american Urban industrial canals
a field guide
Contents thanks to my advisor and critic Peter Waldman, my advisor Kristina Hill and mentor Elizabeth Meyer, my partner Erin Putalik, my comrades Hans Hesselein, Andrew Nicholas, Jenn Richey, Erik Martig, David Moses, John Donnelly, Gena Wirth, Rob Holmes, Brett Milligan, Stephen Becker, Laura Stedenfeld, the good people at grassroots mapping, Andy Simons and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Kirsten Ostberg, Jenn Richey, Jorg Sieweke
field guide to field manuals
history of urban american industrial canals
signs and significations
objects and relations
borderlands of intentionality
hydrology: bathing in the ether
here comes everything eccentric substances
the wall of sound
the instrumentality of things delineations and subdelineations belts, buckets, houses and hoses
plants, animals, mycorrhiza
tactics and strategies
a field guide to field manuals In considering the city it is important not only to investigate urban processes and kinds of organization, but also to re-evaluate the methodologies by which we understand and intervene in urban systems and spaces. For this, it may be that an often-ignored tool may be of greater use: the maintenance manual. The maintenance manual, like all tools, has a history. Early examples of the modern American manual include the Chicago Manual of Style (1891) and the US Navy Bluejacket’s Manual (1902). The maintenance manual rose to prominence with the specialization of labor and the proliferation of consumer products in the 20th century. The form of the manual offers the opportunity for new kinds of urban engagement. The maintenance manual can be used to describe procedures and reactions to be performed in response to shifting urban conditions. In this sense, the maintenance manual offers an opportunity to expand agency in shaping the city to anyone who can read, interpret, and apply the instructions found within the manual.
US Census Office Guide to New Orleans- 1887
US Navy Manual- begun in 1902
Charles Sprague Sargent’s tree manual- 1905
The Haynes Auto Manual- begun in 1965
US Department of Agriculture Soil Science Field Book
US Airforce Parachute Rigger’s Manual
We believe that this potential can be drawn out by hybridizing the maintenance manual with another popular literary genre whose history parallels that of the maintenance manual- the field guide. Like the manual, the first guides were published in the late 19th century and were typically small and light-weight which made it easy to carry. But where the maintenance manual focused on machines and new consumer products, the field guide tended to focus on objects and phenomena related to the “natural realm”, and so was geographically associated with rural and suburban locales. Both, however, were alike in extending specialized knowledge to enthusiasts through a focus on utility, accessibility, and nurturing curiosity. In the context of the city, hybridization of the field guide with the maintenance manual immediately suggests a blending of readings: both the city as machine and the city as natural phenomenon. Combining emphases on identification, diagnosis, education, and instruction, a new genre might arise which would point a way forward for the urbanist of the future: the field manual.
urban american industrial
canals: a history the industrial canal in the united states the industrial canal age was defined by two things: - standardization - proliferation Standardization in construction, including width and bulkhead technology, was necessary because the same ships were moving the same cargoes between different places Proliferation of canals occured because water-borne transportation of cargo was orders of magnitude cheaper than the overland transportation available at the time, such as the horse cart. The introduction of the railroads 3 decades later meant that the early industrial canals, only 40â€™ wide, were obsolete, being unable to compete with their economy of speed; in many American countries, this meant that the early canals such as the Erie Canal had a useful life of less than 20 years, such as the Chicago River, which was constructed in the 1850â€™s and was shut down in 1871.
Canals are fundamentally urban, enabling the rise of the first cities which relied on them for irrigation- plants, people, and fountains- and for drainage. They immediately enabled the generation of new forms and patterns of settlement, from cosmological glyphs to urban metropolises. the first known canals were constructed in Upper Egypt cerca 4000 BCE the Nazca constructed asystem of irrigation canals for agriculture and urbanism in the highlands of Peru
Trucks and highways meant a new role for canals; canalization of rivers by Army Corps of Engineers expanded the network to a continental scale; many war-time constructions such as the Houston Shipping Channel or intracoastal waterway are repurposed for super large ocean-going vessels; smaller canals that could not be easily expanded, such as those in urban areas whose expansion was limited by existing urban construction, saw decreased use and many were abandoned or turned over to sewage disposal 22,000 mi 1959 miles of canals in the united states railroad age
1850 4,500 miles 1831 erie canal completed 1784
1880 2,500 miles
1908 2,000 mi
the original canals were irrigation canals. to create canals for navigation a leap in scale was necessary; based on the scale of the human body and a vessel that could carry it, the earliest navigation canals probably appeared in China around 500 BCE.
city network a connected transportation system, meant for everyday civilian use; often maintained for recreation or cultural heritage significance
channelization entails the cutting of a new course, often parallel or adjacent to an existing water body; structures such as bulkheads are often used to define the edges of the new channel
There are three typologies of navigation canals: 1. City Network 2. Industrial 3. Defense industrial canals are a subset of navigation canals, defined by this guide as those which are concerned with the transportation of large amounts of raw material- gravel, coal, wheat, or garbage. this study excludes the large intrabasin canals such as the Suez and the Panama Canal; though they are industrial canals, their scale and geography requires a different study
concentric incan irrigation canals in the highlands of bolivia
industrial a teleological logistics platform for moving manufactured goods and raw materials; often abandoned once obsolete example:
the Scheldt, Houston Shipping Channel
defense defensible redundancy for maintaining movement of goods and people considered critical during times of war; often maintained for recreation or cultural heritage significance example:
canalization making an existing watercourse more suitable for industrial, defense, or civilian transportation
intercoastal waterway, Rideau Canal
irrigation agriculture in modern-day libya
dredging making an existing channel deeper by mechanical excavation
* most canals are constructed through some combination of all three methods
the kanawha canal in richmond, virginia, begun in 1785, immediately after independence in the US
if industrial canals are not abandoned and filled in once obsolete, they are often repurposed as open sewers and sewer overflow systems for the adjacent urban area
many canals are left in an abandoned, derelict state, prompting speculation on their future use and development. often times these attract certain agentsboaters, birders, photographers, musicians, black locusts, birds, and skateboarders who are looking for a place to work, live and play that is outside of the normal operations of a city
Independence was critical to the development of canal systems; most colony economies operated as landscapes of extraction, the colonial power had little impetus to develop industrial capacity our study is based on three case studies
river rouge Detroit, USA
gowanus canal Brooklyn, USA
riachuelo canal Buenos Aires, Argentina
large scale industrial canals have been reintegrated as regional and continental container shipping networks
Signs and significations
a useful list of terms and their definitions for understanding the particular ecologies, and taxonomies common to american industrial canals, as well as the operations that might take place there
A useful list of terms for understanding the canal ecologies, taxonomies, and topographies
a flat bottomed boat, built to serve as a mobile logistics platform for moving materials or heavy equiment. along rivers and canals; many barges are not selfpropelled and need to be tugged or pushed
the associations and relationships between any set of actors and agents
the mechanical action of digging into the earth
a retaining wall meant to define and reinforce the separation between water and land, can take any type of form or structure; some variation typically lines all canals
a method of research that attempts to begin with specific observations and attempts to construct a general theory of operation or function (this apple is green, the color of apples must be green)
a constructed water channel; can be of three types- irrigation, drainage, and navigation; see pullout page
pertaining to productive labor, this term especially signifies the productive mechanical operations that enabled the modern industrial revolution
a method for making a canal which involves regulating, widening or deepening an already existing waterway; for example, straightening a small river
american independence assumes a post-colonial situation of extractive landscapes, europhilia, and a retardation of industrial development
a method for canal making invollving cutting a new channel for water where one did not previously exist; this is often done to shorten a navegation route, or to avert a troublesome spot
refers to the changes in human settlement and living patterns that take place when industrialization occurs; fundamental to this phenomenon is an environmental perspective that considers it resources
any impurity in a given material that is undesirable; can be toxic, such as lead, or may refer to impurities in a production process, such making steel, or brewing beer
power to operate or produce effects; efficacy, force. A particular form or kind of activity; an active process: the discharge of a function.
