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THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK + Machine Nostalgia + Historical Machines + Making the World + Mapping as an Activity + Territory vs. Map + Mapping and Itinerary + Site and Non-Site


PROJECT DEVELOPMENT + Landscape Machine + Logic Gate + Etching Method + Further Fluidic Components + 3D Scanning and Printing + DAVID Scanner + Reading and Writing Landscape + Islands




BIBLIOGRAPHY + Quoted Sources + Further Reading + Word Count (5500 words) + Illustration Credits



The landscape transistor project deals with the idea of landscape as “cultivated wilderness”. While this idea implies, that the wilderness has been transformed from its untamed state, it also means, that it still lingers under the surface, “that the wilderness is everywhere. Not just in the oceans, not just in the deserts and the mountain ranges, but everywhere. It trickles down the staircase of the minaret and into the prayer hall of the great mosque at Damascus. It seeps through the filters of the air-cooling plants at Rockefeller Center.” (Shepheard, 1997, p. 11) The project investigates the machine as means to connect to this subliminal wilderness, claiming that “the machine is not a RE-actionary tool, it is a HEURISTIC tool. The resonation of its energy and incipient output (in case of architecture, a production of new environmental meanings) forces an action of positive communication.” (Denari in McCarter, 1987, p. 20) To this end, the project looks at an alternative kind of machine, going back to an original state, when invention and technology were still linked to human experience and were about finding out about the world rather than merely using it. By claiming the existence of a lost, more innocent approach to the machine, the project displays symptoms of a ‘machine nostalgia’. In this sense, it is a critique of the actual technology that is prevalent in our perception of and interaction with the world, a technology that is masking rather than revealing - modern technology being an omnipresent mediator between humans and their environment, altering their view of the world and ultimately themselves. “Technology transforms the nature of our relation to beings, and to the world as a whole. As a result of this challenging that characterizes the specific mode of disclosure of technology, what is disclosed is there in a certain way. It stands there, always already available, in reserve. It is, in Heidegger’s terminology, mere standing-reserve (Bestand). [...] The Bestand is what stands by, awaiting to be called upon, released, transformed and distributed. It doesn’t even have the appearance of an object any longer.” (Beistegui, 2005, p. 110) Its interest in perception of the environment links the project to ideas of mapping and cartography. Emerging dynamic ways of cartography like GoogleEarth and new methods of mapping, such as remote sensing and 3d-scanning alter our view of the world and our sense of reality. New cartographies synthesise satellite images, 3d-representation and subjective user-generated data into a composed sensorial reality. The use of satellite images lets these cartographies appear more real than traditional maps, blurring the boundary between map and territory. However, through combining images from different sources taken at different resolution and accuracy and having a considerable time lag, the resulting ‘map’ remains a patchwork, edited and composed much like more traditional maps.



While acknowledging the lure and immersiveness of the new types of cartographic models, the project is a critique of the sense of numbness they can lead to. Everything is charged with the same degree of reality or irreality. The importance of the personal experience of ones environment is pushed to the back, making place for a synthetically unified vision. ‘‘In this sense, satellite imagery, photo reconnaissance, and imagery interpretation centers and practices are rich locations for exploring the power of surveillance technologies to define what counts as objective knowledge. They produce objectivity, a techno-discursive distance between the observer and the observed, and a particular kind of modern surveillant subject. This subjectivity is structured by an omniscient, imperial gaze, a particular kind of subjectivity that signifies dominance over what is being observed.� (Harris, 2006, p. 102)


“A clock that is directly motivated by the sun, while at the same time acting to define a particular place, would also bond daily life and the daily cylce of the earth together in experience.� (McCarter 1987, p.11)



Machine Nostalgia The word nostalgia is composed of algos, Greek for ‘pain’, and nostos which translates as ‘returning home’. So in a literal translation of nostalgia one might use the term ‘homesickness’. What is the project nostalgic of?

