Tuesday, November 28, 2006

DIY shelters save an ancient city

Six months ago an earthquake struck the ancient city of Yogyakarta, in Indoensia and killed 6,000 people, wounded 38,000 others, and according to estimates, have left over a million people homeless to live on sleeping mats, food, tarpaulins, and hygiene items distributed by the Indonesian Red Cross.
But, Relief Web reports, “As part of the International Federation’s early recovery programme, more than 4,000 bamboo shelters have already been completed in the areas of Gantiwarno and Dlingo, and the programme is expanding into other districts, where up to 6,000 of the homes are expected to soon be built.”
After consulting survivors and enabling them to take direct responsibility for the distribution of funds and reconstruction materials, the program has resulted in a coordinated community activism to help survivors build shelters themselves out of local materials.


[Image: This poster explains in Indonesian how the bamboo shelter can be constructed. You can learn more from this operations update (pdf) from September 19, 2006.]

“Thousands of families living in tents and broken buildings have been shown a Red Cross video in recent weeks which teaches survivors how to build a traditional-style shelter, strong enough to withstand another earthquake.

The shelter is made entirely out of inexpensive local materials, such as bamboo and rope, and costs the equivalent of around 185 Swiss francs ($150 USD/ €118).

The secret of the quakeproof design lies in eliminating the use of nails. Instead, holes are drilled in the bamboo and wooden pins are hammered into the joints. They are then bound tightly with rope. It means the building is flexible but the bamboo will not split and break.”

Best part is towards the end of the article which tells how learning to build one's own bamboo shelter has also brought great skills to future work and entrepreneurialsm in the area. Survivors are now reviving their bamboo mat weaving trades, and see the shelter labor as providing valuable skills now the communities did not possess otherwise.
Nothing like seeing communities take charge of their destiny, even in the face of the most grim circumstances. In fact, that is where community is capable of functioning at its best.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Bunker Reborn

[Image: The entrance to the bunker in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, as photographed by Marcus Gloger for The New York Times, 2006.]

One of Germany’s most important Cold War relics is about to be reborn. 18 miles from the former West German capital city of Bonn, The New York Times tells us about a massive nuclear bunker that has for years languished under an unruffled vineyard landscape, and that will, eventually, be turned into a rare museum; or, a sort of “equivalent visitor center to the East German wall in Berlin.”
“Started in 1960, a year before the wall went up, the bunker cost $2.5 billion to construct.” Upon its completion in 1972, “there were nearly 12 miles of tunnels, 936 bedrooms, 897 offices, and five small hospitals.” With five separate sections - and each able to provide its own electricity and water supply - the bunker was designed to keep roughly 3,000 people surviving for 30 days in the event of an attack.
The tunnels, we are told, “date to before World War I, when they were part of a railroad network intended to connect the industrial Ruhr Valley with France. During World War II, the Nazis converted the tunnels to a weapons factory, with slave laborers from the Buchenwald concentration camp.”
But if all goes according to plan, in early 2008 visitors will be meandering stretches of dark nuclear subtext where radiation decontamination rooms still line the entrance hall and “black air horns hang on the walls, ready to bleat a signal that the 25-ton bombproof doors are about to shut.”
Sounds like an excellent place for a bunch of amateurs to go get lost for a few nights - with some video gear, of course, a few bottles of whiskey, maybe a wheel barrel full of old broken mirrors and flashlights. I don’t know – go make some weird flick about a bizarre subterranean micronation of tunnel rat wine-smugglers hijacking the pinot vineyards above, to pump Germany’s finest grape juice along side underground Vodka highways that quietly connect sobering distribution tunnels from London to Gaza, China to South Africa, Romania to Mexico. Because, don't you know? - Bunkers are forever, baby.

