Trash Vortex: sea-based landfilling?
Posted by Maya on December 3, 2008 | PERMALINK

The world’s largest garbage dump is located thousands of miles from land.  Also known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Pacific Trash Vortex is an area of marine debris floating in the Pacific Ocean.  This collection of trash is characterized as a plastic-soup due the high concentrations of suspended disposable plastics that have been trapped by the spiraling currents of the North Pacific Gyre.

 

The rotational pattern described by the North Pacific Gyre draws in waste material from the extremities of the North Pacific Ocean, including the coastal waters off North America and Japan. As material circulates in the current, the centripetal tendency gradually moves floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the circumscribed oceanic region. This action has produced unusually high levels of marine debris in the area.

08-12-03: Trash Vortex / The Independent

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer, discovered the trash vortex in 1997.  While taking a short cut home from a yacht race, Moore cut across the North Pacific Gyre, usually avoid by sea-vessels, and spent the following week swimming through the vortex’s trash-filled territory.

Like other areas of concentrated marine debris in the world's oceans, the Pacific Trash Vortex has formed gradually over the last decades as a result of higher levels of marine pollution and the action of prevailing oceanic currents.

The size of the affected region is unknown, but estimates range from 700,000 km2 to more than 15 million km2, (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean). It is estimated that 80% of the material trapped in the vortex comes from land-based sources and the remaining 20% are sea-based sources such as ships and oil rigs.  Moore estimates that oceanic currents carry debris from the east coast of Asia to the center of the gyre in a year or less. Debris from the west coast of North America arrives at the gyre’s centre after approximately five years.

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Farming the Atmosphere for Water
Posted by Neeraj on December 1, 2008 | PERMALINK

Beyond the astonishing bird’s nest featured at the recent Beijing Olympics was perhaps a more spectacular accomplishment: large-scaled cloud seeding. Chinese film and Olympic opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou cited rain as the largest threat to the opening ceremonies. To ensure a rain-free performance, 1104 rocket’s filled with silver iodide were fired into the smoggy skies of 21 sites surrounding Beijing. These rockets dispersed cloud cover and prompted rain to occur before the clouds could disturb the Olympic site. Baoding city, located southwest of Beijing, absorbed 100mm of rainfall during the opening ceremonies, effectively keeping the bird’s nest dry.

Cloud seeding is one of the oldest and simplest weather modification technologies that, after many years of unsuccessful attempts, have incurred a recent resurgence of research. Given the complexity of dynamic atmospheric changes, the results of cloud seeding are difficult to prove. This doesn’t seem to be discouraging China, however, which has set up The Beijing Weather Modification Office (a unit of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau ) that employs over 37,000 peasants that aid in rain production. In a water-deprived nation like China, every drop in the atmosphere goes a long way.

Cloud seeding operates on the water vapor within clouds. Water vapor is typically converted to water droplets through impurities known as condensation nuclei. What seeding does is inject impurities into the clouds that allow water vapors to coalesce on, creating droplets around the nuclei. Gravity can now pull these droplets from the sky to produce rain. Cloud seeding typically occurs with the injection of silver iodide or dry ice that is either fired in missiles from land, or dropped by air via small planes. It is important to note that seeding cannot make clouds but rather promotes rain production in existing clouds.

Beyond the drying of the skies employed during the opening ceremonies, cloud seeding has several other functions. It has been used to help put out forest fires, reduce hail that often attack crops, cool temperatures to reduce electricity loads, and promote rain for agriculture in drought-stricken land. With such potential benefits, it is not surprising that India and the United Arab Emirates are following China’s lead and employing cloud seeding tests.

Sciencedaily.com reports that scientists are predicting increased drought, flooding and forest fires due to global warming in the next two hundred years. Reduced freshwater and more intense droughts will encourage desertification that impacts the amount of vegetative density. With less vegetation, increased runoff will also instigate flooding. Already highly valued freshwater is on its way to becoming one of the world’s most precious resources.

What is promising about the nascent research on cloud seeding is that it can promote rainfall in drought-stricken land as well as reduce flooding by dispersing rainfall over a larger landmass. As weather-monitoring devices increase in precision and can more accurately predict and map the complex network of atmospheric changes, perhaps we will develop an acupunctural approach to fertilizing the atmosphere to cultivate water and reduce the environmental impacts of global warming. Without more research and understanding of our atmosphere, however, cloud seeding could do more harm than good.

