ARCHITECTURE AFTER C U LT I VAT I O N FOUR GRIDS FOR T H E G R E AT P L A I N S
G R A D U AT I O N P R O J E C T A P P E N D I X E R OY C LO U T I E R | N I C O L E S Y LV I A
ABSTRACT Architects could extend their reach by selectively loosening their grasp— understanding architectural production less as a one-way imposition of will onto and more as a two-way co-production with the many subjects of architecture. In this sense, architects might learn to operate less like a solitary author and more like a jazz musician—improvising freely off will and agency beyond one’s own. To ground and examine this emerging position, this project traces the slow decentralization of architectural understandings of control, following them from the Enlightenment Modern paradigm of mastery to a contemporary paradigm we term cultivation. Present in many contemporary projects, the cultivation mentality sees architects understanding themselves less as creators of fixed and finished objects and increasingly as managers of complex systems: tweaking inputs, altering probabilities, and harnessing outputs—much like a farmer tending crops. In turn, we argue, architects might come to position themselves after cultivation in a double-sense: on one hand, ‘after’ as in ‘in the style of,’ adopting certain productive shifts from the cultivation mentality; on the other hand, ‘after’ as in ‘following and moving beyond,’ critiquing and developing the cultivation mentality toward a more open, generative engagement with agencies
beyond that of the architect—one that we term co-production. Neither interested in a simplistic retreat to autonomy and mastery nor a timid erasure and subordination of the will of the architect, the project instead asks how architects might resituate their ordering intention—acting amid, rather than atop, a lively field of subjects. The design portion of the thesis explores this position by adopting the conceptual figure of the grid as its subject, with the grid’s role as the foremost avatar of architecture’s understandings of control and order allowing the project to operate simultaneously in both literal and metaphorical space. Taking the form of four speculative narratives, the project asks what new grids—new ways of reconciling order and agency—a coproduction approach might itself come to produce. Geographically, the project sites itself in perhaps the foremost example of socio-spatial ordering and grid-making in history—the Jefferson Grid of the United States—specifically locating itself in the rapidly-transforming agricultural landscapes of the Great Plains. Ultimately, we argue, architectural order can be reoriented to the forces that act both on and in it—the many agencies, human and nonhuman, from which it is assembled. In this way, architecture can learn to tap into a surprising generative potential—both extending its reach and lightening its touch.
Fig. 1: Variations on the Jefferson Grid. Authors, 2016.
CONTENTS FRONT MATTER ABSTRACT TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
v vii viii xi
FOUR NEW GRIDS FOR THE GREAT PLAINS I. SATURATED ARCHIPELAGO II. ANNUAL SIESTA III. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;BELT-TIGHTENING IV. DUNE RANCH CODA: COLLECTIVE GRIDS
53 54 70 88 104 120
END MATTER PRESENTATION PHOTOS BIBLIOGRAPHY
LIST OF FIGUR ES
Variations on the Jefferson Grid. Authors, 2016; p. iv Cultivated? Collage. Authors, 2016; p. 1 New Grids. Authors, 2016; p.2 The Jefferson Grid and the Great Plains. Authors, 2016; p.3 Centralized, decentralized, and distributed models of control. Authors, 2016; p. 4 Fig. 6: Uncultivated. Giovanni Stanchi, “Watermelons, peaches, pears and other fruit in a landscape”; p. 5 Fig. 7: Water towers and gravel processing plants. Bernd and Hilla Becher, 2004; p.6 Fig. 8: León Ferrari, Heliográfias, 1986. Redrawn by authors, 2016; p.9 Fig. 9: Frozen urine crystals. Robert Hooke. Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1664); p. 10 Fig. 10: Chlorine gas used in WWI. Photo, Radio Free Europe; p. 11 Fig. 11: Drawing from proposal for Parc de la Villette, OMA; p. 13 Fig. 12: Detail of silkworms constructing the Silk Pavilion, MIT Mediated Matter Lab; p. 15 Fig. 13: Inside the Silk Pavilion, MIT Mediated Matter Lab; p. 15 Fig. 14: Freshkills Park, James Corner Field Associates; p. 16 Fig. 15: Stones of Teeth, Chad Connery & Anca Matyiku; p. 16 Fig. 16: Stones of Teeth, Chad Connery & Anca Matyiku; p. 18 Fig. 17: Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way. Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1861; p. 20 Fig. 18: Aegean Pairi-Daêza, amid.cero9; p. 22 Fig. 19: Hydrological sections. Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur; p. 23 Fig. 20: We as a Plague, amid.cero9; p. 25 Fig. 21: Delineation. US-Canada border, Montana/Alberta, October 22, 1996, Terry Evans; p. 26 Fig. 22: Toolpath. Changing the Earth, Emmett Gowin; p. 27 Fig. 23: Logics of the Jefferson Grid. Authors, 2016; p. 28 Fig. 24: Public Land Survey System. Great Plains, United States. Authors, 2016; p. 31 Fig. 25: The Evolution of the Nine-Square Grid. John Hejduk; p. 34 Fig. 26: Urban grid of Chandigarh, India, broken by Burail village. Le Corbusier et. al. Léopold Lambert, The Funambulist, 2014; p. 35 Fig. 27: A deep blowout typical of the Sandhills Region. Raymond J. Pool, “Glimpses of the Great American Desert,” Popular Science Monthly 80, (1912), 225; p. 36 Fig. 28: The Sandhills of Nebraska. Author unknown. http://www. usgennet.org/usa/ne/county/brown/18Sandhills.htm — p. 37 Fig. 29: John Sidle. Nebraska National Forest. 24 Sep. 2014. https://ssl. panoramio.com/photo/112124329 — p. 38 Fig. 30: Charles E. Bessey Nursery. From the Nursery Archives. Date Unknown; p. 38 Fig. 31: Nebraska National Forest. Google Maps, 12 May 2016; p. 38 Fig. 32: The Great Plains Shelterbelt. By the authors, 2016; p. 39 Fig. 33: Microclimates of the Shelterbelt. Authors, 2016; p. 40 Fig. 34: The first official shelterbelt photographed in 1990. Photographer unknown. http://www.southernforests.org/resources/ publications/the-southern-perspective/the-southernperspective-september-2010/update-from-the-states/the-no.Fig. 1: Fig. 2: Fig. 3: Fig. 4: Fig. 5:
1-shelterbelt-celebrates-75-years — p. 40 Fig. 35: Plan for Riverside, Illinois. Olmsted and Vaux; p. 42 Fig. 36: City of the Captive Globe. Rem Koolhaas and Madelon Vriesendorp; p. 43 Fig. 37: The Continuous Monument. Superstudio; p. 45 Fig. 38: Elaborations on the Grid: Agricultural Patterns. Authors, 2016; p. 46 Fig. 39: Erosions of the Grid: Water. Authors, 2016; p. 47 Fig. 40: Erosions of the Grid: Topography. Authors, 2016; p. 48 Fig. 41: Erosions of the Grid: Linear Infrastructures. Authors, 2016; p. 49 Fig. 42: Switchgrass fields. Authors’ photo, 2015; p. 50 Fig. 43: The New Nomads of the Great Plains. Authors, 2016; p. 52 Fig. 44: Saturated Archipelago, elevation-oblique. Authors, 2016; p. 55 Fig. 45: Change in flood-drought pulse. Authors, 2016; p. 57 Fig. 46: Dry uplands, saturated lowlands. Authors, 2016; p. 59 Fig. 47: Ecologies of the archipelago. Authors, 2016; p. 61 Fig. 48: Landform islands. Authors, 2016; p. 63 Fig. 49: Architectural islands. Authors, 2016; p. 65 Fig. 50: Blue-green archipelago. Authors, 2016; p. 67 Fig. 51: Conceptual model, Saturated Archipelago. Authors, 2016; p. 68 Fig. 52: Conceptual model, Saturated Archipelago. Authors, 2016; p. 69 Fig. 53: Annual Siesta, perspective. Authors, 2016; p. 71 Fig. 54: Bifurcation of the growing season. Authors, 2016; p. 73 Fig. 55: Thermodynamic opportunism. Authors, 2016; p. 75 Fig. 56: Liberty and Independence, KS. Authors, 2016; p. 77 Fig. 57: Dynamic roof. Authors, 2016; p. 79 Fig. 58: Ground terracing. Authors, 2016; p. 81 Fig. 59: Thermodynamic follies. Authors, 2016; p. 83 Fig. 60: Thermal delight. Authors, 2016; p. 85 Fig. 61: Conceptual model, Annual Siesta. Authors, 2016; p. 86 Fig. 62: Conceptual model, Annual Siesta. Authors, 2016; p. 87 Fig. 63: ‘Belt-Tightening, elevation-oblique. Authors, 2016; p. 89 Fig. 64: The aridity line. Authors, 2016; p. 91 Fig. 65: Tightening the ‘Belts. Authors, 2016; p. 93 Fig. 66: Hedging the (monofunctional) homestead. Authors, 2016; p. 95 Fig. 67: Spatio-temporal unfolding. Authors, 2016; p. 97 Fig. 68: Nomad homestead. Authors, 2016; p. 99 Fig. 69: Collective belts. Authors, 2016; p. 101 Fig. 70: Conceptual model, ‘Belt-Tightening. Authors, 2016; p. 102 Fig. 71: Conceptual model, ‘Belt-Tightening. Authors, 2016; p. 103 Fig. 72: Dune Ranch, oblique. Authors, 2016; p. 105 Fig. 73: Logics of the migrating dunes. Authors, 2016; p. 107 Fig. 74: Like a herd of buffalo. Authors, 2016; p. 109 Fig. 75: Ranging. Authors, 2016; p. 111 Fig. 76: Dune ranch ecologies. Authors, 2016; p. 113 Fig. 77: Oases. Authors, 2016; p. 115 Fig. 78: Nomadic grids. Authors, 2016; p. 117 Fig. 79: Conceptual model, Dune Ranch. Authors, 2016; p. 118 Fig. 80: Conceptual model, Dune Ranch. Authors, 2016; p. 119 Fig. 81: Collective Grids, capriccio. Authors, 2016; p. 121 Fig. 82: Presentation photos. Authors, 2016; p. 122 Fig. 83: Presentation photos. Authors, 2016; p. 123 Fig. 84: Presentation photos. Authors, 2016; p. 124
Any project that argues for a relational understanding of architecture would be highly remiss not to appreciatively acknowledge the many influences and forces that informed its own production. First among these are our thesis chairs, John Bass and Blair Satterfieldâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;without their steadfast encouragement and perceptive, engaged guidance we certainly wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have made it far. We would also like to thank our committee members, Matthew Beall and Tony Osborn, for their feedback and eloquent critiques throughout the process, which were instrumental in helping the project reach a higher grain of resolution.
Similarly, the project would never have reached the place that it did without the constant support, feedback, and encouragement of our peers, especially the Chandigarh Study Abroad crew. Likewise, we are deeply indebted to several of our friends, peers, and former students of ours who provided production help in the final moments: Sally Miller, Zachary Morris, Brit Naylor, Jenny Nguyen, Alex Robertson-Mercer, June Shiengchin, and Kosta Zlatinis. From both of us: our sincerest thanks for your invaluable insights and support throughout this process.
INTRODUC TION AN ARCHITECTURE AFTER CULTIVATION
This project begins from the idea that all entities have a peculiar, withdrawn force and vitality to them—a capacity to surprise us, to dodge our expectations, to disrupt our structures of order, to act and to act otherwise—in other words, that all things have an active agency, even if it often remains subtle and withdrawn. Drawing from recent shifts in philosophy (questioning the notion of the singular, agental human subject) and architectural theory (a deepening engagement with extra-architectural forces), the project argues that architects can benefit from moving toward a more active conception of the subjects of architecture—the many forces and agents that act in and on it. In turn, architects might learn to operate less like a singular author and more like a jazz musician, improvising freely off the decisions of others—understanding architecture less as a one-way imposition
of will onto, and more as a two-way co-production with, a host of subjects. Through such a shift in understanding and reorientation of focus, we argue, architects might better collaborate with these other agencies—finding in them a surprising creative force and generative potential that architects are uniquely suited to harness. Doing so can both extend our reach—allowing architects to engage new territories and operate in new ways—and lighten our touch—opening architectural order to a diversity and generation of difference not possible in established models of control and intervention. These shifts coalesce into a hybrid understanding of architectural order and intervention herein termed collective grids—a concept that will return to be developed throughout the project. But first, however—let’s start with the story of the Grid.