“Technology and the machines that came of it were originally experimental in nature - having to do with human experience and the discovery of the world. [...]. If these inventive experimental machines are used as sources of inspiration in the creation of contemporary architecture, so as to reground it in experience, it may thereby be possible to use the machine while at the same time rejecting the economic determinism and technological optimization that has reduced architecture to such a woeful state of dependency. The machine, one can therefore conclude, can be assessed using values other than those associated with technological thinking; it is by their very uselessness, in the progressive technological definition, that these original, archaic machines remain open to contemporary experiment and experience [...], the true modern spirit may dwell in an anachronism: the experimental machine ” (McCarter, 1987,p 11)

The project’s interest in the machine - especially in the absurd and anachronistic one - is grounded in the dichotomy between this playful, experience-driven approach and the prevalent utilitarian approach to a technology, that, rather than making people’s lives richer, forces them to abide by its rules. Therefore it is important, that the apparent impartiality of technology, its being free of an inherent meaning is not carried into an architecture that deals with the machine. One way to achieve this goal is through siting the machine, giving it a distinct place. (as in Neil Denari’s Solar Clock at the Tower of London, fig. 8.1 and 8.2) For, place is crucial for human experience and interaction. While the machine’s association to place is generally loose, it being understood as movable and moving, in the human mind place and experience, place and memory have a close bond. This is pointed out by Edward Casey, tracing it back to the fact that “there is no memory without a bodily basis [...] As embodied existence opens onto place, indeed takes place in place and nowhere else, so our memory of what we experience in place is likewise place-specific: it is bound to place as to its own basis.” (Casey, 1987,p. 182) Incidentally, the place-bound aspect of human memory is revealed most clearly in nostalgia. “Nostalgia leads us to invoke the following principle: in remembering we can be thrust back, transported, into the place we recall. We can be moved back into this place as much as, and sometimes more than, into the time in which the form of remembered event occurred.” (Casey, 1987, p. 201) This observation leads to the conclusion that the truly nostalgic machine is sited and place-specific.


fig. 8.1 and 8.2 - Neil Denari, Solar Clock, 1987


Mark Smout’s Geofluidic landscape can serve as a reference for the sited machine. The fact that the machine in this case is a computer makes its enlargement to landscape scale even more surprising. (s. chapter 3)

Theoretical Framework


Historical Machines In context of its ‘machine nostalgia’ and its interest in non-utilitarian technology, Ancient Greek machines are an important inspiration to the project. “Once we give up our instinctive idea that an ‘invention’ must aim at ‘labor saving’, we can begin to appreciate the Greek inventiveness. The ancient Greeks admired machines, with a sort of wide-eyed aesthetic interest, just as a boy admires his twelve-blade knife today.” (Brumbaugh, 1966, p. 3) For the Ancient Greeks the creation of automatons and mechanical theatre (fig.10.3 and 10.4) was a way to imitate living creatures. Besides the entertainment value this obviously had, it was also inspired by the aspiration, that, through mimicking the behaviour of living creatures, one could actually create life, or at least get a better understanding of the nature of life. “This project of creating beings with soul mechanically is a strand in Western ‘gadgetry’ which played a part in forming new ideas of the soul, the self, and the difference between nature alive and nature mechanical.” (Brumbaugh, 1966, p. 5)

A more recent historical reference are the illustrations to Diderot’s Encyclopedia of 1763. His work is revolutionary in its time in that it explicitly focusses on trades and industry and therefore elevates the status of these subjects as worthy of an intellectual examination. The machines shown in the plates are very different from the former example in that they are utilitarian. In fact, they are only included in the encyclopedia because they are. Still, when studying the illustrations one has to note that the depicted machines are different from today’s technology in the way they are descriptive of their function.


10.1 and 10.2 - Mark Smout, Geofluidic Landscape 10.3 and 10.4 - Ancient Greek Machines

Theoretical Framework


Making the World The project deals with how people create and transform the world through the way they perceive it. This interest in sensing and perception ties the project to ideas of cartography and other scientific ways of measuring and classifying.

