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catsinthegarden:

Yesterday was my friend’s birthday! She likes otters and was dressed like a pilot the other day, so yeah.
Happy Birthday Seung Ha~

catsinthegarden:

Yesterday was my friend’s birthday! She likes otters and was dressed like a pilot the other day, so yeah.

Happy Birthday Seung Ha~

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Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki Hayao

The movie itself is remarkable for its beautiful animation, stunning script and well-developed characters. The complexity of the story and its characters shines when compared to the typical “good triumphs over evil” plotlines. In Princess Mononoke, no character is completely evil or good. Most of the characters are acting on motives that are reasonable and justified. The lines between good and evil are extremely blurred. Even the most villainous character, Lady Eboshi is ambiguous and has the villagers’ interests at heart. Evil is natural and innate in all humans, it is not something to be feared or defeated but rather controlled. The character that preserves the balance between the two sides is the hero.  “To see with eyes unclouded by hate” is a line Ashitaka says as he tries to mediate the conflict between man and nature. He is constantly accused and threatened by both sides claiming he is working for the other even though he tries to claim that there are no sides.

Most importantly, the movie contains a message about the conflict between man and nature. Set in a time where humans have just started cutting down the forest, the beasts of the forest are at war with the humans. The people are cutting down the forest for the newly emerging iron industry. The spirits’ murderous intent is a result of the helplessness, anger and resent towards the humans that cut down the forest and constantly thwart attempts to replant trees. And the people of the village hate the beasts because they have lost men to attacks. Each party feels like they have been victimized and thinks that revenge is justified. It results in a vicious killing cycle that no one remembers started first (probably the humans).

A character in the movies says “Everybody wants everything, that’s the way the world is. But I just might actually get it.” Each character is moved by selfish motivations. People are greedy and constantly want more than what they have. It’s no wonder we don’t appreciate nature for what it gives (how many Americans give thanks on Thanksgiving?). Our own narcissism is to blame, throughout history humans have proven time and time again that we think we are the subject and center of everything, therefore nature exists only for our profit and exploitation. We can claim ownership over land because the animals and plants cannot fight back and even if they attempt to humans have efficient ways of getting rid of obstacles.

In reality, nature cannot fight back for its continued existence. The conflict shown in the movie is already past in our world. And there was no such thing as harmony, balance or compromise, the humans have dominated nature. Nature has been exploited and only now are we struggling to deal with the consequences (Pollution and toxins in the Gowanus Canal). By creating a forest in the Gowanus landscape a new industry can take place and perhaps we can restore the balance between humans and nature. 

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Collage compilation of birds and animals found in the Gowanus canal with leaders for easy identification and visualization.

Collage compilation of birds and animals found in the Gowanus canal with leaders for easy identification and visualization.

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Infrastructure and Landscape Urbanism

Networked Ecologies, Kazys Varnelis

If modernists believed that modern architecture relied on infrastructure, the Gowanus can support nothing, there is nothing to be done. Our project is different in that we are trying to reestablish nature(?), instead of architecture, in an existing urban area where there is a dearth of uncontaminated soil, grass and trees. It is impossible to return the canal to the way it way before and there would be foolish to rely on the current infrastructure to build something new. But does a forest need infrastructure? Will planting a man-made forest do anything to improve the state of the area? And if that forest were to be used for experimental research and timber harvest might it just become a bad imitation, a parody of nature that has no significance?

To say that the infrastructure of the Gowanus is lacking is an understatement. It might have been sufficient a long time ago when the wetland became a canal and was able to form an industry in the area. But now it has become a Superfund site, one of the most contaminated waters in the US that threatens the well-being of the residents. And as the reading states it is almost impossible to solve the problem by building new infrastructure without disturbing the everyday lives of the people residing there. 

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bodegablue:

From an evacuated zone in Brooklyn, Gowanus, Sandy 2012…

bodegablue:

From an evacuated zone in Brooklyn, Gowanus, Sandy 2012…

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Unseen and Disbelieved: A Political Economist among Cultural Geographers, Richard Walker

In this paper, the author talks about the discourse in cultural landscape studies focusing on writings by Cosgrove and Harvey. He makes a strong argument that Cosgrove is talking from a distanced, high intellectual standpoint that does not resonate with ordinary people. In a way this is true, ordinary everyday landscape is not of much interest in contrast to the great monuments and famous buildings, even though these spectacles are in no way representative of the entire area or culture residing there. The gap between the common and the spectacular is nothing new. Research has proven time and time again that what designer view as “well-designed” is disconnected with a laypersons viewpoint. Things that are common do not warrant as much study as the unique and rare that are found few and far between. But maybe, is can be likened to the keystone species concept in biology, in which certain species have a disproportionate effect on society than their numbers indicate. Landscape can’t help but be ideal, no one designs to be ordinary or bad.