Fig. 2: Cultivated? Collage. Authors, 2016.
Fig. 3: New Grids. Authors, 2016.
THE GRID As the foremost avatar of control and order in architecture, the Grid has always led an odd double-life: both invariably abstract and resolutely real, both ruthlessly rigid and obstinately open, both deeply associated with particular ideologies and oddly a-historical, both a potent device of control and a liberating infrastructure for possibility. In some cases, the Grid is rejected as rigid and unyielding, fixed and ungenerous; yet in others, it is seen as a generator of diversity and vitality, a platform to support a blossoming of new forms and new ways of life. To put it simply: there are no easy answers on the Grid. This thesis operates in the territory of the Grid both conceptually and geographically. Conceptually, the project uses the notion/metaphor of the Grid as a cipher for architecture’s ideas of order and agency, with the Grid allowing us to operate in both literal and metaphorical space. Geographically, the project takes as its site
perhaps the foremost example of socio-spatial ordering and grid-making in history—the Jefferson Grid of the United States. More specifically, the project speculates on alternative futures for the rapidly-changing landscape of the Great Plains of North America. Wracked by climate change, upended by population migration and mechanization, swept over by rapidly-shifting economic and technological tides, the ordering grids of the Plains have long since reached the limits of their efficacy. Older, rooted forms of life are beginning to find themselves dramatically ungrounded, with the ‘sticking power’ of the old model’s fixed lines and barbed wire fences giving way to fluid patterns—new, yet oddly familiar forms of nomadism— as human and nonhuman subjects alike uproot themselves to get by. In this messy, changing, and complex context, the question becomes: what are the new grids—new understandings of relation, order, and intervention—that move architecture beyond the static,
abstract approaches handed down to us from Enlightenment Modernity? Can architecture go ‘off the Grid’, cuing the grid not necessarily to abstract geometry, but rather to the multitude of forces that act in and on it? How might architects push past ‘Grid-lock’—the tendency for systems of order to ‘lock in’ a particular state, rather than being open to an ongoing change and becoming? In turn, what new possibilities might these new grids— these new understandings of order and intervention—open up, both in the Great Plains and in architectural theory? In response, this thesis operates on two main levels. On one hand, it asks the question: what might contemporary architectural understandings bring to these landscapes? Architectural theory has, in its recent fixation on the urban, too often neglected rural hinterlands and the dramatic mirror-effects of urbanization happening there. Instead, how might we adapt and extend the insights of the various ‘urbanisms’ of the past 20 years,
bringing them to bear on the many challenges of these landscapes? On the other hand, the project moves into a more speculative mode, asking how working in such landscapes can reflect back into architecture itself, interrogating and reworking long-held assumptions in architecture around questions of order, agency, and the non-human subject.
Fig. 4: The Jefferson Grid and the Great Plains. Authors, 2016.
FROM MASTERY TO CULTIVATION Within this argument are two main shifts in how architects understand agency: first, from the idea of mastery to one of cultivation, and second, from cultivation to what we term co-production. The first shift, from mastery to cultivation, decentralizes control—moving away from the Enlightenment Rationalist model of will imposed unidirectionally by an author onto passive, inert subjects. Instead, the cultivation model studies and harnesses behavior—orienting order to 3
Fig. 5: Centralized, decentralized, and distributed models of control. Diagram. Authors, 2016.
the logics of, for example, material or tool behavior, gradients of thermodynamic flux, the shifting behaviors or desires of its inhabitants, climatic patterns, or more— working within and altering relations, patterns of behavior, and processes of change. This cultivation mentality has has worked its way throughout the architectural discipline lately, taking on a variety of forms—easily recognizable by the many agricultural metaphors they so frequently employ. Much as a farmer tweaks inputs, alters probabilities, and harnesses outputs, the cultivation mentality often tends toward a kind of managerial approach—on one hand, allowing a greater degree of ‘wiggle room’ and freedom than in past models of control, while on the other hand, even more thoroughly guiding change in a system.
FROM CULTIVATION TO CO-PRODUCTION The second shift questions this managerial tendency via a fully distributed understanding of agency—supplementing and inflecting cultivation with an idea of coproduction. In this model, difference and divergence are seen as something to be harnessed—an extrinsic input that feeds the evolution of the system— rather than as something to be stamped out and eliminated, as in mastery, or unerringly managed, as in cultivation. Running through this shift is a sense of “not subordinating to, but rather producing with”—an idea of order as collective and co-produced. In this way, architecture is able to sidestep the dualism of ‘structure versus agency’ that has held sway in the discipline for so long, instead, knitting together structure and agency to open up a wild and unpredictable world of hybrids. 4
COLLECTIVE GRIDS It is here that we return to the idea from which we began—that of a collective grid. No longer merely a static figure imposed onto inert matter, the Grid instead grows from the recombination of other agencies into a more-thanhuman collective—both extending the reach of the architect via a host of new collaborators, while also acting as an open platform, cultivated to be generative of diversity and difference. These collective grids opportunistically roam across the landscape of the Plains, harnessing and transforming the Grids of the past, adapting to contingency, exploiting moments of potential—’hitching a ride’, so to speak, on agencies beyond that of the architect. In this way, structure and intention can operate less as a way to suppress and control, and more as an open and evolving platform—an ongoing process that continually assembles new collectives, liberates new capabilities, and opens new possibilities for intervention. Before getting too far afield into collective grids, however, we must first return to the logics of the field—tracing the bountiful harvest of agricultural metaphors back to its roots in architecture’s evolving engagement with control and indeterminacy over the past half-century.
Fig. 6: Uncultivated
THE CULTIVATION MENTALITY Judged only by its language, architectural theory could be said to be going through an agricultural turn of sorts. Harvested as a bumper crop of agrarian metaphors—from seeding to propagation, from cultivation to twoplus decades of discourse on fields, from “irrigating territories with potential”1 to calls to “alter the soil, not square off against every weed”2—the language of the farm has proven an exceptionally fertile ground for architectural discourse. But what exactly underlies this curious affinity for agrarian language? Perhaps it’s merely a case of convenience—yet another example of architecture’s linguistic and conceptual promiscuity. Or, perhaps this shared terminological territory suggests an affinity on a far more fundamental level—a homology between the logics of the farm and the ordering logics of recent architectural theory. This is the contention that will be explored herein: in the five decades since the decline of High Modernism, architecture has shifted to prioritize a new set of logics, a new mode of operation, a new conception of control and order—one bearing an uncanny resemblance to the operational strategies of agriculture. Prizing indirectness over directness, operating on a substrate rather than on subjects, and
extending control from space to time, this model of control could plausibly be termed cultivation—or, following late Deleuze, modulation. Within architectural theory, this sensibility typically takes root within theories of openness and flexibility— providing control with a friendly, nonModernist face while providing openness with a strong yet sly set of ordering mechanisms. Despite its many avatars growing to dominate architectural theory over the past two-plus decades, this logic itself remains peculiarly under-theorized, largely disconnected both from parallel developments in philosophy and the spread of homologous models of control in society. In turn, it often vacillates between its two extremes: on one hand, a fastidious neo-Modernism masquerading behind a thin veil of ‘openness;’ on the other, reductionistic calls for ‘flexibility’ that too often reduce architecture to a miserly blankness. To put it simply: the cultivation mentality in architecture, while fertile with potential, has become an approach in distinct need of conceptual tilling. As a way of parsing these many calls for openness, flexibility, and indirectness, the political, philosophical, and architectural logics of cultivation can be followed back to their origin in a post-WWII societal preoccupation
1. Rem Koolhaas, “Whatever Happened to Urbanism,” in Small, Medium, Large, Extra-large: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau. (New York, NY: Monacelli Press, 1998), 969. 2. Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (London: Verso Books, 2014).
Fig. 7: Water towers and gravel processing plants. Bernd and Hilla Becher, 2004.
3. Ulrich Beck, World at Risk (Malden: Polity Press, 2007). 4. Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006). 5. James C Scott, Seeing Like a State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). 6. Yuk Hui, “Modulation after Control.” New Formations 84-85, On Societies of Control, ed. J. Gilbert and A. Goffey, 2015, 74-91.
Fig. 8: León Ferrari, Heliográfias, 1986. Redrawn by authors, 2016.
with—and renegotiation of—what the German social theorist Ulrich Beck terms our innate “inability-to-know” (Nicht-Wissen-Können).3 Particularly for architects, characterized by a historical self-conception as bringers of order, confronting this ineradicable degree zero of indeterminacy has been a cause for great anxiety—and, in turn, theoretical production and architectural innovation. Through the indirect controls of the cultivation mentality and its mode of control—modulation—architects and technocrats alike have developed new modes of reconciling order with selfdetermination, intent with openness, specificity with flexibility, form with the indeterminate processes of formation—in each, transforming the limits of human understanding and control into perhaps the key site of intervention and invention.
THE RISE OF MODULATION In even the earliest formulations of systems theory in architecture, one can see the beginnings of the implicit question central to this piece: what, exactly, do architects—those orderers par excellence—actually intend when they call for ‘open’ systems, exhort an attention to ‘agency,’ or suggest ‘letting go of control?’ The response suggested herein via the concept of modulation is that, despite the common presence of rhetoric to the contrary, control persists after this ‘letting go’—instead taking on new and inventive forms.4 In modulation, architects displace direct, centralized models of control in favor of decentralized models of ordering—subtler, savvier, and more indirect, but suffused with control nonetheless. Understanding the rhetoric of openness in this way allows discussion 8
to shift to a more precise and pragmatic engagement with the specific mechanisms by which authorial will is exerted in these ‘open’ systems and the particular forms of indeterminacy and wildness that each embraces—and, in turn, the generative potentials inherent to each strategy. As an operational strategy, modulation came to prominence in the post-war period as a direct response to the perceived overreaches of High Modernism and the welfare state.5 Calling centrality into question—whether in the form of the architect-as-author, centralized governance, or structuration in philosophy—architects, technocrats, and social theorists increasingly turned their attention to variance, differentiation, and self-determination, seeking ways to build openness into systems. The many experiments with indeterminacy in this early post-modern era led to the development of new understandings of control and ordering—at their core an erosion of the directness and centrality of Modernism in favor of a deft indirectness and new forms of decentralized control. In this period, one can see the emergence of the logics that would go on to underlie the concept of modulation, driving both its initial conceptualization and its later, more critical elaborations. As a philosophical concept, modulation is a relatively more recent construct. In the 1980s, Gilles Deleuze— developing the ideas of his contemporary Gilbert Simondon—counterposed the ideas of modulation and moulding as a way of differentiating his ontology of becoming and immanence from the essentialism and hylomorphism of his predecessors.6 In the memorable morphogenetic metaphor of architectural theorist Sanford Kwinter, moulding is to modulation as an ice cube is to a snowflake: in moulding, form
7. Sanford Kwinter, Architectures of Time (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 26-28. 8. Emmanuel Petit, Reckoning with Colin Rowe: Ten Architects Take Position (Abingdonon-Thames: Routledge, 2015), 12-18. 9. Galloway, Protocol. 10. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control” October 59, (1992) : 3-7.
