Come Hell or High Water: Cities Must Evolve in the Face of Climate Change

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

The time to talk about climate change as if it’s merely a hazy possibility that won’t occur in our lifetime anyway has long passed. Multiple recent reports have made it clear that it’s already happening, and its effects will be much worse than previously expected.

In 2016, the Paris climate accords set a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (at which it’s already failing); the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now says two degrees is both inevitable by the year 2040 and genocidal, set to cause the death of all coral reefs, extreme wildfires, heat waves and other weather events that will subsequently threaten the world’s food supply and transform the global economy.

Clearly, addressing the problem at its source is the most crucial course of action. For the sake of the planet and virtually all life upon it, including our own species, we must rework practically every aspect of civilization, from our energy infrastructure and agricultural practices to corporate and governmental operations (because, while the efforts require widespread support and small actions are still important, the onus to lessen the impacts of inevitable climate change cannot be placed on individuals.) Technology and architecture won’t save the world alone, but it can help, and if we’re going to head off some of the most immediate climate change effects, we have to start now.

Architects, engineers and urban planners have already begun to work on approaches that range from visions of futuristic cities that would take many decades to build from the ground up to more practical and immediate solutions that adapt to the new normal. Extreme weather, rapid influxes of climate refugees and the need to continuously evolve in response to the changing world are among the top issues to address.

Managing Fires and Floods

Flooding is inevitable. Stronger, more frequent storms are already wreaking havoc on the United States and throughout the world, leaving catastrophic flooding in their wake that can extend much farther inland than anticipated, particularly along rivers. The pace of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica is on track to raise sea levels 26 inches by the year 2100, and many scientists consider that to be a conservative estimate. Cities like Miami, Houston, Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila, Lagos, London and Shanghai are at immediate risk due to groundwater extraction, soft sediments and, in Miami’s case, permeable limestone that will allow water to rise from underground.

Sea levels are rising faster on the east coast of the United States than anywhere else, and locales from North Carolina to Florida already lost 5 inches of coastline between 2011 and 2015. Researchers believe it has something to do with the slowing Gulf Stream, the effects of El Niño cycles and shifts in major Atlantic Ocean weather patterns. Experts predict that many cities could be swallowed altogether within the lifetime of children born in the current decade. 3D animated Google Earth gifs by Climate Central based on an extreme sea level rise scenario from the NOAA show us what this could look like in a few major cities, and it’s not good.

So what are cities doing to plan for this? Not much, in most cases, but that could change soon. Many of the most vulnerable cities are consulting with experts on plans of attack that involve building in safer areas, transforming the most flood-prone zones into buffer areas, integrating green spaces capable of absorbing large quantities of stormwater, elevating new structures, improving the climate resiliency of low-income housing and creating systems that work with, rather than against, a changed waterfront.

Resilient by Design – San Francisco Reimagined by Hassell Studio

For a recent competition called Resilient by Design, which challenged design teams to reimagine the Bay Area in the face of potentially devastating climate change, global design firm HASSELL envisions a new network of green spaces and “water-loving places” connected by canals and creeks. Forging these wide, green waterways creates controlled paths for flooding and plans to use them for transport and recreation. Native plants treat runoff, a “living levee” forms a wetland for restoring habitat and holding stormwater and schools built on higher ground become hubs for water treatment and community activities.

Imagine Boston 2030: Planning for Floods by SCAPE
Imagine Boston 2030: Planning for Floods by SCAPE

In Boston, SCAPE Landscape Architecture collaborated with the Mayor on a vision to protect the city’s 47 miles of shoreline as part of the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative. Using the city’s Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps, the team demonstrates how flood-resilient buildings, elevated landscapes, waterfront parks, connections to the waterfront and a deployable flood wall system could address rising water and enhance community access to the waterfront at the same time. Key transport corridors like Main Street and Bennington Street will have to be elevated.

“We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face. A resilient, climate-ready Boston harbor presents an opportunity to protect Boston, connect Boston, and enhance Boston, now and for the future,” says Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “As we enter a new era in our Harbor’s history, Boston can show the world that resilience is not only the ability to survive adversity but to emerge even stronger than before. That’s the promise of a Resilient Boston.”

Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul

In fact, reintroducing natural systems could be key, all over the world. For Seoul, architect Chris Reed of ASLA proposes giving water more space in the city with the knowledge that we can’t hold it back and might as well do what we can to enjoy it. We could “bring new life and richness into the public realm” with fish parks, canal streets, water plazas and other spaces, and transform vacant land into new wetlands that bring value into adjacent neighborhoods. The city’s Cheonggyecheon River is already a great example of this approach, uncovered from beneath roadways and highways and renovated into a central riverfront offering both floodwater containment and recreational space in the heart of downtown.

