subsurface LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE CAL POLY POMONA 2011: ISSUE FOUR
Entropy is a measure of: exchange. uncertainty. disorder. natural decay. unavailable energy. We are fascinated by things falling apart. And we seem to be reaching a point, as a global society, where we can visualize an end. We are struggling with sustainability—the impossibility… but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to make better systems, even if they’re not closed loops. Solar panels and green roofs are not going to save us. Is it ok for things to unravel… don’t we all ourselves? What is more human? We’re just blips on the face of the planet. We’re fucked. Deal with it. Is this ultimately constructive? We came here to save the world, but that isn’t going to happen… so what will?
subsurface: Is motivated by inspirational work; Discusses emerging trends and technologies; Responds to contemporary theories and opinions; Seeks to expand the current definitions of Landscape Architecture; Encourages questions and debate within and outside of the Cal Poly community; Examines multiple ethics, including: design, conservation, social justice, capitalism, and more; and Considers how Landscape Architects communicate meaning through the construction of our built environments.
Entropy George Kutnar + Trisha Lam
Hill to Whole Jonathan Stalvey
Planning Disorder Jenna Leathers
Walking on Water Michael Plansky
The American Dream Gina Rose-Bushey McNulty
Modern Artifact Eric Haley
Patterns of Dross Jana Perser
Of Entropy + Anger Anonymous
True Grid Tiernan Doyle
Hopeful Subversion Jorge Arredondo
Un/Control/able Matthew Geldin
Dirty Dancing Shiva Ashanti Smalls
Electricity Toshiki Nakamura
Slab City George Kutnar
The Brick Jorge Arredondo
Global Warming, Snails + Agents of change John Kosta
Whiteout Elizabeth Gallardo
ImPermanence Jonathan Austin
Moment of Life Katya Khankhalaeva + Sina Yosefi
Image By Ryan McNulty
George Kutnar + Trisha Lam
S isolated systems (S) tend toward disorder (D). entropy (e) is a measure of this disorder.
Planning Disorder Jenna Leathers Photographs by Ryan McNulty
As highways continue to expand and suburban growth eats up the landscape, it is difficult to imagine what will be left of the natural world in 100 years. Programmed to consume and overtake, the rate at which our population is manifesting Garrett Hardin’s tragedy of the commons is awe-inspiring. While urban planners and designers talk of smart growth and transit-oriented development, horizontal expansion ensues, furthering our entropic journey towards a homogeneous landscape. Increasingly lacking in variation, the suburban zip code may differ, but the scenery does not. This anthropogenic movement towards homogeneity can be correlated with the property of entropy, a traditionally scientific principle found in the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy is often difficult to comprehend in a social context because of its association with disorderliness and homogeneity. Inherently we believe that these two ideas are extremely different, but in the case of entropy, homogeneity is equated with “perfect internal disorder.” A common analogy to exemplify this juxtaposition is a closed, crowded room in which everyone is talking at once. In an attempt to talk louder, people exert more energy and volume to speak
above one another, resulting in a complex, indistinguishable “white noise”. While some believe this scientific law is proof that there is in fact a foreseeable end to the world as we know it, I find the prospect of its manifestation in the built environment equally horrifying. Artist Robert Smithson was very preoccupied with the concept of entropy in art, architecture and landscape. Smithson frequently referred to urban sprawl as the ‘slurbs’, and such housing developments as architectural contributors to entropy. ‘White noise’ can be found in developments that require great amounts of energy and resources to build, only to result in sterile, bland noplaces. On a local scale, we see the progression of this entropic homogeneity in new developments’ ready-made design standards; wide, pedestrian unfriendly arterials connecting each gated community to strip malls housing the same, predictable big-box retail chains. On a larger scale, this architecture represents the dull complexity increasingly found in built environments across the United States. As the built landscape gradually envelops the natural one, there are less and less “in between” spaces.
Entropy is often difficult to comprehend in a social context because of its association with disorderliness and homogeneity. Inherently we believe that these two ideas are extremely different, but in the case of entropy, homogeneity is equated with “perfect internal disorder.” 2
‘White noise’ can be found in developments that require great amounts of energy and resources to build, only to result in sterile, bland no-places. Aligning with the idea of social entropy, the effect of man leveling the earth is a less diverse, more evenly distributed system, devoid of uncertainty and variation. The same entropic phenomenon can be found in many of our city’s urban cores. The blight and degeneration of many downtown historic districts present a very different façade than that of the shiny, suburban strip mall, but these buildings are simply in a different phase of their entropic journey. Once full of vibrancy and bustling with energy, these remarkable buildings are frequently falling victim to the common development practice of leveling and paving over history.
The concept of entropy conveys ideas of disorganization, chaos and destruction. And while the quaint suburban setting hardly gives
rise to this image, all one has to do is imagine what will happen when we no longer have the energy and resources to support this sprawlwhen gas is too expensive to commute to work, and a lack of public transportation leaves us stranded. Yet we are surprised, even offended by the implications of entropy, and are relying on the fact that someone else will make the changes and sacrifices needed to re-route this entropic course we have set in motion. As part of the next generation’s workforce and an urban planning student, I am supposedly being trained to mitigate the environmental mess that those before me have created. However in realizing just how vast and comprehensive this mess really is, I am a bit skeptical. The looming question remains: How exactly does one change the learned behavior of billions?
Gina Rose-Bushey McNulty
Patterns of Dross Jana Perser
Dross is an inevitable outcome of growth. Every system that lives and grows produces waste, and cities are no exception. From their inception through various cycles of expansion, transition, and decline, built communities produce places that may be considered their dross (Berger 2006). This dross may be obvious blight, or it may be more subtle liminal spaces. An entire block may be a dross space, or the dross may be found as fragments, the interstitial spaces nestled between productive places.