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Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden Lecture, Peter Hatch

                     

Jefferson’s garden book, which he kept from 1766- 1824 contains an alarmingly large number of the word “fail” which shows that he was eager to trial new plant varieties. He also measured how long each vegetable was and when the seeds were sown. The speaker likened his act of gardening to a fun adventure. Jefferson himself said “I am but an old man but a young gardener” He planted multi-headed cabbages, giant cucumber, peas, purple and white aubergines and other odd colored vegetables. The contribution made by Jefferson and his vegetable garden may include the introduction of rutabaga to America and the processing of the sesame oil. The lecture states the experimental nature of the garden contributed useful plants to culture. It is also interesting that the terracing of the garden was designed for the view as a workhouse of nature.

The idea that Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden was “revolutionary” was attributed to its contrast to the European kitchen garden. The kitchen garden was the traditional way, very much focused on energy and effort to grow plants out of season so that they could be consumed all year round whereas Jefferson liked to experiment with different types of unique plants. It is a shame that Jefferson did not record his methods of taking care of crops because varying methods is also a way of experimenting.

Both gardens seem to have an experimental nature, where would “hot beds” have been developed if not in the kitchen garden? The two gardens merely had different priorities and goals. One is less focused on productivity than the other, allowing it to explore and experiment with the novel and the uncertain. This eerily similar to the Project 3 prompt for the Gowanus canal in that we must design an experimental forest that produces hardwood timber. Will our designs be lucrative and practical or revolutionary?

Practicing sustainability by design: global warming politics in a post awareness world by Cameron Tokinwise states that many people are aware of environmental issues but awareness is not enough to stimulate change in action. Design can be the link between the thought and the behavior by facilitating sustainable action. Currently, even though people want to recycle and compost there are so many obstacles and too much effort is needed that it is not worth following through. It’s like someone is deliberately making it difficult to be sustainable when the opposite should be true.  

Integrating green technologies into existing structures as “beginning of pipe” strategies are the effective because they do not rely on people’s actions; however, its installation is extensive and costly, as well as disruptive. As the author states, technological change must come with social change, a design that promotes a change in behavior that comes easily into the routines of daily life and enables habitual activity, but is also somewhat pleasurable or productive in a way that gives significance to the action itself other than the ultimate goal. Integration with existing infrastructure is also key.

So, design is not all powerful, rather, it is a necessary tool to bring to light important issues and materialize the abstract. Because while it cannot make people change their behavior or attitudes it provides the little push that makes it intuitive and easy to act sustainably. 

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Spectacle and Society: Landscape as Theater in Premodern and Postmodern Cities, Denis Cosgrove

     In Spectacle and Society: Landscape as Theater in Premodern and Postmodern Cities, Cosgrove claims that post modern and pre modern landscape is at odds with each other, suggesting that modern landscapes are spectacles, sensational and superficial, and no longer hold moral significance. Spectacle is used to describe attractive visuals and superficial aesthetics that usually has a negative connotation in that it holds no intellectual or social concerns.

     I am confused by the author’s analogy of text and image to the mind and sight or intellect and sense. I agree than drama for the sake of drama is meaningless but fact is that current genres of literature don’t fare better, text can be just as flighty, thoughtless and vulgar, Twilight? Curiously, the tension between text and image reminded me of the film industry’s trend of adapting popular books into movies. I’m sure he is not talking about these kinds of words.

      Image is indispensable to the practice of landscape and text is needed for theory. Still, current landscape architecture study is one of the design/image-oriented, requiring people capable of communicating and thinking visually. Although the author looks down on the display of “surface glitter and transitory pleasure” these carefully scheduled and meticulously planned events they may spark spontaneous reactions and significant images in individuals.

     Designers have the opportunity to influence the physical world people live in and can therefore change the way people live. Given this power, I think is foolish to disregard spectacular theater as a sensational pleasure for the masses. Also, written text is not infalliable, narratives are subjective accounts influenced by the opinions and prejudices of the individual. If anything they reveal more about the person than anything they are describing.

       It is disconcerting that the author makes too many assumptions about the nature of text and its importance by conjoining morality and ethics. I for one enjoyed both representations of the Venetian landscape, thinking that they both approached an event with different points of view and purposes. I believe the adage “A picture is worth a thousand” words holds true, but it does not mean that either method of representation is better than the other.

Photoset

Impressions of the Gowanus Canal - First visit to project site

Gowanus Canal Conservancy Site Visit Bad weather Two Moon Art House & Cafe Dredge Fest

Maps drawn by residents. Gowanus Impressions by Jackie Weisburg