Water, of course, isn’t the only force of nature we have to protect ourselves from. With wildfires raging across much of the West, many people are wondering what they can do to make their homes more fire-resistant. While land management practices will have to change in many parts of the country to anticipate and mitigate wildfires to the greatest extent possible, fireproofing could at least help salvage some structures when they can’t be stopped. The good news is, a few small changes can make a huge difference, and they can be surprisingly affordable, too.

Gigacrete House

Las Vegas-based GigaCrete makes prefab houses with recyclable, non-flammable materials including steel frames, interlocking wall panels and special wall coatings that make them hurricane resistant, bulletproof and waterproof to boot. A 576-square-foot, one-bedroom model costs just $24,000, and they can be scaled up and customized. Other approaches involve the use of tempered glass, minimizing exposed wood, non-flammable decks, rooftop sprinkler systems, mesh screens that prevent smoldering materials from getting into vents and strategies to clear brush. It’s likely that features like these will increasingly be built into new construction in fire-prone areas.

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Getting Real: Placeholder Graphics Lead to Literal Architectural Renderings

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Architects are sometimes criticized for taking creative liberties with their artwork, setting unlikely green scenes or populating their rendered scenes with an improbable array of happy figures. While these “literal renderings” (per Mike Rosenberg) may in some sense be figurative, using signage one would not likely see on an actual structure, they also are refreshingly blunt about the contents of the structures represented.

Surely, no one will actually call their store “Retail” or building “Signage” or mixed-use community “Mixed-Use Apartments,” but at least the viewer gets an actual sense of what they should expect to find inside.

In some cases, these are generic elements are simply temporary markers for mid-stage designs without a name — in others, they can be used to pitch developers, communities and local approval boards.

A kind of architectural equivalent to plain-packaging, minimalist companies (like Brandless), these exist at the other end of realism spectrum, countered by more playful and surrealist approaches like the one below.

The art of architectural representation has changed a lot over time, including the scale figures used to set stages, but at least these kinds of experiments show there is further room to adapt and grow.

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Found Victorian Photographs Transformed into Pop Culture Trading Cards

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Victorian-era photographic subjects are transformed in ways they couldn’t possibly have imagined in a series of modified cabinet cards by artist Alex Gross. A buttoned-up young woman becomes Harley Quinn, a group of young men in suit jackets and cravats turn into the members of KISS, an ordinary-looking couple reveal themselves as Batman and Catwoman. For Gross, collecting found black-and-white photographs in the form of cabinet cards is all about seeing potential in unexpected places.

It’s almost like Gross pulls the very real people who sat for these photos so long ago through a portal and into the 20th century – never quite all the way to modern times. The hand-painted images retain a sense of vintage charm, recalling the golden age of comic books in the 1950s, even when depicting more contemporary characters like Arya Stark and the Night King from Game of Thrones.

Gross told Vivianite that vintage photographs and cabinet cards have a big influence on his work – extending beyond this series and into his full-scale paintings. Many have a similar feel of mish-mashed eras, all rendered in Gross’ signature vivid illustrative style.

“I have a medium-sized collection and many of the people in these photos appear in my work. And my favorite authors have also played a large part in my work. I think that Herman Hesse, W. Somerset Maugham, and George Orwell were all geniuses and their work has really connected with me for a long time now.”

Gross has released several books of his work, including Future Tense: Paintings by Alex Gross, 2010-2014, Discrepancies and Now and Then. The latter, released in 2012, features 98 of his cabinet card paintings produced over a four-year period.

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In Plane Sight: The Fort Worth Alliance Airport ATC Tower

[ By Steve in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

The Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower is an FAA-certified Level 5 facility whose design showcases the best features of Modernism.

Designed by architectural firm Albert Halff Associates, the control tower opened in 1992 and is the crowning glory of Fort Worth Alliance Airport. It was also one of the final pieces of the puzzle to be put in place at AFW, which officially opened on December 14th of 1989. We’re not sure how pilots managed to fly into and out of AFW in the interim… maybe they just winged it.

Triumph Tower

Some have likened the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower to a big beaked bird or an ice cream cone as seen through the eyes of Picasso. The tower’s Cubist vibe isn’t all about form, however. The lower portion of the beak/cone houses microwave signal relay equipment essential to any control tower’s primary function.