[See these earlier posts on bunkers: Mount Weather Gets a Little Facelift; Through the Turnstile; Touring the Greenbrier; Secret Cities of the A-Bomb; Area 71; Washington's New 'Survival City'; A Silo Full of Cash; Secret Soviet Submarine Base; Fortress Baghdad; The 'Long War' enters its capsule; Subterranean Urbanism; Tokyo Secret City; Bunker Archaeology; Smugglers' Paradise Uprooted; [Re] improvising sub_Base landscapes; Secret Synagogue; Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze; from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...; A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business]

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Entropic Landscapes

I'm just now stumbling upon the work of Cyprien Gaillard, a Parisian artist whose "form of Land art has developed from within the urban landscape of housing estates and high-rise buildings outwards to the countryside and classical architecture." This press release for his new show The Lake Arches describes his evolving interest in "disruption within the workings of the picturesque, in entropy and decay", and landscapes which have their "roots in current political and ecological discord."

The show, which takes place in London at the Laura Bartlett Gallery, will feature a survey of recent and previous projects. As part of an earlier exhibition Real Remnants of Fictive Wars ("films of explosions in the landscape"), Gaillard presents Part V, "a 35mm film that slowly pans the balustrade of a chateau, traveling against a growing cloud of smoke that erupts from distant trees."

[Image: Real Remnants of Fictive Wars, a film of "landscapes and explosions" - 2005, Cyprien Gaillard.]

From Belief in the Age of Disbelief, "Gaillard has introduced tower blocks into 17th Century Dutch landscape etchings. These post-war structures, once a symbol of utopian promise that have now come to represent racial conflict, urban decay, criminality and violence, have been seamlessly assimilated into a rural idyll. Some tower blocks have been positioned in the etching like a defiant medieval fortress, others as apocalyptic ruins. Like the paintings of Hubert Robert, admired by Diderot, who depicted ancient ruins and even the imaginary future ruins of the Louvre (1796), Gaillard comments on the relationship between romanticism and decay, and architectures’ inherent communicative power."

[Image: Les Deux Chemins au Ruisseau (Étape VII), 2005 Etching, 17 x 25 cm. Cyprien Gaillard.]

Lastly, Gaillard includes Geographical Analogies - a "collection of polaroids that deal with entropic landscapes, places that are eroding or de-composing. Displayed as if butterflies under glass, the Analogies’ crystalline formations belie an intricate, if exploded, taxonomy of concerns, from geopolitics to youth culture, geology to art history."

Well, I'm sold anyway. I haven't been able to find much online about his work (at least that I can read), but - if anyone out there checks this out, and wouldn't mind sending me a few pics, well, that would be real dandy. Either way, if you are out roaming around London - just walking the city, perhaps - checking out all the new street signs at some point, maybe see if you can't find your way over to the gallery and take a peak.

A Porcelain Fence

[From the AP: "A backyard "fence" made of seven toilets, a few bathtubs and some water heaters lines Rick Froebe's property in Soap Lake, Wash. Froebe's land borders the Lakeview Golf & Country Club, and he says the fence is an attempt to keep golfers out of his yard." Image via the Metro.]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

'Tactical Infrastructure' and the 'Border Calculus'

[Image: Melina Mara took this photograph for The Washington Post on assignment covering the U.S. Border Patrol along the Mexican Border. It's haunting. Traces of a patrol; surveillance ghosts imprinted in the sand; fresh fence posts looming in the background; signs of a nomadic fortress slinking into place.]

From this Narcosphere dispatch comes some details of a 'sources-sought notice' filed on the Federal Opportunities Business website. The Army Corps of Engineers (under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security) are conducting a "market survey" of prospective contractors who will best be able to meet the demands of a $368 million "tactical infrastructure" development project that is being implemented along both the northern and southern U.S. borders. But as Narcosphere points out, most of that will be emphasized south along the Mexican border.

[Image: A diagram of mobile systems communications as deployed along the U.S./Mexico border. This image can be found in the Joint Testimony of Deborah J. Spero and GregroY Giddens before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, November 15, 2006.]

"Tactical infrastructure" is what Michael Chertoff (the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security) referred to in this hearing as "lighting, fencing, vehicle barriers, other kinds of physical impediments to illegal migrants." The FedBizOpps notice mentions contracting work for "Customs and Border Protection-related roads, low-water crossings, temporary and permanent vehicle barriers, pedestrian barriers, stadium lighting, fencing, and bridges."

