2012 - 2013: Proving Ground
Laura Allen, Kyle Buchanan, Mark Smout
‘A critical understanding of our own inability to
control the world, it turns out, is essential to shaping it.’
— Elizabeth Diller in Space Suit: Fashioning Apollo
Unit 11 continues to explore land use and the corresponding architectures, technologies, infrastructures and ecologies inherent in the anthropogenic landscape.
Last year we sought out the indivisibility of architecture and the infrastructural, social and natural landscapes of New York. This year we turn our focus to technological innovations, space spin-offs, adapted technologies and hybrid processes that result in the production of landscapes that can subsequently be defined as techno-nature. To do this we will explore the liminal and engineered landscapes of southern Florida as well as the systematic landscape of Cape Canaveral and its hinterlands of military and space industries.
In Florida, collisions between man, the natural environment and technology can be brutal. The cataclysmic hurricanes and fiercely powerful electric storms, attempts to shift the entire watershed of the peninsula and the screaming acidic emissions of Saturn V’s 34 Mega-Newton rockets, are all examples of the capricious and diverse nature of its environments.
Surface to Air In 1961 the first manned sub–orbital flight rose from the slowly shifting sands of the barrier islands that hug Florida’s Atlantic coast. The liminal site, which started life as a node in the Atlantic Coast Defense System, was chosen for missile testing and manned flight due to a coincidence of geographical, climatic and geophysical factors. Its isolated location provided a huge over-water flight area removed from populated landmasses and shipping lanes.
Liquid Land Florida’s landscape is defined by water. The state can boast 700 artesian springs, 30,000 lakes, ponds and sinks, 1,200 rivers, streams and creeks and 4,500 islands which ring its extensive coastal edge. The Florida Everglades, a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a vast near flat semi-tropical wetland of shallow water and soaked plains that flow slowly south to Florida Bay.
In a remarkably rapid period of human intervention, a succession of unfortunate meteorological events, short-sighted political whims and unabashed hubris, the hydrological balance and lush ecologies of the Everglades and surrounding wetland wilderness were transformed from a ‘River of Grass’ to a fabricated, computer-controlled pumping ground supplying fresh water for the industrial, agricultural and domestic demands of the growing urban area sprawl.
Settlements, property lines and suburban sprawl are terraformed from dynamic
tidal and ‘liquid’ land. This has been facilitated by large-scale canalization
and drainage projects intended to create a dry landscape, engineered for
utility to protect inhabitants from the intolerable consequences of the natural
cycles of changeable weather. The wetland topography has succumbed to
technology and artifice, concealed in the flows of nature.
- Unit 11 is a laboratory for research, invention and spatial imagination, pursued through an iterative, inquisitive and imaginative process where modelling is key. In the first term we will examine technological strategies, geographical environments and science facts as well as science fictions, via a series of workshops and quick projects. We will challenge normative architectural conditions through modelling methods such as replicas, prototypes, science frameworks, operating protocols, and specimens as well as using them as representational devices.
- Super Workshop 2012: Florida We will again collaborate with Columbia University’s Studio-X Co-directors, writer and blogger Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG, and Nicola Twilley of Edible Geography. We will also be joined by Prof. Nat Chard author of Drawing Uncertainty and his Manitoba studio. In addition to the workshop programme the field trip will take us from the 7-mile bridge that ties the Florida Keys through the Everglades, taking in lakes and sinkholes, the Canaveral plane bone yard and the industrial archaeologies of abandoned test sites.
- Students will take further their architectural, cultural, technological and theoretical preoccupations. We will find stimulus and extrapolate ideas for Year 5 thesis design projects and the Year 4 design realization buildings sited in Florida.
Sites of interest
- The Miami Lakes: Flooded quarries formed by limestone extraction for the spread of highways and urban sprawl, marks the boundary of the National Park and to the urban peripheries of Miami.
- Florida’s ‘Mount Trashmore’: a reclaimed rubbish dump is the second highest point in the state, It’s highest Sugar Loaf Mountain, rises only 95m.
- The Big Sugar: industrial scale agriculture. 700,00 acres of sugar cane crops.
- Cape Canaveral launch site:
- Aerojet-Dade Rocket Facility:
- Everglades Jetport: remnants of six runway airport for supersonic aircraft - five times larger than any existing airport. Construction was halted after the completion of just one runway.