Fig. 9: Frozen urine crystals. Robert Hooke. Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1664).
is imposed onto entities conceived as passive recipients, as in an ice cube given form by a tray; while in modulation, the properties and behaviors of the entity itself cause structure and form to emerge as conditions change, as in the formation of a snowflake.7 Form is thus posed not as the result of an authorial will imposed onto passive subjects, but as something that emerges from the interactions of processes and logics of behavior immanent to entities—a shift in attention from form to formation, and an implicit rejection of centralized conceptions of power. Alongside a host of other ideas drawn from Deleuze, this counterposing of form and formation went on to have a profound influence within architectural theory—driving the conversation for two-plus decades of architectural and theoretical production.8 Yet, as later interpreters are quick to point out, such decentralized models are not without control. Instead, control is merely displaced from a centralized position, instead taking on diffuse, distributed forms that permeate the entirety
of the system.9 Operating indirectly via substrates rather than directly on subjects, on populations rather than individuals, on self-determined behavior rather than on individual actions, and by changing the conditions of possibility rather than directly disciplining, modulation opens new modes of intervention and new paths to order—modes endemic to decentralized systems. As architects quickly came to realize when confronting the nearly-paradoxical challenges of designing emergence into systems, such indirect ways of exerting power via modulation can quite easily become the tool of a centralized authorial will—in the process more or less defeating the intended philosophical purpose, yet dramatically extending the reach of the architect-as-author within decentralized systems. Later developed by media theorists and philosophers yet largely unaddressed by architectural theorists, this more searching, skeptical take on modulation was in fact first articulated by Deleuze himself in his article Postscript on the Societies of Control.10 Written shortly before his death,
the piece sees Deleuze in a moment of introspection and reflection—both on the proliferation of his own ideas and on the work of his friend and sometimesrival Michel Foucault. In the Postscript, Deleuze expounds on the logic of what he terms control societies, identifying within them shifts in the nature of control that place these societies as a contemporary successor to the sovereign and disciplinary societies described by Foucault. Examining the neoliberal forms of governmentality then ascendant in the Western world, Deleuze identifies within their indirect, decentralized, immanent controls the exact same logics of modulation of which he had previously written.11 In this sense, the Postscript represents a profound moment of vulnerability and introspection for Deleuze. The article resituates the ideas presented in his previous works with Félix Guattari, reconsidering and repositioning them in the context of an ascendant mode of social and political organization that (unknowingly) deploys many of them in a way profoundly counter to the liberation pursued by Deleuze and Guattari.12 It acts as an implicit recognition that ideas that appeared as liberating in the face of a domineering, centralized welfare state had shifted dramatically in tenor when they become the backbone of a new mode of social organization. As numerous commentators have noted,13 Deleuze’s ideas take on a markedly different role today, almost twenty-five years further on into the growth of neoliberalism, the dramatic proliferation of digital technologies, the spread of ubiquitous surveillance, and the rise of the ‘metadata society’14—one much closer to the skeptical take first developed in Deleuze’s Societies of Control. Particularly over the last ten years, media theorists and philosophers have begun to revisit the ideas of the Postscript as a way to
parse the proliferation of digital technologies and the ever-greater integration of global networks of commerce and communication. These theorists have elaborated upon Deleuze’s notion of control societies and his theory of modulation, extending them to describe and analyze the forms of ubiquitous, network-based exertion of power endemic to contemporary society. Described in its various facets as protocol,15 managerialism,16 statistical-mechanical control,17 biopolitics,18 noopolitics,19 imperial control,20 algorithmic control,21 or asynchronous control,22 the many aspects of modulation share an origin in that they are all inherently probabilistic forms of control: that is to say, they take as their starting point a certain degree of indeterminacy within behavior, which is then modulated to produce desired outcomes.23 In lieu of the brittle directness of Modern forms of disciplinary control, modulation deeply engages the aleatory nature of the world—the irrepressible yet redirectable wildness of behavior. From these theories one can distill five recurring tendencies of modulatory systems of order: indirectness, behaviorism, atomization, managerialism, and territoriality. Each of these five tendencies expresses itself both upstream and downstream from the figure of the architect: upstream, the tendencies operate as a societal logic that shifts the working context of the architect, while downstream, each of the tendencies has been deployed in recent architectural theory as an alternative way to position indeterminacy in relation to the ordering will of the architect. Within each lies a deep ambivalence, with tendencies toward both tolerant and intolerant manifestations; yet beyond this ambivalence, each tendency harbors the potential to host new and inventive modes of operation by architects.
11. ibid. 12. Galloway, Protocol. 13. Alexander Galloway and David M. Berry. “Forget Deleuze, or, A Network is a Network is a Network: Reflections on the Computational and the Societies of Control.” Theory, Culture & Society 33 no. 4, (2016) : 151-172. 14. Pasquinelli, Matteo, “Anomaly Detection: The Mathematization of the Abnormal in the Metadata Society.” (panel presentation at Transmediale Festival, Berlin, Germany, 2015). 15. Galloway, Protocol. 16. Douglas Spencer, “The Architecture of Managerialism: OMA, CCTV, and the Postpolitical.” Architecture Against the Post-Political, (Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2014). 17. John May, “The Logic of the Managerial Surface.” Praxis 13 (2012) ; 116-126. 18. Michel Foucault and Michel Senellart, The Birth of Biopolitics: lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-79. (Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 19. Deborah Hauptmann, Warren Neidich, Cognitive Architecture: From Bio-politics to Noo-politics ; Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2003). 20. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). 21. Luciana Parisi and Matteo Pasquinelli, Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas (Lüneburg: Meson Press, 2015).
22. Mike Pepi, “Asynchronous! On the Sublime Administration of the Everyday” eflux journal, http://www.e-flux. com/journal/asynchronous-on-the-sublime-administration-of-the-everyday/ 23. Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance (Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 1990) 24. Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009). 25. Foucault, Biopolitics 26. Koolhaas, Whatever Happened, 969.
Fig. 10: Chlorine gas used in WWI Fig. 11: Drawing from competition proposal for Parc de la Villette, OMA
Indirectness: modulation shifts power, control, and order into a substrate. The first of the five traits—and by far the most commonly embraced within architectural theory and practice—is a shift from direct to indirect exertions of control. This indirectness operates not through the direct exercise of discipline but via an indirect modulation of conditions of possibility: the manipulation of the substrate of behavior. This shift is perhaps most strikingly illustrated in German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s account of the rise of ‘environmental warfare’ in the chlorine gas-filled trenches of World War I,24 seeing in chemical weaponry a new conception of control in which power is exerted not on life itself, but instead on the ‘life-support systems’ upon which it depends—in this
case, a readily-available supply of breathable air. In lieu of individually targeting every soldier, the shared environment of their system of respiration becomes the target, modulating the conditions of possibility rather definitively to cause the impossibility of continued respiration—unless, of course, one is properly equipped to countermodulate these conditions with a gas mask. Taking a wide variety of forms, this notion of reshaping the substrate of possibility recurs within numerous theories, particularly in the concept of biopolitics developed by Foucault and his many followers.25 In architectural theory, the many variants of this attitude has become nearly-omnipresent—from Rem Koolhaas’s “irrigation of territories with potential”26 to Stan Allen’s notions of infrastructural27 and
geological28 modes of operation, from the aforementioned bumper crop of agricultural metaphors29 to a flurry of recent theoretical activity that has come to be referred to as an ‘infrastructural turn’ for the discipline.30 As architectural theorist Kazys Varnelis notes, however, many such efforts have “drifted away from such forward-looking ideals and indulged ... in an unhealthy relationship with modernism.”31 Driven of late by a heady cocktail of technological advancement and social ambition, these projects too often continue a tendency to overstate the openness of such systems while obfuscating the ways in which power is exerted within them. While past experiments have tended to focus downstream from the architect on the models of control used within
projects, recent theory has increasingly turned instead to how the architect might redeploy similar ideas to work upstream within larger systems. This idea becomes explicit in Keller Easterling’s call for an approach to spatial activism “more performative than prescriptive,” going on to suggest that “the activist need not face off against every weed in the field but rather, unannounced, alter the chemistry of the soil”32—designing a new disposition into the substrate of the system through selective spatial intervention. This resistant form of counter-modulation provides another facet to how the architect might open systems to multiplicity—working from without, modulating the existing to provide a substrate for new and unintended possibilities.
27. Stan Allen, “Infrastructural Urbanism,” in Points and Lines (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), 46-89. 28. Stan Allen, “From the Biological to the Geological,” in Landform Building: Architecture’s New Terrain (Zurich: Lars Muller, 2011). 29. James Corner, “Terra Fluxus,” in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, ed. Charles Waldheim, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 21-33. 30. HolcimLafarge Foundation, Infrastructure Space conference, Detroit, 2016. 31. Kazys Varnelis, Infrastructural Fields [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://quaderns. coac.net/en/2011/06/ convidat-varnelis/
32. Easterling, Extrastatecraft, 439. 33. Deleuze, Postscript, 5. 34. Mike Pepi, Asynchronous! 35. Janette Kim, “How to Use This Book: Guidance in a Permissive Society.” Lecture, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Annual Meeting, Seattle, March 19, 2016. See also Valve Corporation, Handbook For New Employees, 2012, http:// www.valvesoftware. com/company/Valve_ Handbook_LowRes.pdf 36. Blaine Brownell and Marc Swackhamer, Hypernatural (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015). 37. Benjamin Herborth, “Imagining Man... Forgetting Society?” in Human Beings in International Relations, ed. Daniel Jacobi, Annette Freyberg-Inan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 231. 38. Brownell and Swackhamer, Hypernatural, 128-131.
Fig. 12: Detail of silkworms constructing the Silk Pavilion Fig. 13: Inside the Silk Pavilion
Behaviorism: modulation operates primarily by ‘inflecting’ behavior. The second trait of modulation can be seen as a direct corollary of the first: modulation takes as its goal the regulation of behavior rather than the disciplining of individual actions. It engages in a reshaping of self-interest toward evermore-productive ends, acting on the preconditions of behavior to redirect it toward desired outcomes. In a sense, this is a deeply scientific process: it involves the analysis of internal logics of behavior and abstracting from them consistent patterns, which go on to form the grounds for later modulations—a behaviorism. Behavior is then manipulated in the aggregate through, for example, the construction of logics of competition— as Deleuze describes it in the Postscript, “the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within.”33 Extrapolated in a myriad of forms, this logic has become omnipresent in neoliberal society—from the continual driver-to-driver competition that sets the price of an Uber ride,34 to the antihierarchical ‘flatland’ of self-regulatory and entrepreneurial logic underlying the (self-)management policies outlined by the technology company Valve in its Handbook for New Employees.35 This tendency toward a manipulation of self-interest raises questions as to whether the approaches to ‘agency’ often discussed by recent architectural theorists36 can necessarily be said to resemble the sociological definition of agency as the capacity to act otherwise,37 or if they are more accurately construed as elaborate and subtle forms of behaviorism. Tending
to conflate the study and manipulation of the predictable behaviors of entities— behaviorism—with ideas of agency drawn from the flat ontologies of assemblage theory, these approaches construct a heavily constrained engagement with indeterminacy—though, often to great architectural effect. In projects such as the MIT Mediated Matter Research Group’s Silk Pavilion,38 the manipulation of behavior generates architectural form in a way that goes beyond the direct specification of the designer. In the case of the Silk Pavilion, this takes the form of a CNC-placed substrate of strings spaced in a way that prevents the silkworms from forming cocoons, instead causing them to ‘floss’—continue to spin silk in unspecified patterns—until the pavilion is deemed complete. The silkworms’ trajectories are modulated further by adjusting conditions of heat and light, in turn creating gradients of intensity within the structure based on the behavioral propensities of the silkworms. In this architectural redeployment of behaviorism, the self-organizing logics of individual actors are both turned loose and reeled in, channeled precisely to form desired architectural effects.