“Drosscape” is essentially a new way of thinking about an old problem. The drosscape, or waste landscape, is composed of three primary components: actual waste; wasted places (examples include abandoned or contaminated sites); and wasteful places (such as oversized parking lots, duplicate big-box retail venues, etc.) The contemporary waste landscape emerges from two processes: rapid horizontal urbanization (sprawl); and/or the ending of an economic and production regime (Berger 2006). Countless cities across the United States and around the globe are now finding themselves in a state of transition. As their economies are changing, so are their physical compositions and the use of their spaces. Many communities, especially in large metropolises or bordering productive farmland, are finding they simply no longer have the space or other resources to continue outward expansion. Yet there are many
needs—both social and ecological—that urgently need to be accommodated. Communities across the country are starting to look at infill development and urban design paradigms such as New Urbanism and Smart Growth to counteract the trend of outward expansion, by creating more compact, walkable, and transit-oriented developments (Smart Growth Network 2011). But where does a community start? As a first step, drosscapes can be identified as opportunities for communities to integrate their wasteful spaces in a beneficial manner, and to highlight areas for infill instead of sprawl. They may then turn to the principles of Smart Growth, New Urbanism, or whatever urban design paradigm they choose to direct the design of those spaces. At right are results from a cursory study of some dross spaces in two cities, Detroit and Los Angeles. Examining these patterns not only reveals potential opportunities, but also raises questions for further study about the phenomena that have lead to their creation. Berger, Alan. 2006. Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Smart Growth Network 2011. “Why Smart Growth.” http://www.smartgrowth.orh/why.php accessed March 21, 2011.
Detroit Civic Center Dross Spaces = 5% of study area
Los Angeles Civic Center Dross Spaces = 16% of study area
Detroit Industrial Area Dross Spaces = 75% of study area
Los Angeles Industrial Area Dross Spaces = 23% of study area Dross Spaces Vacant Lots Parking Lots Alleys
6 Detroit Residential Neighborhood Dross Spaces = 54% of study area
Los Angeles Residential Neighborhood Dross Spaces = 3% of study area
True Grid An Ecosystem of City Planning Tiernan Doyle
I have a question. Do you ever think about grids?
Grids have been used in city planning all over the world for thousands of years. The origins of the form are still a mystery.
I watch my shoes moving through city streets. They become linear, walking in right angles, marching onto corners, turning rigidly, abruptly, at each intersection. Sometimes my feet rebel and think about desire lines, think about propelling me like paddles on a pinball machine in random bouncing zig-zags of circulation. I can move off the grid, cut through stores or alleys, but outside the streets remain perpendicular. Rigid, hard surfaced, they now hide our utilities, creating a massive barrier between us and waste products, between humans and water, power, and gas supplies. The elements which we draw from in order to manufacture the most basic necessities of life are closed off from us by thick layers of gridded asphalt and cement. I have another question: Should the grid be there?
Our infrastructure is aging. It canâ€™t keep up with demands of population growth or its own weight. Bridges collapse, power outages blind cities, city governments determine that water will no longer be purified. The decision to blanket our utilities with pavement forever changed the way we perceive the grid, making it a necessary brand on the landscape and codifying the behaviors of urban life. It has separated us from understanding the volume of our impact on the land. With this horizontal modesty panel in place, we visualize our cities pressing skyward, ignoring the impacts of the utility lines that rush beneath us.
On the other hand, the grid provides us with easy flow and passage for both humans and utilities. In Panama City’s Chinatown, the streets are not laid out in a full grid. Buildings block what would be access to the ocean. This means not only decreased amenities, but that pollution from cars and houses pools inside the neighborhood without mitigation from ocean breezes, causing asthma and increased cancer rates. While we can clearly see the community’s impact on the environment, this awareness becomes secondary when health and livelihood are being negatively impacted. So is the grid good or bad? Why is it even there?
have been random. The idea of straight lines as an organizational method is an immensely powerful one, built into the language of the Greeks before it became Greek, and still extant in English today. The Indo European word for king is from the root *reg-, which gives us the etymologies for Tyrannosaurus rex and regal. The same word stem, however, literally means to straighten or direct, as in regiment or rectify. We preserve this same distinction in our pair of words ruler (king) and ruler (drafting tool). It is this confluence of definitions, the node of connection between the two that truly gives meaning to the grid. The one who has power is the one who holds the city upright, and directs it to be built along straight, perpendicular lines. By allowing all citizens to access their own part of the grid, Hippodamus divorced this power from a single figure, and imparted it to each and every one of them.
The rigid geometry of urban streets encoded ideals of justice, intelligence and artistry into the DNA of the city.
Most of the rampant perpendicularity in the United States springs from Thomas Jefferson. His success in passing the Land Ordinance of 1785 meant that the grid and its surveyors advanced inexorably outward from thirteen freshly unionized states into land newly acquired and mainly unmapped to subdue every ‘remarkable and permanent thing’ with their lines. (Thomson, Land Ordinance of 1785) Each theoretical township was allotted a six mile by six mile area, numbered, further subdivided into one mile by one mile plots, and thousands of capitalistic pioneers marched out in anticipation of achieving a manifestly square destiny. Jefferson was drawing on ancient precedents for his city planning. Our grid jumps back in time to the Romans, to the Greeks, to beyond history, and there it was an entirely different matter. One influential city planning effort took place in ancient Miletus, where a Greek philosopher named Hippodamus envisioned the grid as a way to build a completely egalitarian society. He divided the city into tripartite layers based on occupation, land usage, and classes of laws (Cahill, 2002). Hippodamus’ use of the grid meant that though the city was divided into specialized sections, each neighborhood existed in parallel and equivalent forms. Linear roadway construction abolished hierarchy in both social organization and spatial conception. The grid formation of the roadways represented the new society in physical form: the rigid geometry of urban streets encoded ideals of justice, intelligence, and artistry into the DNA of the city. The grid itself became manifest philosophy, shaping the land on which it was placed into a visible system of equality. Hippodamus’ choice of a grid pattern may seem strange for a city divided into threes, but it cannot
Are you thinking about grids now? I hope so, because I have a suggestion. Let’s reclaim the meaning of the grid. Let’s take the giant staking plan that covers our city and know that it is the skeleton for establishing and understanding an entire urban ecosystem. All parts of the city are connected to one another. If one suffers, so does another. Know this. Use it to design the segments and squares of the grid into a connected fabric, and we can begin to envision a new instantiation of the grid. One that will make equality manifest. One that will interface between urban and wild spaces. One that will pull us away from reiterating urban sprawl and let us fill each cell of our grid with the meaning and richness of community.
