June 25, 2009

Suggestion: what is interesting is not the generation of new typologies, but the new juxtaposition of old typologies demanded by working in cities with a great deal of existing momentum/static weight.

Another way of deciding what to do might be to decide what not to do.  Hence a catalog of uninteresting projects, fictional infrastructures that fail to advance the practice of urbanism.  These projects aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but hopefully thinking about what is uninteresting will help us discover what is interesting.

1. A new urbanist transit system

2. High-speed rail stations
A common theme between one and two: spoke and hub-type interventions.  Much more interesting than high-speed rail stations, for instance, might be high-speed rail factories.

1. vegetative homesteading
(further development of idea from baltimore comp)

2. kite power
(further development of idea from baltimore comp)


stephen: though a kite power infrastructure isnt a bad idea re: competition i always thought we could have developed that more and its phenomenal qualities give us a nice in if we decide to pursue that education vs entertainment angle its probably something to keep in mind
me: yes. it is.
stephen: if nothing else, it could make for a great opening set of maps like we had for fog farming its downside is that it isnt as accessible as fog farming was to the masses it requires probably a fairly substantial investment in an array of them, i dont see people stringing up their own kites like they might do with a windmill or something, or solar panels

or banishing the “beta.”, or diverting the discourse, or any of a number of cheesy alliterations from which you are free to choose.  The point being, mammoth v.1 is finally launched!  It’s just the bloggy side of things for now, where we will write about things like “extinct megafauna, the production of urban space through the manipulation of infrastructure, landscape processes, and tactical architectural interventions aimed at forestalling the arrival of our inevitably dystopian future and/or ushering in a new era of global harmony.”  GO: http://m.ammoth.us/blog/


We will keep this space open in much the same role it currently serves: a virtual studio which aids and abets Rob and I in our collaborative efforts.  It will birth many a future publication, competition entry, and design proposal.  But mammoth proper is where they will gestate, where their fundamental components will be formed.  So stick around and let us know when we’ve gone wrong, but read the new one too (this is why God invented RSS, after all).

A couple days late here, but we are honored that our project is among those selected for the first issue of [bracket].  Looks like a fascinating group of projects (“strategizing a man-made geology for the Houston shipping channel”; “a quick reference guide for the small [food] producer”; an investigation of “the Potlatch Hybrid-Poplar Tree Farm” in Oregon; et cetera) and sure to be worth picking up a copy of once it is published.

Our project, Hydrating the Musseques (it’s a working title…) has been submitted to BRKT.org.

you can see it here in full:


A running list of things we’d like to change and/or add to the project by the time it goes to press if accepted:

1 collage of the musseques; showing net structure and water distribution as created with found materials in the context of the informal settlements.  In this rendering, we should also make sure and use the distinctive trees you noted from video1, and stick a motorbike in there.

2 phased net deployment / change in nets over time with multiple D3 plan diagrams

3 get deeper into the generative effects the infrastructure has on the city and its evolution; communities; etc

DONE 4 show a shift in colors on D7 to match text

5 overlay list of statistics on mussque image (also use updated formatting — in numerical order)

6 (?) change the formatting of the captions to look more like the early draft you sent, with select lower contrast colors and big block letters

7 lateral: flatspace style study of different net layouts (not D3 style distribution of net types, but plan drawings of experimental ways that the infrastructure is constructed.)  Should show net type (color), water distribution points (and estimated output at those points according to the m2 of net which drains to each point), and how different arrangements can create different sorts of urban spaces/organizations, and other as-yet-unimagined generative effects.

8 develop the most formal part of the infrastructure: the algae tubes/biodiesel plant/fog farming interface.  Perhaps I, the architect, even endeavor to design some sort of “building” (in all honesty, though, this feels more like an outdoor assembly which is well integrated into the urban campus than a stand-alone structre, even one which is centrally located and accessible).

9 overlay on ingombotas render to breakdown the differing functions/quantities of net systems

At this point, I’d also like to put the question out to our MASSIVE reader base, and farm some suggestions from you all: What sort of changes do you suggest?  What about the project is missing, or unclear?


“A single acre of algae ponds can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel — incomparison, an acre of soybeans produces up to 50 gallons of biodiesel per acre, an acre of jatropha produces up to 200 gallons per acre, coconuts produce just under 300 gallons per acre, and palm oil — currently the best non-algal source — produces up to 650 gallons of biodiesel per acre. That is to say, algae is 25 times better a source for biodiesel than palm oil, and 300 times better than soy.

Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require a 2,000-acre “farm” of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good profit, he says.”


The science is simple: Algae need water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow. The oil they produce can then be harvested and converted into biodiesel; the algae’s carbohydrate content can be fermented into ethanol. Both are much cleaner-burning fuels than petroleum-based diesel or gas.

The reality is more complex. Trying to grow concentrations of the finicky organism is a bit like trying to balance the water in a fish tank. It’s also expensive. The water needs to be just the right temperature for algae to proliferate, and even then open ponds can become choked with invasive species. Atmospheric levels of CO2 also aren’t high enough to spur exponential growth.