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fuel talk20
Posted by Mason on November 27, 2008 | PERMALINK

Maya and Mason are participating in talk20 toronto (edition #3) which is based around the release of the Alphabet City publication (no.13) titled FUEL, available now in bookstores. It happens tomorrow (Friday, November 28).

It takes place at University of Toronto, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at 230 College St starting at 4:30pm. Drinks and food will be available.

The lineup includes: Ron Dembo, Kelly Doran, Chris Hardwicke, Robert Kirkbride, Maya, Imre Szeman, Geoff Thun, Kathy Veikov, and Mason.

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Habitat Interlocks
Posted by Mason on November 22, 2008 | PERMALINK

Quantifying the impact of human habitats on animal habitats is complex and ever-shifting. Only when a freak incident of a bear, or wolf, or deer wander into our developed environment - and a strange tussle between fumbling law enforcement officers and a primal instinct-driven beast ensues - are we reminded on our habitat overlaps. Urban wildlife (rats, pigeons, squirrels, etc.) is one version of adapted coexistence, though more frequently wildlife ends up inadvertently quarantined or cornered. Josh Keyes' paintings simultaneously acknowledge this conflict and propose terraced territories of frictionless micro-habitats.

As reportage continues on the GGADO, or Great Global Amphibian Die-Off, it is difficult to speculate on the outcome of such an extreme loss within one branch of species, such as amphibians. To put this in perspective, 12 percent of all bird species and 23 percent of mammal species are threatened with extinction compared to 35-50 percent of the world’s 6,300 amphibian species. About 100 amphibian species have disappeared since 1980. For comparison, a single species of amphibians would naturally go extinct after about 250 years.

This is primarily driven by the successful spread of the chytrid fungus, climate change, and environment disruption. In response, a proposal for an Amphibian Ark, similar to the Arctic seed vault, is gaining momentum. This would entail regional "biobanks" affiliated with the conservation departments within zoos and other related organizations. A kind of 21st century cabinet of curiosities  - in this case housing frog sperm.

Our contrasting habitats are interlocked in a nebulous way, with the borders redrawn each morning; Animal habitats often in a perpetual defensive retreat, or just confused and surrounded by an overnight track development. The fringes of this contested border usually mediated by controlled programs such as reserves, zoos, and wildlife parks.

Josh Keyes discovered viaBryan Boyer's Reader

Related Post: Convergent Species

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Little White Lies
Posted by InfraNet Lab on November 19, 2008 | PERMALINK

If you are within earshot of New York sometime before the remainder of the year, do not miss Keller Easterling's "Some True Stories: researches in the field of flexible truth." It runs from Nov 18 - Dec 23 2008 at the always reliable Storefront for Art and Architecture. Easterling and her collaborators chart the convenience of deviance, highlighting the lure of swimming in the dirty waters of political persuasions.

Immediately, I am reminded of the current piracy off the Somalian coast as a reminder of some of the by-products of these flexible truths. The recent hijacking of an oil tanker from Saudi Arabia's state-owned shipping line, Vela International Marine Ltd, that is carrying more than 2 million barrels of crude valued at $110 million is a reminder of the power of pirate polity. There have been some 70 pirate attacks in and around the Gulf of Aden so far this year. Of course there really is no government in Somalia right now, so pirating seems like a great option. Aaargh...

Ed's note: Although discovered after the fact, BLDGBLOG and the Lab were in the same headspace yesterday... they have a fantastic overview of piracy, live(!).

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[bracket] Call for Entries On Farming
Posted by InfraNet Lab on October 24, 2008 | PERMALINK

InfraNet is pleased to announce a new publication venture in collaboration with Archinect, and with support from the Graham Foundation.

[bracket]
www.brkt.org

[bracket] is an annual publication documenting issues overlooked yet central to our cultural milieu that have evolved out of the new disciplinary territory at the intersection of architecture, landscape, urbanism and, now, the internet. It is no coincidence that the professional term architect can also now refer to information architects, and that the word community can also now refer to an online community. [bracket] is a publishing platform for ideas charting the complex overlap of the sphere of architecture and online social spheres.

Seeking new voices and talent, [bracket] is structured around an open call for entries. The series will look at thematics in our age of globalization that are shaping the built environment in radically significant and yet unexpected ways.

The first issue is titled On Farming is to be released in Fall 2009.