“The world has literally been made, domesticated and ordered by drawing lines, distinctions, taxonomies and hierarchies: Europe and its others, West and non-West, or people with history and people without history. Through their gaze, gridding and architectures the sciences have spatialized and produced the world we inhabit.” (Pickles, 2004, p. 4)

Mapping as an Activity Mapping is a way of ordering and giving form to a sometimes disparate set of information. James Corner writes that: “Actions precede conceptions; order is the outcome of the act of ordering. Thus mapping precedes the map, to the degree that it cannot properly anticipate its final form.” (Corner, 1999, p. 229) Seeing mapping as an activity with an unpredictable outcome is an important part of the design project - concentrating on how we map, rather than the map as a finished object. The interest in the activity of mapping also stems from the observation, that in the way people map, in the way they choose to selectively perceive their environment, they already largely determine the range of possible world views they can achieve. This is where mapping - whether consciously or not - becomes a creative process. The authored and selective nature of maps is often noted in propaganda maps or the mapping practices of imperialism, but, since selection of information and simplification of complex situations are at the heart of mapping, it is relevant in all mapping. “As repositories of what John Berger would call ‘ways of seeing’, maps are both selective and interested; what Wood calls ‘interested selectivity’.” (Pickles, 2004, p. 60) Not only the author, but also the reader of a map contributes to its meaning with his or her own particular background and level of understanding. As Robert Harbison points out in Eccentric Spaces: “From cities of brick to cities in books to cities on maps is a path of increasing conceptualization. A map seems the type of conceptual object, yet the interesting thing is the grotesquely token foot it keeps in the world of the physical, having the unreality without the far-fetched appropriateness of the edibles in Communion, being a picture to the degree that the sacrament is a meal. For a feeling of thorough transcendence such unobvious relations between the model and the representation seem essential, and the flimsy connection between acres of soil and their image on the map makes reading one an erudite act.” (Harbison, 2000, p. 124)

left: fig. 12.1 and 12.2 - Illustration from Diderot’s Encyclopedia - Horse driven Coining Machine

In a passage of Sylvie and Bruno Lewis Carroll develops the idea of a map on scale 1:1 - inspiring Borges’ short story. In his earlier poem “The Hunting of the Snark” he already ventures into the world of aburd maps: “He had bought a large map representing the sea, Without the least vestige of land: And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be A map they could all understand.”

Theoretical Framework


Territory vs. Map In his short story “On Exactitude in Science” Jorge Luis Borges lays out the idea of a map of an empire in scale 1:1:

“ ‘… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.’ Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida,1658” (Borges, 1999, p. 325)

Borges’ story with its exaggerated map explores aspects of the relationship between map and territory that are of importance to the project. It describes a cartography that very literally affects its territory. In collapsing the map back onto its territory, the differentness of the two is brought to the point. It proves ultimately irreconcilable, the map left falling to pieces. A peculiarity of Borges’ tale is is how it is framed. In pretending to quote from a historical travelogue he obscures the distinction between something he has read (and then quotes) and something written by him. This way, on the level of the text, Borges makes an additional ironic remark on the exactitude in science - i.e. in history. Jean Baudrillard begins his Simulacra and Simulations by re-telling the story and inverting it, in order to make his point of the precendence of the map over the territory. Consequently, in his version it is the territory that loses the confrontation of real and simulacrum: “[I]t is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.” (Baudrillard, 2001, p. 169) In contrast, Umberto Eco analyses Borges from a semiotic point of view in his essay “On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on Scale 1 to 1” He explains in this short text why a map as a semiotic tool cannot be made to the scale of the territory it represents without leading to a paradoxical situation. For the map would be altering the territory so much, that the map would have to also represent itself in order to be a faithful representation, resulting in infinte regression. Obviously Eco plays with driving semiotic ideas to the extreme, leading him to the following corollaries: “1. 2.


Every 1:1 map always reproduces the territory unfaithfully. At the moment the map is realized, the empire becomes unreproducible.” (Eco, 1994, p. 106)

fig. 14 - Lewis Carrol, Map from “Hunting of the Snark”

Theoretical Framework


However, he goes on with how these obstacles could be overcome:

“We would have to postulate an empire that achieves awareness of itself in a sort of transcendental apperception of its own categorial apparatus in action. But that would require the existence of a map endowed with selfawareness, and such a map (if it were even conceivable) would itself become the empire, while the former empire would cede its power to the map.” (Eco, 1994, p. 106)

A “map endowed with self-awareness” - here Eco defines the challenge faced by the landscape transistor.