Solix addresses these problems by containing the algae in closed “photobioreactors”—triangular chambers made from sheets of polyethylene plastic (similar to a painter’s dropcloth)—and bubbling supplemental carbon dioxide through the system.”



potential process: CO2 from polluted air + sunlight +algae = biodiesel

it is probable that we would not get enough CO2 from the air alone, and would need supplementary sources of CO2.

One solution to this might be to tap into CO2 emissions from the plant which breaks down and processes the algae.  This plant would also be responsible for pumping in the algae for collection (a process which could also be handled in a more manual fashion, or using the collection trucks/tankers)

mos project (flip-a-strip):


http://greenhome.huddler.com/wiki/algae-biofuel — contains comparison chart for various forms of biodiesel

It is fairly obvious how a rigid infrastructure — the interstate highway system, for instance — can allow the architect some measure of influence, while also being appropriated by the people of a city1.  But to combine appropriate and influence within a project that is less rigidly defined (given that rigid definition typically comes at the expense of the homes of the poor) is considerably more difficult.  Appropriate is not difficult to imagine — that might be the core of being less rigidly defined, in fact — but what/where is the space for influence?  In particular, where is the space for generative influence, an influence that gives more positive shape to the coming city?  Should that be abandoned as too hubristic?

Or does the infrastructure take various forms, reacting to the degree and kind of influence that is desirable?  More rigid, more generative in the portions of the city inhabited by those with the wealth, time, and ability to influence the placement of the infrastructure as it is designed, while more flexible, less controlled, placement and deployment driven more by the needs and whims of the inhabitants in the musseques?  This would suggest at least two cases: the musseques and the city-center (or ocean-side strip).

[1] An example:

“But the breakthrough came when he noticed that these self-organizations from the informal Alaba Market to the sea of informal traders around the trains and highways are completely dependent on the formal infrastructure of the modernist infrastructure of the 60’s and 70’s.”

more luanda photos

December 31, 2008

For sketching, photoshopping, etc.

Highly recommended slideshow:


This set is also oddly affecting (I take it to be family photos from colonial Luanda just before independence):


The Imbondeiro, National Tree of Angola:


Individual Photos:





http://flickr.com/photos/focalplane/307585268/in/photostream/ – the obelisk

http://flickr.com/photos/focalplane/307528334/ – shipping containers as temporary office space

http://flickr.com/photos/molinaz/2524514352/ – apartment building

http://flickr.com/photos/makgobokgobo/1157325411/ – beachfront high rises

http://flickr.com/photos/skifatenum/437995324/ – cemetery (no larger image)


likely a common street scene (wealthier area — razor wire = valuable items inside) – http://flickr.com/photos/51944602@N00/2092951527/

http://flickr.com/photos/sojourners/351137269/ – informal housing

http://flickr.com/photos/sojourners/283035301/ – same site as above, different view

http://flickr.com/photos/afribrasil/290749153/ – informal housing, fantastic shot

http://flickr.com/photos/skifatenum/438003314/ – more containers: this time as a school

http://flickr.com/photos/paulocorado/1202583219/ – coastal suburb

http://flickr.com/photos/skifatenum/438000775/ – high rise flats: unfortunately low quality jpg, but a good shot

http://flickr.com/photos/7762498@N02/460625509/ – informal housing, low quality jpg, good shot

http://flickr.com/photos/marcelvandervliet/3038631116/ – quality shot of street

As I have been thinking about it, it seems clear to me that it is essential that, if our infrastructures are proposed as potentially placed in the musseques, then the infrastructure must not be merely advantageous to the inhabitants of the musseques (as we define advantageous), but manipulable, subject to the desires of the inhabitants as they express them.

I find Lebbeus Wood’s thinking (in a proposal for the insertion of a ‘capsule’ into slums) on this particularly clear:

From the side of the slum dwellers, it might seem an unwelcome intrusion from outside, just another quick fix imposed by the economically advantaged on the desperately poor, serving the interests of the rich by transforming the slum according to their well-intentioned but—to the slum dweller–necessarily opposed values. It is especially important, then, that the transformative capsule enables the slum-dwellers to achieve their goals, serving their values, and does not reduce them to subjects of its designers’ and makers’ will. Inevitably, the values, prejudices, perspectives and aspirations of the designers and makers will be imbedded in the capsule and what it does. Therefore the slum-dwellers should, in the first place, have the right of refusal. Also, they must have the right to modify the capsule and its effects as they see fit. It cannot be a locked system, capable of producing only a predetermined outcome. The implication of these freedoms is that the capsule, whatever its capabilities, could be used to work against the intentions of its designers and makers. Because the effects of the capsule would be powerfully transformative, its possession would involve risk for all the groups, and individuals, involved.

This also suggests to me that it is problematic to think of the infrastructure as funded by or inserted by the government of Luanda/Angola, given the conflicts of interest that have already arisen between the government and musseque-dwellers.

Perhaps it is better to think of the infrastructure as flexibile not just in terms of deployment, affect, effect, etc., but also flexible in terms of ownership and funding.