a type of deep foundation, long poles or sheets of material with high tensile strength- usually wood, steel or reinforced concrete- are driven deep into the ground to provide lateral stability to a construction,
a term that means any undesirable, non-human agent in a given environment, usually present in excess; for instance light, smoke, heavy metals, oil can all be considered pollution ; it is a fundamentally pollitical term
a systematic classification of a particular object, organism, instrument or set of these things, and their operational aspects
a method of inquiry that begins with a specific case studies and tests these with specific cases (this apple is green, I wonder if that apple is also green)
Combined Sewer Outlet (CSO) Deduction
in many american ciities household waste and stormwater runoff pour into the same sewer lines which go to sewage treatment plants; rain events often pour too much water in to the system for the plant to handle; in this case, the raw sewage pours through a CSO, usually into a river, harbor, or old industrial canal a method of research that begins with a theory, states a hypothesis, and then tests that hypothesis through observation (such as, â€œI bet apples are green because they result from photosynthetic process, this red delicious apple should be green). This is the most popular mode of scientific inquiry, typified by the â€œscientific method an excavation activity that occurs underwater; usually entails scraping or sucking sediments from the bottom and depositing them elsewhere; is used to maintain navigable channels, build islands or replenish beaches
a substance that is immediately harmful to the health of living organisms
Canal ecologies Canal Ecologies:
Objects and Relations
Immediate comparisons between different american industrial canals seem preposterous and are difficult to conjure- they vary wildly in scale, geography and contemporary economic context. The canal fragments, their various instruments and structures and the communities that find footholds here seem to be a kind of eddy in the city, existing outside of the turbulent currents of the city. This ecological study begins with an examination of three American industrial canals- the River Rouge in Detroit, the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, and the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires Yet nothing is as thoroughly modern as the industrial canal. Beyond the fact that they are waterways of some kind, urban American industrial canals do have two paradoxical characteristics in common: a prominent place in the mythology of American industrial centers, and an ambiguous, eccentric situation at the metaphorical edge of the city. Precisely because of these three aspects they have always attracted new agents- economic, biological, and social- offering them operating space and serving as a generator for new urban possibilities. This study of six canal ecologies aims to examine the different objects and organisms of the canal, and to study the relations between them. It is hoped that this will stimulate insight that is helpful for understanding the paradoxical situation of the American industrial canal.
a mapping of mouse activity across a computer screen during manual assembly on 4/27/2011
Borderlands of Intentionality If one wants to explore an american industrial canal and attempts to walk along its banks, they are likely to find that their way is frequently fenced off. Because of this, the best way to explore the canal is by canoe, as one can move freely up and down, experience the water firsthand, and get out to explore the shore should something catch your attention. But why is it that vacancy, especially boarded up and walled off vacancy, is so prevalent along industrial canals? And what can we make of it, in terms of our effort to understand the generative capacity of the canal landscape within the city? We should first acknowledge two much larger, more prevalent, and readily understandable trends: vacancy is fundamental to the concept of real estate in general, and much industry in the Americas has been shifted to Asia in recent decades. But we won’t dwell too much on those. What is about the American industrial canal that makes it particularly susceptible to vacancy, and what does this ecology of vacancy mean? It is there for two reasons: one seen, and one unseen. The unseen we know a bit about- the toxic ecologies of the canals drive away people. Who wants to pay top dollar for a city apartment on top of an open sewer? Who wants to worry that their kids are being exposed to damaging amounts of chromium or pcb’s? But the seenthe old factory, the coal silo, the conveyor system rusted still- is something that we might dwell on for a minute. The canals were constructed according to the logistical needs of modern industry, and the great “bodies” of modern industry immediately sprang up at its edges. In the Americas, this happened quickly; if industrial development was limited until independence, the floodgates burst open soon after and a flurry of factories and mills were built. These were built intentionally, for specific purposes at a moment in time. Compared to other forms of city building they did not evolve- they were instant. Great boxes and cylinders and trusses of brick and wood and steel were constructed at impressive scales. When the canals were no longer the primary platform for industrial traffic- having been replaced by interstates- companies left the canal banks for cheaper rents in the suburbs or anywhere along the highway. The old factories, storage yards, conveyance systems, and silos were left.
the department of sanitation “salt lot” along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY, USA located at the end of 2nd Avenue, with the Kentile Floors sign in the background. Front shovels for scraping ice covered roads are aligned along the edge, the ground is completely salted and sterilized from the road salt that is stored here 3 months of the year. The runoff from this lot increases the salinity of the canal. Historically this lot was the site of storehouses for grain and building materials.
Some of these were knocked down, but many of the well-built ones were left standing precisely because it is expensive to demolish something that is well-built. Today we are left with an ecology of vacancy along industrial canals that is a mix of rubble strewn lots and abandoned brick factories and warehouses that have been left to slowly decay. Demolishing a building leaves a property utterly exposed; there is no shelter either for plants or animals or people. The entire lot tends to be covered in several inches of rubble as the primary method of building demolition on these sites is the to bring in the wrecking ball. This rubble is then simply spread out over the site as this is much cheaper than paying someone to cart it away. These places are sometimes repurposed as salt storage lot for departments of transportation or they mutate into some local initiative- a community garden or local tree nursery. But mostly these places stay unused, coated in the destroyed rubble of their former utility, colonized by only a few of the hardiest weeds and insects. The other vacant lots are perhaps more interesting for our purposes, those where the buildings and facilities still stand. Their walls create shade and shadowy places, areas that are protected from wind, perches for birds and protection from lines of site from the streets. Weedy trees and grasses spring from the protected cracks attracting kestrels and nighthawks, offering beetles protection and shade for mycelia, cover for rodents. Some of the buildings are reused by punk artists. The building known as the Bat Cave along the Gowanus Canal, actually an old Con Edison powerhouse, supported a rave scene for years before a leaking roof ultimately drove all of the squatters away. Even now, the lot around it houses a thriving fusion ecology of weedy trees and shrubs and grasses, all munching away at the pavement and rubble below, turning it slowly into a sheltered place for insects, microbes and birds. This phenomenon brings us to one of the most interesting characters yet on the canal- the mythical form, or the obsolete teleological construction. These mythical forms attract us to them; ahistorical but immediately understandable, strange yet familiar, these forms are from our shared past which is constantly being erased. The old factory or pier, the silo, the concrete bunker- coming across these forms in the city stimulates the mind and attracts new agents, suggesting a history while recoiling from revealing itself.
the “bat cave” abandoned building is a former Consolidated Edison powerhouse along the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, USA. In the mid-90’s and early 2000’s this vacant structure housed a squatter community with a bike shop and rules about drugs and detrimental illegal activity. The bat cave was cleaned out in 2006 after an expose on the community painted it as a community blight that had devolved into a “decadent drug culture consumed with vicious fighting” and serious heroin use. Past uses included a coal-fired power station, a paper mill, lumber yard, an iron junk yard, and auto repair shop. The property now sits vacant again with much of the land it sits on considered toxic because of the likely presence of pcbs and heavy metals. When operating as a power plant, this building could move 125 tons of coal per hour to power the engine room, sending power out to most of Brooklyn.
Bathing in the Ether Every urban industrial canal must be considered in the context of the larger watershed. Any navigable canal is constructed using some combination of three techniques: cutting a new channel, or canalization of an existing waterway. Dredging operations are almost always used during and afterwards in order to maintain the channel and is really a horse of different color. Nonetheless, all three operations have in common their effect on the hydrologic ecology- they regularize it. And they do this in both its route as well as the shape of the water channel itself. The regularization of the waterway usually means making the route straighter, the sides more vertical, and the bottom flatter. It is important to remember that a hydrological system is a dynamic thing that usually wants to shift and change according to global climatic patterns, a shift in the Earthâ€™s tectonic plates, a particularly high tide, or simply yesterdayâ€™s thunderstorm.
