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    Fuzzy Blob Tourism

    Nick Sowers Aug 10 '09 7

    For the last week I've been on some islands called the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It's amazing to think that a Portuguese community has inhabited these islands for over five hundred years. Houses and walls are built with volcanic rock; scattered across the landscape are shells of houses once inhabited and now overgrown. In one village half of a church was buried in a 19th century lava flow. Aside from islands remote as these being incredibly interesting places to visit, what brings this militourist out here?

    Fuzzy blobs. You've seen some before, surfing around in google maps or google earth. You might ask, hmm, what's that, what's so important that it needs to be blocked? When so many military bases are in pristine detail, I wondered the same when I took a look at my destination before taking the Boston>Azores flight.

    So this is what I did, and here's how you can be a fuzzy blob tourist too: draw a route over the blob in google maps. Save the map, and use GPS Visualizer to convert the file to .gpx. Upload it to your GPS device and voila, it's never been easier to spy beneath the congealed pixels which the google gods have secreted above you.

    This is a GPS track of my walk, after having traced the fuzzy blob and followed it as close as I could:


    View Fuzzy Blob Tourism in a larger map

    When you zoom in, the low-res aerial photo remains in a cut-out around the airport and fuel storage:


    View Fuzzy Blob Tourism in a larger map

    The blob is Lajes Field, a "Portuguese military base" that is graciously hosting the United States Air Force. The blob to the south is where the fuel is stored--the largest fuel depot in the Air Force behind Guam. This is one way that we project our global reach to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

    Okay, so it's a pretty important piece of real estate.

    After weeks of no replies, I called the base using a phone number from an air force dude I met in the Lajes civilian airport and set up a meeting for the next day, the day I had to fly out. Talk about last minute.

    The Air Force Public Relations Officer, Lt. George T, picked me up in a beat up Fiat hatchback that he lovingly referred to as an "Island Bomber"--junkers that change hands between airmen as they move on to new tours of duty. We drove to the officer's mess hall and he bought me a coffee. When I asked about the fuzzy blob, he said "they told me the Portuguese military wanted the base covered up". Really, do the Portuguese need to cover up their search and rescue mission, the principle mission of the Lajes base? I looked at the other Portuguese Air bases just to be sure--none of them are fuzzy.

    There's a lot more to this story about Lajes, the Air Force, and global reach...It will come out as I prepare for Guam later this year.

    For now here's a sneak peak at what you will find in the fuzzy space of Lajes:

    Azores

    It's military family housing, the ultimate gated community.

    The next step is fuzzy blob street view--if we get enough people signed up, all the fuzzy spaces in the world will pop out in full detail!

     

     
    • 7 Comments

    • Nam HendersonNam Henderson
      Aug 11, 09 10:26 am

      for a second i thought blob was reffering to something else (a la Greg Lynn)...

      Which by the way might have interesting (i will leave up to you) possibilities when compared to the blobs of which you speak.

      Form vs function, form follows function, open vs closed, flexible and parametric vs closed and hierarchical????

      futureboy
      Aug 11, 09 4:09 pm

      i can't help but think this might be the link between the ninja house concept by bolles wilson and the blob a la greg lynn. form as camouflage versus form as obfuscation. kinda like the architectural equivalent of predator.

      futureboy
      Aug 11, 09 4:09 pm

      i can't help but think this might be the link between the ninja house concept by bolles wilson and the blob a la greg lynn. form as camouflage versus form as obfuscation. kinda like the architectural equivalent of predator.

      Nick SowersNick Sowers
      Aug 13, 09 6:34 am

      some good thoughts and references here-- as fuzzy blobs go, I'm also thinking of the dazzle ships which Mark Smout put on the table during the Urban Islands workshop. The pattern was designed to confuse the rangefinder from determining whether you were looking at the bow or port, or whether the ship was advancing or retreating.



      how might the fuzzyness of the view be curated as a three-dimensional strategy? A dazzle ship is confusing no matter which direction you are looking at it. This investigation, then, is about how to map the omni-directional view.

      Could a military base be obscured by sound...is there such a thing as a dazzle sound?

      Nam HendersonNam Henderson
      Aug 13, 09 8:08 am

      relatedly, in reference to how might the fuzzyness of the view be curated as a three-dimensional strategy?, can you make sound three-dimensional?

      Nick SowersNick Sowers
      Aug 14, 09 8:19 am

      nam, I take that to mean can you project sound to re-create a three dimensional space...producing imaginary buildings with sound.

      Nam HendersonNam Henderson
      Aug 14, 09 9:18 am

      Nick,
      Yes exactly. When i re-read i realized i wasn't clear.

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