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BY ZACH MORTICE

The nitrate mining town of María Elena in Chile. Photo by Ignacio Infante.

For an exhibit focused on extractive industries, Beyond the City: The South American Hinterland in the Soils of the 21st Century is mercifully short on aerial photos of strip mines and oil derricks. Instead, the installation by Somatic Collaborative now at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial focuses on the human settlements that serve resource extraction industries.

Beyond the City catalogs five South American cities established or expanded because of the growth of heavy industry from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The five case studies are spread across three nations and several extraction, or at least exceptionally invasive, industries: gold mines in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; nitrate mines in María Elena, Chile; oil drilling in Judibana, Venezuela; iron mining in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela; and the production of hydropower in Vila Piloto, Brazil. Each of the cities shares “a very strong national or state government that was pushing forward a project that they believed would advance a larger greater good,” says Somatic Collaborative cofounder Felipe Correa, the chair of the architecture school at the University of Virginia (UVA). These public–private partnerships sought to develop housing and working environments for a white-collar managerial class that would guide populist infrastructure expansions harvested from this land. “Industry had a social project,” Correa says. “If you look at what oil companies are doing in the middle of the Amazon today, they’re completely devoid of a social project.” Beyond the City presents historical evidence on how this mandate was introduced, but the exhibition trails off once each town left its designers’ hands. (more…)

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BY ADAM MANDELMAN

Riding along the layered landscapes of Hawai‘i’s Kohala Coast.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

For a first-time visitor flying into Kona International Airport on Hawai‘i’s Big Island, a view out the airplane window can trigger deep regret. Nowhere to be seen are the state’s trademark emerald ridges and lush valleys. A barren desert of lava spreads to the horizons. Although this landscape, like most deserts, has its own otherworldly beauty, it’s not what most people expect from their Hawaiian vacation. Driving north from the airport to the island’s Kohala Coast resort region doesn’t improve the view, as sunburnt moonscape unfolds for mile after mile.

That a tourist yearning for tropical paradise would find herself in the middle of a vast and arid volcanic plain seems like a cruel joke. But a turn off the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway to any of the region’s resorts soon dispels those anxieties. The seemingly endless basalt yields to coconut palms and bougainvillea that, although sparse at first, anticipate the verdant golf courses and parklands ahead. The parched shrubs and wild goats that adorned the highway have been replaced with ropey banyan trees and groves of ginger, heliconia, and philodendron that shade sprawling water features alive with fish, turtles, and—at one resort hotel—even dolphins.

The extravagant oases that erupt from the lava promise tens of thousands of visitors each year a genuine Hawaiian vacation amid inhospitable desert. As striking a contrast as this phenomenon presents, even more arresting are the well-preserved traces of ancient Hawai‘i that persist throughout this landscape. Over more than 50 years, resort development along leeward Hawai‘i Island (more…)

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BY BRAULIO AGNESE

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After four decades, a prominent reminder of the effects of urban renewal in the nation’s capital is set to vanish.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

All cities bear scars, evidence of past planning decisions, made with the best of intentions, that affect urban space in negative ways over the following decades. For more than 40 years, Washington, D.C.’s northwest quadrant has suffered a particularly prominent one where the District’s downtown meets the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the east: A three-block-long, 200-foot-wide opening above the depressed Center Leg Freeway (I-395), which runs beneath the nation’s capital from New York Avenue down to the Southeast Freeway (I-695).

The opening—bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the north, E Street to the south, 2nd Street on the east, and a handful of buildings along 3rd Street—is a remnant of the nationwide mid-20th-century effort to revitalize cities by bringing high-speed, multilane highways around and through urban cores. Extensive plans for the District included an interstate loop within the city that would stretch from the west end of the National Mall to the Anacostia River on the east. The eight-lane Center Leg Freeway, which skirts along the U.S. Capitol’s west side, was the second segment built.

North of Constitution Avenue, the section of D.C. the freeway would pass through was a largely black and mixed-European working-class neighborhood that had been in long decline as the city suffered from white flight and economic woes. (Partly in response to the District’s difficulties, a complete reorganization of local government in 1967 gave D.C. semiautonomous rule with its first mayor and City Council.) The area was considered blighted, and there was little effort to resist the project. But seven years after construction on the Center Leg Freeway began, (more…)

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