39. Galloway, Protocol. 40. Deleuze, Postscript. 41. May, Managerial Surface.
Fig. 14: Freshkills Park, James Corner Fig. 15: Stones of Teeth, Chad Connery & Anca Matyiku
Atomization: modulation acts on the level of populations rather than individuals. Mirroring the move downward into behavior, control also moves upward to be conceptualized on the level of the population instead of the level of the individual. Seemingly more open to divergent behavior, this shift is based in a fundamentally protocol-driven and probabilistic understanding of control— that is to say, it concerns itself more with the general behavior of the aggregate than it does the specific behavior of the individual.39 In doing so, however, subjects are deprived of their capacity for individuation, both separately and in groups—transformed into an atomized and regulated population of dividuals. As Deleuze puts it, “[w]e no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/
individual pair. Individuals have become ‘dividuals,’ and masses, samples, data, markets, or ‘banks’.”40 Managerialism: modulation extends control from space to time, and from time to the mechanisms of change themselves. Much as modulation borrows agricultural logic in its alteration of the ‘growing conditions’ of behavior, modulation also comes to resembles agriculture in its move toward an ongoing stewardship and management of systems.41 ‘Flexing’ the parameters of control in real time as conditions change, modulation eschews the set it and forget it (dis)engagement traditionally found in architecture. On one hand, this ongoing engagement can feed into an intense form of control over time, characterized
by systems of monitoring, feedback, and guided evolution—as in the example of Freshkills Park.42 On the other hand, this ongoing architectural engagement could instead harbor an increased openness to contingency, allowing architects to adapt their ideas and constructions as conditions change—as in the slow evolution of Anca Matyiku and Chad Connery’s Stones of Teeth installation.43 Territoriality: modulation acts in an a-scalar, a-geographic manner. As a logic native to systems, modulation treats geography with a sense of relative indifference—tending to traverse territories defined by related conditions rather than hewing to the geographicallydelineated models of Westphalian sovereignty.44 In this sense, modulation is more topological than topographic—points may be adjacent in its networks yet distant spatially, or vice versa. In turn, designed intervention may enter the network at one point and find itself re-emerging in a distant land—or, often, in many distant lands, as in Keller Easterling’s descriptions of spatial products and multipliers.45 In this model of proliferation, the reach of a single architectural impulse is extended dramatically—largely avoiding the need for dramatic adaptation to contingency through a logic of divination, displacement, and duplication that tracks fields of similar conditions. This topological continuity only reinforces the tendency toward massivelydistributed intervention seen in the aforementioned notion of atomization: the small multiple is endemic to modulation. Proliferating within architectural thought, such approaches have come to be referred to as the geographic46 or territorial47 projects of the discipline. ---
From these five traits emerges a composite understanding of the logic of modulation: in a shift of control from direct exertion into an indirect manipulation of a substrate, modulation alters the conditions of possibility to encourage desired behaviors and discourage undesired ones—often continually adjusting that substrate in real time to respond to changing conditions. In this sense, modulation is a relentlessly indeterminate form of determinism, blending openness with a sly, deft exertion of control. In both its societal and architectural manifestations, the rise of modulation has thus profoundly reshaped the working space of the architect—opening new territories to design while foreclosing others. If, following Galloway’s call to not reject modulation outright on ethical grounds but instead treat it as an altered societal ‘playing field,’48 what new games—new modes of operation endemic to this field—might designers concoct? By trading a righteous rejection of this new landscape for the possibility of opportunistically harnessing its logics, might such an engagement tactically modulate the field of modulation itself? As becomes clear from the history and analysis above, architects engage modulation from a uniquely mediating position—both as subjects operating within modulatory systems and as creators of systems of modulation themselves. In turn, then, a renewed understanding of architectural production could provide architects with cues on how to operate within this dual positioning—building openness into systems, both upstream within societal modulation and downstream within architectural practice.
42. John May, “Bringing Back a Fresh Kill; Notes on a Dream of Territorial Resuscitation,” VERB: CRISIS, ed. Irene Hwang and Mario Ballesteros (Barcelona: Actar, 2008) : 78-101. 43. Chad Connery and Anca Matyiku. 2015. “Stones of Teeth: The Thoughtful Object and the Fictive Dimension,” In The Expanding Periphery and the Migrating Center: 103rd ACSA Annual Meeting, Toronto, March 19-21, inclusive 279-287. Washington: ACSA Press. 44. Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2013). 45. Easterling, Extrastatecraft. 46. David Gissen, “Architecture’s Geographic Turns,” LOG 12 (2008). 47. David Gissen, “Territory: Architecture Beyond Environment,” Architectural Design 80, no. 3 (Hoboken: Wiley, 2015). 48. Galloway, Protocol.
FRONTIERS OF ORDER
The chapter that follows is an attempt to develop an understanding of architecture as a co-production—not as imposed on inert matter, but produced in collaboration with a host of more-thanhuman agents. Co-production is thus by definition collective, in that it entails the open and contingent drawing-together of an assemblage—a collective—of forces, materials, ideas, agencies, and more. In turn, one might envision a corresponding understanding of architectural order and intervention: a collective grid. If, at its core, modulation is a decentralization of control, how might designers move to a distributed model of control, in which agency is understood as flowing freely between multiple, competing, shifting valences? Is it possible, either on the project or the system-scale, to move beyond passivity to actively embrace the otherness and indeterminacy inherent in such a model? How can architects, rather than suppressing wildness or surrendering to it, assemble systems around a generative friction between order and indeterminacy? While not purporting to definitively answer these questions, this chapter provides the outlines of this notion and tendency within thought— sketching in a working understanding of co-production in architecture.
At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, American historian Frederick Jackson Turner gave a seminal speech on the settlement of the American West—one that would prove to have an untimely and oddly lasting conceptual potency. This speech, entitled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,”1 named the conceptual figure of the frontier as the driving force in the development of the American character. The frontier, Turner argued, was a site of encounter between civilization and wildness, between the normativity of society and an irrepressible Otherness—and it was exactly this tension, and the continual experimentation and renegotiation of norms and practices that it prompted, that led in turn to the rugged robustness and diversity of American social systems. As such, Turner lamented, rather than celebrated, the gradual closing of the frontier—seeing it not as a triumph but rather as the loss of a profoundly creative force, the elimination of a generative site of encounter between order and its other. In this sense (if clearly not certain others), Turner was far ahead of his time: unlike the Enlightenment Modern idea of mastery, which saw the un-ordered, unruly, and wild only ever as something to be tamed or eliminated, Turner hinted that we might instead find a new relationship to
1. Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” (Lecture, American Historical Association, Chicago, 12 July 1893).
Fig. 16: Stones of Teeth, Chad Connery & Anca Matyiku
2. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001): 166. 3. ibid., 167. 4. Luigi Pellizzoni, Ontological Politics in a Disposable World: The New Mastery of Nature. (Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2016): 48-9. 5. Keller Easterling, “Error” in Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005), 123-134. 6. Koolhaas, Whatever Happened, 969. 7. Francesca Hughes, The Architecture of Error: Matter, Measure, and the Misadventures of Precision (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014).
wildness—one not based in elimination but rather a living-with, a dialectical suspension, holding it as a co-constitutive Other to order. In such an understanding—of order and disorder as not opposed, but rather mutually constitutive—wildness is seen as a profoundly creative force, generative of an open-ended and ongoing becoming. Just over a hundred years later, writing of the same landscape, theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri describe and develop a type of sovereignty that “does not annex or destroy the other powers it faces but on the contrary opens itself to them, including them in the network,”2 using them as engines to drive an endless self-redefinition. In this immanent, networked form of power, Hardt and Negri argue, “power finds the
logics of its order always renewed and always re-created in expansion.”3 Both the early ideas of Turner and their elaboration in Hardt and Negri can be seen as emblematic of a larger societal shift in attitude toward indeterminacy over the past half-century. As Luigi Pellizzoni describes, “contrary to the modern received wisdom, radical uncertainty and contingency are [increasingly] seen not as hampering, but rather as enabling and enhancing human agency and the application of means-ends rationality ... [treating uncertainty as] a condition not only to be acknowledged, but exploited and even enjoyed.”4
Within systems theory and cybernetics, for example, the notion of error takes on new conceptual significance. In place of its use in common parlance to signify a failure,
a mistake, or a blunder, complex systems theory understands error as a powerfully generative force, in which elements from outside a system enrich it with new information beyond the original, designed intentions of the system.5 This systemstheory understanding of error suggests a way of broadening the notion of production in architectural design—repositioning it as a device by which the architect actively embraces unintended, unplanned, unforeseen occurrences as a way of enriching the operation and experience of their designs. Reframing Koolhaas’s claim that “[t]he only legitimate relationship that architects can have with the subject of chaos is to take their rightful place in the army of those devoted to resist it, and fail,”6 one might suggest that it is precisely in this ‘failure’— that is to say, in the generative collision of intentions captured by the concept of error—that architects can locate a profound and paradoxical potential, both operational and aesthetic.7 Much as in modulation, such an understanding of co-production calls on architects to selectively relinquish a degree of control—but in doing so grants the possibility of an open and ongoing collaboration with the many, distributed agencies at play in the process of creation.
DISTRIBUTED AGENCY Over the past thirty years, numerous philosophical movements have sought to fundamentally reposition the agency of the human subject, qualifying it and situating it within an ontologically ‘flat’ field of subjects with agency distributed throughout in a non-hierarchical way. Of particular interest here are several strains of thought that have recently emerged under the banner of posthumanism.8 At its core, posthumanism fundamentally questions the Enlightenment
notion of the human subject, seeking to displace it from the privileged philosophical position it has held since the 18th century— instead situating it as one object among many objects.9 In this understanding, agency is not a unique capacity of the human subject, but rather an intrinsic property of all entities—all things act, even if they may do so in ways that do not exhibit what might be described as ‘free will.’ What we call humans are actually better understood as cyborgs,10 argues social theorist Donna Haraway—produced as much by the technologies, billions of gut flora, food networks, and other conditions of existence as by any uniquely human agency or will. Production, in this sense, is and has always been a co-production: a collaboration of sorts with forces beyond oneself.11 Understanding production in this way shifts the focus to the multitude of agencies and forces that constitute any entity. Such an approach provides architects an opportunity for a far more fundamental reconceptualization of the notion of agency in architecture than that which the cultivation mentality currently offers— instead recognizing the architectural object (and, likewise, the figure of the architect) as simply one object among many, while fully embracing the unruly agency of the ‘objects’ of architecture. In one of the most explicit embraces of the many agencies that lie beyond that of the architect, the Spanish architectural practice amid.cero9 argues for an alternative conception of space in architecture—not as a physical volume devoid of matter, but rather an emergent relational property generated from the interaction of entities, human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate.12 Terming this conception third natures,13 cero9 takes as the grounds of their practice a ‘flat’, non-hierarchical engagement with the multitude of entities at play in the architectural project—be they
8. Ariane Lourie Harrison, ed. Architectural Theories of the Environment: Posthuman Territory (New York: Routledge, 2013). 9. Levi Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2011 10. Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late 20th Century.” in The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments, (Springer Netherlands, 2006):117-158. 11. Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (New York: Continuum, 2002): 41.
Fig. 17: Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way. Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1861.
12. Cristina Díaz Moreno and Efrén García Grinda. “AMID.CERO9/ MOS”. El Croquis 184, 2016, 27-39. 13. Cristina Díaz Moreno and Efrén García Grinda. Third Natures: A Micropedia (London: AA Print Studio, 2014). 14. ibid.
the subcultural groups the firm often seeks out as clients, the material behaviors they explore in the realization of each project, or more unconventional subjects such as swarms of starlings or flocks of butterflies.14 In amid.cero9’s practice, familiar ideas of openness and indeterminacy are transformed into an ethic of working amid a multitude of competing entities, finding in them an ethical and aesthetic grounding.
SMALL MULTIPLES Considered in this way, co-production could come to resemble the mode of intervention into complex systems that Sanford Kwinter in describes his brief essay Wildness: Prolegomena to a New Urbanism.15 Drawing from research conducted by the Santa Fe Institute for the Study of Complexity, Kwinter
suggests that “extremely intricate systems can most effectively be built up messily, in steps and layers, from approximate rather than finished and perfect parts, and incrementally over time, rather than in one fell swoop of assembly.”16 Such an approach—built from the self-organizing logic of a multitude of small pieces— harnesses atomization and incrementalism as tools to not merely accommodate contingency but rather build it into the very core of the system. Kwinter calls for the innate wildness of indeterminacy and contingency to be considered as the cornerstone of architecture’s engagements with complex systems, arguing for the design of “wild systems that range and explore and mine their environment, that capitalize on accidental successes, store them, and build upon them.”17 Unfazed by the seeming contradiction of calling on architects to find ways to emulate the “out of (central, singular) control” nature of these complex systems,18 Kwinter’s notion of wildness—of building systems from the small, multiple, and contingent—can be seen as one
way of approaching ideas of co-production in the construction of systems. In a similar manner, the work of Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur suggests that an atomization to the small and multiple allows designers to reshape the tenor of control, in turn building multiplicity and difference into systems through aggregation. Lyrical and rich with metaphor, their work proposes a move from a river landscape (defined by singular interventions into massive flows, rigid and brittle, born of a violence of sorts, and prone to violent erasure when the crisp delineations it creates are exceeded) to a rain terrain (intervening instead at a multiplicity of points, in a multiplicity of ways, prior to the occurrence of flow formation).19 In a recent lecture, da Cunha describes this alternative mode of intervention as working via a multiplicity of the small—building systems around a host of low-stakes, divergent, competing, and possibly even contradictory approaches.20 In this, da Cunha gives another possible response to the disperse-and-standardize logic of modulation—one that replaces its skepticism
15. Sanford Kwinter, “Wildness: Prolegomena to a New Urbanism” in Far From Equilibrium (Barcelona: Actar, 2007), 186-191. 16. ibid., 187. 17. ibid., 187. 18. ibid., 189. 19. Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur, Design in the Terrain of Water (San Francisco: Applied Research & Design Publishing, 2014). 20. Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur. 2016. “Designing the Coast in the Moment of Rain,” in Infrastructure Space: Proceedings of the 5th Annual LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction, Detroit, April 7-9, inclusive 119-131. Zurich: LafargeHolcim Foundation.