And apparently they want this work done fast - like, really fast. The window for contractors to bid was less than two weeks and is already closed. Part of the fine print mentioned contractors must be capable of making equipment deliveries on short notice to remote locations:
"The time between notification of items to be delivered and the required delivery date can range from twenty-four (24) hours notice to two (2) weeks notice. Large deliveries may be staggered to accommodate mission requirements. Typical orders run from $500 thousand to one (1) million dollars and consist of numerous different items."

So, with that, the folks over at Homeland Security Watch dug through the testimony made at the Secure Border Initiative hearing by DHS officials Greg Giddens and Deborah Spero, and found a chart depicting a 'Border Calculus.'

[Click Image to Enlarge] A 'Border Calculus' conceptualizing the effectiveness of different border defense deployments in given geographic ranges. This image can be found in the Joint Testimony of Deborah J. Spero and GregroY Giddens before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, November 15, 2006.]

Homeland Security Watch describes this illustration as providing "a framework for deciding what types of resources (e.g. physical infrastructure, technology, border officers) are needed at a particular point along the border, given existing resources, current flows of people, and the geographical realities in that area. The leadership of DHS has talked in the last year about how it is using this type of dynamic model to simulate activity along the border and accordingly make investment decisions."

Piece by piece, place by place, this flexible global wall courses along the thresholds of migration, roving and deploying, tracking and cinching the landscape like some flexible architectonic tsunami collpasing in slow motion on the borderzones of the world. And The Nomadic Fortress continues. [pt 1 & 2]

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Mini-city for Trying Terror

Defense Tech points us to a 'pre-solicitation notice' The Miami Herald found posted on the web for potential government contractors, and, what they say could potentially lead to the largest construction expenditure at Guantánamo since the Bush administration set up the offshore detention center in January 2002. If the Pentagon gets the Congress on board, a contractor will be solicited to build "a military commissions compound" costing up to $125 million, "a major undertaking meant to accommodate up to 1,200 people for the first U.S. war crimes trials since World War II."

[Image: A map of the proposed site of the War Crimes Complex, compliments of The Miami Herald, 2006.]

The proposal calls for a residential and security compound on an abandoned airfield that in the 1990s housed a tent camp for Cuban rafters. Years before, it was the site of a hangar for U.S. military blimps. Further details:

On paper, the idea resembles a mini-city, with housing, dining, meeting and courtroom space for those involved in the trials -- plus a high-security space for top-secret and other classified materials.

The compound would cost from $75 million to $125 million and include a courthouse with two courtrooms, conference space, a closed-circuit video transmission center and a 100-car motor pool.

Asked why it would require housing for 800 to 1,200 personnel and a dining facility for up to 800 people, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the idea is to hold multiple trials -- and house ``any number of people -- legal and administrative personnel, media, . . . security . . . attorneys.''

So, since the new Military Commissions Act was approved by Congress essentially stripping the US courts of jurisdiction to hear or consider habeas corpus appeals challenging the lawfulness or conditions of detention of anyone held in US custody as an "enemy combatant"; and now according to court documents recently filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.: Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Pentagon has fancied a factory for the speedy and absolute systematic legal removal of anyone it labels an "enemy combatant," including immigrants, border-crossers, and even those who help or aid illegal immigrants and border-crossers.
Is this the high court of the state of exception? The architects of nebulous detention strike again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wall(s) of Light

[These photographs are unrelated to the Berlin Light Wall project, but I found them compelling and somewhat appropo here in their own right. These images of New York come from Keith Kin Yan at Overshadowed. Very cool qualities of light and urbanism. (via Moon River)]

"A spectacular laser wall of light" the Deutsche Welle informs us, "pinpointing where the communist-built Berlin Wall used to weave its way through the heart of the city" is being designed as part of Germany's larger wall memorial event plans. "On roads that now link east-west Berlin, narrow strips of light at a height of 3.6 metres and at ground level will show the route of the Wall."
In a kind of super-imposed retro-borderification, Christian Dirks, a historian, architect Dirk Buecke, curator Catherina Mertens and light designer Sascha Hinz, are teaming up in hopes of illuminating the ghost of the Berlin Wall by the time of the 20th anniversary of its destruction on Nov. 9, 2009.