Please see the website for a description of the call for entries, schedule, and how to be part of future mailings. And please pass this on to anyone you believe could be interested to participate or submit ideas, designs, or texts.

Thank you,
InfraNet Lab Editors
Mason White
Lola Sheppard
Maya Przybylski
Neeraj Bhatia

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Student Works: Transitional Landscapes
Posted by InfraNet Lab on October 9, 2008 | PERMALINK

Picking up on the intermittent series of student projects, here is a project by University of Toronto M.Arch graduate Alice Wong titled Transitional Landscapes. Alice began her research on the hypnotic optics of highway commuting. She selected the highway 427 and Highway 401 knuckle interchange in Toronto as a case study in new possibilities for occupying a smooth (transitional) space. Eventually finding a way to intervene in this hyper-logical, engineered context by inserting a secondary route of new programs and experiences.

Wong writes:

The research begins with observing changes in our transitory experience and analyzing them among varying types including converging/diverging transition, sectional transition, and directional transition. The site of interest is located by the interchange between Toronto's provincial highways 427 and 401.

The scale of this high-speed interchange, and the complex layers and depth of field, seemingly presents an inherent problem in its accessibility to adjacent landscapes due to extreme friction between the fast and the slow. Employing the formal language of the highway and the concept in speed-transition curves; this thesis embarks on creating a new system of speed deceleration loops along the gap between the road and the landscapes by forming a "Super Roundabout (power of 10)" for vehicles to circle within the interchanging moment.

The Roundabout(10) is design to serve for traffic calming and speed control, and allow for increased capacity and accessibility. The occupation potential in the loop system, on the other hand, will allow for servicing and designated programs for convenience, and also suggests the "mediating passage" as the ideal place to be part of a transitory experience.

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Goodbye Global
Posted by Lola on October 7, 2008 | PERMALINK

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A recent article by The New York Times and a report by CIBC World Markets suggest that rising oil prices are fundamentally changing the dynamics of international trade, as shipping costs rise. The cost of moving goods, not the cost of tariffs, is the largest barrier to global trade today.

Sky-rocketing global transport costs have effectively offset all the trade liberalization efforts of the last three decades. The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has risen to $8,000, compared with $3,000 early in the decade, according to a recent study of transportation costs. Big container ships, the pack mules of the 21st-century economy, have shaved their top speed by nearly 20 percent to save on fuel costs, substantially slowing shipping times.

While this is certainly not the end of globalization, economists speculate that it may signal a return to more regional manufacturing and economies. Companies are increasingly seeking to limit global shipping costs. Instead of seeking supplies wherever they can be bought most cheaply, regardless of location, and outsourcing the assembly of products all over the world, manufacturers would instead concentrate on performing those activities as close to home as possible, in what is termed the “neighborhood effect”.

Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism points out that “the Wal-Mart model is fuel-intensive at every stage, and at every one of those stages we are now seeing an inflation of the costs for boats, trucks, cars. That is leading to a rethinking of this emissions-intensive model, in terms of growing foods locally, producing locally or shopping locally.

All this suggests new patterns of international trade, and new regional economic, production and transportation hubs. Thomas Friedman’s world may well be unflattening. However, the recent economic crisis affecting the US and world markets suggests that for now, the world still contains a few bumps.

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Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS)
Posted by InfraNet Lab on September 19, 2008 | PERMALINK

As the Census of Marine Life works towards its first comprehensive report in 2010, already a whopping 150 new species have been tallied. In a recent report, research along the Great Barrier Reef, and more specifically 3 islands, have resulted in the discovery of several new varieties of soft corals, amphipod crustaceans, and tanaids (shrimps).

About 36 house-like plastic boxes have been positioned within the Lizard and Heron Island region to assist in monitoring species over the next decade and beyond. Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) will observe patterns and rates of recolonization of marine life over the duration of the census.

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Gongoozolers, Aqueducts, and Lifts
Posted by InfraNet Lab on September 17, 2008 | PERMALINK

Shipping just got a whole lot smarter. With the advent of software able to forecast the optimum shipping route and method for products still relying upon our globalized capital, suppliers and manufacturers are better able to soften the constricting power of rising fuel costs. The software is able to suggest when air, road, or sea transport is the most efficient, economic, or ecological. With this comes great anticipation for the revival of some of the worlds great inland waterway systems. Revival also fueled in part with the shores of inland waterways claimed as prime gongoozoling territory. Nowhere is the potential for a revived transport network more enticing than the British inland waterway system.