Mapping and Itinerary There is a strong link between the idea of Itinerary and that of the map. That link originates from two aspects of the itinerary: The first and obvious connection is that the itinerary is planned by using a map - it fills the map with life. By choosing a way on the map the itinerary represents one of the infinite number of possible readings of the map. It is an act of map reading. “Like maps, itineraries impose an illusion of uniformity on loose extent and duration, by attempting to live out a map, bringing the map to life and putting a life to bed in the map. The most natural and satisfying kind of trip is a circuit, which has point automatically in the bare figure it traces on the ground.” (Harbison, 2000, p. 127) This aspect is present in the work of Richard Long (fig. 16.1) and other land artists. The second, less evident connection is that maps are not only the tool to plan itineraries, but also generally the result of travel. They have been compiled on numerous expeditions and surveying trips. So to a degree with every travel one re-lives the action of mapping. The itinerary becomes another tie between the act of map-making and map-reading. This second aspect can be illustrated using the example of historic nautical maps of the Pacific. These maps made in the early 19th century are impressive cartographic artefacts.Through their impeccable appearance they are the perfect example for the discrepancy that can lie between the act of mapping and its result. For, “by trading on an unholy alliance of mimetic conventions and metrical geometry, maps conjure omniscience out of what is, in the end, merely a handful of views from here to there, a glancing passage, and / or a few locales from which the stars and moons have been studiously regarded.” (Burnett, 2009, p. 246) (see fig 16.2) Further, the methods used to conduct these maritime surveys clearly mirror the political and commercial reality of the time. Using one large ship as a base and a number of smaller boats released from it to mark important points, maritime mapping used a similar technique as the whaling industry it helped to facilitate.


fig. 16.1 - A Seven Day Circle of Ground, Richard Long, 1984

fig. 16.2 - Encricling Survey Description from a instruction pamphlet

Theoretical Framework


Using canon shots to determine baselines around islands, the imperialist claim to the land was already quite present in the seemingly innocent act of mapping, sending a clear message to the native population and competing imperialist powers. “If, as has been suggested, colonial maps were drawn in blood in the age of the empire, hydrographic surveys were inscribed in the smoke and thunder of naval guns, as elaborate cannonades sounded and choreographed squadrons of disciplined men ran encircling maneuvers around distant islands. [...] By doing so, these men made the world into a map, pausing only now and again to load their cannons with actual shot, and to reinforce the strategies of empire even more directly.” (Burnett, 2009, p. 245)


fig. 18.1 - ‘Deck Paper’, summary of a hydrographic survey in the Pacific in 1840 fig. 18.2 - Trigonometrical Surveys in India between 1799 and 1843


Theoretical Framework

Site and Nonsite “The site represents the world itself, the unedited text with all of its complexities and possibilities, vast and remote - evocative but without logos. The Non-site represents the focused articulation of part of the site” (Flam in Smithson, 1996, p. xviii) In its artistic link between a remote site and a controlled gallery space Robert Smithson’s “Non-Site” series of the late 1960s is an important reference for the project. In this series Smithson develops his idea of a dialectic relationship between a site (the actual landscape) and the non-site (his work in the gallery). His engagement with the site is a form of mapping, but a very personal one, that focuses on his state of mind and of sensations occurring when experiencing the site. “Rather than describe the site as a given topology or geography, Smithson recalls a particular kind of encounter, a certain perceptual exposure. Thus, he proposes, in returning from the site, ‘[t]he artist who is physically engulfed tries to give evidence of this experience through a limited (mapped) revision of the original unbounded state’” (Kaye, 2000, p. 92) The Nonsite is different from the site - in many aspects even its opposite - but still uses material extracted from the site and points to it exactly through its differentness. “[T]he critic Lawrence Alloway argues that the relation of Nonsite to site is ‘like that of language to the world: it is a signifier and the Site is that which is signified. It is not the referent but the language system which is in the foreground.” (Kaye, 2000, p. 94)

Dialectic of Site and Nonsite (Smithson, 1996, p. 152) Site 1. Open Limits 2. A Series of Points 3. Outer Coordinates 4. Subtraction 5. Indeterminate Certainty 6. Scattered Information 7. Reflection 8. Edge 9. Some Place (physical) 10. Many