Thomson, Charles. “Land Ordinance of 1785” Our Landed Heritage: The Public Domain, 1776-1936. Robbins, Roy, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1942 pp. 3-19. Cahill, Nicholas. Household and city organization at Olynthus Yale: Yale University Press, 2002.
UN/ CONTROL/ ABLE Does th
e city c ontrol
Do we value buildings and objects as sacred things or can they just be a means to encourage the exchange of experiences and ideas? 9
us or d
o we co
I pose the question because we have to decide as designers, as a society, what level of control we want to impose upon ourselves in our urban environment. I propose that as urban users, as human beings, we need to hold our opportunities for impromptu experience as our highest goal. Do we value buildings and objects as sacred things or can they just be a means to encourage the exchange of experiences and ideas? This is a call for a more open, less restricted urban form. Letâ€™s design for durability, higher performance, and unrestricted activity in public spaces. Design better, design less, make more. Beauty in chaos. Cities, municipalities have created hierarchies of appropriate behavior. On some levels, this is essential to the operation of modern life-- we have to be able to rely, to some degree, on the realm of possibilities of the actions of others. We can know, for example, with a fairly high level of certainty, that pedestrians wonâ€™t walk onto freeways. But when confronted with new typologies of activity, we have a seemingly natural aversion to them. Skateboarding, postering, graffiti: these are the quintessential contemporary issues in street use restrictions of the last decade or more. Does policy and policing work to mitigate these activities within the landscape? Clearly not. Kids still skate in strip mall parking lots, paint and posters still
blanket buildings and city walls. This is not an epidemic to mitigate, but an exuberant expression to embrace. By criminalizing the act, we condemn our streets to crime scenes, when they could be art galleries. Those that have lived in a city know the richness of the environment is in the improvisation. The freedom for interwoven and extemporaneous experiences is what makes the city a grand place to live. To be alive. Seeing a friend on the bus, walking by a bar and hearing an excellent band, eating lunch on a park bench... is the opportunity for coming upon new vibrant and evocative public art or witnessing the percussive dance of a skateboarder not threads in this fabric? James Cornerâ€™s High Line is arguably the most famous contemporary landscape architecture project in the country. In spite of significant backlash and hesitation, the designers took a vacant piece of infrastructure and repurposed it into a hugely successful park. Though the park does have use restrictions, by readdressing and shifting our impressions of what is both possible and appropriate in the urban landscape, we can create exciting and inspiring forms for new recreation and expression. The proliferation of parkour, the success of public events like (Park)ing, Critical Mass,
Flexible spaces allow more opportunities for social engagement. Public events shift common uses of the street. Unconventional use of a conventional space.
Traces of use. Afterthoughts to restrict activities. Is this design? CicLAvia and Cinespia in LA, Summer Streets in New York, Movies in the Park in Chicago, and the pranks of organizations like Improv Everywhere prove the greater desire for unconventional experiences in conventional spaces. The surge in urban homesteading, the burgeoning of gardens in city medians, the eagerness to farm in vacant lots are further examples of the need for an open framework that allows for spirited nontraditional uses. It is through these activities that we experience those enriching, coveted moments of transcendence. And yet we continue to fight against these inspiringly creative and propulsively engaging activities. Little metal brackets are taking over public spaces-- sometimes even cutesy metal doohickies shaped, ridiculously, like starfish. Just to stop skateboarding in public space. Is this good design or a decorative afterthought to protect our egos as designers? I propose a change in values. If we feel sensitive about expensive and ornate materials or objects in the landscape, reserve them for truly restricted places, reserved areas, maybe even indoors.
Marks will be left. Seat walls will crack. Art will fade. These are records of the magnificent patterns of use. Clues and cues for the operation and enjoyment of the urban landscape. Layers and layers of urban animal tracks. There is a chaotic splendor in this. Things fall apart, and that is alright. It has to be, because it is the tendency of the whole universe. It is painful, but we must embrace the temporal. We like to think of it as permanent, but the built environment is in constant flux. Buildings, infrastructure, vegetation: it all comes and goes. The city is an evolving organism shaped and formed by us, therefore we need to allow for the open use of space to better adapt the environment to our needs. Is a stucco wall so sacred that it cannot also function as a canvas? Is backyard beekeeping really a threat to health and safety? Do we want to litter our public space with proscriptive doodads? Design less, allow more. Reclaim your city.
WHITEOUT Elizabeth Gallardo Ruins in the desert evoke old world mythology while reminding us of the ever present processes of decay. In Zzyzx, California, scale and form are recontextualized by the Mojave Desert and take on a character framed by both the human intention and the ancient forces of nature. Outdoor and indoor spaces become indiscernible once human maintenance has fallen away and we see the processes of nature progress.
THE WALLS OF SPECIFICATION MUST CRUMBLE. OUR ECLECTIC COLORS HAVE FADED - REPLACED BY A SCHEME, MONOTONY, A CRY FOR HELP. IT'S TIME FOR UNITY AMONG DISCIPLINES. NO ROOM FOR EGOS, NO ROOM FOR CRYING, THE SINGULAR PERSPECTIVE IS DYING.