The mouth of the Riachuelo River in the Argentine city o f Buenos Aires is canalized as part of the port infrastructure of the city. The canal is part of a much larger hydrology; the river is over 50 miles long and is just downstream from the Rio de la Plata River at the confluence of the Rio Parana and Rio Paraguay
This regularization is realized in urban areas with structures known as bulkheads that essentially make a hard, edge between the water and the land. The reasons for this are twofold which we will look at in a bit of detail: canals are made for barge traffic, and the land in cities is expensive. Barges are large floating platforms for the transportation of heavy bulk materials- coal, iron ore, grain, vats of petroleum- this is the stuff that the industrial revolution was made from. These barges are designed to carry tons of this stuff and allow it to be loaded and unloaded easily and quickly, first by men and mules, later by gantry cranes and conveyors. Of course, this means that they have specific dimensions and maneuvering capabilities which are not very flexible, and so the canal edges had to be designed and constructed so as to allow them to maneuver and dock. This meant no more meandering streams with soft edges and boulders and sand bars in the bottom- the course is straightened, the edge is reinforced, and the bottom is deepened and flattened. As for the urban canal, the lands adjacent to the waterway were often too valuable to leave as sloped earthen banks. Often factory yards, docks or loading equipment needed to be directly adjacent to the canals in the city because the factories were there and the materials needed to be unloaded. This called for not only a reinforced edge, but a vertical one, as more flat usable land could be claimed this way, and the barge could dock right next to the loading yard and equipment.
buenos aires and the riachuelo river, on the coast of the rio de la plata, the delta is to the north
The effect of these measures on the pre-industrial hydrology can be imagined. The plants, animals, and microbes that rely on a moisture gradient along the banks of the former waterways are all obliterated. An iconic example of this is the Gowanus Oyster of Brooklyn, New York. Once upon a time the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was once a meandering tidal creek whose brackish waters produced oysters so succulent and sizable they were harvested by the Dutch settlers and shipped back to Europe. In the 18th and 19th century before the advent of the hot dog stand it was oyster carts that dotted the intersections throughout Brooklyn. With the growth of industry and the concomitant population explosion in the middle of the 19th century, the Gowanus Creek was channeled and deepened to create the 1.8 mile-long canal, finished in 1869. This allowed for the bulk industrial materials to be brought into Brooklyn. The Gowanus Oyster disappeared. The channelization of the banks has further implications regarding the rate of water flow- it increases it. Increased flow rate serves to scour the bottom of the channel, lessening the need for constant dredging. But a canal in an urban setting can also be imagined as a river, with all of the gutters and storm sewers and streets acting as ephemeral streams shooting surface water into the canal during rain events. Many canals are affected by tides and may contain brackish waters. This twice daily ebb and flow and mixing of nutrients and salts can work to stimulate biological communities, flush out chemicals that have accumulated in the canal, and cause metal structures to corrode faster. Because of this, the canals in coastal cities exhibit some of the most drastic change over time, and present great opportunity. Ultimately the result of urban hydrological regulation is intensified disruptions- storms cause higher rises in water level, faster rates of flow, and a more severe line between what is wet and what is dry. With the passage of time, many of the patterns attempt to reassert themselves, pushing down bulkheads, depositing sediments and if constant work is not done to counteract this change, such as the case of a canal no longer used, then the hydrology will begin to alter or destroy the bulkheads depending on their construction, or will deposit sediments into the canal the begin to accumulate. Whatever the state of push and pull between the water and the structures in any given canal, it is the presence of this water- and all of the nutrients and chemicals and sediments in it- and its effects on the surroundings that is responsible for a great deal of the possibility and generative capacity of the landscape.
Detroit, Michigan, USA watershed: 467 square mi population: 1,500,000 length: 126 milles
River Rouge Canal
Meets the Detroit River at Zug Island
Buenos Aires, Argentina watershed: 2.7 square mi population: 5,000,000 length: 55 miles
Meets the Rio de la Plata at the Petrochemical Dock at the center of the metropolitan area
Brooklyn, New York, USA watershed: 864 square mi population: 1,000,000 length: 1.8 miles
Meets the New York Harbor at the Gowanus Bay just below Red Hook
Here Comes Everything The sedimentation process is one of deposition and accumulation and occurs in places where the current slows down. In a pre-industrial river the main sediments are bits of clay and sand and pebbles from upstream that form beautiful sandbars and oxbows and influence the river’s course over time. In an industrial river- one that has been canalized and is dredged and used for barge traffic- these preindustrial sediments are mixed up and smashed together with all the industrial materials and wastes, as well as the runoff and suspended solids from the street gutters and sewer system of the surrounding city. All of these substances tend to settle out along the bottom of the canal and have to be regularly dredged in order to keep the channel clear for barges and boats. Dredging operations ceased for many canals sometime in the midtwentieth century, usually around 1950, when the size of ocean going traffic became much larger and the canals weren’t able to easily be widened because of the constructions along their banks. As the sediments piled up, the capacity of the water channel for moving water was seriously reduced and in some cases flooding problems are exacerbated as is the case in the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires. Continually dredging a canal where industrial operations have all but ceased is a difficult expense to justify when municipal budgets are tight, despite the flooding and environmental issues. Once the canal begins to silt up, it becomes impossible for the neighboring water dependent and water enhanced industries to use it; once all of the neighbors have turned their back on the canal, the falloff in water quality is precipitous. This suggests that, whenever possible, new uses for canals that require a navigable channel would improve water quality and might help reduce flooding and environmental problems. Sediments on industrial canals inevitably contain serious substances that are harmful to many organisms, incluing humans. For that reason they are often left “down there” below the surface of the water, where no one has to worry about them too much, unless you happen to live nearby. Companies and governments usually have politically expedient reasons for not dredging the sediments- they are highly contaminated with toxic substances.
In addition to stirring up the pcbâ€™s and heavy metals and tars that are mixed in on the bottom of the canal, the sediments that are dredged cannot be disposed cheaply- hazardous waste dump sites are incredibly expensive. In reality, they shouldnâ€™t ever be disposed of, as that just moves a toxic substance to another place. Ideally the substances would be excavated and taken to a facility where the toxic chemical are broken down or made inert. The sedimentation process occurs on the banks of canals as well, where tides, flood waters, street runoff, as well as human agents deposit all sorts of jetsam and flotsam. This material is most often considered a nuisance- shopping carts are deposited at street ends, plastic bottles and old wood scraps find their way into the chain link fencing that edges many places along the canal. While this material is mainly a nuisance and it is rather difficult to think of a possible reuse for it other than simply cleaning it up, the deposits are evidence of material eddies in the city. The contemporary urban environment is like a highly regulated waste stream, with food and water and consumer goods coming in, being consumed, and then deposited and whisked out of the city- the municipal solid waste system. Appropriate mobilization and management of this system is perhaps the key catalyst to any urban project. The biological capacities of canals to consume human waste when properly managed, and their tendency to accumulate the trash that escapes the waste stream suggests they should be an area of focus for sanitation departments in cities. Lastly, the fact that pattern that is evident in the sedimentation process could be strategically utilized- the canal is an eddy in the urban ecology of waste, transportation, and use. They offer an alternative to the highly programmed recreational park, the commercial shopping mall, or the office park. It is something of a no manâ€™s land, and by providing simple access around the border and across its width and offering finding a way to reduce the exposure to the toxic substances, entire ecosystems of local populations of plants and animals including humans would spring up along its banks. Indeed, to a limited degree this already occurs and need only be encouraged in the lightest possible way to generate a fecund alternative to the overly programmed recreation park, the commercial shopping mall or street, and the office tower. People and things might come here and sit out the rushing city currents for a while, being sedimented.
Road sediments and urban garbage in the Gowanus Canal These are most often seen as a problem and often need to be removed and piled somewhere else.