Nonsite Closed Limits An Array of Matter Inner Coordinates Addition Determinate Uncertainty Contained Information Mirror Center No Place (abstract) One

fig. 20 - Robert Smithson: Nonsite, Franklin, NJ, 1968




Landscape Computer Initially the idea of creating a landscape computer is approached in a very literal way. It is advanced through developing components of a fluidic computer of landscape scale and epical slowness - a machine of such size and expanse that it can be around people and people can wander through it without being aware of its functions and meaning. This fluidic computer does not only exist inside the landscape but acts as a landscape machine that has sensors to perceive aspects of its environment and at the same time acts on this environment and transforms it, based on the information it receives. The idea of the landscape machine is informed by the reciprocal relationship that exists between people and the landscapes they inhabit. As much as cultures are shaped by adapting to their natural environment, they also, over generations, shape their environment and adapt it to their needs. In a passage of his book “The Cultivated Wilderness” Paul Shepheard describes a detailed landscape drawing by Hendrik Golzius and then draws the analogy to the patient building of the dutch landscape:

“I think Golzius drawing is so perfect because it was built up one line at a time [...] Just as the dikes were built: one spadeful of mud at a time, patted down and heeled into place by clog, over and over again as patiently as the sea’s waves are relentless. The Dutch landscape is a phenomenon of human effort, as though all the fields were buildings as well as the buildings - [...].” (Shepheard, 1997, p. 142)

Regarding the relationship between the fluidic machine and its landscape Mark Smout’s project Geofluidic Landscape serves as a reference:

“The landscape on mass is analogous to the pattern and workings of a microscopic Integrated Circuit etched on to silicon. But unlike the Integrated Circuit the landscape computer [...] is observable, the electricity being replaced with flows of water and its inputs, gates and outputs becoming fountains, small pools and jets. These corresponding visual indicators illustrate the intricacies of the dynamic system.” (Smout, 1999, p. 107)

Logic Gate The crucial logic component of the landscape computer is the logic gate. Inspired by the canal locks at Tottenham Hale, the logic gate is a canal-scale fluidic component, driven entirely by gravity. While on a microchip there are millions of logic gates on less than one square centimeter, here a single gate takes the space of a canal lock. While a single operation on a chip takes only nanoseconds, here an operation takes minutes.


fig. 22.1 - Hendrick Golzius, Arcadian Landscape, 1583-1590 fig. 22.2 - First Copper Etching Tests











Project Development

The basic function of a logic gate is that it gives a particular output (either 1 or 0) for a given pair of inputs (1 and 1, 1 and 0, 0 and 1 or 0 and 0). The logic gate developed for the landscape machine is the result of an overlaying of an XOR and an AND gate creating a simple binary adding device called a Half Adder. In this device there are not only two input canals, but also two output canals. The device being a fluidic component, 1 is represented by a water flow, while 0 means no water flow. Input A 0 0 1 1

Input B 0 1 0 1

Output 0 1 1 0

Input B 0 1 0 1

Input B 0 1 0 1

Output 0 0 0 1

Boolean AND - Gate

Boolean XOR - Gate

Input A 0 0 1 1

Input A 0 0 1 1

Output 00 01 01 10

XOR - Gate & AND - Gate overlayed (Half Adder)

Half Adder

The developed fluidic logic gate works by using the waterflow in one input canal to switch a directing lock-gate in the other. Through this over-cross switching the device is made to act according to the tables above. In the copper etching (fig. 24) the input gates (a,b) are shown at the top. A bit downstream is the position of the lever-gates (c, d) which in case of an input water flow are moved down. This in course results in the switching of the directing gates (e, f) on the opposite side (c switching f, and d switching e). The consequent output is observed further downstream (at g and h). Output i is a drain. It is only active when both inputs are 1 and is then not required for the result (see fig.29) The photo series (fig. 26) shows the gate’s reaction to an input of 1 and 1 in a model experiment. Since in this case both directing gates are moved, the output flows are directed to either side. The expected result is 1 at the left output and 0 in the middle. The right output is drained as explained. Through connecting a number of these logic gates a simple calculator can be designed (fig. 29). It makes additions of two binary numbers (black and red) and gives a resulting sum (green).


fig. 24 - Copper Etching of the Logic Gate

Project Development


Etching Method The function of the fluidic logic gate is explored in working models first. In a second step the drawing is created. Using the method of copper etching is a reference to 18th-century drawings of canals - drawings from the most productive period of canal construction in England. Copper etching as a form of representation underlines the idea of the landscape computer as an anachronistic machine. It is a reflection on the ‘machine nostalgia’ discussed in chapter 2. The transfer of the drawing onto a copper plate is done with a photo-etching technique. For this, the plate is coated with a photo-sensitive chemical. The plate is then exposed to UV-light using a transparent positive of the drawing. The transparent areas of the positive let UV-light through and the chemical coating is hardened, while where the positive is black, no light passes and the chemical remains unhardened. Therefore in these areas it can be washed off in a next step. When finally put into an acidic bath, only they are etched.