recognizing and accepting an ephemeral existence Jonathan Austin
Our lack of connection to the living world needs to be made visible. We can no longer expect that we can control our environments ‘forever’. 22 17
All too often we walk through our environments unaware of their ever changing and degrading states. It is with no remorse that I write this. We need a certain level of predictability to survive our modern lives. Our need for speed and focus on the goal at hand is important and this focus requires a stale, sterile and seemingly permanent state. Stable, understood, and unchanging built environments facilitate our activities, but they also allow us to detach and become unaware and ignorant of the paradoxical and contradictory natural processes around us. Our lack of connection to the living world needs to be made visible. We can no longer expect that we can control our environments “forever”. This control of the environment is personified in the work of Ed Burtynsky, a recent TED award winner, who uses epic photo-portraits of the industrial ravaged environment to
allow his viewer to see what humans have been doing to the landscape over time. These ravaged vistas invoke introspection into our actions and their long-term effects on the natural environment. Burtynsky demands we open our eyes. Awareness of our ability to inflict striking change should incite action toward positive choices for our future environments. Michael Heizer’s seminal earthwork Double Negative, in Overton, Nevada (1969), is a conscious display of this ability to make physical change. As with Burtynsky’s photographs, one is struck by its sheer scale and the character of its ever-eroding surface. This work is intentionally engaged in a long geological time scale and is not to be understood in one second or one hour but in days, months and years. This slow erosion is integral to the work’s intent to engage in
a dialog with both environment and viewer. One slows down when entering it, not quite to a geological pace, but perhaps a bit closer to a pace of this specific landscape. Heizer gives us an opportunity to enter a new context; to compare ourselves with a cross-section of a geological timeline. The permanence we desire in our environments also extends to our own bodies. The ultimate expression of human preservation is exemplified in the memorial park typology - a manufactured landscape designed to represent forever. But this is ultimately a fallacy, a contrivance of another land, and it is explicitly unsustainable. Green burial is a recent movement away from the practice of traditional embalming, casket and tombstone, emphasizing instead a greater connection to the process of death and to
the land. This is of course how many of our ancestors where buried for thousands of years. Forever Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, California, works with loss and decay, strongly advocating a connection to the spirit of a loved one as well as what becomes of the body. They encourage a plain pine box or wrapping a loved one in a shroud and placing them directly into the earth. The only marker is memory and a GPS location, an approach that seems to carry deeper experiential meaning. Our bodies do not last, landscapes change, and people remember, or not. Awareness must be cultivated and cultured. We need to nurture art and landscapes that direct us to realize, question and have reactions to the world we live in. www.ted.com/speakers/edward_burtynsky.html doublenegative.tarasen.net/double_negative.html www.foreverfernwood.com/
Awareness of our ability to inflict striking change should incite action toward positive choices for our future environments. 18
HILL to Very often we take for granted the dynamic constructed landscapes of mines. These mines are highly performative and offer unique possibilities that transcend their conventional use. The extraction of raw material allows for the evolution of a creative process that not only supports and restores but creates better performing systems. Are these landscapes destructed or are they deconstructed? Are they abandoned or are they dismantled? Driving east on the 60 freeway in Riverside, California, there is little notice taken of the drill and blast mining operation until less than a mile from the Pyrite exit. From the exit looking north into the Jurupa Mountains there is a clear view of the Stone Valley mining operation. Mining has long had negative impacts on the environment such as habitat destruction, ground water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, waste creation, and loss of animal species. On the Stone Valley website they talk about stewardship: “We have been entrusted with people, resources, and land that require our respect and care. In this spirit, we go above and beyond in our reclamation efforts to ensure that we leave the land better than we found it.” The region that Stone Valley is mining has been mined since the 1940’s and
has seen its share of changes in oversight with stewardship beliefs and techniques that have been far from respectful or preserving of the environment. Stone Valley is employing mining techniques that differ from other local mining operations. These techniques allow for habitat and vegetation restoration through processes like creating tiers and cliffs for hawks and other birds to build nests and to perch upon for hunting prey. This differs from other mining operations that leave the site with a sheer unvegetated cliff and no habitat restoration. Besides having abundant plant and animal life, Stone Valley’s mine is rich in granite. The raw materials extracted here are used in the production, maintenance, and installation of many things we learn to design as landscape architecture students. The hillsides are drilled and blasted in different patterns and configurations which allow for many different sizes of granite to be produced. The different sizes of material help support designs with decomposed granite pathways, aggregate base for foundations, granite dust for concrete mixes,
and rip rap for drainage and breakwaters. Without this raw material we would have to either find another resource to use in its place or not design infrastructure that uses granite. The Stone Valley mine is scheduled to produce 500,000 tons of granite material a year and has been estimated to have 7-8 million tons remaining. This means that the mine will be in operation for about 14 years. The city of Riverside has zoned this land for industrial use when all mining operations cease. “The site lends itself well to industrial…but ultimately mines should be considered on a case-by-case scenario. Ultimately the society should decide what the best use for reclaiming the land should be,” Stephen Hart, VP Operations. This site has a unique restriction to its future usage and may not necessarily fall into the same category as other mined sites. It is adjacent to the United States’ second largest superfund site, the Stringfellow Acid Pits. Putting a park, a school, or any open public space in the surrounding area might lead to public health hazards or other public safety
issues. Since the site has this unique constraint we might be forced to restrict its future use. Not all mining operations have these same restrictions though, and many have the potential to be restored and/or reused with different performative advantages. Sites without such complicated health and safety risks can be zoned as residential, public space, or any other community need. There is no doubt a need for extraction of raw materials like granite in order to compose larger, more diverse, and better performing landscapes beyond the mined region, but the fact remains that there is no single solution or obvious use for post-mined sites. Maybe the extraction of raw materials and destruction of a naturally performing landscape is necessary to create a better performing, more diverse whole. Embracing this important industry and respecting the land form that is created after raw material is extracted begins to clarify the land’s true potential. The mined site can be thought of as being forfeited, abandoned, and destroyed or it can be considered as being deconstructed, dismantled, and reassembled so that we can better organize and re-establish its value and importance for the greater good of the society and the landscape as a whole.
Walking On Water Michael Plansky Safety Absorbs water, reduces puddles, hydroplaning and tire spray, textured surface provides pedestrian traction.
Happy Trees and Shrubs Less need for irrigation, roots grow horizontally, not vertically, and don’t bulge the pavement.
Traffic Calming Change in texture signals cars to slow down, promotes pedestrian dominance.
Slopes No need for complicated engineering and drainage plans.
Low Cost 21
Eliminates need for drainage vaults, sewer tie-ins, retention ponds and piping.