New port faciilities are constructed in Buenos Aires from construction rubble created from highway projects. This poldering system is then filled in by the sediments deposited by currents of the river creating new lands for the city
zug island at the mouth of the River Rouge canal is the site of waste, industrial, and hydrological sediments
polychlorinated biphenyl (pcb)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (pah)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (pah)
This is a tricky theme regarding the subject of canals, and industrial cities in general. There are many ambiguous terms such as pollution, contamination, degradation, sewage, and landfills as well as a number of euphemisms such as brownfields. For the most part these leave people confused, with vague sentiments resembling “that doesn’t sound too bad, but I don’t want to live near it” or “it’s fine as long as it stays over there”. By being specific about certain substances, we may be able to avoid this conundrum. Toxicity relates to any substance which impedes the normal biological functioning of an organism. A couple of keys to remember about toxicity is that it is almost always in relation to exposure. That is, most substances considered toxic are not harmful until exposure reaches a certain level, be it nuclear radiation or road salt. Toxicity in urban industrial canals comes from two main sources: the stormwater and sewage from the surrounding city, and industrial sources such as factories and storage yards along the banks of the canal. The first is directly a result of the hydrological patterns of the city; as the canal is usually in a low point, all of the brake dust and motor oil and estrogen and caffeine that is contained in our sewers or lining our streets dumps into the canals during a storm. This is because the canals are usually the output for sewers, which become taxed by the extra water flower through the system during a storm. The toxic inputs from these sources are usually ongoing. In fact, one of the primary uses of canals after their industrial life was to turn them over to waste transport systems. In the case of the Chicago River, a canal connecting Lake Michigan to the upper reaches of the Mississippi, it was said to “run black” on the day that industrial operations stopped because the canal began carrying sewage overflow from the city out to Lake Michigan. The second source of toxicity- the historical industrial usage of its banks- is a bit more insidious. The list of industries is long and remarkably consistent from city to city: manufactured gas plants, tanneries, chemical manufacturers, liquid gas storage, concrete plants, slaughterhouses, grain storage, steel production, glue factories, food warehouses, road salt storage and junkyards. The reason for this remarkable consistency is complicated, but it has to do with the technologies of the time period, and the role of the canal in industrialization.
Coke production diagram Toxic byproducts of the industrial process include particulate matter (PM), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (pah), methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide (CO), hydroben sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, and sulfure oxides (SO) and benzene
manufactured gas productiion diagram Toxic byproducts include phenols and cresols (such as creosote for treating lumber and aquatic piles, monocyclical aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene, xylene, duocyclical aromatic hydrocarbons such as naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as coat tars, cyanide, sulfur, arsenic, chromium, lead
The most important use of the canal was the transport of bulk materials that were fundamental to the industrial processes of modernizing American cities. Massive quantities of grain, building stone, coal, cow hides, and road salt from the hinterlands as well as other cities was vital to these expanding economies, and industrial canals became widespread in the Americas at a time when the only overland option for transport were horse carts. The railroad did not come into widespread use until several decades after the canal boom had commenced.
Many of the burgeoning industries including the manufacturing gasworks located themselves along the canals where they could receive daily shipments of coal. It was also common to use the canals to dump the wastes and byproducts resulting from the tanning of hides, the drawing of candles, or the stamping of rivets. Writer Thomas Wolfe, writing in the 1920â€™s, noted of the Gowanus in Brooklyn:
And what is that you smell? Oh, that! Well, you see, he shares impartially with his neighbors a piece of public property in the vicinity; it belongs to all of them in common, and it gives to South Brooklyn its own distinctive atmosphere. It is the old Gowanus Canal, and that aroma you speak of is nothing but the huge symphonic stink of it, cunningly compacted of unnumbered separate putrefactions. It is interesting sometimes to try to count them. There is in it not only the noisome stenches of a stagnant sewer, but also the smells of melted glue, burned rubber, and smoldering rages, the odors of a boneyard horse, long dead, the incence of putrefying offal, the fragrance of deceased, decaying cats, old tomatoes, rotten cabbage, and prehistoric eggs. Toxic substances and the perceptions and assumptions that accompany them are responsible for some of the magic of these canals. Because they are often considered outside of the normal operations of the city people, plants and animals that also feel outside of normal are able to find purchase here. One can image easily that it is the homeless, the prostitutes, the teenagers skipping school that spend time here. And they do sometimes. But you also have many people from adjacent neighborhoods drifting here looking for a quiet place.
Combined sewer overflow system In many american cities the wastewater from houses and offices (blackwater) goes into the same system as the water from the storm drains in the streets which all goes to a treatment plant. Because of the surge in water through the system during rain events, a series of outlets throughout the city to dump overflow raw sewage directly into adjacent water bodies.
Industrial byproducts Many wastes from industrial processes, be they particles and microscopic molecules or rusting hulls, end up in industrial canals, especially once they are no longer maintained for navigation purposes.
Canoe clubs set up shop in small shacks along their banks, birders come to watch the nighthawks, and rogue gardeners starved for a patch of land for experimentation.
AN EXAMPLE- JUNK YARDS 1a.
The car is brought to the junk yard by the wrecker
Many of the toxic substances in these places such as the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) and polycholorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) still persist in the canal sediments. Concentrations of solvents and oils are often leaked into the canals from the surrounding bus depots, and heavy metals including cadmium and lead from industrial processes tend to concentrate in the sediments and along the banks. Sometimes, when the currents change, releases of oil from the soil cause slicks. In addition, sewage overflow and stormwater runoff into these canals from the adjacent combined sewer outlets and city streets continually add to the nitrogen and phosphate loads in the water. Lastly the innocuous-seeming domestic chemicals, from cleaners and solvents we use to wash dishes to the estrogen and caffeine we use in our bodies can concentrate here.
The wrecker parks and sets up
But some of these substances offer hope to certain organisms. In particular, the nutrients from the combined sewer overflows are prized by certain aquatic plants that establish along the banks of the canal.
Disposal How does disposal work at a junk
2a. The car is stripped of all working parts. For example a car may have a cracked engine block, but the radiator is still fine. Most parts of the car can be resold so they are stripped, cleaned, and stored.
2b. Hazardous materials are removed: the battery is pulled out, the gas tank, anti-freeze, and other fluids are drained. These are required to be registered, catalogued and stored until removed and disposed of by an approved handler according regulations. 2c. The remains of the vehicle- the chassis, body parts, and damaged parts- are moved into the junkyard and stored until it can be crushed. The wait period is typically a few days but can be months.