Further Fluidic Components Two more computer components are identified and envisioned as fluidic devices: One is a system clock (fig 28.2 & 31), which is conceived of as a pendulum controlled water pump. It gradually pumps water up into a tank inside a water tower. When the water reaches a maximum level it is released abruptly through a syphon, becoming a control current for the fluidic machine. The other component is a RAM module which uses the basic hydraulic effect of the communicating vessels as a means to transfer an output information from downstream back to the input gates upstream. The drawings for this module (fig. 30.1 & 30.2) sketch out a first idea of how output data could be stored in a gravity-driven fluidic machine, the main challenge being how to re-insert this data into the calculation further upstream. The section shows how a basin downstream at the output level (left) communicates with another basin upstream (right) through a pipe. If an output occurs downstream, a lever is moved upstream, opening a gate and flooding one of the memory basins (bottom). Both devices borrow mechanisms from historical machines (chapter 2). As in the case of the logic gate, the idea of an anachronistic machine is present in these two components.


fig. 26 - Photo Sequence - Testing the Logic Gate


Project Development

1011 + 0111


10 01 11 11






fig. 29 - Assembly of 8 logic gates into a simple calculator


fig. 28.1 - Copper Plate of Logic Gate


This layout allows for additions of two 4-digit binary numbers. In the decimal system that means additions up to 15 + 15 = 30. fig. 28.2 - System Clock


Project Development


g d b


c e


fig. 31 - System Clock - Section through tower

A weight (a) drives the clockwork (b) regulated by pendulum (c). The clockwork drives a crank shaft (d) that operates the pumps (e), pumping water up into a tank (f). When the water in the tank reaches a certain height, it is abriuptly released abruptly through a syphon (g) - (see also fig 28.2)


fig. 30.1 - RAM module section

fig. 30.2 - RAM module plan view

Project Development


3D Scanning and Printing Focusing on the input and output side of the landscape machine the main question is how it can interact with the landscape it is situated in. In perceiving its environment the machine needs to be able to perform a form of mapping. In affecting its environment it needs a way to write, to imprint information on the landscape. A first step towards finding applicable strategies is made through experiments with a carved wooden model - a stand-in for landscape 10 x 10 x 10 cm in size. The images on the left (fig. 32) show first a photo of the actual object, then a first simple scan, done with a low-budget system (DAVID Scanner fig. 26.2). The third image is a professional LIDAR scan, using a similar technical system but with much more refined cameras and lasers. The resulting 3D-scan is detailed enough to pick up the grain of the wood. Having translated the object from a physical into a virtual computer object it can be processed and changed by the computer. The performed transformation is a relatively simple one: A hollowing of the scanned object, leaving only the carved surface and discarding the cube sides that are not carved. The final translation step is a 3D-print of the transformed virtual object.


fig. 33 - DAVID Scanner

What makes this scanner special amongst 3D scanning tools is with how little hardware it operates. There is only a normal webcam and a hand held laser pointer (set up to make a line not a point).


fig. 32 - Spatial Translations, Experiments with 3d-scanning and 3d-printing

Project Development


DAVID scanner As the most hands-on approach to 3D-scanning, the DAVID Scanner uses only inexpensive off-the-shelf technology, i.e. a webcam and a laser pointer. It surprisingly operates with a single camera rather than two or more, creating the 3Dinformation by referencing the laser line to a known calibration background grid of black dots. As its inventors explain: “The basic idea of our self-calibrating laser scanner is quite simple. The laser ray, expanded to a plane by a cylindrical lens, has to intersect two things at the same time: the (unknown) surface, and the a priori known reference geometry (usually the background). The visible intersection with the background is used to calibrate the laser, i.e. to calculate the exact 3d pose of the laser plane ELaser. With this knowledge we can triangulate new 3d point coordinates of the object’s surface by intersecting the laser plane with the projecting rays. Certainly, the camera must have been calibrated so that its external and internal parameters are exactly known.“ (Winkelbach, 2006)