Buecke says, "People would be able to pass through the wall of light without hesitation, symbolically, reliving the moment of the barrier's demise." The roughly 96 mile barrier not only carved Berlin in half but also surrounded its western border for nearly 30 years, between 1961 and 1989.
Of course, it would be very cool if we could raise the ghosts of all the old border walls of Europe, just flip a switch and suddenly a light-dissected history of the entire continent is redrawn on the earth, so that the European Union becomes instantly reminded of its inseparable past by weightless squatting border-crossing panes of artistic light; as seen from space this laser borderwall revival catches on around the world, and soon the most ancient disputed border geographies from Africa to the Mideast are magically remapped where hordes of people now are already busy passing through their enlightened walls. But, as if tracing pre-nation-state geographies weren't compelling enough, we imagine all the borders we know existing today but can't actually see: infrared walls, "virtual fences", invisible barriers, surveillance landscapes, etc., and we begin to shine a light on them, too. The whole thing becomes a light memorial to expose the infinite border walling of the world, where security walls and border fences have fallen and gone on to reappear over and over through out time. Sort of like the birth of urban geopolitics told in pages and pages of architectural light.

Anyway, plans relating to the Wall of Light project are currently being displayed at an exhibition called "City of Transformation, City of Ideas," at the Galerie Aedes in Berlin.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Participatory Panopticon at the border...

Along a 28-mile stretch of U.S./Mexican border near Sasabe, a Boeing Co.-led team of private contractors will implement an eight-month pilot project to begin to determine the efficiency of building a "virtual fence." "Project 28" is a $67m surveillance landscape prototype, where the Border Patrol will install tower-mounted sensors, cameras, radars and satellite communication, to serve as the testing ground for the Department of Homeland Security's latest high-tech border security strategy. Boeing won the contract to manage the Secure Border Initiative and bridge existing techno-military infrastructure. This sector of Tucson, which appears to jutt into the Tohono O'odham Reservation, was selected because it's been the nation's busiest corridor for illegal entrant traffic since 1998. The purpose is to determine whether an actual fence can be avoided.

[Image: A Border Patrol skywatch tower is atop a ridge with the Sasabe port of entry in the background. Photo by Dean Knuth / Arizona Daily Star.]

However, nearby, the good old Minutemen are busy erecting their own double layered fance, with supposed technology that has never been seen in the U.S., originally developed for the Korean DMZ. They claim their security fence will tap the internet with live video imagery and even email or call you on your cell when an intrusion has been detected in your area. All this sounds similar to the Texas Virtual Neighborhood Border Watch Program which recently kicked off by streaming live video feeds from surveillance cams so that internet users at home could virtually patrol the boder.

[Image: Inside the Border Patrol, photo by Melina Mara for the Washington Post.]

It's the participatory panopticon in full effect at the border. Soon, they will be promoting Adopt-a-Drone programs where little kids can steer their own personal spy balloons instead of flying kites in the hot desert wind. Remote-controlled UAV's will begin to look even more like toys and evict local bird populations from the sky. Even though President Bush's 'Operation TIPS' program failed, which would have converted a million spies out of "letter carriers, utility workers and others whose jobs allow them access to private homes", a whole new breed of stay-home mommies will soon trade the drama of Another World and Days of Our Lives for this hot new sultry soap - BorderWatch. Entire cliché story lines will be woven into the inately boring past times of interactive border spying. A cast of sun-bronzed Border Patrol agents, freedom-rockin' vigilantes, scar-faced cartels and coyotes, some fat ranchers with sexy daughters, will all pick up new acting contracts and become primetime supserstars over night. Neighbors will gossip about the hot steamy love affairs their border cowboys will have with sexy border crossers. Soon, every municipality will have it's own hot new border soap.
And for the kids who would rather ditch school or stay up super late, it will only be a matter of time before staring at the border will be made into some action packed handheld multiplayer game with suped up ATC's poppin' crazy stunts back and forth over the fence, all the while detecting smuggler tunnels, busting drug rings, and leading illegals back across the border. For the more meditative single player hero type, a tetris-like game of fence hole repair will come preinstalled on a new PSP developed by Sony and Boeing, that will plug holes against flood leaks of migrant workers, while also allowing players to tag precise coordinates of actual breached fence locations on a massive real time game map shared with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Beware, a brand new industry of Border Enforcement Entertainment is about to emerge.

