archipelago of failed sea walls and waterlogged high-rises, the suburbs an intricate filigree of uninhabited canals, bonded warehousing forming atolls amidst sandbanks and deltas'

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