Alliance Appliance

Flickr member Jeff Stvan (Diorama Sky) obviously loves airplanes but he’s got a crush on the Fort Worth Alliance
Airport air traffic control tower as well. The photographer’s many albums posted to the popular image-hosting service feature photos of the tower taken between 2003 and 2016, during Stvan’s frequent visits to the annual Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show.

Triangle, Manned

The Fort Worth International Air Show made its debut at Fort Worth Alliance Airport in 1993. The Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show succeeded its progenitor in 2006 and since that time the air show has donated over $700,000 to more than 60 non-profit organizations.

Pro & Control

If the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower looks familiar AND you’ve never attended an air show at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, you just may have been watching TV in 2004. Location shooting for LAX, a 13-episode TV drama starring Heather Locklear, used AFW as a substitute for Los Angeles International Airport. AFW and its iconic ATC tower still look and act as good as new… unfortunately the same can’t be said about Locklear.

Texas Angler

Jeff Stvan’s photos date from his visits to the air show in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2016. Each time, Stvan was sure to snap the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower – most often as the prime subject but also incidentally as a background feature. Credit it to the power of the tower… or perhaps he was just in the mood for ice cream.

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Refugee Baggage: Suitcase Dioramas Show Dark Scenes from Countries Fled

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

The project of a Syrian-born artist and architect and an Iraqi-born author, this installation invites viewers to imagine what refugees leave behind when the pack up the few things they can carry and flee an oppressive regime or war-torn country.

The UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage installation by Mohamad and Ahmed Badr “sculpturally re-creates rooms, homes, buildings and landscapes that have suffered the ravages of war. Each is embedded with the voices and stories of real people — from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Iraq and Sudan — who have escaped those same rooms and buildings to build a new life in America.”

Visitors can listen to the stories of refugees on headsets attached to each diorama in the series, complete with “miniature cars, tiny living room sets, and even fake plants adorn the open luggage—installations which each” took months to complete.

The work hits at all levels: the scenes look small and fragile, familiar but derelict, while framing them inside baggage conjures images of flight. Together with the audio, they are powerful awareness-raising tools in the fight to humanize refugee situations.

More about its creators: “A Syrian artist and architect, Mohamad was born in Damascus, raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing the juxtaposition of East and West within him, Hafez’s art reflects the political turmoil in the Middle East through the compilation of found objects, paint and scrap metal. His work has been profiled by NPR , New Yorker Magazine, and The New York Times. With four highly acclaimed exhibits under his belt, Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content.”

“Ahmed is a writer, social entrepreneur, poet, and former refugee from Iraq. With work featured by Instagram, NPR, The Huffington Post, Adobe, United Nations, and others, Ahmed explores the intersection between creativity, the refugee experience, and youth empowerment. Ahmed is attending Wesleyan University, where he is a Fellow at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Ahmed is the host of TOGETHER, a UN Migration Agency podcast that is centered around the stories of refugee and migrant youth across the world.”

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The Other Place: Surreal MC Escher-Inspired Hotel Interior in China

[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

A maze of staircases leads absolutely nowhere within a series of new hotel rooms at ‘The Other Place’ in China, nodding to artist MC Escher’s famous lithograph print entitled ‘Relativity.’ Shenzhen-based architecture firm Studio10 renovated the existing rooms at ‘The Other Place’ guesthouse in Guilin, giving half the rooms a ‘maze’ theme with deep forest green walls and the other half a ‘dream’ theme in soft pink and white.

The surreal staircases stretch up the walls, taking advantage of the impressive ceiling height. Occasionally, there really is something at the end of them – a door, or a loft – though even the doors aren’t quite what they seem. Others just contribute to the graphic nature of the design, their undersides stepped as well to add to the optical illusions. The architects envision the design as a seamless transition from 2D to 3D.

“All components from the reality world such as lighting fixtures and electronic appliances have been concealed behind a series of black-painted doors, maintaining the pristine, chimerical nature of the space,” they say of the pink “dream” rooms.

“In the other forest-green-themed room, anti-gravitational stairs lead to golden doors, behind which there could be a trail leading to a secret forest – or some other unexpected findings that surprises you.”

While no physical space can quite capture the strange, vertigo-inducing spatial confusion of Escher’s drawing, ‘The Other Place’ definitely honors the original in a way that’s instantly recognizable (and also evocative of La Muralla Roja by Ricardo Bofill.)