Previously: The Panoptic Arcade & Virtual Police State

Resist the Apartheid Walls, from Palestine to Mexico

[Image: The U.S./Mexico border, as seen by Lindsay G. McCullough for the Washington Post.]

If you are in New York City this Saturday, November 11th, consider going to this event.

'Resist the Apartheid Walls, from Palestine to Mexico': The Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East in association with Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) will present a slideshow and report-back by people who will share their first-hand accounts of the walls in Palestine and Arizona from recent visits.

From the Indymedia Press Release:

President Bush signed into law a House bill to build 700 miles of double-layer border wall between the United States and Mexico. Identical border-wall legislation helped to spark marches by millions for immigrant rights last spring. This multi-billion dollar US wall will further separate border communities, break apart families, and increase the number of deaths on the border as immigrant workers are pushed deeper into the desert.

Israel, with US support, continues it's assault against the Palestinian people, through daily killing and the construction of a 400 mile Apartheid Wall that reaches 15 miles into the Occupied Territories. The wall's path threatens to annex as much as 50% of the West Bank to Israel, and confiscate 90% of Jerusalem . In building this wall, Israel is razing Palestinians' land, destroying their homes, and turning Palestinian villages and towns near the Wall into isolated ghettos.

Elbit Systems limited
, an Israeli company building and profiting from the Wall in occupied Palestine, has been awarded a contract, along with Boeing, to build the US ' wall. Elbit will import Israeli military technology, tested on Palestinians, for use against poor immigrants here.

This event is being held in conjunction with the International Week Against the Apartheid Wall (Nov.9th-16th) called by Stop the Wall: Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.


Saturday November 11
Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square Park, Manhattan.
1:30 PM: Workshop
3:00 PM March

(via Bill Weinberg)

** UPDATE **

A review can be read here.

"Their presentations focused on the similar repressive measures adopted by the Israeli and US governments against indigenous peoples, the devastating impacts the walls have on communities, and the forms of resistance that communities adopt to challenge the oppressive measures being utilized against them."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"the garbage settlement"

... is the name dubbed for a small tract of land in the Philippines that has been purchased for the development of 256 small homes which hope to resettle some of the squatters living in Cebu's colossal garbage dump site. I've mentioned some of the resettlement efforts in Payatas and the Quezon City garbage dump before, but, here, Toronto architect and professor at University of Toronto, Jeffery Stinson traveled to Cebu on a $20,000 grant to specifically work with architecture students at the University of San Carlos, to design a housing prototype that would help benefit the squatters.
I wonder if Wes knows Stinson. Seems like another cool 'build to learn' sort of project.
Anyway, the model is on display at the University of San Carlos, and includes a comic book-style how-to guide illustrating features which have been designed to be modified according to materials that are available at the time. At 270 square feet, "the design has to focus on maximizing ventilation and reducing claustrophobia," says Stinson. So, it is built "according to six principles: maximum cross-ventilation for comfort inside; the ability to open up the house to the outside; self-sufficiency in water; a habitable roof area to increase the family space; a raised ground floor to provide storage underneath the house; and the maximum use of local materials and labour." In addition, there are two water tanks and a pump that have been carefully calibrated to make sure rainfall will provide an adequate water supply through out the year.
Often times, however, when I hear about architects discussing and designing housing for the poor, in slums or for squatters, I fear the designer will take such an approach that treats the slum dweller as helpless, and with the good grace of their nifty architectural design their shelter problems will magically be resolved. But, Stinson makes it clear in this article, that he has great admiration for the ingenuity and grit of the people of the Philippines.