Changing the Status Flow
Infographics by Meagan Yellott The manner in which we drain and divert water from rain events has wide relevance in our expanding concrete jungles as non-point source pollution, which is hard for authorities to regulate under the National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES), a subset of the Clean Water Act. The idea that water sheeting over impervious surfaces picks up all kinds of toxic stuff; a gallimaufry of sediment, heavy metals, toxins, chemicals, hormones and ‘who knows what’ concentrating in drain vaults and underground pipes, slips the bounds of our quotidian mindset. In southern California it can be easy to dismiss the importance of stormwater management because we tend to think of rain events as annoying anomalies in our idyllic balmy climate, and even expect the systems to rush off the evidence, out of sight, as fast as possible. It is quite ironic that a population almost entirely dependent on imported water sees rainwater as a nuisance and not a resource. Perspectives are changing, slowly. Unfortunately, only today’s severe economic doldrums, with no end in sight under our current paradigms, seem to steer us towards viable alternatives. There are many solutions now being explored that slow the cycle of a scarce resource to our best advantage instead of letting it collect and concentrate the toxic castoffs of our consumptive waste. Those whose livelihoods and standards of living depend on prevailing business practices are reluctant to loosen their grip on the status quo for fear that something different is a threat. Pervious concrete represents such a threat today, mostly because it is so misunderstood. Because concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world today, targeting this alternative construction technique is an effective way to approach sustainable design goals. Hopefully the icons illustrating the qualities of pervious concrete and its benefits will whet your appetite to design with an odd looking material that looks like Rice Krispies treats. Pervious concrete can go by many names, but
the technique and materials remain the same; permeable concrete, porous concrete, enhanced porosity concrete, no-fines concrete and others, are all equivalent. They all come from the same ingredients as conventional, impervious concrete, except there are no fines in the mixture. The fines (sand) are what fill the voids between the larger coarse aggregate (gravel) and makes the concrete impenetrable. Properly executed, a pervious concrete installation leaves 18-25 percent void space within its volume. Like conventional concrete, the cement and aggregate bind together in a chemical reaction when water is added. Pervious concrete also cures in the same manner, reaching 90% of its final strength in about 3 weeks, but continuing to strengthen for decades in a process called carbonation; the conversion of calcium hydroxide in the concrete into calcium carbonate from the absorption of CO2. Given this continuous transformation we’re not exactly dealing with a static material. As a system, our vast expanses of impervious paving wastes water, prevents recharge, concentrates untreated pollutants and heats up our urban environments. Pervious concrete is a way to restore and shape natural and cultural processes in our urban environments with the design of parking lots, driveways, service roads, walkways and gutters. Despite all of the advantages of pervious concrete described in the margins, it is still slow to take hold. The obstacles to overcome are aesthetic perceptions (it’s ugly); risky installation (requires new skill set; contractor expertise, speed); lack of cooperation by batch plants (unfamiliar with mixing process); hesitant designers (don’t want to stray from their ‘standard of care’ comfort zone); and just the fear of something different. All of these are readily surmountable. A recent visit to Santa Barbara to meet Owen Dell, a landscape architect committed to sustainable design and communities, helped reinforce my belief that pervious concrete is the
way to go. His home, on an attractive residential boulevard along the coastal bluffs, is a model of how to design the land around a residence to maximize production and restoration. He had a pervious concrete driveway installed in 2003, the first residential application in California. His role as guinea pig helped spark a progressive contractor to learn how to coordinate with a local batch plant to make the project successful. Today, after eight years of use, the driveway is in perfect condition and performing well. Mr. Dell vacuums out the fines every two years, but believes that this level of maintenance is not necessary. Projects like this are a great example of how to overcome misunderstandings about pervious concrete. As more people become familiar with it, more projects will be commissioned, contractors will learn the trade, batch plants will accommodate the contractors and economies of scale will lower the already competitive costs.
Heat Island Effect Naturally light color reflects heat, void spaces circulate air & allow coolness from below to pass through.
program for contractors. A phone interview with Mr. Akers revealed the steps that the city of Ontario, CA has taken to install pervious concrete parking lots and gutters. The municipality is sold on the construction technique and is looking to replace more aging infrastructure with pervious concrete. Akers has found the most success in swaying perceptions by engaging agency officials with ongoing one-on-one dialogue about the true nature of pervious concrete and its benefits. He has a clear take on the process of setting the example: “Once these elements come together in a critical mass and the first projects are completed successfully, then more projects appear, sometimes with one or more of the original players, but often with a completely new cast. It just takes time and a leap of faith to try something new. For me as a civil engineer, the idea of putting water under my pavement section was contrary to everything I had been taught in
As a system, our vast expanses of impervious paving wastes water, prevents recharge, concentrates untreated pollutants and heats up our urban environments.
Carrera Construction, based in Watsonville, does pervious concrete projects all over California and is leading the way to shatter misconceptions of how the material can perform. Steve Carrera quit his job as a fireman to expand his company full time, and business is booming as he has established his own techniques and designed his own equipment. His crew can lay 12,000 square feet a day, showing that large scale projects are achievable and reliable. He has developed innovative techniques for applying color and smoothing the surface without losing porosity. In the state of the industry today established contractors like Carrera view competition as a rising tide that will raise all boats, and are often open to contributing to training programs. David Akers is Senior Engineer and public relations voice of pervious concrete for the California Nevada Cement Association. In 2007, he began a training and certification
Lighting Light color requires less night lighting, results in energy savings.
Maintenance Properly sited and designed, minimal to no maintenance is required.
Can be stained to suit aesthetic goals of project.
pavement design. But after studying the concept, pervious concrete is a rational concept.” Impervious concrete pavements form a ubiquitous layer that has separated the natural systems of air, water and land from one another while bringing on unsustainable environmental decay and loss of resources. The spread of pervious concrete could mark a reorganization of entropic processes in California’s urban areas by unifying natural elements onsite with a functional, breathing material. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you could walk on water, every day, wherever you go? As future landscape architects we play an essential role in making this happen. As designers we have the opportunity to change aesthetic perceptions and promote the Rice Krispies look as the new, hip, organic wave of the future. Online resources: perviousconcretecalifornia.com | owendell.com | cncpc.org
Incentives Qualifies for Green Building and LID credits, tax incentives, and grants.
Standards Meets NPDES & EPA regulations.