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Daily City: London Architect Drafts 365 Urban Plans, 1 Day & Design at a Time

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

A London architect has is working to sketch a new city each day, mining his imagination and experience for fresh ideas for a full year, a practice inspired in part by the failures of modern urban planning.

Peter Barber is sharing the results of his work online, driven by an architectural theorist.”The idea arose from Lewis Mumford’s assertion that modernism has ‘failed to produce even a rough draft for a decent neighbourhood’, and from a pub remark made by my friend and colleague Ben Stringer, who said that you ought to be able to design a city in 10 minutes” — or at least: the idea for one.

These are not meant to be fully polished master plans, but rather an exploration of the shape of cities through quick sketches. They range in scale and region as well, from towns in Spanish ravines to fisherman islands and farming cooperatives in the United Kingdom. Among others, he has imagined a city to wrap the existing city of London, wondering what that might look like as well as how it would function and relate to the historical metropolitan heart of England.

Embedded in this experiment, though, is also a call to action for architects and planners: sketch, think and design, even if it’s speculative, just to keep ideas flowing. “I’m an inveterate sketcher. The project structures that a bit,” says Barber. “In the course of my day it’s a little 10 minute mental workout, kind of light relief too, and a chance to think beyond the here and now. I wonder if the project will remind people about the joy of jotting down a thought in a quick sketch, the sketch book as a place to escape to, a place to be playful, dreamy, speculative, idealistic even.”

Of course, he also hopes some good ideas will come out of the exercise. “We need to think deeply about our priorities and how those might be reflected in the production and arrangement of space and how we want our cities, towns, villages to be designed,” he explains In designing, he is also researching, and thinking about what’s already built. “To a significant extent the layout of our cities, and London is a very good example, are products of neo-liberal economics, the commodification of housing and the arbitrary flow of global capital. In London, which is surely one of the richest cities the world has ever known, this is leading to misery and a segregated city, with 170,000 homeless people and 20,000 empty investment flats, while social housing bequeathed to us by a more idealistic post-war generation is bulldozed.” Of course, one always has to be careful, too: architects are notorious for thinking about city plans first in terms of buildings, and only later in terms of practical considerations.

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When Infrastructure Costs More Than Money: History’s Deadliest Projects

[ By SA Rogers in Culture & History & Travel. ]

Construction is a deadly industry. Falls, electrocution, blunt force trauma and mishaps with heavy machinery are just a few of the hazards workers face on project sites around the world, whether they’re building a small house or a massive dam. Historically, it hasn’t just been the nature of the work that makes this job so dangerous, but also attempts to cut costs and boost productivity at the expense of worker safety. Though tighter regulations have made mass worker deaths less common, they still happen, and the numbers can still be shocking.

When we calculate the costs for major infrastructure projects, we rarely include human lives in the figures. How do we do that math, anyway? Bridges, canals, tunnels, dams, railways and highways have made a lot of human “progress” possible over the last two centuries, but it’s worthwhile to consider their true toll – and remember that many of the dead were migrant workers, colonized people and prisoners.

Death and the Dam

The Hoover Dam by Amsel Adams – image via Wikimedia Commons

Even putting aside the environmental cost of dams – which have the greatest negative impact on rivers of all human activities – these behemoth structures are wildly expensive, and thousands of lives have been sacrificed to build them. The Hoover Dam, a 1,244-foot-long, 726-foot tall monstrosity on the Colorado River that holds back so much water it actually deformed the Earth’s crust, famously involved over 100 deaths throughout its construction between 1922 and 1935. The first was J.G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned while looking for an ideal spot, and the last, strangely enough, was Tierney’s own son Patrick, an electrician’s assistant who fell from an intake tower.

Fort Peck Dam Slide Montana – image via Estate of Robert A Midthun/Wikimedia Commons

In between were at least 100 “industrial fatalities” and dozens of deaths officially attributed to pneumonia but possibly linked to carbon monoxide poisoning. Workers often found themselves using gasoline-powered equipment in poorly ventilated spaces that reached temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Though legend has it that some of the men are buried in the Hoover Dam, it’s unclear whether there’s any truth to it – unlike a similar situation at Montana’s Fort Peck Dam. When a 1938 structural failure caused 34 workers to become trapped by debris, eight died, and only two bodies were recovered. The other six remain entombed somewhere beneath all that shale, bentonite and concrete.

Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, Washington – image via Wikimedia Commons

In Washington State, the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam not only damaged crucial salmon runs and flooded the traditional fishing sites, burial grounds and sacred cultural gathering places of the Spokane Tribe without adequate compensation, it resulted in the death of 77 workers between 1933 and 1941 and another four during construction of the Third Powerhouse between 1967 and 1975. As of 2018, there’s no monument or placard honoring any of the lives lost. Other dams along the Columbia, including the Bonneville, The Dalles, the John Day and the McNary, displaced the Native American tribes who lived along the shores of the Columbia River for millennia, leading to generational poverty that makes the true death toll of the dams a lot higher than the official numbers from the time of their construction.

The single deadliest dam remains the Aswan on the Nile River in Egypt, which took over 30,000 workers a decade to complete and resulted in 550 deaths. This didn’t happen at the turn of the 20th century, but rather 1960-70. Though it’s credited with boosting the Egyptian economy, at least 100,000 people had to be relocated, and many priceless archaeological sites were flooded.

Tragic Tunnel Disasters

Image via the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Documentary

One of the worst industrial disasters in United States history, the Hawks Nest Tunnel began as a diversion project for the New River in West Virginia. When workers discovered valuable silica in the rock, they were asked to mine it as a byproduct of construction – without any protective gear. All the dust they inhaled led to a disease known as silicosis, a lung disease marked by inflammation and scarring. The official death count is 109, but due to the number of workers who quit in the midst of the project, the number could be as high as 1,000.

Gotthard Base Tunnel – image via Wikimedia Commons

New York City’s Third Water Tunnel has been under construction since 1970, and it’s still not complete. The largest capital construction project in New York City history, the tunnel is located more than 500 feet below street level and will ultimately stretch more than 60 miles once the third and fourth sections are finally built. Twenty-four deaths are attributed to the project, mostly consisting of workers, but also including a twelve-year-old boy who fell into an uncapped water pipe in the Bronx.

And, in Switzerland, 19 people died while working on the ten-mile St. Gotthard Road Tunnel, which connects central Switzerland to Milan, Italy through the Alps, with an additional 8 perishing during the construction of the separate 35.5-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel.

Treacherous Highways & Railways

The Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

Connecting Pakistan and western China through the Himalaya Mountains, the Karakoram Highway is the highest paved road on Earth and passes through the 15,397-foot Khunjerab Pass, the world’s highest border crossing. It’s full of hairpin curves and deadly drop-offs and often gives drivers altitude sickness, making it dangerous to navigate. It was also unsurprisingly arduous to build. 810 Pakistani workers and 82 Chinese workers died due to landslides and falls throughout its 27 years of construction between 1959 and 1986.

A Native American man looks over the Transcontinental Railroad in California – image via the Library of Congress

Constructing railways is even more treacherous. The First Transcontinental Railroad, a 1,912-mile continuous rail line built between 1863 and 1869 from the eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco made California and the rest of the West Coast of the United States accessible during a time of westward expansion. Americans were free to travel from coast to coast with unprecedented ease, and the railroad enabled the shipment of millions of dollars worth of freight every year. It also had a massive impact on the Native Americans through whose lands the railroad passed, resulting in cultural, economic and human destruction that’s hard to quantify, including the loss of the bison many tribes relied on for survival. The tribes who did attempt to fight back, like the Paiute, were dismissed as saboteurs.

Meanwhile, the manual labor required to produce the railroad was almost entirely carried out by thousands of emigrant workers from China, who received less pay than white workers for difficult and dangerous tasks. The Central Pacific didn’t keep records of worker deaths, but it’s estimated that some 1,200 died. They were temporarily buried along the rail line by fellow workers, the bones collected and shipped back to China at a later date according to Chinese practice.

Australian and Dutch prisoners of war at Tarsau in Thailand, 1943 – image via Wikimedia Commons

The Burma-Siam Railway is nicknamed “The Railway of Death” for a reason. Built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II, the railroad was completed using the forced labor of up to 250,000 Southeast Asian civilians and 61,000 Allied prisoners of war. Conditions in the jungle were so brutal, with guards beating and torturing workers and not enough food and medicine to go around, that an astonishing 90,000 laborers and 16,000 Allied prisoners died.

The High Cost of Huge Canal Projects

Hailed as one of the greatest infrastructure projects the world has ever seen, the 48-mile Panama Canal required the removal of more than 3.5 billion cubic feet of dirt to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean through the Isthmus of Panama, diverting the Chagres River and creating the artificial Gatun Lake. France began the project in 1991, but engineering challenges and a high worker mortality rate brought their efforts to a stop, and the United States took over in 1904. Ten years later, it was open for business.