You can compare this to John Dwyer's Clean Hub design, which is another sound DIY shelter project aimed similarly at upgrading the squatter landscape, featured on Subtopia a few months ago.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Some Border Events

Real quick, if you are in the neighborhood (SD/TJ that is), a couple of events not to be missed. Check 'em out, pass on the word.



Otra/Another, in its third installment, will analyze the discordance caused by global economic and political changes and their effect on social housing programs and projects. In Latin America, cities have suffered the consequence of modernist functionalist theory which focused on the design of spaces for a singular type of user, rather than developing diverse social ideas for the masses. Due to Tijuana’s accelerated growth, mechanisms of control have been adopted to deal with the issues of illicit land acquisition in intent to consolidate all urban areas. Two policies that have been the norm in the past fifteen years are; the creation of government programs to legalize parcels in squatter zones and the issuing of contracts to housing developers for the construction of low income homes. During this time a shift has occurred from self –constructed houses toward serialized housing units in which private developers have created capsular communities marketed to provide security from the high crime rate in the city and only offer a range of loan options instead of alternative housing types.

Otra/Another will present the current perspectives on urban development and its relation to low and moderate income housing. Not limited to the city of Tijuana, the symposium will bring together architects and scholars from different cities in the United States and Mexico with the purpose of presenting practical and academic ideologies. Within local universities the housing theme is presented as an exercise of construction techniques, rarely focusing on the urban implications and its effects on the social and political space of the city. Yet, Otra/Another does not solely intent to present prescriptive projects, the purpose is to analyze current housing conditions and trends as well as the impact homogeneity and local policies have had at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.

The topics for the lecture series and exhibition will develop around the general concept of the event, yet allowing individual interpretation from the participants. The various topics are, but not limited to; perspectives and government policies of social housing in the US and Mexico; the archetypes of suburban developments and their impact on the periphery, such as the Inland Empire in Southern California; the historic development of illegal settlements in the city of Tijuana and new tendencies in the role of the architect as designer/developer. The exhibition will take place in the gallery of the Instituto de Cultura de Baja California in Tijuana, presenting theoretical and academic projects as well as housing competitions and realized projects.

By way of the conference and exhibition, in the time frame of one month, Otra/Another will introduce to the general public the diverse and complex issues in the design of social housing and its importance to urban development. Bring awareness to architects, students and developers of the impact housing projects have on public space and its different levels of social, political and environmental interactions.

Otra/Another, returns to the city offering provocation as a catalyst of architectonic expression and accelerating the flow of ideas and interdisciplinary collaboration to construct a critical culture in Tijuana.

(Written by Rene Peralta)

Invited speakers include Michael Bell, Robert E. Somol, Mark Lee, Ted Smith, Peter Zellner, Tito Alegria and Jose Luquin. The exhibitions participants are UCLA, Sci Arc, Teddy Cruz, TAAU- Mexico City among others. Opening party November 10, 2006.

November 10-30, 2006.
Instituto de Cultura de Baja California
Avenida Centenario No. 10151 Zona Río, Tijuana México.

(Via Archinect)


making the case for squatters …

Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities: a billion squatters, a new urban world, will speak in San Diego on Friday, November 17, 2006. He will appear at San Diego State University’s Little Theater (161 Hepner Hall.)

Neuwirth, who spent two years living in shantytowns around the world to learn about the squatter reality, makes the controversial argument that squatting is a legitimate form of urban development. His work on squatters won an award from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

For more information, check out his blog: SquatterCity.

Neuwirth’s presentation at San Diego State is sponsored by The Center for Latin American Studies and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Friday, November 17, 2006
1:00 pm
Little Theater
161 Hepner Hall
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Dr.
San Diego, CA 92182