Fig. 18: Aegean Pairi-Daêza, amid.cero9 Fig. 19: Hydrological sections. Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur.
21. Easterling, Extrastatecraft, 481-482. 22. Easterling, Extrastatecraft, 443. 23. Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (New York: Sage Publications, 1986). 24. ibid.
Fig. 20: We as a Plague, amid.cero9
towards difference with the creation of an active role for difference in systems. Systems rich with difference, diversity, and redundancy not only tend to be more resilient—able to accommodate extrinsic inputs and events and self-stabilize back to an equilibrium. They also tend to be more pliant: open to an ongoing divergence from the norm and able to evolve new responses. While remaining implicit in the work of da Cunha and Mathur, the strategy of opportunistically harnessing the logics of modulation becomes dramatically explicit within Keller Easterling’s concept of the multiplier. As Easterling puts it, “a sneakier David—happy that Goliath is big—would never go to the trouble of killing the giant. ... Why kill the giant when it can be put to work, and when its great size ... can amplify that work?”21 To Easterling, the repetition and standardization of space within modulation allows for rogue interventions to hitch onto the logics of the system, proliferating in ways unconceivable in the absence of these repetitive logics of modulation. In this way, spatial activists can tune the disposition of a system by finding carriers—among many others, Easterling cites “suburban houses, skyscrapers, vehicles, spatial products, zones, mobile phones, [and] global standards” as potential hosts22—and altering their ‘spatial softwares’, with changes rippling outward throughout the system via imitation and replication. The notion of the multiplier deftly repositions the role of architecture within systems. By simultaneously shaping physical objects and operational logics, design gains the capacity to extend itself opportunistically along—and even inflect— existing trajectories of control, potentially building tolerance and polyvalence into these larger systems. ---
Drawing together these diverse concepts—Turner’s frontier, Hughes’s error, amid.cero9’s third natures, Kwinter’s wildness, da Cunha and Mathur’s multiplicity of the small, Easterling’s multipliers, and—one can begin to discern in more detail the outlines of a theory of co-production. In this way, a composite theory of co-production thus also operates within architectural discourse itself—opening space for an encounter between what could otherwise be radically divergent conceptions of architecture, and building from that encounter a repositioned understanding of architectural agency. Ultimately, perhaps, developing a theory of co-production is as much about negotiating a space for contingency as it is about negotiating a space for the architect: how, in a context increasingly dominated by an essential indeterminacy, might one come to situate the seemingly-antiquated ordering desires of the architect? If we now operate within a reflexive modernity,23 as Ulrich Beck terms it—in which the main challenges modernity faces are challenges caused by modernization itself (e.g. climate change and social inequality, to name only two)—how else might we come to conceive of action and intention, beyond the relentless pursuit of omniscience and omnipotence inherited from Enlightenment modernity? How might architecture—still deeply defined by these inherited models of knowledge and power— begin to take part in the “modernization of modernization, the rationalization of rationalization”24 that Beck argues typifies the disciplinary transformations of this era? Co-production points to one way of ‘rationalizing the process of rationalization itself’ within architecture: eschewing the fracture-critical logics and ruthless fixation on efficiency that typifies inherited models of order, instead pursuing a more open, speculative engagement with the unintended and the indeterminate.
Fig. 21: Delineation
Fig. 22: Toolpath
6 miles (480 chains)
Townships (36 sq. mi.)
1 mile (80 chains)
6 miles (480 chains)
Survey Datums and Grid Corrections
Sections (1 sq. mi.)
Subdivision of a Township
1 mile (80 chains)
NE 1/4 (160 acres)
standard allotment size, Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 W 1/2 (320 acres)
W 1/2 SE 1/4 (80 acres)
NE 1/4 SE 1/4 (40 acres) SE 1/4 SE 1/4 (40 acres)
Subdivision of a Section
standard allotment size, Homestead Act of 1862
standard allotment size, Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15, 1865
As a conceptual figure, the grid is defined by the many paradoxes to which it plays host: both resolutely real and invariably abstract, both ruthlessly rigid and obstinately open, both a-historical and deeply associated with particular ideologies, both infinite in conception and fragmentary in execution, both a device of control and an infrastructure for possibility. Because of this profound polyvalence, the grid provides a productive platform on which to study and speculate upon the complex relationship between control, order, and wildness, with the grid serving as a proxy or index to trace these conceptions as they evolve throughout time. Despite its association with formal rigidity, the grid is a shape-shifter of sortsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;capable of serving many purposes in the ordering of socio-spatial systems. -- Much like the abstract notion of the grid, the Jefferson Grid has played a complex and contradictory role throughout its two hundred and fifty years of existence. Known also by its proper name, the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), the Jefferson Grid has served as the primary ordering device for the majority of the land mass of the United Statesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;playing an instrumental role in the colonization of the American frontier.
A concrete abstraction, the Jefferson Grid exists as both a statement of abstract Enlightenment ideals and a real artifact, deeply ingrained into the American landscape. Both a potent symbol of egalitarianism and a primary device by which Native Americans were dispossessed of their land, the Jefferson Grid is perhaps the most profound demonstration of an Enlightenment approach to socio-spatial ordering. Continually shifting in roles throughout its life, the Jefferson Grid serves as a spatial-temporal arena for understanding of the ordering processes by which the nation cultivated its frontier.
Fig. 23: Logics of the Jefferson Grid. Authors, 2016.
-- Despite its apparent simplicity, the grid has for centuries proven a fruitful source of ideation and theorization for philosophers, artists, and architects. In its most mundane sense, a grid is nothing more than two series of parallel lines crossing one another, most typically at 90 degrees. Yet even in the regular rhythm of these intersecting lines can be found a paradoxical flexibility, with the resolute order of the grid coming to host a certain openness of intention and function. --29
1. Rosalind Krauss, “Grids.” MIT Press, Summer 1979: 50-64
Though widespread today, the use of an abstract, geometric grid for the purposes of determining land tenure was a relatively novel approach in the time the PLSS was established. Thomas Jefferson (the main initiator of the PLSS and the source of its colloquial name)saw in the cadastral grid the possibility for a dramatic social and spatial transformation of the young nation— addressing in one gesture a host of concerns troubling the government of the time while simultaneously establishing an ideological vision on which to build a democratic and free society. In his vision, the simple spatial unit of the grid served as a device to reconcile a host of competing ambitions: taming the frontier, feeding the nation, transforming immigrants into the ‘yeoman farmer’ ideal, and creating what he saw as the ideal conditions for a democratic society. Some of these matters were highly practical and served to resolve pressing issues in need of immediate resolution. The nation, having no ability to tax it citizens, owed a massive debt to its soldiers with no means of providing monetary compensation. Furthermore, the nation needed food. Both of these could be addressed through the expansion west, deep into unknown and ‘unclaimed’ territory. Though the idea is simple enough, the government took the opportunity to test the ideologies underpinning the nation with profound implications on the resulting spatial and social territories that would come to be. What preceded was the laborious traversing, observing, documenting, and negotiating (that is, having to agree upon which landmarks to use) of the land in question. The order of the plats was derived directly from the landscape based on conditions such as every one needing to be adjacent to a body of water, or relying on distinguishable natural landmarks to
which to assign the boundary. Depending on the landscape to provide landmarks was not possible: pragmatically, neither were there enough time or resources to dedicate to identifying and documenting those landmarks, as immediate payment was due; ideologically, neither would those landmarks be distributed in a way necessary to satisfy the democratic ideology. Instead the Grid provided a way to map the landscape abstractly, defining it in new terms—terms necessary for the efficient distribution of land. The two key goals of the PLSS were to survey land with great expediency and to aid in the democratic—in this case meaning of equal area—distribution of land.
-- Grids pervade the history of architecture—from the mythology of the temple to the military efficiency of Roman city planning, from the enthusiastic abstraction of the grid by the modernists to its many nuanced redeployments in the post-modern era. Speaking to the persistence of the grid within the art world in her article Grids, Rosalind Krauss elaborates on the many powers afforded the artists by the grid1. Although targeted specifically to art, her dissection of the grid and analysis of its role in modern art holds deep parallels within architecture. The three main facets or roles of the grid that she distills are present in architecture just as in art—and, are useful in understanding how the grid may, and often does, serve as a proxy for control. The first extraction from her analysis is that the grid is capable of establishing intensely contradictory contexts for a work. This is possible because the grid can mean many
1 mile (80 chains)
6 miles (480 chains)
Survey Datums and Grid Corrections
19 Sections (1 sq. mi.)
Subdivision of a Township
The Grid is both invariably abstract and resolutely real. standard allotment size,
1 mile (80 chains)
NE 1/4 (160 acres)
Homestead Act of 1862
standard allotment size, Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 W 1/2
acres) Fig. 24: (320 Public Land Survey System. Great Plains, United States.
NE 1/4 SE 1/4 (40 acres)
standard allotment 3 1 size, Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15, 1865
different things depending on how it is being situated. The grid may be used to communicate the “antinatural,” the “antireal,” or “illusion.” It may signify “surface” or “space,” “form” or “material.” It may represent “objectivity” and “logic,” just as it represents “emblem and myth.” Such flexibility comes from its ability to walk the line between material and metaphor, serving as one or the other or both readily as needed. With such dexterity, the grid is well situated to accommodate and respond to the simultaneous vagueness, fluidity, and endless resulting possibilities of complex systems: indeterminacy is native to the grid. -- Geometrically, the cadastral grid is efficient because it requires minimal numbers of turns to get anywhere on it. This enabled 18th-century urbanites with no experience of farming and no knowledge of the countryside to buy a plot of land in unfamiliar territory hundreds of miles away, yet still be confident that they could navigate there easily. Secondly, it is infinite in all directions, accommodating however far the West expanded. Third, it is indifferent to what goes on within it, accommodating whatever might constitute the Western landscape. In confronting reality, concessions of geometric purity, however, did need to be made. The first concession arises from the curvature of the earth. Without taking this into account, the gridded plots becomes smaller as it progresses north. To accommodate this the 11 northern and western most sections of each township are distorted from the regular square form to match up with the square sections of adjacent townships. Additionally, the grid 32
shifts and resets every 24 miles of latitude to prevent the longitudinal limits of the sectors from becoming too small as the grid progresses northward. The second is that people make mistakes, and their imprecisions have disruptive rippling effects on such rigid, clear systems as the Grid. Therefore, several meridians and longitudinal baselines were set, often based on landscape features that would have served as traditional landmarks, to provide a means of resetting the grid, to prevent it from going too awry. The third concession was that while the smallest unit of the grid was derived from the size of land needed for a suitable farmstead that could provide for itself and the growing population—deemed to be 40 acres—in practice, though each plat contained 40 acres, there was no guarantee that any of it would be suitable for agriculture. It is in these moments where it is clear that the concept of the grid supersedes its practical utility but is all the more powerful for not yielding to them. -- In Krauss’s second point, she argues that, in dealing with the entities subjected to it, the grid can act a means by which to neuter autonomy: “Insofar as its order is that of pure relationship, the grid is a way of abrogating the claims of natural objects to have an order particular to themselves; the relationships in the aesthetic field are shown by the grid to be in a world apart and, with respect to natural objects, to be both prior and final.” By its mere existence, the grid implies relations where no operational, formal, or aesthetic relations may necessarily exist: the act of placing an overlying grid checks autonomy and creates new relations. ---
The Grid is both ruthlessly rigid and obstinately open.
Fig. 25: The Evolution of the Nine-Square Grid. John Hejduk.
The Grid is both a potent device of control and a liberating infrastructure for possibility.
Fig. 26: Urban grid of Chandigarh, India, broken by Burail village. Le Corbusier et. al.