5 waste disposal site
3a. Working parts are sold to customers who come to the junkyard or order them, similar to any retail operation
3b. Hazardous materials are removed and an annual report is submitted to the NYC DEC detailing the handling of these fluids from their reception, through their transport, to their disposal 3c. The operator drives the crusher to the site and sets it up. The crusher is a hydraulic machine that uses fluid, not weight, to crush the vehicles. Crushers use a claw or a magnet to lift the cars onto the crushing bed. The final size of the car depends on the vehicle and the type of crusher being used- baler crushers can reduce a car to a brick of metal that is 3’x2’x5’ THIS PROCESS IS FAST, LOUD, AND INTERMITTENT> Granutech’s big MAC portable crusher needs about 45 seconds per car. Some can crush 6 cars at a time 4. Cars may then be stored until they are shipped to a shredder/smelter 5. A barge or flatbed truck is brought to the junkyard. The crushed cars are loaded and sent to a shredder/smelter
New York City junkyard flow diagram
3c remains of vehicle 2c
The Wall of Sound Transportation in American cities is supposedly all about the car. The automobile does dominate our perception on the street- horns honking, engines humming, brakes squealing- but it is not so important in the history of industrial canals. Canals had their heyday in the mid-1800â€™s, well before the Model T got rolling. While some canals initially had the jump on the railroads and so were used to span great distances such as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, or most famously the Eerie Canal, the majority were quickly turned into a complimentary component of a sophisticated mash-up of an industrial transportation system made up of local roads, docks, and regional rail roads. In fact, two of our examples- the River Rouge and the Riacheulo- continue to function today in just such a capacity. In the case of the River Rouge, the canal is now surrounded by bands of regional highways and railroads. Zug Island, located right at the mouth where the canalized River Rouge meets the larger Detroit River, is traversed by a major rail line and accessed by a single road. The island was once a marshy peninsula on the edge of town unfit for settlement. A new channel was cut through to create a straighter shipping route, and Zug Island was the byproduct. It was purchased and reconstructed as a giant landscape factory for steel production and now receives loads of coal via dock to refine into coke for the steel-making operations which then gets shipped out via rail line. However, the rest of the canal is ribboned with the freeways and highways that serve the number one export of the car capital of the twentieth century. In Buenos Aires the Canal Sarandi serves the main receiving docks of the petrochemical port in the city as a spur off of the Riachuelo River. This area of town is a prime location for the port because of the canal and its proximity to the railroad and Autopista al Sur connecting to the rest of the country without having to cut across the central city. A hundred and fifty years ago when the canal was first being constructed the port was on the southern edge of the city, a fortuitous occurrence that kept the industrial factories and pollution segregated from the city proper. Of course, as the city population grew from 1 million in 1850 to 13 million in 2000 the city reoriented itself around the river and the port, drawn by the cheaper lands to the south and the economic
new york city subway map
engine of the port and its concomitant industries. This southern part of Buenos Aires has grown up around the freeways and railways that serve the port, the local municipal grids filling in around the lines of infrastructure, sometimes in an unplanned ad hoc way. The freight rails, passenger trains, and commercial highways, and local street grids that are brought together at the industrial canals is a pattern that holds even for canals that are no longer used. The abandoned canals, with their large vacant tracts and adjacent industrial zones were prime candidates for interstate freeways when the great highway projects of the 50â€™s and 60â€™s came through. The effect today can be a wall of sound, especially in the evening as cars pour out of the city and into the suburbs. But this wall is different than being in the rush hour traffic on Broadway. This is because an effect of displacement occurs when one is along an old industrial canal. And this displacement effect can be one of the special aspects of a canal. While a canal in the city attracts the great, hulking commercial infrastructures of transit such rails and highways they serve to sever the local municipal street grid- the roads, the bus routes, and the sidewalk end here. As a result the local traffic is usually at a minimum, while the commercial and regional traffic is loud and at a distance. The effect can be magical- a quiet forgotten place in the city with privileged access to the great humming and rumblings of the modern city. In Brooklyn the Gowanus Canal maintains just this attraction. It is a sublime landscape with the old ruined factories and rubble heaps and scrap yards interspersed among garages and warehouses. The F/G trains and the Gowanus Expressway cross overhead and at night the little lights in the subway cars are beautiful. If you go there on the right night and watch the subway crawl along the tracks and see the distant skyline of Brooklyn and Manhattan, if you notice the bats diving for insects against the dark silhouettes of the strange warehouses and factories around you will feel that New York City is the place for you; that despite our propensity for creating ugliness, beauty is bigger than us.
Detroit bus map
The radial pattern of public transportation from downtown keeps the river rouge canal at an eccentriic position in the city
Buenos Aires subway map
The radial pattern of public transportation from downtown keeps the riachuelo canal at an eccentriic position in the perception of the city
Canal Taxonomies: of things.
Along American urban industrial canals certain dimensions, properties and techniques manifest themselves consistently in the forms and scales of equipment, materials, and constructions. This is due to the fact that almost all of these canals were built between 1850- 1950. Constructed at similar times for specific, similar purposes, a taxonomy of key structures and instruments reveals a remarkably similar grouping of objects that shape the canals, and take shape along them.
drawing by Ernst Haeckel; â€œArt Forms in Natureâ€?
Canted Concrete Wall + This system was not reinforced with steel, relying instead on the mass of the concrete to retain the
2. stone veneer, usually cemented on to concrete wall behind, not always included massive concrete wall
high water mark (tide)
+ the high compression
low water mark (tide)
strength enabled industrial
6. wood or steel pilings for additional lateral stability, anchoring the wall to the earth
equipment such as cranes to operate on top at the wa-
+ piles are used in the bot-
Vertical Concrete Wall
8. steel sheet pile at base, to prevent undercutting of wall
+ This system was reinforced
2. stone veneer, usually cemented on to concrete wall behind, not always included
with steel, utilizing a more
massive concrete wall
and less mass.
high water mark (tide)
low water mark (tide)
+ the verticle face enables
ships to pull up directly
7. foundation plate attached to structural steel or wood pilings 8. wood or steel pilings for additional lateral stability, anchoring the wall to the earth
complex structural system
+ piles are used in the bottom to anchor the bulkhead, sheet piling on either face to minimize underscoring
tom to anchor the bulkhead + vertical ribs are spaced + most commonly used in
at twice the height of the
channel canals that are cut
into the terrain, such as urban sections of the Erie
+ the textured and porous
surface of the stone or concrete provides an oppor-
+ the textured surface pro-
tunity for micro-organisms
vides an opportunity for
to inhabit them, but little
opportunity for most plant life
Canal wall at a lock outside of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Canal wall along Newtown Creek in New York City, between Brooklyn and Queens
Precast Concrete Canal Wall + This system was made offsite and installed along the canal.
+ often smaller in size due
precast concrete wall
high water mark (tide)
2. adjacent ground, backfilled material
concrete anchor pilings
low water mark (tide)
3. steel tieback anchored into backfilled earth
to need to transport the structure
1. Steel corrugated sheet pile
8. steel sheet pile at base, to prevent undercutting of wall
high water mark (tide)
low water mark (tide)
7. foundation plate attached to structural steel or wood pilings
+ the concrete was often of higher quality and compressive strength; often used where specification for mooring of boats were more stringent
+ piles are used in the bottom to anchor the bulkhead, sheet piling on either face to minimize underscoring
+ the textured and porous surface of the stone or concrete provides an opportunity for micro-organisms to inhabit them, but little opportunity for most plant life precast wall along the newtown creek canal in Queens, New York City
Canal wall along Newtown Creek in New York City, between Brooklyn and Queens
high water mark (tide)
low water mark (tide)
6. wood or steel pilings for additional lateral stability, anchoring the wall to the earth 7.
high water mark
+ This was the most popular
bulkhead system due to the
2. steel tie back with tension bolts
relatively inexpensive cost
duck bill anchor
+ more maintenance was re-
low water mark
quired because the wood even
6. wooden dimensioned palisades (rough lumber)
when treated was not as durable to the fluctations in
water level and the indus-
+ this construction method, and the practice of using pressure treated wood often likely contributed more toxic substances to the canal waters than forms of masonry construction
+ the wooden slats could break and crack, absorb water and hold material, providing a potentially rich biological niche and material easy to change
Canal wall at a lock outside of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Canal wall along Newtown Creek in New York City, between Brooklyn and Queens
Stone-filled Brush + This system was often used
+ This system was a less
in suburban areas where ad-
jacent land might be cheap-
2. interlocking stones or poured concrete surface
3. excavation and back fill
permanent option used to
combat scouring along the
edges and bottom of canals
+ Allowed for human access
high water mark
+ Was most often used with
to the water for purposes
low water mark
armored training dike con-
such as recreation
+ the gently sloped face is
7. reinforced canal bottom
struction and needed to be 4.
stones for ballast
a much cheaper construction
+ Usually used in river ca-
both in materials and labor
nals (as opposed to tidal or
because excavation was often
harbor canals) where cur-
rents causing scouring was a bigger concern
+ the sloped walls also allowed for increased water
+ The brush would usually
volume in the canal
not rot as long as it remained completely submerged
+ the textured and porous
surface of the stone provides an opportunity for
+ Brush rolls could vary
wildly in size, from the scale of what a single person could carry to a size requiring a group of ten or more to transport it Canal dike in the Florida Everglades near Clewiston, Florida
Brush rolls being prepared for canal edge stabilization
+ The bucket can vary in
+ A hydraulic dredge, these
size in order to optimize
were originally developed to
payload (the amound of mate-
cut through packed alluvial
rial that can be grabbed and
material and even soft rock
ported) in different types of soil,
+ Pumps a slurry that is
dredges today have 50 cy
typically 4 parts water, 1
buckets for use in harbors
part solids through a hose
typically; canal dredges
up to 15 miles to upland
historically had a payload
disposal sites or along the
closer to 5 cy
edges of the dredge site
+ the dredge mixture is
+ The cutterhead rotates,
typically 50% sediment, 50%
and the pipe swings from
side to side during operation; speed of cutting
+ offers great precision,
depends on horsepower avail-
minimizes amount of material
able and the material to be
to be handled, minimizes
resuspension of solids- all of these are important when
+ A dredge with a 16â€? pipe
working with contaminated
should produce between 240
sediments or in cities
and 875 cy of dredged sediments per hour; a 24â€? pipe
+ can operate with a closed
should produce between 515
lid to minimize spillage of
and 1615 cy
+ The dipper dredge typi+ This is a mechanical
cally has a capacity of 8 to
dredge, and offers better
12 cy per bucket, and can 1.
achieve between 30 and 60
precision, needs less room for maneuvering
scoops per hour 2.