Britain's inland waterway system reached peak expansion in the late 1800s as it became the infrastructural catalyst for the industrial revolution. After falling short in matching the speed of rail and later roadway transport, the canals fell into decay. A 1967 plan positioned the systems conversion into a leisurely liquid network. Today, there are approximately 5,090 kms (3,160 miles) of fully navigable inland waterways in England and Wales. Now managed by British Waterways, the canals and the waterscape website invites holiday-goers to plan their canal adventures. With contemporary iconic engineering works such as the Falkirk Wheel modernizing regeneration of the waterway.

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The Toxicities of Fungiculture
Posted by InfraNet Lab on September 15, 2008 | PERMALINK

Three employees of Farmers Fresh Mushrooms in Lagley, British Columbia died last week as a rush of compost fumes flooded a pump house at the mushroom farm. Fungiculture is centered around no light and robust soil - robust as in manure-laden robust. Thus the composting and thus the toxicity.

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Rewiring (Tele)Geography
Posted by InfraNet Lab on September 6, 2008 | PERMALINK

The NY Times recently reported on the tendency of countries to redirect internet traffic away from the United States. Intelligence agencies have previously been gifted with the convenience of a large majority of international internet usage eventually finding its way through US cables. This trend has been reversing in the last 5-8 years, as the US falls woefully behind up-to-date submarine cable updates, and as increased intraregional networks offer an ability to keep terabytes more local.

Several regions have witnessed dramatic shifts in internet use that has put considerable economic pressure (and opportunism) on expansion. Latin America, Asia, and Africa have reduced their rerouting dependence on the US to 70%, 55%, and 5% respectively.

Probably most significant in that map is what is referred to as the SEA-ME-WE 4 (South East Asia, Middle East, Western Europe 4) cable route which is funneled through the Mediterranean, Suez, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean. It creates a intraregional link from Marseilles to Singapore. January 30, 2008 saw the severing of the SEA-ME-WE 4 and FLAG network, providing an opportune moment to upgrade the network.

What appears initially as (invisible) lines on a global map suddenly can be read as the very modern day gates and thresholds that assert the power, economic vitality, cultural credentials driving competitive urbanism. Villages such as Tarifa, Spain, strategically positioned as a constricted data threshold between the Atlantic and Mediterranean hubs, become a key information harbor at the scale of the data intraregion.

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Dam Politics in the 'Stans
Posted by InfraNet Lab on September 2, 2008 | PERMALINK

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many freshly independent Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan, were dealt either a strong or poor hand with regard to land resources. Reading in the NYTimes on Sunday, Tajikistan hopes an abundance of water will leverage its lingering economic woes. The Tajiks were dealt few exploitable resources, i.e. oil / gas, but the productive combination of heavy winter precipitation and endless mountains, has produced a healthy abundance water. Throw in global warming, and you have a very full river. Along the Vakhsh River, Tajikistan, the Nurek Dam is an icon of 1960s Soviet infrastructure ingenuity. At 300 m (984 ft), the Nurek is the tallest Dam in the world. The massive reservoir fuels nine hydroelectric turbines producing 3.0 gigwatts, or 40% of Central Asia's power needs and 98% of Tajikistan's.

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Just up-river from Nurek is another dam project, Rogun, that has been in the works - and then stalled - for over 30 years. Rogun, the Sagrada Familia of dams is expected to reach 335m (1099 ft) when completed. In fact, Tajikistan pins its entire future on its ability to export power to neighboring energy poor countries such as Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Most affected downstream, Uzbekistan is unhappy with the Rogun project as it will disrupt water flow and therefore considerably effect an already fragile agriculture cycle.


The Soviet-era balance of water usage meant partial stopping of the Tajik’s hydroelectric stations, the main source of energy during the winter season, to save water for the Uzbek irrigation season. This meant that Tajikistan bought much-needed energy and gas from Uzbekistan; this dynamic changed dramatically when Uzbekistan started raising prices, to the level of world prices, crippling the Tajiks and sending their energy debt soaring.

To compensate for this, the Tajik's sought energy independence through hydropower, which worked well. So well in fact that it is leveraging the exportability of its hydropower success against neighboring water poor states. This has now come back full circle as Tajikistan seeks to have water (hydropower) recognized as a tradable commodity, like the oil and gas it has had to purchase from Uzbekistan.