Often, the unknown landscape would be conflated with the blank landscape, conveniently devoid of any content or logics that might resist any new intent applied to them. In this sense, the grid provided a mechanism for taming both the landscape and the many inhabitants that occupied it at the time of subdivision: ‘erasing’ the contents of the landscape and building it back up selectively2. Without a recognized history, without monumental architecture, without a landmarked terrain, the landscape was easily rendered conquerable through the promulgation of the ordering of the Grid. The landscape was tamed through a combination of conceptual understanding and physical alteration. This is evidenced in how the widespread elimination of native human, flora, and fauna populations effectively stripped the landscape of any meaning it carried to be supplanted by its conceptualization as an unclaimed bank of exploitable resources. Taming, however, was not just exercised on the landscape—the grid was seen as a device for taming the incoming population as well. When imagining the survey system Jefferson spoke about the ‘Yeoman Farmer’ an ideal citizen who had the characteristics and ethic required to support himself and his country. It was his intent to spatially and socially organize the landscape in such a way that would support the democratic society he imagined. The grid has a powerful characteristic of scalability, on which numerous social units were hung. That is to say that at a given scale, all units are homogeneous, and the units of that scale may be nested into a unit at another scale of homogeneous units. In this way the landscape was able to be divided and distributed evenly in a way that had informative social structures built into it. The smallest unit, a quart-quarter section is defined by the farmer: his family, his
house, and his plot of land of 40 acres. Four quarter-quarter units made a quarter unit around which a local road was built for equal access to each farmstead. Four quarter units constituted a mile by mile unit known as a sector, the limit roads of which were main roads. 36 sectors formed a township. In every township the 16th sector was dedicated to the school, and the 29th to religion. This social hierarchy was replicated across Middle America and was thought to be the prerequisite of a democratic society.
2. Michel Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Prress, 2001, 168-170.
-- The third power the grid affords the artist is the ability to construct what Krauss terms an “infrastructure for vision” for the artist—which for the architect could be taken to mean an understanding of the grid in relation to its limits. To this end she suggests that there are two main modes of relating the grid of the artwork to the reality of the rest of the world: centripetal and centrifugal. The former implies a drawing in toward a center, establishing “something complete and internally organized”, bounded by implicit or explicit limits. The latter, on the other hand, speaks to a “theoretical continuity of the work of art with the world”—the extension to infinity so characteristic of Modernist art. Thus, the ordering lines of the grid can be seen to take on deeply contrasting tendencies: in one sense, coming to serve as borders that delineate a finite fragment, while in another sense resembling open trajectories, that seek to extend the logic of the grid outward to an infinity. ---
Fig. 27: A deep blowout typical of the Sandhills Region. Raymond J. Pool, “Glimpses of the Great American Desert,” Popular Science Monthly 80, (1912), 225.
THE NEBRASKA NATIONAL FOREST The illusion of the tabula rasa engendered by the Jefferson Grid conditions the landscape of the Midwest, suffusing it with an enigmatic conceptual blankness that exerts an oddly magnetic power on the zealous ambition of architects, technocrats, and inventors alike. While the pavilion serves as architecture’s way of meditating on a narrowly defined process or ideology within the urban context, the Jefferson Grid, with the great size of its units, demands that ideologies be tested ambitiously and on a scale worthy of the Grid. Two such projects are the Nebraska National Forest and the Great Plains Shelterbelt. Both projects demonstrate keen attitudes toward order— new, off-Grid understandings of order— that in turn radically alter the conditions of possibility locally and regionally. The Nebraska National Forest held the title of world’s largest man-made forest for nearly a century. If the idea of the enclave describes the condition of creating ‘other’ possibilities, the Nebraska National Forest is an enclave of incubation, or a space for the creation of new possibilities. The Forest is both a narrative of distinctive intrinsic and extrinsic ecologies. Intrinsically, it is a lesson in holistic terraforming, as the site’s ecology was fundamentally altered from prairie to forest, and would maintain this state without further human intervention. Extrinsically, the forest serves an important role in the nation’s forest system, as the primary node of reserve trees to supplement its other natural forests. The site of the forest lies within the Sandhills region of Nebraska, which makes up the north-west quarter of the state and is part of what used to be called the Great
American Desert. While there was minimal acreage of agricultural land, soon enough people realized that the grasses, in some places sporadic and in other prolific, were enough to provide suitable conditions for the profitable herding of cattle. Due to the severity of the climate a tremendous increase in population could not be expected, yet the idea lingered that the plains could be transformed into an agriculturally felicitous and comfortable region. In 1890, the head of the newly established US Department of Forestry Bernhard E. Fernow addressed Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture, stating that “[F]orest planting is one of the necessary requisites to permanently reclaiming this vast domain.”3 The introduction of trees would work toward this end in two ways. First, the growing ranching industry quickly exhausted the region’s scarce supply of wood. There was a great
need for raw timber for fence posts and improving domestic conditions from damp sod houses.4,5 Across the nation the rapid depletion of natural resources and rise of the Conservationist movement— coupled with increasing timer prices— instilled a need to cultivate this resource locally. Second, it was believed that the introduction of trees to the region would “ameliorate the dryness of the atmosphere”6 by fundamentally altering the climate.7 While the specifics of how trees achieved this was contested for decades, it gained enough traction that in 1891 the champion of the tree plating experimentation project and University of Nebraska professor of botany, Charles E. Bessey, collaborated with Fernow to establish an experimental forest in the “worst portion of the hills.”8 The promise of the following decade of experimentation compelled President Roosevelt to establish the nation’s 31st national forest and timber reserve of 208,902 acres in 1902—a poignantly ironic designation given its near absence of trees. The establishment of the forest took considerable trial and error. The successful
methodology that developed demonstrates how the phenotypically erratic systems of the forest environment can be transmuted to maintain their functionality while attending to the cultivator’s desire for utilitarian spatial order. This was achieved through the use of the grid to site trees within the forest’s spatial limits. The grid is present in the nursery greenhouse as well and the forest proper. The artificial environment of the greenhouse lends itself the regimentation of the grid. This particularly measured environment is used to protect the seedlings and young saplings during their most vulnerable years, encouraging the production of a greater number of test subjects. In contrast, the harsh environment of the forest proper was used to vet the saplings to evaluate which species were most suitable for the various micro-climates of the site and for the subsequent selection of specimens for genetic breeding. Within both environments the evenly spaced rows make close monitoring and tracking easier on the botanists and rangers. Essentially this spatial organization privileges the monitoring of objects over the natural tendencies of forest ecologies.
3. B. E. Fernow, “What is Forestry?” United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Bulletin 5. 4. Raymond J. Pool, “Glimpses of the Great American Desert,” Popular Science Monthly 80, (1912), 235. 5. Bates and Pierce, “Forestation of the Sand Hills,” 19. 6. Ibid., 19. 7. Henry Nash Smith, “Rain Follows the Plow: The Notion of Increased Rainfall for the Great Plains, 1844-1880,” Huntington Library Quarterly 10 (1947): 174.
Fig. 28: The Sandhills of Nebraska. Author unknown. http:// www.usgennet.org/ usa/ne/county/ brown/18Sandhills. htm
8. Raymond J. Pool, “Glimpses of the Great American Desert,” Popular Science Monthly 80, (1912), 231. 9. Fernow, “Forest Planting on the Plains,” 140,
Fig. 29: John Sidle. Nebraska National Forest. 24 Sep. 2014. https://ssl. panoramio.com/ photo/112124329 Fig. 30: Charles E. Bessey Nursery. From the Nursery Archives. Date Unknown. Fig. 31: Nebraska National Forest. Google Maps, 12 May 2016.
The artificial ordering of the forest was seen as a virtue and was consciously chosen. Though the reserve was meant to serve as a utilitarian source of timber, Fernow was intent on demonstrating that a viable, self-sustaining forest ecology could be established. In doing so, nature was to be mimicked in some ways, that is to say that aspects of the forest not directly applicable to the production of lumber reserve were still necessary: “Forest conditions, as we find them in the natural forest, consist in the dense growth, mixed growth, undergrowth. By so much as any one of these conditions is deficient or lacking, by so much is the forest short of the ideal.”9 But a complete mimesis was going to far: “The forest planter may learn a lesson from Nature in recognizing these [forest] conditions as desirable ones and worthy of imitation; but we will also not forget that man is wiser than Nature; that he works with an object; that he must intelligently improve on Nature’s methods to reach his end, which is the economical production of material or conditions.”10 Ultimately, Fernow recognized that the wildness of natural systems had tremendous benefit for the systems for which they were a part and that this benefit was essentially free. Therefore, it made great sense to reorder the forest in such a way as the maintain the desirable sources of wildness while making it more conducive to the social benefits to be extracted from it. Indeed, the cultivation of the forest has created entirely novel conditions of refuge, recreation, and study, affecting both local and national systems.
THE GREAT PLAINS SHELTERBELT The story of the westward expansion of Euro-American settlement could plausibly be retold as a story of inadvertent and unintentional terraforming—the mass cultivation of the Great Plains eventually leading to the dramatic dust storms and fertility collapse of the Dust Bowl.The sod-busting and relentless plowing of soils eliminated the meters-deep roots systems of the prairie grasses that existed prior to cultivation, enabling the wind to sweep top soil away to form enormous clouds of dust. While this is itself the story of the effects of an unconscious modulation, the manner by which the US government responded shows early hints of a modulatory approach as well—creating the complex system of the Great Plains Shelterbelt in a series of ‘fits and starts’ and largely from the bottomup, guided only by a loose vision and individual self-interest. The Prairie States Forestry Project was a major undertaking meant to relieve many of the environmental, social, and economical stresses faced by the Plains region during the 1930s. The bold initial vision proposed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was to build what could only be described as a mega-shelterbelt. In this initial vision, a continuous shelterbelt stretched nearly 1,500 miles from Canada to northern Texas, thickening the 99th meridian with a strip of forest hundreds of miles wide.12 While the propagation of such a dense forest was quickly declared technically infeasible, it did inspire the undertaking of an impressive bout of shelterbelt building. Elaborating upon the initial vision, a zone of 114,700 square miles across the prairies was targeted for tree planting, with large pockets selectively targeted due to anticipated viability,
primarily influenced by soil conditions.11 Though shelterbelts were and are very common features of agricultural landscapes, within the application of the project it suggested much more than the simple calming of the wind. Indeed, Paul Roberts, head of the Project spoke very intentionally of the shelterbelt as a technology with explicitly social implications: Just as the windmill to raise water to the surface, and barbed wire, first to protect crop lands and later to enclose pastures, were a part of man’s adaptation to Plains conditions, and just as crop agriculture has had to be adjusted through development of special techniques and special strains and varieties of farm crops; so forestry can and should be adapted and used as an essential economic betterment to protect
10. Ibid., 142. 11. Robert Charles Gardner, “Thechnological Forests: Engineering Nature with Tree Planting on the Great Plains, 1870-1944.” PhD Diss, Montana State University, 2013, 207. 12. Ibid., 212. 13. Paul Roberts, Plains Forester 3, no. 1 (January 1938), 1.
Fig. 32: The Great Plains Shelterbelt. By the authors, 2016.
Leeward Edge of Shelterbelt 140 130 Crop Yield
Percent of Typical
6 8 Relative Humidity
80 Evaporation 70 60 50 40
X Height of Shelterbelt
crops, livestock, and man himself from the effects of prevailing high winds; to conserve soil moisture in a region of deficient precipitation; to provide fuel, posts and other wood products in a region where they are largely lacking; and as a social benefit to add to the beauty of man’s surroundings and to his general comfort and happiness.13
In effect, the ‘applied ecology’ of the shelterbelt works to modulate the landscape in two ways, obstruction and injection. In the obstructive sense, the shelterbelts operates within climatic, geological, and agricultural systems to protect leeward fields by blocking certain elements—such as wind—and retaining others, such as soil moisture. Of course none of these effects happened evenly: the effectiveness of the belt to protect against wind wanes the farther away from the belt the crop is placed. As a result, different configurations between shelterbelt characteristics, field size, and crop vulnerabilties were developed. Yet, in nearly all cases the shelterbelts across the Great Plains were tethered to the limits of the grid units as they served. In this sense, the unit of the grid served as a conduit for a provocative vision and a clear logic for the dsitribution of the shelterbelts, but the descrepancies between its steady measure and the variant conditions of the fields hindered the farmers’ abilty appropriately couple the amount of belt to field. In addition to conditioning the field, the shelterbelts also served as linear sites of injection. The shelterbelts introduced the possibility of new habitats and ecosystems to develop alongside the increasingly and more intensively cultivated landscape. In this way, the edge of the grid serves as a marginalized area, the linear nature of with lends to the movement of different species around a greater number of fields than would be the case with more “natural” globular configurations. Fortunately, this unintended
effect resulted in a well connected and distributed network of pest control.14 While the initial vision of the shelterbelt could be considered a classic example of centralized intervention, the actual implementation of the project what predomantly driven by local actors. The federal government still maintained a strong role in providing funding and knowledge and hiring laborers to plant the trees. While this is not an insignificant commitment made by the government, there was no overall planning for how, where, and when the trees would be planted, nor did the government secure land rights for where the trees would be planted—this occured almost entirely on private property. Instead, the government promoted the project, but relied on the interest and iniative of local landowners to develop any of the belts.15 In this way an ambitious project was achievable through the aggregation of the self-interest of individuals, who became owners of the trees and were responsible for their care after they were in the ground. Overall, the project resulted in the planting of approximately 220 million trees across 30,223 individual shelterbelts.16
14. Robert Charles Gardner, “Thechnological Forests: Engineering Nature with Tree Planting on the Great Plains, 1870-1944.” PhD Diss, Montana State University, 2013, 243. 15. Ibid., 229. 16. Ibid., 238.