Natural processes of decay and decomposition affect human creations despite our greatest efforts to control them. Many national and state parks in the U.S. feature some sort of post-contact American artifact. Relic mines, ghost towns, military forts and shipwrecks join the old growth forests and exposed hillsides that lie directly in the path of the same storms, solar radiation, and gravity. Natural forces break down and erode everything into fragments of future sediment layers on the ocean floor. Everyday we are building our own geology, a stratum full of altered petroleum, heavy metals and carbon.
of entropy & anger
anonymous photographs by meagan yellott
We have barely begun to see it. Our planet is just warming up. Just wait and see what she is capable of. We don’t need to save the planet; Earth will be fine. We need to save ourselves. Quiz: What country recently came out with the most progressive environmental management plan of our time? China. Yes, I was surprised, too. I just spent an hour listening to NPR’s discussion of Earth Day and what it means in 2011. Last night I watched about 20 minutes of Mike Wallace’s historic interview with Ayn Rand in 1959. I thought her
beady little eyes were rather intriguing and wondered what on Earth had made her so angry. I also had to squint through Mike’s cigarette smoke and mused that some of it might be coming out of his ears. What I heard on the NPR talk show today was a not-sonew problem, a tone of voice problem. Yes, I’m borrowing from a Jerry Seinfeld bit about his marriage, but I think the analogy holds that our relationship with Earth is in need of some kind of third party intervention. What bothered me as a long-time tree hugger, (yes, I have literally hugged trees,) was the sound of impatience and, in some cases, annoyance at where our environmental policies have gotten us. Fortunately, one of the guest speakers said that at the end of the day there is a lot to be hopeful for. I concur. The other day I was driving around God’s paved Earth, and Rush Limbaugh was railing against Obama. It’s quite possible that anger can be a strangely enjoyable emotion, especially in the safety of our shiny metal boxes. Rush always puts me in the zone. I dodge lowered and tinted
Vietnamese street racers much more handily when I’m in a full emotional froth. Talk about entropy. Just try going the speed limit on the 10 freeway at 8 a.m. And now I will get to my ever-so-fine point. I don’t agree with Ayn or old Rush, but I respect them. They have had more successful careers than I have, at least to this point – alas, I’m still chipping away at my first million. I started seeing the effects of anger in our society a long time ago, and we really need to face it. On the one hand, anger can be a great call to action, especially when we are young. However, the fact that we nurse it and feed it and get off on it, “ahem”, needs to stop. I think most of you know this already, but I just wanted to put it out there … again. Maybe I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, I don’t know. Call me “selfish.” One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from the founder of Earth First, Dave Johnson. He said the only thing we lack in our society is more humor and more
humility. Surprisingly, that resonates with the beliefs of some of my most religious relatives. I would say “friends and relatives,” but none of my friends are religious. On the topic of favorite quotes, Ambrose Bierce defined the word Conservative as “a statesman who is particularly enamored of existing evils, in contrast with the Liberal, who wants to replace them with new ones.” I like it because it’s so old; it was written in the midtwenties. Unfortunately, Ambrose disappeared into Mexico and was never seen again. Maybe he was angry too. I suppose an amendment to my “point,” as stated above, would be that each of us should cherish what inspires us, whether it’s “Farenheit 911” by Micheal Moore or “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent. Our varying contributions should amount to a greater collective wisdom, not tear us apart. Maybe I should write a song. No, that’s a bad idea. In other news, the international situation is desperate.
Dirty Dancing Shiva Joel Salatin and the Benefits of Extra-Legality Ashanti Smalls Lately my desk has been garnering more attention from my classmates and other visitors who have spotted a certain book sitting on the Borco next to my laptop: Everything I Want to Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front. The title of Joel Salatin’s book is shocking and the personal stories within are as well. The name may be familiar to some; he has written articles on farming and the natural-food movement, but his name recognition among many foodies and environmentalists derives from a cameo appearance in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, during which Salatin famously refused to send grass-fed beef beyond a 400-mile radius from his farm.
destruction can be seen as avenues to progress. Like the Hindu deity Shiva, who creates anew through destruction, Joel Salatin presents compelling ideas for ways to dismantle the shroud of regulation that stifles the agricultural production subsidies. He proposes to eliminate grants and tax concessions to private business; allow anyone to grow, process, and deliver any food directly to the end user; establish numeric bacterial thresholds for food safety evaluation; promote bioregional, local communitybased business; and create a fundamentally restructured food production, processing, and marketing system.
In Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, Salatin waxes long and sometimes eloquently about the constriction that the Federal Department of Agriculture, Health Departments, and other regulatory agencies place upon him and other small scale farmers to comply with existing food standards. His complaint: current regulation systematically favors large commercial farm operations because mimicking industrial procedure and the dearth of fixed numeric thresholds for food safety results in large costs for smaller entities. Some recurring themes within the book are bureaucratic arbitrariness, privileging uniformity over innovation, and technocratic-industrial prejudice.
As he himself asserts, Salatin is a complex character. The self-proclaimed “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist” is equally critical of conservative and liberal politics of intellectual inconsistency and rigidity. My own politics find some of his asides curious and his libertarian approach can provoke some radical pronouncements, but the overall strength of his argument is compelling and reinforced through the litany of events within his book. The experience of Joel Salatin is important not just because it reveals the arthritic condition of food safety regulation. It is a cautionary message for all of us to nurture innovation and creativity through our careers, and resist the inertia of complacency that has allowed regulation in other industries to inhibit experimentation.
Salatin uses many techniques at Polyface Farm that achieve desired food quality standards without the economic commitment associated with industrial production. Here, decay and
Salatin, Joel. 2007. Everything I want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front. Swoope, VA: Polyface, Inc.
Capricious Bureaucracy “The point is what I think. And I think you don’t comply with the sanitary and unadulterated standard.”
Privileging Uniformity over Innovation “You see, the government can never be creative, because by definition it must satisfy 51 percent of the population. And the majority is never on the cutting edge of innovation.”
TechnocraticIndustrial Prejudice “Only the solution that pours money into the industrial sector is acceptable.”
slab city e a s t j e s u s
a photographic recollection by george kutnar
I saw Donnie in the distance with a gas can in one hand, a water jug at his feet, and his thumb in the air. I don’t know what compelled me to stop, but it was the best (conscious and otherwise) decision I’ve made in a very long time.
There was a gas station three miles away (a trek he had planned on making both ways in pretty nasty heat). He worked some magic at the pump and convinced someone to fill him halfway up. He had told me they were filling up to head to El Centro, the next “spot”.