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Student Works: Büroland(wirt)schaft
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 27, 2008 | PERMALINK

Picking up on the intermittent series of student projects, included is a project by University of Toronto M.Arch graduate Tomer Diamant titled Büroland(wirt)schaft. Tomer began his research on speculative development and the hyper-efficiency of (spec) office buildings. Looking closer at the siting of office parks at outlying urban areas, he recognized an opportunity to capitalize on a stop-gap program of seasonal greenhouse agriculture.

He writes:

This project proposes a hybrid typology that combines office space with industrial greenhouse agriculture, revisiting the Buro Landschaft (office landscape) schemes proposed by the Quickborner Team in the 1960’s, filtered through the lens of current global concerns. Buro Landwirtschaft (office agriculture) could make use of the weakest terrains of contemporary urbanism, sites abutting utility corridors, regional infrastructure and light industry. Low land-values would allow for the financing of large footprint buildings composed of paddy-like cells that could be converted from office to agriculture and back, with the prevailing economic winds. The built-in sliding programme is intended to provide an economic damper in volatile market conditions, while affording a degree of spatial flexibility that is not available in normative spec buildings and leasing structures.

The basic scheme inverts a normative concrete slab so that its upturned beams form discrete drainage cells. The beams are designed to accommodate service chases for each respective use. When in agricultural production mode, the cell is filled with irrigated soil. When in office mode, the cell becomes a pressurized plenum built from off-the-shelf raised floor technology. The slab is elevated, so as the cells are converted between office and greenhouse use, parking below can give way for additional head house space required by agricultural production. Head house and parking requirements are inversely proportional, allowing the programmatic adaptability to play out on both levels. Since air is only delivered through the office plenum floors, it is possible to imagine that positive pressure could mitigate humidity infiltration from the greenhouse, allowing for ephemeral internal partitions.

In the final version, the project explores the layering of multiple structural and service geometries, with the ambition of creating internal spatial conditions that are not overburdened by the linear nature of a patent glass roof system. Parking is integrated into a diamond-shaped structural cell that is carried up to support a roof structure of vaulted hexagonal modules. Since the vaults are derived from toroidal geometry, the modules are planar and highly repetitive. Each full hexagon holds a pillow-like ETFE assembly, the opacity of which can be controlled using electro-chromatic technology. Along the vault ridges, half-panels provide computer-controlled operable ventilation. The structural dia-grid accommodates a secondary geometry of drainage cells within the elevated slab. The building is envisioned as a large-scale, elevated mat, in which the office programme is serviced through a central courtyard while the greenhouse is serviced from a perimeter ring. The office grows from the inside out and the greenhouse grows from the outside in. In this scheme, there are no corner offices and all outward views are filtered through the greenhouse spaces. Several smaller courtyards satisfy exit requirements while providing additional light below.

If you would like to contact Tomer about his research and project, you can reach him here.

Previous Student Works: Vivian Chin's Convergent Species

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Exotic Urbanism
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 26, 2008 | PERMALINK

Just wanted to point out the excellent new issue (#9) of MONU is out now and has a contribution from Mason and Lola (aka Lateral aka Infranet Lab directors) on the Thawing Urbanism of the Arctic.

You can get a copy form the fine folks at BoARD and MONU for a paltry €10.

Here is the contents:
A City under the Influence by Vesta Nele Zareh
Cities of Girl by Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix/ Map Office
Thawing Urbanisms in the Arctic by Mason White and Lola Sheppard
Living Facades - Green Urbanism and the Politics of Urban Offsetting by Owen Hatherley
Flying Grass Carpet by Joop de Boer
The 'Great Comeback' of The Chinese to Katendrecht by Els Vervloesem
Urbanism of the permanent Tourist by Deane Simpson
Plastic Wrapped History by Hannah Epstein
Golf Courses and Cultural Conventions of Nature by Jacqueline Schlossman
The Sky is not near enough by Shumon Basar
Defining the Exotic when Identity is Lost by Yasmine El Rashidi
Nondescript Exotism inside the Urban Tissue by Anne Seghers
Pseudo-Democracies and Pseudo-Commissions - Interview with Reinier de Graaf/ OMA
Elite Commune by Lei Liu
Re-fun by Yaowalak Baltisberger
Urbanism in a Minor Key by Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza
The Exotic and the Local - From Superhero to Supercity by Yehuda Greenfield - Gilat

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SuperCorridors
Posted by Lola on August 22, 2008 | PERMALINK

Canada, the US and Mexico have signed NAFTA agreements for a series of infrastructural or multi-modal Super-Corridors as part of the slightly ominous-sounding "Security and Prosperity Partnership" (SPP). Supported by a coalition of political and corporate leaders, the intention of the network is to develop, over-time, a European-style Economic Union.