fig. 35 - DAVID SCANNER - Geometrical principle


fig. 34.1 - Situated 3d-scanning and printing arm

fig. 34.2 - 3D-print of topography of Disko Island

Project Development


Reading and Writing Landscape Applying the results of the experiment to a real landscape the first developed component is a large scale 3d-scanning and printing arm. The idea of local 3d scanning of landscape reflects the fact that LIDAR-data from satellites is only available very infrequently and at a limited level of detail. For, “static, terrestrial laser scanning systems can provide data at the highest spatial resolution, although the extent of coverage is much less than offered by airborne survey.” (Barber & Mills, 2007, p. 2) The proposed device, therefore, takes the role of a permanent cartographic device. It echoes the absurd mapping enterprise that is described in Borges’ On Exactitude in Science. Since it is a situated machine it is in the paradox situation of both becoming part of the landscape and mapping it.

Islands In a first approach to siting the machine Disko Island is chosen, an island off the coast of Greenland (fig. 30.2 and 32). It is in an area suspected to hold large deposits of petroleum, which could be both medium and fuel for a fluidic machine. The choice of this Arctic Island is in keeping with the idea, that - referring to Borges’ tale - it is in remote places and deserts where one might find the vestiges of a cartographic enterprise of this scale. An island in the Arctic Circle becoming the site for a restlessly scanning and printing machine. Through its reliance on fossil fuel there is a built-in expiry date, a limited life span, that foreshadows the machine’s future as a ruin. Also, as an island it is reminiscent of the maritime surveys mentioned earlier. And through its geographic position it is linked to Arctic expeditions, e.g. in search for the Northwest Passage, thereby connecting to the idea of cartography. However, considering the importance of human experience and perception to the project, it appears also important to site it in a place where people can interact with it. Centering around the map, the project does not see man as an uninvolved observer, because “[maps] are really about man, only a certain density of habitation gives them point [...]” (Harbison, 2000, p. 127) Therefore, in a first iteration, the site research concentrates on an island that is less remote. Specifically, Flat Holm, a small island in the Severn Estuary is evaluated as a potential site. But in its case, too, human interaction would be little even though it is much more accessible than Greenland. Ultimately, the notion of an island as a site needs to be re-defined. This does not mean giving up the idea of an island altogether. After all, this idea can be interpreted in a broader sense: The island as a place different from its surroundings, a place that stands out, that sets itself apart from its environment. In terms of the project, “island” can therefore even mean an island within the city. Then, rather than looking for the wilderness in remote places, the project can situate itself in London - within the landscape of the city.


fig. 34.1 - Disko Island




Departing from its development of a landscape computer of an inverted scale, the project is strongly linked to the idea of the Borgesian map representing the territory on scale 1:1. It is interested in the paradoxical of this idea and the identity crisis it entails for both map and territory. The interest, from the outset of the project, lies not only in the map itself, but in its making and also, specifically, its decay. Subjecting the map to a life-cycle of growth and decay, means making it to be of the world rather than purely of the realm of ideas. It speaks of the Borgesian map as an Arcadian ruin. So, in a sense, it expresses not just an ironic, but also a romantic or nostalgic view on science, on the enterprise of cartography and the strive for exactitude. What the project aims at creating - following the idea of the Borgesian map - is its own 1:1 map. Therefore, the starting point for siting the project is the map. To engender human interaction, the map becomes part of the city, being inhabited and experienced. This map, being an island within the city, like a park or a garden, is set apart but still accessible. Stressing the non-utilitarian nature of its mapping activity, it is reminiscent of a mechanical garden, in keeping with the Ancient Greeks’ idea of the machine. Through developing components of a landscape reading and writing machine the project becomes an investigation into the machine as a dynamic mapping device, seeing the machine as an “instrument for describing things” that at the same time is descriptive of its own state. (Denari in McCarter, 1987, p.19) Where technology in its usual application tends to mask and conceal the environment in human perception, the project’s goal is a machine that reveals and explores - believing in a romantic way, that a deeper experience of the world is possible. The idea of the mechanical garden is seen as a step in this direction.

“[G]ardens merge the sensual pleasure of space with the pleasure of reason, in a most useless manner” (Tschumi, 1994, p. 86).