+ Despite being a mechanical
+ Best use for a dipper is for excavating compacted
dredge, this method often
them unsuitable for envi-
ronments with contaminated
leads to higher amounts of
sediments and rock that have been loosened after blasting
+ can be used in any sedi-
resuspended solids, making
ment type where there is a significant vertical incline but the violence of this op-
+ Can remove material at a
eration can cause resuspen-
comparable rate to the clam-
sion of solids
+ Detail work is difficult
Creates high levels of
sediment resuspension + Can be used where access + Offers great precision
is difficult and depths are
and is rugged, can be used
up to 100 feet.
near foundations and docks, or for deconstructing these structures
antique dipper drege
dragline drege mounted on tracks working on a dike
+ The bucket-ladder dredge allows for a continuous excavation process
+ Buckets discharge contents onto vibrating screens, usually on an adjacent barge, which sift gravel and sand return the water to the channel
+ The entire dredge swings from side to side with the use of anchors and mooring lines
+ The edge of the bucket offers increased cutting ability using the metal edge of the buckets
+ Is not very precise, but moves a lot of material, for this reason it was used a lot for gold mining, less so for construction or environmental remediation dustpan dredge
multi-bucket dredge at work in harbor
+ This system, a backhoe
+ Is a hydraulic dredge,
mounted on a barge or ad-
suction pipes called 1.
dragarms pump sediments up to the hopper and out
through the hose
jacent dike, offers power to dig through any type of
material, including deconstructing existing piers and
+ Most effective on loose sediments
+ Do not need a tug to help them operate as they have their own propellers
foundations, they also have 3.
4. engine and navigation propellers
great precision and manueverability
+ Use anchor spuds when on a barge, and often deposit sediments on an adjacent barge
+ Can move large amounts of sediment in a slurry; the
+ Can be equipped with a
ration is typically 5:1 wa-
watertight bucket to mini-
ter to sediment
mize resuspension of solids and disturbance of sediments
+ these move massive amounts
in the case of contaminated
of material (up to 300 dump
truck loads per hour) and can operate in rough waters;
+ Are not able to move the
as such they are usually
high volumen that the suction
used to replenish beaches
hopper dredges move
and clear sandbars from in front of ports; rarely are they used in industrial canals trailing suction dredge in Jamaica Bay, Queens, New York
backhoe dredge at work in new york harbor
+ Consists of pulleys and a
+ conveyor hubs are the
continuous loop of material
critical components in
that has teeth to grab the
systems of automated sort-
material; they are direc-
ing and distribution of bulk
tional and linear
materials such as gravel or salt
+ power is supplied to rotate the driving pulley and
+ Often these hubs have
pull the belts along
screens and sieves that allow them to be combined in
+ used to transport bulk ma-
specific mixtures to create
concrete mixes, for example
+ belts travel in a straight line, can traverse distances up to 100 kilometers
+ can go over and down topography without serious issues, the angle must be such that the material does not slide off or down the belt
+ curved conveyor belts are now available using tapered rollers
a 9 mile long conveyor belt in california for a gravel mining operation
a gravel crushing operation is a hub of conveyors, sorting different size aggregates
+ used to allow for packag-
+ the truss is important
ing and processing of the
to conveyor systems allow-
ing for spans and heightened inclines
+ provides a staging ground for workers or machines to
+ allows for rotational belt
access the bulk materials
such as meat + is a rigid, linear system that is cheap and movable
+ allowed for work in a protected environment such as a refrigerated room or protection from rain
+ also allows for immediate recovery of certain materials or byproducts that tend to fall off of the conveyor belt
+ used on a much smaller scale than long belt conveyors
housing of frozen meat conveyor along the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires
mobile conveyor truss is used to sort piles of soil types in Oregon
current range of distribution of the water hyacinth in the Americas
Tactics and Strategies
By considering landscape in terms of specific operations instead of forms or flows we can tap into the material-semiotic aspects of specific agents and their associations. This allows a conception of work across scales- temporal, spatial, economic. This means that the project can start with the smallest amount of money and effort- building a bird house- and grow towards large scale integration with major capital projects. These operations are meant as suggestions of possibilities for implementation, rather than a set of step-by-step instructions. Implementation may require consultation with an architect, engineer, arborist, or electrician, depending on the scale and the field situation.
stream bank stabilization using biodegradable coconut mats and live stakes
Community Gardens Steps of Operation:
consistent water supply
size: smallest: a single 4’ x 10’ plot; largest: vacant lot
cut flowers, vegetables, or environmental remediation plants
time: continuous care required
Open ground is located
2 Construct the soil; this may entail importing compost or topsoil, tilling up existing compacted soils; if the soil may be contaminated (a safe bet near industrial canals) then the planting area should be raised to keep the roots out of the contaminated soil 3 Plant desired seedlings or seeds at the proper depth in the soil
cost: $20 per 4’ x 10’ plot growing medium
related operations: small construction, composting, water recycling, fencing
roots above contaminated ground if vegetables are grown for consumption
The community gardening operation is open to anyone, and encouraged in any accessible area with a water supply.
raised bed existing ground
This operation can be used to grow food, cut flowers for the home, and experimental plots for testing new types and combinations of plants.
4 Keep the plants watered with an adjacent water supply; this can be from captured stormwater, a nearby fire hydrant, or water spigot 5 Keep the weeds from growing by pulling them every week 6 Harvest vegetables or flowers when you want
VEGETABLES FOR EATNG SHOULD BE PLANTED IN RAISED BEDS TO AVOID CONTAMINATION.
a community garden in havanna, cuba
organic material (kitchen greens, garden waste, mushrooms coir logs)
Steps of Operation: heaped compost; keep moist (55% moisture level)
rotate hedgrows of compost to keep aerated, material will compress, keep moist
size: smallest- single household deposits, largestrestaurant and school waste time:
related: community gardening, fencing, building, tree planting
1 collect compostable material; this could be garden waste and clippings, kitchen waste, chipped wood 2 heap organic material together, maintain aeration and moisture so that bacterial decomposition can occur; compost pile should heat up to about 155 degrees- organic content is slowly cooking 3 keep piles rotated, aerated, and moist
Organic compost operations will consist of stations that are set up in vacant lot locations. It provides a useful way to grow fertile soil from organic waste (yard clippings, vegetable kitchen waste).
if organic material is contaminated, compost should go through chemical extraction process to recover heavy metals
Compost must be aerated and kept moist to keep the decomposition processes active. If done properly, all food and yard waste from the neighborhood can be composted and used to enrich further planting efforts for trees or community gardens.
utilize clean compost in new tree pits or garden plantings
compost hedgerows at an industrial composting center, rows are managed with backhoes
4 if organic material is contaminated, for instance if the plants are hyperaccumulators such as water hyacinth or sunflowers, the compost should be chemically processed to extract heavy metals 5 compost can be added to mineral soil, dredge spoils, accumulated settlements to enrich growing medium and help it support normal biological function
Hoop House protection from wind, rain, and excessive sun
size: smallest- 100 square feet, largest- 2000 square feet time:
$50 - $2000
agricultural plastic or netting structural metal ribbing
climate control with fans if necessary
related: community gardening, tree planting, composting, water recycling, small construction, wetlands
This opeartion can be started for as little as $50 and is vital to establish new seedlings for:
Steps of Operation:
1 this operation must start at the ground; small concrete footings must be poured to support the structural ribs 2 the ribs should be preformed and then bolted to the concrete footings 3 a water supply is needed to keep the plants irrigated 4 agricultural netting or plastic should be stretched over the frame 5 plantings should be spaced to allow for a walking aisle in the center, and so each plant can get appropriate irrigation
+ city forest + community gardens + wetlands The hoop house is used to protect the seedlings during cold months and to control irrigation.