Maps and plans have already been initiated for the first of the super-corridors. Known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, the TTC is a superhighway system, four football-fields-wide, including tollways for passenger vehicles and trucks; lanes for commercial and freight trucks; tracks for commuter rail and high-speed freight rail; depots for all rail lines; pipelines for oil, water, and natural gas; and electrical towers and cabling for communication and telephone lines.

The corridors are tied into a North American Inland Port Network (NAIPN), that are “sites located away from traditional land, air and coastal borders with the vision to facilitate and process international trade through strategic investment in multi-modal transportation infrastructure and by promoting value-added services as goods move through the supply chain."

One of the striking features of the proposed Super Highway and the Inland Port network is the proposed shift in borders. In the service of efficiency, trucks entering the US from Canada or Mexico would not be vetted at the border, but at an inland port hub. A joint U.S.-Mexico Customs facility called SmartPort is already under construction in Kansas City, Missouri, allowing Mexican trucks to enter the US on FAST lanes and be scanned by SENTRI technology, only officially crossing the border in Kansas.

In a nation obsessed with border security, the proposal raises interesting questions regarding control and access to these super-corridors. Politicians in the US are up-in arms, arguing that the corridor is a threat to security and national sovereignty, bringing in illegal goods and immigrants. One imagines an Orwellian system of surveillance, and electronic checks and balances behind the scenes.

Environmentalist, meanwhile, are sounding alarms, over the environmental impact of the corridors: the potential of a smog-filled highway, contaminating air and water and displacing ecosystems. Even more concerning is the presence of the water pipelines, which imply water is a commodity under NAFTA, rather than an essential need and public trust. There is ongoing political debate, in water-rich nations such as Canada, on limiting or extending bulk export of national water and its implications both on sovereignty, and regional ecologies.

The network reminds one of the radical urbanism of the 1960's. Superstudio's Continuous Monument, a gridded superstructure that would wrap around the world, eventually, covering the entire surface of the planet, leaving a physically and culturally frictionless suburban matrix. In this case, the supercorridors would shuttle goods, oil, gas, electricity, and people, in a futuristic hyper-network.

Watch for a Corridor coming to a neighborhood near you....

With a nod to Pruned's post.

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Icebreakers
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 20, 2008 | PERMALINK

An icebreaker does exactly what it sounds like, a boat that breaks through sea ice using a strengthened hull and a wide ice clearing girth. Recognizing increased seasonal access as both opportunity and hazard, countries like the US have recently increased their interest in developing a new fleet of icebreakers. It takes a minimum of about 8 years to develop and construct an icebreaker. Russia maintains a fleet of about 14 icebreakers compared to only 3 for the Unites States. Meanwhile, Canada operates 21 of the world's estimated 110 icebreakers.

The largest is a nuclear-powered Russian ship called 50 Years of Victory - which took about 20 years to construct. Its crew and staff of 140 serves about 128 guests. The ship has a dining room, a professional bartender, indoor pool, gym and sauna, a library, store, and other amenities. (Would set you back $30k for a trip in it from Murmansk to North Pole.)

The European Union is funding an icebreaker / drilling platform combination called the Aurora Borealis which is scheduled for its first run in 2014. It will be the world's first icebreaker that is also a drilling ship and will operate year-round, although it will only drill in the summer months.

Related Post: Thawing Continent(s) and Moving Islands

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Student Works: Convergent Species
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 18, 2008 | PERMALINK

We will regularly be publishing student projects and thesis research titled Student Works that is an extension of themes related to infrastructures and networks of habitats and resources. The first is a project by Vivian Chin, a recent M.Arch graduate at University of Toronto, whose research "Convergent Species" is a study on territorial boundaries of animal and human occupation.

She distinguished between convergences that are constructive, and therefore have a political motivation, and convergences that are inadvertent, and therefore have an environmental impact.