The Panama Canal is often considered one of the wonders of the modern world, and its annual traffic is estimated to be over 15,000 vessels. A grandiose display of American exceptionalism that helped make the U.S. a major world power, the project forever changed Panama’s culture. But it came at the cost of at least 5,609 lives (likely far more than that, by many historians’ calculations), most of whom were contract workers from the Caribbean.

Prisoners forced to work on the White Sea – Baltic Sea Canal, 1932 – image via Wikimedia Commons

In 1931, the Soviet Union put 126,000 gulag inmates to work on the White Sea – Baltic Sea Canal, a ship canal running through Russia from the White Sea in the Arctic Ocean to the Baltic Sea in St. Petersburg. The 141-mile route was hailed as a success for its quick construction, completed four months ahead of schedule using almost entirely manual labor, though it ultimately wasn’t as deep as originally planned due to cost issues. Though prison labor projects weren’t usually publicized, the White Sea project was an exception, with the Soviet Union boasting about how the “class enemies” (political prisoners) rehabilitated themselves in the process. Prisoners who were able to complete their work the fastest were rewarded with food. Needless to say, conditions were rough, and though it’s unclear exactly how many died, estimates generally run around 25,000.

Clearly, well-built infrastructure is a crucial component of the modern world. But if we can learn anything from the mistakes humans have made throughout history, perhaps we should keep in mind just how much we’ve sacrificed to reach this point and how much thought we should put into the impact of each and every project, from design to demolition and beyond.

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Miniature Calendar: Micro-City Scenes Made Daily from Household Objects

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Photography & Video. ]

It takes just one artist to raise this annual micro-village, putting out a fresh scene daily featuring miniature people going about their everyday lives, navigating repurposed objects designed for different purposes at larger scales.

The new Miniature Calendar by Tastuya Tanaka is the latest in a series of 7, each one featuring 365 snapshots of lives lived small. The figures are often framed by items that are easy to recognize and yet also simple to reimagine in context.

The little humans populating each scene can be seen riding camels over sand dunes, diving between the spirals of a notebook, scaling toothpick architectural towers, strolling down bustling streets with neon sticky note signage and more.

Notebooks, sticky notes, thin plastic sheets and other items found at any art store make up the backdrops for these shots. These are, in turn, turned into books, postcards and calendars by the artist.

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Large-Scale Light Art Comes to Life in Amsterdam for Annual Festival

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Every winter, visitors and residents alike get to see Amsterdam in a whole new light – literally – as large-scale light art installations add an extra layer of vibrance to the city. For the seventh annual edition, the Amsterdam Light Festival chose the theme “The Medium is the Message,” a modern-day evaluation of the famous phrase coined by Canadian scientist Marshall McLuhan. The role light plays in conveying a message glows in the foreground with Amsterdam as the stage, each work interacting with its setting.

WAITING… by Frank Foole

The festival asks artists to consider what kinds of messages light transmits in an era of technology, new media and “fake news.” Can light maintain its objectivity? How does it communicate in a way that other mediums simply can’t share? 29 works of art present their own answers to these questions, illuminated each day between 5pm and 11pm. The festival kicked off on November 29th, 2018 and will run through January 20th, 2019.

ACTION>REACTION 2.0 by Sjimmie Veenhuis
STRANGERS IN THE LIGHT by Victor Engbers & Ina Smits
TWO LAMPS by Jeroen Henneman

Among the most dynamic works is ‘Light a Wish’ by OGE group, which dangles rotating dandelions over the city’s canal.

“The enlarged, fuzzy seeds – of which there are 20 in total and measure 2 metres in height – dangle carefully above the canal and glow in a way that makes it look as though they are breathing. With ‘Light a Wish’ the artists visualise the good intentions that we quietly release and (hopefully) encounter again in the future. In this way the illuminated dandelion puffballs are carriers of our deepest desires and dreams.”

“In the old days, blowing dandelion seeds into the air was also done as a superstitious act: the number of seeds that remained signified the number of years you had to wait to get married, how many children you would have with your loved one, or how many years you still had to live. But before we can take a look in the future, we have to wait a little longer for spring.”

AFTEREAL by Yasuhiro Chida
ALL THE LIGHT YOU SEE by Alicia Eggert
CONTINUUM by Sebastian Kite
DESIRE by UxU Studio

If you’re a light artist interested in seeing your own work splashed across Amsterdam, the festival is already calling for concepts for the 2019-2020 season – check it out at the Amsterdam Light Festival website.

Photography by Janus van den Eijnden

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