Fig. 33: Microclimates of the Shelterbelt. Authors, 2016. Fig. 34: The first official shelterbelt photographed in 1990. Photographer unknown. http://www. southernforests. org/resources/ publications/ the-southernperspective/ the-southernperspectiveseptember-2010/ update-from-thestates/the-no.1-shelterbeltcelebrates-75-years
-- Rem Koolhaas’s ruminations on the Manhattan Grid in Delirious New York and Superstudio’s Continuous Monument are two of the most iconic uses of Cartesian grids in recent architectural history. Both find in the seemingly-rigid armature of the grid an infrastructure for an agenda of openness—achieving dramatically different effects due to how the grids are conceptualized and deployed. Koolhaas contextualizes the grid in an ordering of the wildness of the contemporary metropolis, stating that “[t]he Grid makes the history of 41
The Grid is often rejected as rigid and unyielding, fixed and ungenerous.
Fig. 35: Plan for Riverside, Illinois. Olmsted and Vaux.
The Grid is often celebrated as a generator of diversity and vitality.
Fig. 36: City of the Captive Globe. Rem Koolhaas and Madelon Vriesendorp.
architecture and all previous lessons of urbanism irrelevant. It forces Manhattan’s builders to develop a new system of formal values, to invent strategies for the distinction of one block from another. The Grid’s two-dimensional discipline also creates undreamt-of freedom for three-dimensional anarchy. The Grid defines a new balance between control and de-control in which the city can be at the same time ordered and fluid, a metropolis of rigid chaos.” For Koolhaas, the grid is a profoundly and paradoxically generative mechanism of ordering— highly defined in some aspects and absent of definition in others. In a similar manner, Superstudio conceptualizes the grid as a platform—a continuous surface of support, an infinite extension of infrastructure. Redeploying the totalizing desire for infinite extension within modernism and then-emerging consumerist capitalism that so concerned theorists at that time, the Continuous Monument finds within the infinity of the grid a freedom of movement and expression. -- Long since shrugging off the Jeffersonian ordering imperatives of its founding, the contemporary state of the PLSS only serves to further illustrate the radical openness of the grid. Criss-crossing it with infrastructural lines and dotting it with settlements, inscribing it with mechanized irrigation and eroding it with land reserves, overlaying it with new forms of property rights and vesting it with a surprising threedimensional thickness, the contemporary inhabitants of the grid take full advantage of its current passive openness—no longer tethered to the strict social and spatial means of order and control of its inception. 44
On the other hand—and in direct contrast to the landscape’s deep-rooted association with the nostalgic images of the frontier farmstead—the Jefferson Grid today is occupied by the nation’s most artificial, measured, and mechanized landscape. This has only intensified with technological advancement—crops are particularly receptive subjects to new forms of control. Pivot irrigators embody nicely this intensification of mechanization and modulation in the Midwest. Invented after the end of WWII as a result of the great strides made in engine design during the war effort, their ability to mechanically draw water directly from an aquifer made farming viable in the arid western half of the Great Plains. Early pivot irrigators were passively calibrated: holes at the end of the arm are larger than those nearer to the pivot, since they cover more distance in the same amount of time as the more central portion of the arm. The most recent models are far more precise—monitors are placed along the arm, reading in real time the various conditions of the environment and the crops, tracking humidity, temperature, moisture, and crop health and adjusting its output in real time to match. Thus in its contemporary existence, the Jefferson Grid plays host to both an extreme openness and a deep and inventive control—at times infinitely open to new tendencies and at times intensely subject to ruthless logics of optimization. Bearing in mind the deep ambivalence of both the conceptual notion and the lived realization of the Grid, how now might architects conceive of acts of ordering in this terrain? How might designers situate themselves amid this landscape, knitting themselves into its logics in new and inventive ways? And what, in turn, might designers take away from such an engagement?
With one hand, the Grid homogenizes and flattens; with the other, it sews the seeds of new forms of life.
Fig. 37: The Continuous Monument. Superstudio.
Fig. 38: Elaborations on the Grid: Agricultural Patterns. Authors, 2016.
Fig. 39: Erosions of the Grid: Water. Authors, 2016.
Fig. 40: Erosions of the Grid: Topography. Authors, 2016.
Fig. 41: Erosions of the Grid: Linear Infrastructures. Authors, 2016.
DRAWING TOGETH ER
“[T]o work with indeterminacy requires new tools, new ways of working and ultimately requires a rethinking of our professional roles.” 1
WORKING METHOD: ‘DRAWING TOGETHER’ The design portion of GP2 was structured around an iterative, open-ended process of drawing and speculation we refer to as drawing together. A double-entendre originally coined by theorist Bruno Latour,2 “drawing together” is an approach to simultaneously mapping and intervening in complex systems. On one hand, drawing together operates as the graphical drawing of a multitude of actants and their agencies, tracing through representation the ways in which they interact and entangle to form larger systems. On the other hand, drawing together is also fundamentally a program for action: ‘drawing together’ in the sense of combining, of constructing new linkages and topologies within a network. One part analysis, one part speculation, drawing together provides a foundation from which to begin a series of architectural experiments with imperfect information. The drawings themselves in turn become tools, a working space for negotiating contingency and indeterminacy: harnessing the logics of contemporary delineation and modeling software in the service of speculation and openness.
These drawings will take two main forms: relational diagrams and objectobliques. The relational diagrams trace exchanges between the many entities at play, represented via a topological mode of drawing that prioritizes systemic connections and relationships over physical space. These relational diagrams are dialectically paired with oblique drawings (elevation-obliques, sectionobliques), which in turn place the entities into spatial relationships with one another. These oblique drawings harness the act of populating the drawing as not a finishing step, but a key component of design—with architectural form conceived through a drawn engagement with the many entities inhabiting the drawing and the space. Intentionally incomplete, both forms of drawing are designed to be iterated within, with entities, relationships, and architectural form able to be added and subtracted fluidly as intention and information change—in essence, the drawings become the playing field of an ongoing negotiation with contingency.
1. Kim Trogal and Leo Care, “A quick conversation about the theory and practice of control, authorship and creativity in architecture.” in Architecture and Indeterminacy: Field Journal, Volume 1, issue 1 (September 2007) p. 139. 2. Bruno Latour, “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (With Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk).” In Proceedings of the 2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society, 2008. 2-10.
Fig. 42: Switchgrass fields. Authors’ photo, 2015.
FOUR NEW GRIDS FOR THE GREAT PLAINS The four narratives that follow take these ideas out into the field, testing them to failure against the intense and challenging landscapes of the Great Plains. Each narrative takes on the future of a Plains landscape that has already begun to fail, singling out a key shift that is rapidly making established ways of life and inhabitation all-but-impossible. In turn, each narrative tells the story of a collective formed around an alternate mode of inhabitation—each inventively bringing human and nonhuman agents together into provisional, evolving, and open-ended Grids. Each project does so in a different way—successively building on the ones before it, moving from more familiar to more speculative as you move from project to project. As if reading from a lost sequel to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the narratives (and the grids they illuminate) each reveal a particular aspect of a larger understanding: for Calvino, the City; for us, the Grid. Four ecologies, four assemblages, four ways of drawing things together: four New Grids for the Great Plains.
Fig. 43: The New Nomads of the Great Plains
Fig. 44: Saturated Archipelago, elevation-oblique
As climate change intensified, the landscapes of the Great Plains were increasingly disrupted by both hydrological scarcity and hydrological excess: fewer, larger, storms began to cause both lengthening droughts and growing flash-floods. With flooding worsening yet demands for irrigation water continuing to rise, farmers near the many small, flood-prone rivers of the region began cultivating a new cropâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;floodwaterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;harnessing the increasing floods as a source of irrigation water by slowing and distributing the floodwater pulse.
Fig. 45: change in flood-drought pulse
The plan was a tactical retreat to the lowlands near rivers—redeploying existing grading machinery to sculpt new, saturated landscapes that divert and store floodwater. These flood-fields themselves worked within, rather than against, the hydrological logic of the flood—redrawing the Grid to follow flat-lines of topography. Unlike the centralized command-and control structure of dams, the flood-fields took on a massively-distributed relationship to control—intervening small and multiple, propagating over time to allow a multitude of differing ways of interacting with water to form. Likewise, the flood-fields slowly aggregate in a way that causes beneficial effects rather than harmful ones, as each new basin diminishes a potentially harmful ‘resource’—floodwater—that there was far too much of, instead constructing a negative feedback loop on flood intensity. Unlike conventional aquifer irrigation, the more there were, the more beneficial the result.
Fig. 46: dry uplands, saturated lowlands
Within these flood-fields one finds two types of islands: landform islands and architectural islands. As though rotating fields of crops, these island-uses are easily switched in and outâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;both locally in one flood-field, and across the system as it confronts varying conditions, desires, economies, and ecologies. Each use feeds back into and through the system in a way that supports the others without locking them together ruthlesslyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;remaining semi-autonomous yet also interlinked. The floods feed this landscape both water and nutrients, with the silt that is retained in the basins sprayed up onto the bermsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;reinforcing and continually reshaping them to changing desires and demands.
Fig. 47: ecologies of the archipelago
The landform islands are given form by redistributing the dirt moved in the regrading of the fields, shaping them into earthen berms and heavily vegetating them to shade the ponds from the hot sun. This base condition spirals outward to support a wide variety of activitiesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;fluidly blending water retention, productive landscapes, biological research, and recreation, playing them off one another to programatically â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;thickenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; the flood-fields.
Fig. 48: landform islands
Within this field of berms, a series of architectural islands host more specialized forms of inhabitation and use. The edge of each architectural island becomes a thickened wall that mediates between the hydrology of the flood-field and the architectural program withinâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;mediating interactions with water in a variety of ways.
Fig. 49: architectural islands
What results is a blue-green archipelago: departing from the rigid, centralized models of control of the High Modern era, instead working in a small, multiple, and diverse manner: an atomized approach to the grid. Building outward from the small and the many in this way lends an openness in the system: generative of a rich diversity of uses and thus pliant to change.
Fig. 50: blue-green archipelago
Fig. 51: conceptual model, Saturated Archipelago
Fig. 52: conceptual model, Saturated Archipelago
Fig. 53: Annual Siesta, perspective
Further east in the Plains, climate change was felt most through a pushing and pulling on the growing season, with spring thaw pushing earlier and earlier and fall frost later and later. In the middle of the season, though, was the biggest change: during mid-July, high temperatures started to peak above the maximum temperature that crops can handleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;effectively splitting the growing season. What took form was a new offseason in the middle of the summer, during which nothing can be grown and it was too hot to do much of anythingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;an Annual Siesta in the midsummer heat.
Fig. 54: bifurcation of the growing season
Much like farmers’ winter offseason migration to warmer climates—snowbirds, flocking to Arizona or Florida—mobile subjects opportunistically pursued thermal delight during this new offseason, seeking out and transforming spaces in the landscape with a cooling potential. Over time, the many abandoned quarries dotted across the midwest came to be repurposed by various groups—their pools of captured rainwater, cool stone, and deep, shaded cliffs enticing the thermodynamic opportunists. Likewise, their remarkably even distribution on a territorial scale, left over from the economic logics of the limestone mining industry, played nicely into a low-key, localized version of the snowbird migration—hopping in your mobile homes for a weekend or two at the swimming hole.