Vivian writes:

The expansion of human territories has dramatically overlapped with animal boundaries and activities, allowing geographic, socio-economic, and cultural forces to effect mutations in behaviour. These overlaps generate two kinds of boundaries; inadvertent, and constructive. Animals that augment their habitation through symbiotic relationships with human activities exist in inadvertent boundaries. Constructive boundaries such as national borders, or conflict, generate habitations due to marginalization and opportunism. Animals which inhabit these boundaries should neither be considered domestic nor wild, but a new group which is defined by their contingency to both human and natural environment. This thesis seeks to respond to these inadvertent and constructive boundaries and question the potential of adaptation, mutualism, and co-habitation.

Territory #6: CHERNOBYL, ZONE OF EXCLUSION ("THE ZONE")
Radiation is absorbed by soil, vegetation, and water but is not retained by asphalt. With the concept of adaptation, asphalt as a building material suggested in the Chernobyl studies.


Territory #4: UNITED KINGDOM, FALKLAND WAR
A raised walkway platform allows visitors to extend out to the sea, occupying the minefield differently in section, as humans and penguins coexist without disturbance between the two.


Territory #10: KOREA, DEMILITARIZED ZONE
After 56 years of Cold War between North and South Korea, trains are now running between the two nation. The first voyage was made on May 17, 2007, through the DMZ. A train station and duty free shopping centre is proposed on the mid-point between North and South Korea. This train station also acts as a animal crosswalk.


Territory #2: FLORIDA, RIVIERA BEACH POWER STATION
Every winter, there are as many as 200 manatees which gather around the power plant’s warm water outfall. The highest single manatee count was 479 in the winter of 2003. New programs – hotel, spa, restaurant, and pool – are inserted into the power plant infrastructure to form convergent territories, where all habitants are mutually beneficial. These program insertions are based on power plant operation, to generate mutualistic relationships between the existing power plant and manatees with new forms and occupants.

If you would like to contact Vivian about her research and project, you can reach her here.

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Marked Routes
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 16, 2008 | PERMALINK

Stumbling upon a map produced by GOOD magazine (and executed by the reliable graphics of Graham Roberts), suggests the power of historic routes to mark the very teritory in which they navigate - whether it be land, water, or air. Some chartered in open territories are literally exploratory while others are massive infrastructures intended to cheat time-space relationships, or geographic hurdles.

One interesting trend here is the fact that 20 out of the 23 routes highlighted predominately move horizontally. Leaving only three routes - De Soto's Expedition, Pan-American Highway, and Pizzaro's travels in Peru - with longitudinal aspirations. The radical climatological differences of a longitudinal route providing a deterrent. Additionally, the Equator forms a natural mean center to all of these travels, while the size of South America and Africa as a barrier to maritime travel becomes overtly evident.

The Pan-American Highway is unique piece of infrastructure extending from Prudhoe, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. The highway charts the dominant habitable climates and ecologies on the globe. One obstruction prevents it from being an entirely continuous system: The Darien Gap, a 87 km stretch of rainforest.

The search for the source of the Yangtze in 1985, led explorer / photographer Wong How Man on a calculated navigation through the Tanggula mountains using satellite data.

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Dead Zones
Posted by InfraNet Lab on August 14, 2008 | PERMALINK

An interesting article in Science chronicles the ever rising numbers of dead zones. Dead zones are oxygenless waters as a result of activities such as riverine runoff of fertilizers and other algae-multiplying nutrients. As written by Diaz and Rosenberg, "Deadzones have now been reported from more than 400 systems, affectinga total area of more than 245,000 square kilometers (95,000 miles2), and areprobably a key stressor on marine ecosystems." Their murky waters generate blackholes in the ocean - no fish, therefore no birds, no recreational or commercial fishing. And shift infrastructures - boat routes, port activity, a

Dead zones have been tracked sine the 1970s, but have increasingly expanded their locations, their reach, and are lingering after summer.

Clocking in at over 8000 square miles (21,000 km2) this year, probably the largest dead zone today stems from the Mississippi River delta in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a site at the confluence of significant farming in the midwest and significant fishing (and shrimping) in the Gulf area. The dead zone spans east to west along the Louisiana and Texas coasts. The hypoxic region expands during the summer, so shrimpers and fishermen are casting their lines and nets farther out in the Gulf.

For more see an article in today's Time magazine.

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