Saturday, November 3, 2007

nov 5 - fertile soil for our mind-space on landscape

>Who are the authors? What is their purpose; what do you think they hoped to
accomplish? Who is the intended audience?

Hough wants us to see plants from a new, more ecological perspective.

In reading the measures for safety from Hough, it is striking how much alteration of the landscape is necessary for automobile/high-speed transportation.

>In what way(s) do the publications reflect the time in which they were

>Do the authors of these publications use the word "nature" explicitly or
implicitly? Do they ascribe values to the natural environment? If so, how
would you characterize them?

Hough talks a lot of natural processes. He says that forests regenerate continuously under natural conditions, which I guess implies that human intervention alters this process.

I think Hough implies a value on trees’ own innate nature when he describes the cultivated plant group. While he remains detached in diction, the observations he chooses to describe in relation to tree cultivation are reminiscent of female Chinese foot binding or Nazi Germany diversity reduction. It’s not that he says any of this directly, but after reading the many, varied, persistent, all-encompassing, and calculated ways in which we bind, strip, plan, and limit tree diversity, I get this feeling.

And, more generally:

>What is the significance of the perspective/information in the readings for
you as a designer, planner, or author? How can you imagine applying that

Page’s description of the battles in the late 1800’s between Olmstead & co. against citizens about the strategic cutting of trees is fascinating. What it shows to me is that there was a major lack of trust between the two parties, so much so that with the same goals they actively opposed each other. This reminds me that above all else, or perhaps below all else as a foundational beginning, you must establish trust with your clients/cohorts/neighbors.

In reading just now about the way plants are groomed to meet our crazy uniformity standards, I was inspired to take a new look at something happening in my own work. I am currently putting together a new set of sample projects for the software. The stats show a bias towards my own type of culture, male, American, adult. After reading about the way trees are fit into a tiny box, yet this happens behind the scenes through a process that isn’t apparent, it makes me think very carefully about the types of sample projects I’m selecting. What city planners choose to put on the streets sends a strong message to the people who walk by. Further, it dictates market forces that determine what people carry in their nurseries. In a way choosing the trees for a street is a very god-like activity. Not that I didn’t think of diversity in the first place when choosing projects for scratch, but this reading has rekindled my eagerness.

>As a non-scientist, it's not possible to be an expert in all areas of the
urban natural environment, so were you to use this type of information in
your practice, you might engage a consultant who is an expert in one or more
fields. How would you imagine interacting with such a consultant? How much
and what kind of things do you need to know to work effectively with a

You need to know what you’re looking for to talk to a consultant. For example, I need to know what kinds of processes I want to measure (wind, cars) before I ask a consultant how to measure them. Better yet, if I know exactly the type of substance I want to measure (force in the case of wind, and perhaps sulphur dioxide from combustion), then I can consult a more specialized expert who may not even see the high level purpose, but really knows the capability of the specialized equipment.

>Think also, about the kinds of issues, raised by these readings, that we
have not discussed fully in class. What are they?

Again, I’m inspired by Page’s writings on two groups with the same goals opposing each other’s actions. We don’t talk enough in class about long term solutions that rest most importantly on transforming mindset, community knowledge, and culture. The West Philly plan did take on this issue, though more through modeling the behavior than explicit mention. We should discuss in class what we see as the importance/unimportance of cultivating fertile soil for eco-landscape ideas to be able to take root. We need to discuss how to seed the soil with constructive ideas that are open enough to allow for individual creative co-solutions, but scaffolded enough to fight off the cultural tendency to fall back to a non-ecological non-process-sighted approach to viewing, dare I say touching, the landscape.

Page puts nature/trees and capitalism at odds with a directness and seriousness that I have never seen stated so overtly. The juxtaposition of capitalism/business and street-trees through a sustained discussion seems too silly to take seriously, but the image is haunting and undeniable – NY is a metaphor for money and speculation, and trees are the metaphor for mother nature.

Hough takes a viewpoint from far back by mentioning the evolution of trees for 100 million years. Since cars have only been popular for 100 years, it reminds me that we can rethink our infrastructure more than some would guess. Illich, who I’ve been reading, notes that high speed transportation only accomplishes its goal to a certain point. Once you get fast enough, you run into problems like traffick. Or you start building your cities so widely spread out as a result of being able to travel faster. So what once made your world smaller and brought it closer together also has the reverse effect of spreading your world out. At some point the original intent of automobile transportation can be negated. Inspired by the ecosystem of plants, we need look at our own processes as more of an ecosystem and evolution-nuveau.

Can I measure ozone, nitrogen oxide, or sulphur dioxide in the air at ground level… (or by kite)?