Fig. 55: thermodynamic opportunism
M ity, as C
On an architectural scale, the same pattern of thermodynamic opportunism often began to repeat itself. In one particular quarry, sited halfway between Liberty and Independence, the structure creates an ever-shifting mosaic of thermodynamic conditionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;playing an active roof membrane and a terraced landscape of thermal follies against one another.
aC ity ,O
Fig. 56: Liberty and Independence, KS
The roof plane floats over the quarry, running salvaged steel cables from the peak of the quarryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge to the hill in the center of the quarry, using the cables as a low-tech way to cover a large areaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;suspending a hanging, articulated surface that filters sunlight and channels and redirects wind. The surface, made of balloons of cheap, lightweight agricultural textiles, passively bloats and puckers in response to thermodynamic conditions, opening and closing its orifices to channel or reject the flow of wind and heat.
Fig. 57: dynamic roof
The ground plane terraces its way up from the cool depths of the pool at the deepest part of the mineâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;its articulated surface acting as an open platform for many, continually shifting activities: from bathing to barbecuing, from sports to tanning, from political debates to hedonistic debauchery.
Fig. 58: ground terracing
These activities engage a number of thermodynamic follies distributed throughout the landscapeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;cooled gardens, collective tables, stack-effect barbecue pits, heat-retaining lounge rocks for stargazing after the warm sun goes down, and more. The play between the logics of the roof, the ground, and the follies creates a shifting, continually changing landscape of warm and cool, wet and dry, light and dark, enclosed and open in which the thermal opportunists can roam.
Fig. 59: thermodynamic follies
Within this shifting and intensely varied field of conditions, a multitude of subjects opportunistically roam, seeking out the conditions they desire at any particular moment, coalescing briefly into shared structures—then dissolving again as desires or conditions change. This literal and figurative ‘big tent’ approach that the Siesta provides places farmers, workers, migrating species, local wildlife, and more into a kind of constant interaction. In this sense, the Siesta hints at one way of understanding the urban and the collective in the ungrounded, newly-nomadic Great Plains—namely, forms of flexible, voluntary association, rooted in shared exposure and response to ecological risk— taking this risk and transforming it into an opportunity for collectivity and delight.
Fig. 60: thermal delight
Fig. 61: conceptual model, Annual Siesta
Fig. 62: conceptual model, Annual Siesta
Fig. 63: ‘Belt-Tightening, elevation-oblique
The third narrative centers on farmers “tightening their belts”—their Shelterbelts, that is—in response to the looming threat of a second Dust Bowl. With temperatures rising and soil moisture dropping to critical thresholds, an Aridity Line formed in the dry Western highlands of the Plains and began to move eastward—marking a threshold beyond which major crops could no longer grow. Much like the original Great Plains Shelterbelt—planted in the 1930s to head off the first Dust Bowl—farmers sought to preserve precious soil moisture by lifting the wind off their fields. Just as the original ‘Belt reached the end of its life and began to fail, a new version came about, propagating just east of the the Aridity Line as it slowly crept eastward across the Plains. This new ‘Belt aggregated along and thickened the line into a newly-sheltered territory—while at the same time ‘thickening’ the idea of what the Shelterbelt can be and do, in three main ways.
Fig. 64: the aridity line
First, where the original Shelterbelt was aligned to the abstract order of the Jefferson Grid, the new belt is instead cued directly to the bioclimatic operations that it performsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; tightening the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Belts to better harness the wind shadow of the trees, objects, and devices that make it up. These realigned belts negotiate prevailing wind direction, slope, height of objects, and desired length of shadow. Over time, more and more farmers adopted the new â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Belt-planting strategies, with even hesitant holdouts spurred on by the clear crop yield benefits blowing in from neighboring plots.
Fig. 65: tightening the belts
Second, where the original Shelterbelt was more or less entirely trees, the new ‘Belts instead host a variety of different uses within their open-ended spatial, legal, and microclimatic platform—grafting them into the current monofunctional monoculture of the region—helping the farmers hedge their economic bets while also hedging their fields. Chief among these was a renewed timber industry, with its self-sustaining process of planting, tending, harvesting, and re-planting acting as the device for transformation by which the grids could be reoriented to changing conditions over longer time scales. Much like the wind-turbine land leasing model that preceded them, the Belts began to operate as a source of alternative income and sustenance—a new way to engage economies and ecologies too often written out of the landscape of the Plains.
Fig. 66: hedging the (monofunctional) homestead
Third, where the original Shelterbelt was a singular intervention, the new ‘Belts are a self-sustaining process of planting, harvesting, and reorientation—with harvesting and replanting cued to measurement and realigning, tightening and adjusting in an ongoing way. This allows space for both the Belts and farms more generally to ‘flex’ as desires and demands change, with the individual pieces able to be swapped in or out, added and subtracted, repurposed and recycled as is necessary. Eventually, in the face of sustained warming that exceeds roughly three degrees Celcius, the ‘Belt reaches the limits of its efficacy—at which even shelterbelts can’t save farmers. At this point, the grid develops a ‘back edge’ along its warmer, drier western front, transitioning into another phase in its life. Its water-harvesting devices and portions of its nomad homesteads are left behind to serve new uses in the grasslands that supercede it—hosting localized ecologies.
Fig. 67: spatio-temporal unfolding
The functions in the belt come together to form an ecologyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;with the implementations serving different, polyvalent uses throughout their lives. In this, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a play of relocation and adaptationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;with obsolescence for one device feeding into potential for others.
Fig. 68: nomad homestead
In turn, the system as a whole gains a capacity to redefine and alter itself as desires and needs changeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a reflexive form of grid.
Fig. 69: collective belts
Fig. 70: conceptual model, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Belt-Tightening
Fig. 71: conceptual model, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Belt-Tightening
Fig. 72: Dune Ranch, oblique
The Nebraska Sandhillsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the largest dune field in North Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;lay static and dormant beneath a fragile mat of grasslands for hundreds of years. With increasing temperatures due to climate change, however, the dunes began to lose their protective layer of grass and go mobile, continually whipped into new forms by the intense winds of the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a field of shifting dunes, roaming an area roughly a quarter of the size of Nebraska. The many ranchers, scientists, ecotourists, cattle, and rare species that depended on and cherished the stability of the region quickly found themselves violently uprooted, with any form of static dweling made nearly impossible by the shifting dunes.
Fig. 73: logics of the migrating dunes
Rather than try to stop the dunes, however, these actors began to find ways to work within the logics of the moving dune field—harnessing them to allow inhabitation where none could otherwise exist. Following the ranchers’ lead, these actors began go mobile—nomadically tracking fields of potential as they would appear throughout the shifting field of dunes. Key to this is water—the uniquely high water table of the Sandhills causes ponds and grasslands to form in the low areas between dunes, only a few steps away from exceptionally arid desert conditions higher up the dune. These pockets are easily depleted and drawn down, however, causing the grass to dry out and die off if groundwater irrigation is used. Instead, these collectives began to operate more like a herd of buffalo grazing—following water, moving to it, consuming an amount, then moving on before a critical threshold of depletion could be reached—allowing it to replenish in time. In this approach, the ranchers of the Sandhills began to find ways to redeploy their long and impressive history of ecological stewardship, as well as their nomadic heritage.
Fig. 74: like a herd of buffalo
The rangers take advantage of the intense moisture gradient of the dunes—their barren, sandy crests interspersed with vegetated oases where the water table pokes through to form grasslands and ponds. These groups create contingent itineraries linking these oases, drone-surveying them during the offseason and plotting a trajectory through them. Moving from one to the next to the next like buffalo, the groups consume yet do not fully deplete their stores of water and vegetation. As they go, they augment the landscape with duneherding, water-collecting, and locally-irrigating apparatuses— in effect enlarging and partially sustaining the oasis conditions. Over time, what took form within the field of dunes was a series of ‘field stations’—caches—capturing, storing, and converting resources to be used by roaming ranchers and tourists. One part port of call, the stations host the different nomadic groups as they pass through; one part refugia, the oases come to harbor rare and endangered species otherwise unable to survive in the shifting dunes—harnessing each to sustain the other.
Fig. 75: ranging
The idea of the Dune Ranch that began to take form was threefold: first, in the sense of ranching the dunes themselves— ‘herding’ them in ways that help sustain inhabitation without fixing the dunes in place; second, finding new ways to sustain ranching within the dunes; and third, dune ranch as a play on the dude ranch—creating spaces and itineraries to harness urbanites’ desires for the rugged pleasures of agro- and eco-tourism. As the system grew, the rangers began to actively play up the logic of dune movement. On one hand, they continued to ‘herd’ the dunes around the oases. In other cases, they instead chose to make a stand: letting the sand pile up against blockades of pods with sand fences stretched between them. In these cases, the barchan dune grew above its typical height, casting a longer wind-shadow—in turn, enlarging its oasis by protecting it from the scouring winds.
Fig. 76: dune ranch ecologies
The rangers soon became experts at working with the materials abundant at hand—namely, lots of sand, and lots of cattle waste captured from the cattle shelters. Using a microbially-induced biocementation process, they combine sand, urea distilled from cow urine, and bacteria grown in specially-vented pods to form an inert, easily created, and virtually free biosandstone. As blowing sand builds up against the pods and the sand fences stretched between them, adapted pivot-irrigation mechanisms disperse the urea-water-bacteria slurry to inoculate the sand, building it up and compacting it in layers—effectively 3d-printing a deep, structural buttress against the blowing sand. These pivot-printers transform the edge of the pileup of sand into a continually-growing, buttressed, free-standing wall of biosandstone. Its form, while seemingly quite baroque and expressive, results from a series of simple interactions—the placement of pods, blowing of sand, bulging of sand fences, and radii of pivot-printers—all coming together to roughly demarcate an overall curvature that resists the pressure of the moving sand. Its form is both found and made.
Fig. 77: oases
Having successfully shunted the dune aside, the biosandstone printing devices are able to move on, their work done for nowâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;roaming onward to stabilize new grassland oases. The sandstone walls they leave behind both continue to shelter the oases and host new populations of devices and forms, eventually coming to support a robust agro- and ecotourism system. Cattle manure fills biodigesters, which in turn create biogas to power hot tubs and saunas. Rare species find shelter in the lee of long-abandoned biosandstone buttresses, nesting in their crevasses, growing in their wind shadows. Tourists sled down the backs of enlarged dunes. From their towers, escapists find in the atmospheric emptiness of the high dunes a break from the hyper-stimulation of urban life, while in the lowland oases, scientists and biologists study new ways of combating desertification. Amidst the shifting landscape, metastable islands flourish for a time, then fadeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;their human- and non-human inhabitants moving on, tracking opportunity, transforming their context as they goâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in what can only be called nomadic grids.
Fig. 78: nomadic grids
Fig. 79: conceptual model, Dune Ranch
Fig. 80: conceptual model, Dune Ranch
COLLEC TIVE GRIDS These four narrative experiments come together to suggest both alternate possible futures for the Great Plains and alternate ideas of how designers might engage the complex, indeterminate, messy reality of this landscape. From the four narratives and the ‘New Grid’ that each sets up, we can begin to see the outlines of a composite idea of the more ‘open’ architectural agency that we term collective grids. Across all four projects, there is a clear engagement both upstream, opportunistically harnessing the larger systems and forces of the Plains; and downstream, setting up open systems built outward from the more-than-human collectives that each project assembles. From there, the projects begin to diverge in mechanism to study different things—with each project incorporating and building on the previous one. The four ideas that result—atomized grids, responsive grids, reflexive grids, and nomadic grids—come together to form the larger notion of collective grids. Each collective grid starts from deep within the messy and chaotic collection of people, animals, machines, climatic patterns, cultural beliefs, and so on that exist in the world—drawing them together; finding in them a mode of working amid a multitude of competing entities. Working in this way allows us to understand architecture as something that is alive in time, not fixed and static; that is open and heterogeneous, not closed and pristine; that celebrates messiness and divergence, not suppresses it as disruptive. In short: an architecture at ease with an open-ended and ongoing becoming.
Fig. 81: Collective Grids, capriccio
Fig. 82: presentation photos
END MAT T ER
Fig. 83: presentation photos
Fig. 84: presentation photos
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