Archive for July, 2012


Courtesy the Maine Center for Creativity / Photo by Chris Griffith, GreatMooseAerialArt.com

Not that many public art projects are visible in Google Earth. “We wanted to put Maine on the map,” jokes Jean Maginnis, the founder of the Maine Center for Creativity (MCC), and show them “what fabulous creative people we have.” In 2008, the organization held an international competition to transform 16 active industrial storage tanks—located at the intersection of Interstate 295 and U.S. Route 1—with a new coat of paint. Maginnis estimates that 5 million people pass by these tanks each year, including visitors flying into the Portland International Airport. The competition, called Art All Around,  attracted 560 proposals from 80 countries. Callahan + LeBleu Landscapes, a local landscape architecture firm, was among the finalists who received a $10,000 prize. But ultimately the jury selected a scheme by Jaime Gili, a young Venezuela-born artist who lives in London. The rendering above shows what Gili’s design will look like when it is completed. Eight tanks visible from the highways and railroads nearby will be painted on all sides. The others will only be painted on top, creating art that can be seen by people flying in and prospective visitors exploring the city in Google Earth. So far, MCC has raised $950,000 of the $1.4 million budget, and a number of the tanks have already been painted. You can see some more photos after the jump and in Google Maps.


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Julian Beever

Some artwork only comes together if you see it from a particular vantage point. One variety of this is called slant art–manifested above as a sidewalk chalk drawing by Julian Beever. Robert Krulwich of NPR talks about how artworks like this trick your brain into thinking they’re three-dimensional. Of course, the fun is letting yourself be tricked.

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At the end of the month, the state of New Jersey plans to demolish a site-specific artwork, Green Acres, by the artist Athena Tacha. The piece, which is 77 feet by 85 feet and was completed in 1985, occupies a courtyard at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The Cultural Landscape Foundation calls it an important example of “site-specific architectural sculpture” and  is on the case to save it.

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For a while, it seemed like rising oil prices and shrinking supplies might help us kick our greenhouse gas addiction. But if recent research holds true, we won’t be able to rely on the market to rein in global warming any time soon. In a paper published by Harvard’s Geopolitics of Energy Project, Leonardo Maugeri, a former oil executive and current research fellow, concludes: “Oil is not in short supply. From a purely physical point of view, there are huge volumes of conventional and unconventional oils still to be developed, with no ‘peak oil’ in sight. The real problems concerning future oil production are above the surface, not beneath it, and relate to political decisions and geopolitical instability.”

Maugeri does a comprehensive analysis of oil resources and predicts production could increase by nearly 20 percent in the coming decade and prices could collapse, thanks in part to the new opportunities for tapping tar sands and producing shale oil by hydraulic fracturing. “The Western Hemisphere could return to a pre-World War II status of theoretical oil self-sufficiency,” Maugeri writes, “and the United States could dramatically reduce its oil import needs.” (more…)

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The U.S. Commerce Department reported 760,000 annualized housing starts in June, the most since October 2008. Housing starts have been on the climb for four quarters now, which hasn’t happened since 2005. The multifamily sector is a major reason for the jump. Bloomberg Businessweek posits the housing market has finally hit bottom and is beginning to recover. But we’re not totally out of the woods yet. The Christian Science Monitor quotes IHS Global Insights saying that 1.5 million units would need to be constructed if the economic climate were “normal,” a rate they don’t expect until 2015. And the New York Times notes: “The broader American economy has looked weaker as of late. If the recovery failed and the country tipped back into recession, housing would also suffer.” It points out that new permits for building homes declined slightly in June.

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Prairie dog/Courtesy http://www.topicden.com

Do human beings want to dominate and control nature? Chris Turner on Mother Nature Network thinks so, and he also thinks that modern agriculture mirrors that attitude. But some farmers he describes as “postindustrial” are aggravating the status quo by letting prairie dogs run amok and abandoning petrochemical products. These kinds of small-scale experiments that let nature take its own course may be where landscape architects need to focus as they consider their role in food production.

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Courtesy David Connell/The Blog Aquatic

In the past day I came across two clever ways to make use of one of our most common trash items: the plastic beverage bottle. The EPA says Americans generated 31 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, only 8 percent of which was recovered for recycling (a sad statistic), so there’s no lack of fodder for inventive people who want to find ways to put plastic bottles back to work. Here you see (POP)culture, a canopy designed by students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture and featured on The Blog Aquatic by David Connell. Connell lauded it as “a beautiful example of…making trash too valuable to toss.” Elsewhere, Shea Gunther on Mother Nature Network profiled five low-tech innovations that are making a difference in the lives of people in the developing world, including an incredibly simple and inventive plastic bottle light.

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