Quoted Sources BARBER, D., MILLS, J., 2007. Rapid Mapping Techniques in coastal environments: monitoring the coastline. in FIBRE, May 2007: BAUDRILLARD, J., 2001. Simulacra and Simulations. in Selected Writings. 2nd Edition. Stanford: Stanford University Press BEISTEGUI, M. de, 2005. The new Heidegger. London: Continuum Books BORGES, J. L., translated by Andrew Hurley, 1999. Collected Fictions. London: Penguin Books BRUMBAUGH, R. S., 1966. Ancient Greek Gadgets and Machines. Westport: Greenwood Press Publishers BURNETT, D. G., 2009. Hydrographic Discipline among the Navigators: Charting an “Empire of Commerce and Science” in the Nineteenth-Century Pacific. in The Imperial Map / Cartography and the mastery of Empire. edited by James R. Akerman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press CASEY, E. S., 1987. Remembering - A Phenomenological Study. Bloomington: Indiana University Press CORNER, J., 1999. The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention, in Mappings. edited by Denis Cosgrove, London: Reaktion Books ECO, U., 1994. How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays. London: Brace HARBISON, R., 2000. Eccentric Spaces. New York: MIT press edition HARRIS, C., 2006. The Omniscient Eye: Satellite Imagery, ”Battlespace Awareness,” and the Structures of the Imperial Gaze, KAYE, N., 2000. Site-specific Art - Performance, Place and Documentation. London: Routledge MCCARTER R., 1987. Pamphlet Architecture 12 - Building Machines. New York: Princeton Architectural Press PICKLES, J., 2004. A History of Spaces / Cartographic reason, mapping and the geo-coded world. London: Routledge



SHEPHEARD, P., 1997. The Cultivated Wilderness - Or, What is Landscape. MIT Press SMITHSON, R., 1996. Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings. edited by Jack Flam, Los Angeles: University of California Press SMOUT M., 1999. The Geofluidic Landscape. in The Power of Contemporary Architecture. edited by Peter Cook and Neil Spiller, London: Academy Editions TSCHUMI, B., 1994. The pleasure of architecture. in Architecture and disfunction. MIT Press WINKELBACH, S., Molkenstuck, S., Wahl, F. M., 2006. Low-Cost Laser Range Scanner and Fast Surface Registration Approach. Braunschweig:

Further Reading BLUMENBERG, H., 2009. Geistesgeschichte der Technik. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp GERE, C., 2006. Art Time and Technology. Oxford: Berg Publishers GIBSON, W., STERLING, B. The Difference Engine KEHLMANN, D., 2005. Die Vermessung der Welt. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt MORRIS, N. M., 1973. An Introduction to Fluid Logic SOBEL, D., 1996. Longitude. London: Fourth Estate

STRANDH, S., 1982. Machines - An Illustrated History. Gothenburg: Nordbok


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Illustration Credits

(for all illustrations not by the author)

fig. 8.1

Neil Denari in McCarter, 1987, p. 22

fig. 8.2

Neil Denari in Cook, Spiller, 1999, p. 86

fig. 10.1

Mark Smout in Smout, 1999

fig. 10.2

Mark Smout in Smout, 1999

fig. 10.3 fig. 10.4

from Brumbaugh, 1966, p. 44

fig. 12.1

from A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry, Volume 2

fig. 12.2

from A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry, Volume 2

fig. 14

Lewis Carrol, web resource (last accesssed 10 June, 2010): Lewis_Carroll_-_Henry_Holiday_-_Hunting_of_the_Snark_-_Plate_4.jpg

fig. 16.1

Richard Long in Smithson, 1996, p. 120

fig. 16.2

from Burnett, 2009, p. 228

fig. 18.1

from Burnett, 2009, p. 244

fig. 18.2

from Mapping an empire : the geographical construction of British India, 1765-1843. Matthew H. Edney

fig. 20

Robert Smithson in Smithson, 1996

fig. 22.1

Hendrick Goltzius, Arcadian Landscape, web resource (last accessed 10 June, 2010):

fig. 33

DAVID Scanner, image by manufacturer, web resource (last accessed 10 June, 2010):

fig. 35

from Winkelbach, 2006

from Brumbaugh, 1966, p. 17

Landscape Transistor  
Landscape Transistor  

Report submitted June 18, 2010