I needed to hear more. I topped off his gas can and drove him back. He must have sensed my curiosity – the offer was made to show me around Slab City. The window of time I had was shrinking, but the opportunity was too great. In our limited time, Donnie gave quite the rundown of Slab City’s social infrastructure. After a stop at the hot springs and a makeshift performance stage, he mentioned a spot that he hadn’t actually seen yet himself – East Jesus. He only knew how to get there by an approximated direction someone had told him. We found it.
I wonder how Donnie perceived what he saw here. It was a first visit for the both of us. I was studying some hidden gem in the desert, and he was checking out his neighborsâ€™ handywork.
I had noticed earlier that someone had affixed a number of solar panels to a broken down motor home. I asked Donnie how someone could afford a set up like that. He explained that everything here was a handme-down of a hand-me-down. 33
It amazes me how close I came to missing East Jesus, and subsequently the great insight I was given into the workings of Slab City. Would I have picked Donnie up if I had seen him on the side of some suburban street with his thumb raised? Probably not. I donâ€™t know what compelled me to do what I did on this day, but I do know it was not an act of kindness.
It wasnâ€™t curiosity, nor was it some astute journalistic realization of opportunity. I guess I would have to say it was a gut feeling about nothing in particular. What I can say without a doubt is that I stumbled upon an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress in Slab City, California.
Snails and Agents of Change John Kosta There they lay. The eukaryotes. Living. Silent. Millions. Waiting for their time. Players in the greatest ecological entropic disaster the world has known, the Oxygen Catastrophe. The Cambrian Explosion. The Great Oxidation.
As early members of earth’s living plant community, eukaryotes were not new to the inhospitable climate of 2.3 billion years ago. They and their predecessors had already been around for a billion years or so learning how to use the sun’s energy, turning it into food for survival. They were patient photosynthetic beings, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as a byproduct. At first, the additional oxygen did not seem to make a difference. No one noticed. Certainly not the eukaryotes. But slowly, something was happening. And in the end, it would be big.
The free oxygen being generated from these prehistoric plant forms was new to earth’s early atmosphere. As the second most causticreactive element on the planet, oxygen had a strong tendency to rip an electron from other elements. And it did so on a massive scale. Around 2.3 billion years ago the oxygen released by eukaryotes eventually oxidized most available atoms on the planet. Suddenly (well, at least in geological terms) a tipping point occurred. Free oxygen atoms had no other atoms to oxidize, no more electrons to rip from their mother nuclei. And so these anxious oxygen atoms flooded the atmosphere. Ultraviolet rays from the sun transformed some to create a protective ozone layer, further thickening the atmosphere. The resulting oxygen flood and atmospheric change created an unparalleled ecological entropic disaster causing the mass extinction of most anaerobic life-forms not adapted to the caustic oxygen-rich air. We are a product of this ecological catastrophe. Fortunate for us humans, some smart organism found a way to take advantage of oxygen’s caustic tendency to oxidize heavy metals. When
combined with oxygen, iron forms red-colored iron oxides. If we cut ourselves, we see the result of this life-giving agent-of-change in the color of our blood. Oxidized iron is not the only metal used by life forms. When copper oxidizes it turns green. Snails use copper as the oxidizing transfer agent in their blood. That is why a crushed snail looks green. They have green blood. With the thought of snails, eukaryotes and other agents of change heavy on my mind, I decided to jot down some notes and go talk to Dr. Kyle Brown about the subject of carbon dioxide, fossil fuels and global warming. He is the department chair of the Center for Regenerative Studies here at Cal Poly, and just maybe he would have some answers. So I walk out to the parking lot where my car is situated and, fiddling with my keys, open the door of my internal combustion engine automobile in order to drive over to the southern area of campus where Dr. Brown is located. Feeling a bit guilty about driving, I pause momentarily. Why not walk? It is good for me and would generate fewer carbon emissions. Or I could take the Cal Poly shuttle, those green-and-white snail-like vehicles. Yes that was a viable option also. Then for some reason unknown, before I could put my keys back in my pocket, my mind silently answered back as if in a debate. Why bother? The plant kingdom was really better off with a bit more carbon dioxide. Wasn’t it? Were not the real reasons for current period planetary mass extinctions habitat loss, deforestation, global urbanization, pesticide use and agricultural practices and not the burning of fossil fuels per se? Was not constant change the real driver of evolutionary progress on the planet? I pause, feeling a bit better or perhaps just confused and distracted. I turn the key in the ignition and with an exhaust-pipe puff of carbon-dioxide emissions, am on my way. Arriving at the school of Regenerative Studies,
a distant 1.3 mile destination, I find a designated permeable mulch-covered parking space. Ahh, the school of Regenerative Studies!! I love this particular place on the Cal Poly campus. It is as if one stepped back into the 1970s. Now, that might as well be the Polyolithic era for most of the student body here at Cal Poly, but for some of us it was a wonderful smoky period of activism and hopeful change, a period of social entropy of the establishment and social evolution for new ways of thinking and existing systems. Wasn’t the Lyle Center in fact a byproduct of this period of turmoil and opportunity? Do not social structures, like species, rise and fall as a result of social evolutionary changes brought about by caustic social elements that some people eventually adapt to embrace? Again I am distracted. An annoying bing bing bing tells me my keys are still in the ignition. I look at my watch. Five minutes to one. Just in time. Walking up to the building that houses Dr. Kyle Brown’s office, I am warmed by the sunshine and natural breezes from the green hillsides and nearby reed-filled biofiltration ponds. The calls of mallards and mocking birds chatter some avian debate nearby. Upon entering, Dr. Brown warmly welcomes me and after a brief introduction we begin. “So, truthfully, how important is climate change, or global warming or whatever people call it?” Dr. Brown thinks for a moment as if choosing his words. “I think it is a really critical and essential issue, probably the most important environmental challenge of the 21st century”. I continue. “It is hard to believe, but some people do not believe in global warming.” Dr Brown shakes his head almost imperceptibly. “The overwhelming scientific evidence points to anthropogenic causes of greenhouse gasses causing global warming that threaten biological diversity, threaten world infrastructure and our food supply. There are a variety of aspects that support this view. Also this is the overwhelming view of the scientific community today.” Slowly, Dr. Brown’s voice begins to fade and my mind begins to wander. Did he say
global warming threatens biological diversity? Doesn’t, in fact, global warming increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thus favoring plant species? Hasn’t past ecological change and environmental stressors been the impetus for species diversity for eons? Are we not but another species headed toward some catastrophic entropic event like the one that brought about our existence? My eyes return to the notepad on my lap. Dr Brown has stopped speaking. The silence awakens me. I ask the next question. “So do you think that we as a nation, and a people and a society, are going to be able to adapt and change to the issue of global warming before it is too late?” “I am somewhat convinced that the place for activity for these kinds of changes is not at the national level but rather at the local level. I am more interested in what we can do here and now. I mean, if the politicians come up with an energy policy, that would be great. But with the way things work in Washington, nobody is going to be happy with it. So I am not going to sit around and wait. That is why I am more interested in what the President of our university has done by signing the Climate Commitment. And I like what other communities are doing right now. My beliefs are that change occurs at the local level, right now, with what each of us does. Each of us can make a difference. And we can begin today.” After about twenty minutes of questions and answers about global warming, carbon dioxide and fossil fuels, I thank Dr. Brown gratefully for his perspective and return to my car. Unlocking the door, I enter and sit quietly, thinking. I pause a moment and take a deep breath of oxygen-rich air and listen to the rhythmic pulse of iron-flushed blood somewhere deep inside. It is quiet. Does any of this make a difference? Does anyone notice? Yes, I answer to myself. It matters to me. I vow to fix the flat on my bicycle that has been on my to-do list for months and back out of the Lyle Center parking lot to make the 1.3 mile return trip back to the north side of campus. On the way I daydream. Slowly, something is happening. And in the end, it will be big. Perhaps we will change.