existing ground planting footing or concrete slab to support structure
Partnerships with private enterprise- plant nurserieswill help to keep costs down and gain necessary expertise to construct and maintain the house intitially.
a hoop house in new jersey with potted shrubs ready for sale
6 a fan can be used in either end to maintain air movement in the hoop house if it is covered with plastic
Wetlands Steps of Operation: rain water gets absorbed stormwater is filtered as it runs through provides habitat for local birds and insects
size: smallest- 100 square feet, largest- 100 acres time:
plant material (should be chosen for tolerance of salt, heavy metals, and petroleum contaminants
1 day - decades
cost: $50 sf related: community gardening, tree planting, water recycling, small construction, wetlands
1 identify ideal location for constructed wetlands; considerations include sun and contamination exposure, high traffic zones, water access 2 identify or at least estimate the toxic substances that will have to be contended with 3 identify user groups to target with constructed wietlands- birds, shellfish, school kids 4 identify the appropriate plants for the chosen location and other above considerations
The wetlands operation is a communal effort that brings together technical expertise, private donations, and embodied knowledge to begin reestablishing biological environmental processes.
root network growing medium (can be floating or can be existing soil)
Wetlands are installed slowly over time, in conjunction with earth moving, and tree planting Wetlands are one of the most productive areas and will be managed for scientific monitoring and educational enterprises with the city universities.
uptake of nutrients from the soil
constructed chinampas wetlands in mexico use willows to build land over time
5 construct a supporting structure for the growing medium and plants, including one that can protect the plants and organisms until they become established and can filter pollutants; include floating buoys if needed to support the structure and growing medium
Earth Moving Steps of Operation:
1 constant earth moving can be undertaken as a cultural practice, especially in a terrain that is constantly changing due to hydrological and sedimentary processes
size: smallest- compost moving, largest- road building
excavation or dredge spoils (can be transported by conveyors)
time: 1/2 day to season long effort cost: $50 per half day (donation in kind can be requested)
2 with a single machine this practice can be constantly undertaken to construct and compact new lands from deposited spoils 3 the earth moving should take place in layers and according to sections, growing incrementally
related: small construction, composting, water recycling, fencing, road building The earth moving equipment can be procured for only a half day. While expensive, this can be highly effective for excavation for a new wall, new paving, roads, large-scale plantings or composting.
existing high ground
earth moving machine (such as backhoe, bobcat, wheelbarrow)
Smaller scale earth moving operations can be carried out with wheelbarrows and shovels.
newly constructed ground existing topography
Multiple operations can be coordinated to reduce the cost and relationships should be built with local rental centers and contractors. bobcat at work with medium scale earth moving operations
4 each layer should be compacted every 6 inches that are put down; running over the newly deposited sediments can be done with the bobcat; if the scale is extremely small then the operation can be untertaken with hand tampers 5 compacted soils can stabilize the terrain so that it can be used for newly prgrammed purposes
Agricultural Netting protection from sun exposure protection from excess rain for delicate plants (for tight weaves of shade cloth only)
size: smallest- 50 sf, largest- 1000 sf time:
$40 (donations in
Steps of Operation:
agricultural netting (shade cloth)
1 this operation is extremely cheap and easy to form protected zones for plants, organisms, and social spaces
connection to structure (hoop house ribs, adjacent trees, scaffolding system)
2 identify organisms to be protected and the area of shade cloth needed 3 erect support structure if necessary; scaffolding structure is an extremeley inexpensive and useful possibility but any wooden posts, a nearby tree, or attachement to an existing structure such as a building can be used
related: community garden, tree planting, fencing, management, community market, hoop house, goat herd The netting operation is used to create habitable zones near other operations.
4 string up shade cloth with plastic ties, couplings, or other more permanent attachement
Shade cloth can be used to protect young plants that are being established as part of the city forest or that are being grown for future wetlands or community gardens. existing ground
The netting operation also offers an ephemeral, inexpensive opportunity to demarcate festival space and play areas.
footing or anchor if attaching to hoop house or scaffolding system
bobcat at work with medium scale earth moving operations
Construction Fencing construction fencing used to demarcate space fencing structure inhabitant
Steps of Operation:
1 site to limit access or create social space should be identified 2 attach fencing to fence post or scaffolding structure with zip ties as needed
size: smallest- garden plot, largest- new pine plantation time:
cost: $50 per 100 feet of fencing The fencing operation provides a visual signal and physical barrier, protecting new plantings and installation and demarcating zones of programming, for instance:
below ground structure
construction fencing fence post
+ territory of goat herd grazing + childrens play zones + new forest plantings + wetland installations + community gardens + festival areas
newly installed wetlands or other area to limit access
In addition, the construction fencing can be strung between scaffolding structures to create a cheap, easy, and beautiful screen for temporary structures.
construction fencing demarcating construction site
Tree Planting small spade pit bare root planting
Steps of Operation:
bare root seedlings existing ground
1 identify location for tree plantings; consider sun exposure, amount of water, desired climate, soil type 2 consider if trees will be individual tree pits or entire gridded plantations
size: smallest- a single tree, largest- 10 acre plantation on 5â€™ x 5â€™ staggered pattern
time: seasonal employment, 1 volunteer day cost:
root ball planting
$1 per tree
fencing, bird pit excavation
Tree planting is a primary operation, a major joint effort between agencies, universities, communities, and companies
root ball (remove burlap wrapping or plastic bucket) medium size tree backfilled soil
The trees can form the framework for new pubic programming, and eventually provide horticultural material for reforesting the city, or constructing boardwalks in the city parks
saucer to retain water
a bare root pine seedling taking root with the help of mycelium
3 tree excavation should be done with spades or shovels, not more than 1.5 times deeper than the root ball 4 often along canals trees can be worked in to steep banks or rubble areas; for steep banks they should be planted as vertical as possible and the depth should be measure from the low side; for rubble areas the largest area possible should be excavated and amended with topsoil and compost 5 trees will need irrigation for at least the first year after planting; this can vary depending on the location, the species, and soil type
Tree Pruning, Harvesting tree being cut canopy is pruned, mulched, and composted remaining tree
size: single lot milling operation, can be outsourced to private enterprise time: work
Steps of Operation:
1 identify the trees to be thinned (for habitat or material purposes, or to open up spaces for social gathering or working areas) 2 prune the canopy of the trees to be thinned; organic material (leaves) can be composted; branches can be used for wetlands construction or put through a wood chipper to make mulch 3 using a saw fell the tree trunk and saw into sections that are movable; use guide ropes to make sure that it doesnâ€™t fall on remaining trees
related: tree planting, house raising, management The tree pruning and thinning operation is used to manage an urban forest at high productivity producing habitat, mulch material, and construction material for other operations
4 saw logs can be sent to mill to shape into boards and lumber to be used for constructions along the canal
It can be undertaken by volunteers as well as utilized by artists and craftsmen
5 remaining trees should fill out further felled tree existing ground
stacked saw logs ready for milling for use in construction
Bird Habitat bird house protects birds from precipitation, wind, and exposure
size: a single birdhouse, tree house time:
1/2 day - 1 season
$10 - $500
Steps of Operation:
1 build bird house from lumber scraps or milled lumber from forest 2 bird house should be painted or sealed
bird house is connected to top of scaffolding pole
related: material recycling, scaffolding, tree planting, wetlands, painting
3 attach pole coupler to bottom of bird house and scaffolding pole 4 mix concrete in five gallon bucket 5 cast scaffolding pole into concrete bucket
The bird habitat operation is a method for reusing nonstructural recycled material including scrap wood, plastics, and textiles from the neighborhood to attract and provide for bird species.
6 choose location for birdhouse, ideally with nearby habitat (shrubs and trees and grasses to provide food and nesting material)
Birds act as keystone species as indicators of urban ecosystem health.
