Been more or less out of it this week due to a little quarantine situation, but fortunately a lot of reading material has arrived on my doorstep and it’s been topped off with the arrival of the Landscape Infrastructures symposium DVD (available here). So Stephen’s joined me for a new (and entirely unannounced and therefore unnoticed) experiment: “live”-blogging a Canadian conference, months after the conference has ended (which provides a nice symmetry, because no one will read this until after the liveblog has ended). Join us below the jump.
update: We’re done for the night, but, if Pierre Belanger’s opening presentation is an accurate indicator, the conference is fascinating enough to be well worth the effort of tracking down the DVD and watching it — in about half an hour, he’s challenged the (singular) authority of engineering as a discipline, offered a quick but clearly well-researched look at the relationship between infrastructure and zoning in Rust Belt “economies of disassembly”, and posed a very interesting question that suggests something of how infrastructure might be understood differently in the coming century than it was in the previous.
[note: no distinction is made here between Rob and Stephen, unless noted]
6:24 PM We skip the “About the Symposium”. Text scrolls too quickly for Becker. I’m bored. We move on to George Baird’s opening address, “Operative Practices”.
6:32 PM Stephen: “People are watching?”
6:42 PM Videos are good, but dinner’s ready. Liveblog on pause.
7:41 PM We’re back, and so’s Baird.
7:59 PM Baird talking about Jane Jacobs and William Blake. Not sure whether they are opposed or in agreement or neither.
[Pierre Belanger, "Redefining Infrastructure"]
8:04 PM Conference organizer Pierre Belanger is up, sooner than the DVD would have intended; “Redefining Infrastructure.”
8:07 PM Black t-shirt.
8:10 PM Many people are being thanked, but thankfully, not as many as at last spring’s Ecological Urbanism Conference.
8:11 PM Pierre reads the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of infrastructure.
8:13 PM Tracing the history of ‘infrastructure’ to 1927 Mississippi Flood and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
8:16 PM Engineers are shown (by survey) to be one of the most trusted professions in North America. What are the implications of this, particularly as civil engineering accidents increase in incidence?
8:18 PM Pierre (paraphrased): “Is it possible that engineering (as a discipline) is no longer capable of dealing with the complexity of the infrastructural systems it has produced?” and “What are the implications of the largest engineering firm in the world (AECOM) buying the largest landscape architecture firm (EDAW)?”
8:21 PM With these questions, he’s implying that not only are engineers incapable of dealing with the complexity of the systems they are trusted by society to oversee, but they know it, and so are trying to compensate by adding design talent — landscape architects.
8:26 PM Pierre (paraphrased): “Zoning is the most important structural element in the shape and configuration of the North American urban landscape.” (at the expense of design)
8:30 PM Argument ensues over whether Pierre is correct to refer to “the” 410 freeway. Rob says no; Stephen says yes.
8:32 PM Tracing the origin of the modern industrial landscape in North America to landmark federal court case from 1926, “Village of Euclid, Ohio vs. Ambler Realty Co.”; hence the term Euclidean planning (Euclid seen below).
8:35 PM Pierre talking about “repatriating” zoning in design discourse; perhaps he means “rehabilitating”?
8:35 PM Notes that original zoning classifications had no classification for biophysical systems.
8:40 PM Discussion of Euclid continues to present day; “economies of disassembly” in the Rust Belt, which Pierre suggests are breaking down distinctions in zoning, or causing the rethinking of zoning without confronting the legal system itself. Scrap metal, recycling, composting industries thrive on this economy of disassembly and associated processes of “dis-urbanization”. Discussion moves to nearby Youngstown.
8:46 PM Stephen distracted by high school friend’s beard blog. Catching up on conversation through own live-blog.
8:48 PM On to Buffalo and Olmsted’s plan for Buffalo, which Belanger argues is a historic example of the tight overlay of infrastructure and urban development (“reciprocity between landscape and infrastructure”).
9:03 PM Parks designed by OMA (Villette) as examples of this same reciprocity. Discussing the food terminal infrastructure displaced by the park, and its expanded footprint in the Parisian suburbs — a fascinating angle on the history of de la Villette.
9:06 PM Pierre projects the conference’s central question: “Can we redefine the conventional meaning of modern infrastructure by foregrounding and amplifying the biophysical landscape that was historically supressed, to reformulate it as a collective system of essential services, resources, and agents that generates and supports urban economies?”
9:08 PM Stephen notes the emphasis on “economies”, rather than social structures; implication is that urban economy precedes urban social system? Or perhaps this descends from the emphases and biases of Pierre’s work (on economies, waste, manufacturing, etc.)?
9:10 PM No applause?
[Stan Allen: Urbanizing Infrastructures]
9:18 PM Stan Allen’s talk begins promisingly, but live blog is interrupted indefinitely by kung-fu on YouTube . Good night; if nothing else, we’ve amused ourselves.