Are we not but another species headed toward some catastrophic entropic event like the one that brought about our existence? 36
And yet, eventually, all things fall apart. So the challenge to environmental designers is not to accept the futility of construction, but to acknowledge entropy and to use it as an organizational principle.
Moment of Life:
Understanding Andy Goldsworthyâ€™s Philosophy and Process Katya Khankhalaeva Sina Yosefi
Context: Entropy & Environmental Design
Entropy is usually described as a system’s “tendency towards greater disorder,” and while disorder may be a confusing term because of its negative connotation in everyday-usage, there is nothing inherently bad about such a state. On the contrary, a more disordered system is simultaneously more complex and less structured. An example of this is the comparison between ice and water—while the molecules in ice conform to a rigid structure, those in water can assume many different arrangements (a characteristic referred to as multiplicity). Using this simple analogy as a conceptual basis, we can think of contemporary environmental design in terms of a similar dichotomy— structure vs. multiplicity. Of course, this is an over-generalization, but essentially the act of creating something (a building, a city, a landscape) is an attempt to counteract entropy, to assemble materials and assign to them a rigid order for a fixed period of time. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of design as anything other than a predetermined structure, or a fixed state perpetuated over time. How do you create without specifying forms and sequences? And yet, eventually, all things fall apart. So the challenge to environmental designers is not to accept the futility of construction, but to acknowledge entropy and to use it as an organizational principle. What does this mean? It can mean understanding the role of time and environmental processes in shaping a design, accepting the limitations placed on a site by these processes, and recalibrating our expectations accordingly. It can also mean selecting materials with multiple life cycles (such that once it has served one function, it is reused for another), developing multiple uses for a space (such that it can flood or freeze and still have a function), and minimizing maintenance schedules. Thus, we must seek to discover a new aesthetic, which celebrates the temporary and makes room for that which we are unable to control—or that which we choose not to control. Like Rome’s Coliseum, which has had diverse forms and functions over the centuries, including a feral garden “planted” by the passage of people and animals, our designs can have a capacity to transform over time.
Philosophy: Andy Goldsworthy 39
In order to understand the concept of entropy and its relationship to environmental design, it is helpful to turn to the works of Andy Goldsworthy, a contemporary artist who creates installations that are responsive to specific sites and natural phenomena—the rising tide, the flow of water, the melting of ice. For his installations, he uses natural materials such as stones, icicles, snow, and various plant parts, preferring to use whatever is available on a site. And these materials in turn index or reveal landscape processes that are otherwise unperceived. Goldsworthy’s works appear highly ordered and intricately arranged, and while he is clearly interested in the beauty of the forms that he creates, these forms are ultimately instruments for recording changes across time. He is fundamentally interested in the relationship between his work and the surrounding landscape—and specifically, how the work is altered by the landscape, assuming a finite “life”. Rather than intending his work to exist forever, Goldsworthy prefers to find the beauty in fleeting moments and transient experiences. His ephemeral works are a celebration of entropy—the moment at which constructed forms begin to fall apart and return to a state of disorder.
According to Goldsworthy: “Each work grows, stays, decays—integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its heights, marking the moment when the work is alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit” This moment of life is what makes his work so charged and capable of provoking diverse emotions, ranging from tension to serenity. Goldworthy’s works can create a harmonious, almost meditative mood and disturb viewers at a very deep subconscious level at the same time. For instance, the artist weaves a delicate lace out of sticks which strikes us as an amazing piece of art. Then we see the perfect shape created out of fallen leaves on a pond surface and it may make us shiver for some unknown reason. Does it happen because we subconsciously perceive the tenuousness of order, the fluidity of the natural? Goldsworthy’s works create questions, challenging our minds and emotions. As students of environmental design, we can not only gain inspiration from his works, but use them to explore important questions: To what level should we control nature while creating or restoring landscapes? Where is the invisible edge that we should not overstep?
Then we see the perfect shape created out of fallen leaves on a pond surface and it may make us shiver for some unknown reason. Does it happen because we subconsciously perceive the tenuousness of order, the fluidity of the natural?
Process: Individual Explorations Clint Kruger
Using Goldsworthyâ€™s work as an inspiration for small exercises, students of environmental design are encouraged to play with natural materials in a similar manner, exploring the beauty of impermanence and the intricate transitions between structure and collapse. The current issue of Subsurface contains several examples of such work, submitted by students.