7 excavate pit to for concrete bucket in birdhouse location
Birds help to manage insect populations and keep down pests such as mosquitoes.
concrete-filled 5 gallon bucket to anchor birdhouse excavate birdhouse pit
Birds and their behaviorial habits serve as a strong attractor for people from the neighborhood.
bird houses installed along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn
8 backfill around bucket to stabilize bucket footing
Scaffolding Steps of Operation:
size: smallest- community booth, largest- institutional station time:
mechanical attachments at corners
1 day- 2 weeks
1 make sure that ground where scaffolding is being constructed is stabillized with compaction, paving, or a footing 2 assemble scaffolding members 3
cost: $70 - $2000 (donations in-kind)
secure cross bracing
4 attach netting or fencing as necessary
related: garden, community market, bird habitat, netting, material recycling, light installation The scaffolding operation is an modular system that can be utilized to create community market bays, festival installation, construction support Because the scaffolding is modular, they can be collected over time and used in increasingly sophisticated ways.
ground to use for attachment/stabilization scaffolding bracing
As workers and community members become accustomed to working with the scaffolding system, the scaffolding will be used as large scale installations as well as institutional support. an exhbition and performance space made from scaffolding in Portland, Oregon
Material Recycling Steps of Operation:
1 collection areas are established so that households, communities, and industries can bring material wastes to a site 2 materials are gathered and sorted
size: smallest- local bottle dropoff, largest- reuse of construction refuse
3 materials to be reused are stored until they can be used by the appropriate actors
time: 30 minutes - 2 hours for collection and dropoff cost:
4 materials to be recycled for profit are sent to the smelters or recycling plants by barge or truck
related: small construction, scaffolding Material recycling is often ideal for canals because they already have large store yards and many waste streams.
Material recycling at a large scale can produce an income stream especially for metals. Many other materials can be reused in future small scale and temporary constructions such as bottles as bricks and plastic bottles as buoys for suspended wetlands.
object pyramid made from recycled garbage
for profit recycling
Water Recycling Steps of Operation:
2 a simple system of gutters can be used to direct rain water to storage barrels, cisterns, or collection pools
size: smallest- rain barrel, largest- site based water detention storage barrel
1 hour or 1 work day
$5 - $2000
1 identify existing horizontal surfaces that can be used to funnel rain water to collection points
related: community gardening, wetland, hoop house, tree planting Water recycling operations are begun simply with rain barrels that catch water from the gutters of existing structures.
Water detention will immediately have an impact as local flooding from rain events is lessened. Reusing this resource before it drains into the sewers will reduce the stress on the cityâ€™s water system and reduce the costs for the growing operations.
object pyramid made from recycled garbage
3 the water to be stored needs to have a pump or be kept above the use elevation or else to take advantage of gravity flow 4 recycling water through wetlands, for agriculture, or using them to water trees can reduce the amount of mechanical plumbing infrastructure needed
Painting Steps of Operation:
1 identify the zone to paint and the symbols to be used for painting
1 hour - 1 week
2 choose the colors, consider DOT standards and exterior paint for the correct material 3 if painting where there will be vehicular traffic work with the local DOT to use their highway paint; painting the road or within the right of way is the purview of the local department of transportation and any major effort should be coordinated with them so as not to cause traffic hazards.
cost: $20 per can, road striping equipment related: road building, small construction, scaffolding, bird habitat, fencing, lighting The painting operation can be undertaken entirely by community groups to designate paved areas, constructions, and structures as community places for specific types of recreation or operations such as community market, bird habitat structures, lighting installations, new walls, making clear the presence of social intention and care. Systems of signs can be created and elaborated over time to help signify programming such as murals, and community market zones.
painting on the pavement in the road bed in Times Square in Manhattan
Landscape Maintenance and Monitoring Steps of Operation:
full time position
$5000 - $25,000
1 the landscape maintenance and monitoring operation should be specifically identified and a manual developed for each individual canal 2 this is a scientific and craftsman position and will need specific equipment for monitoring environmental effects including testing for toxicity, horticultural operations inluding amending soil
related: community gardening, tree planting, composting, water recycling, wetlands, recycling, manufacturing Management operations will develop over time, first beginning in year five and becoming more prominent as the forest develops.
3 can also be the point person to coordinate the other operations with more specialized workers or less skilled community members
The maintenance of the roads and the management of the storage facilities will eventually require a full or part-time position to be established. This position will include monitoring, trash removal, planting, pruning, installation of fencing and netting and other ephemeral structures to achieve specific environmental performance levels.
an equipped maintenance truck/ mobile laboratory
Goat Herd Steps of Operation:
stage 1- vegetative growth dominates the site before goats are introduced
size: smallest- single goat, largest- 20 goats time:
30 minutes daily
stage 2- the goat herd feeds on the vegetation and enriches the soil with their droppings
cost: $0 (subsidized by the municipal government). related: community garden, fencing, management The goat herd offers a lowcost, low effort method for weed control and improving soil fertility in vacant or fallow lots.
stage 3- the site is cleared and the soil is enriched, the goats move on to a didifferent site
Their four-chambered stomachs can fully break down most weed seeds They are used frequently in cities as low-cost alternatives to mowers. They often provide a social benefit for free, acting as attractors in the urban environment, especially for children interested in their wanderings a goat eating weeds on an urban lot in Portland, Oregon
time: 2 days cost:
related: scaffolding, goat herd, hoop house, community market, small construction, manufacturing Light installation for both permanent and ephemeral installations can be undertaken with high pressure sodium, metal halide and led lights. Permanent light will be incorporated into the hoop houses and main pathways in the hub. Temporary lighting may be utilized for the community market, celebration programs, and art installations to allow for events to continue into the night and increase the perception of safety in the neighborhood.
light installation in abandoned factory in Beacon, New York
Mycological Remediation sun exposure
Steps of Operation:
shade cloth (or tree canopy or building)
existing ground growing medium
related: nursery, hoop house, tree planting, organic compost, netting
mycelium fruits (mushrooms)
1 Choose location; consider presence of toxic substances (refer to the book â€œMycelium Running â€œ for a simple chart paring mycelium with toxic substances); also consider wind and sun exposure as mushrooms prefer dark, moist areas 2 choose growing medium; mycelium prefer lignin as a food source, wood chips and mulch are preferred 3 make sure that mycelium have a shady spot to run, either on a protected side of a building, or under a grove of trees; if neither of these are available a shade cloth structure is a cheap and fast shelter for any location
Mycological remediation refers to the use of specific mycelium to filter organic solids, particulate matter, to break down toxic substances such as polychlorinated binphenyls
4 test soils or growing medium for contaminants- a partnership with a local labratory is necessary
Mycelium can also be used to form mycorrhizal associations that increase the biological efficiency of the plant communities in compacted, rubble soils.
This operation is undertaken by innoculating a medium such as wood chips, soil, or coconut fiber with mycelium spores which can be purchased from remediation nurseries. mycorrhizal associations of Saccharomonospora viridis, a mycelium
5 continue to monitor over time and replinish the growing medium as the mycelium break it down; mushrooms fruits should be tested, confined, and composted separately as they accumulate heavy metals
Aerial Mapping helium balloon (or kite)
Steps of Operation:
1 Identify the place to map and the time period camera cradle automatic digital camera
2 get a small camera cradle that is padded with foam and will allow for a small digital camera to focus down on the ground when suspended 3 insert the camera and set it to take digital photos every 10 seconds 4 afix the camera and cradle to the balloon
related: tree planting, road, goat herd, landscape maintenance, Aerial mapping is an operation meant to increase agency for local communities with high quality aerial photography that is highly specific both temporally and spatially.
landscape being mapped
5 tether the helium balloons to the ground so that you can retrieve them and the camera after it has taken the photos. 6 release the balloons and leave it up for as long as you camera will take photos 7 retrieve the camera and balloons with the tether; the photos can now be downloaded
A specific zone can be targeted- such as a development lot or the street salting operations of a city agency, and they can be photographed at extremely high resolution during different, specific times of the day and year.
* winds must be considered in this operation; for more control over the photography in windy situations a kite can be used instead of a balloon
specific information can be found at www.grassrootsmapping.org aerial balloon mapping of salt lot operations along the gowanus canal; by grassrootsmapping.org
This field guide is a tool for understanding and interpreting the urban industrial canals found throughout the Americas. The technologies,...