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Apocalyptic Urbanism

Apurimac

Inspired largely by the Lebbeus Woods thread, I thought it might be interesting to talk about a topic I've never seen discussed all that much: Apocalyptic Urbanism.

I think it would be interesting to focus at least academically on a method of urbanism that focuses on future events and how cities might respond to them.

For example, it is inevitable New York will be flooded at some point in the future. Paleo-climatology proves that even without human intervention the area containing NYC will be flooded again, as it has in the past, and subsequently frozen over by glaciers. If we can't prevent the inevitable, how can we envision adaptation? This is probably highly improbable to ponder now as adaptation can only happen after the fact. However I think it may be interesting to ponder future problems and our subsequent adaptation. No doubt these ponderances could even aid urbanists now with the planning of cities. Like should we actually build New Orleans exactly as it once was, or should we spend the money to build new towns/cities/housing to aid the displaced?

New York is a particularly fascinating example to me because I can't help but envision what Lower Manhattan might be like flooded with squatter settlements and illegal housing embedded into the fabric of towers and canals that would take over the current fabric of capitalism.

What would Miami be like? Miles out to sea and its buildings completely encrusted with coral, would human beings also be able to be apart of this new ecosystem of city-reef? Living in high-rise condos and fishing in the waters below can a city actually maintain itself in a nearly destroyed state?

For the 10 millennia or humans have lived in some form of "civilization" we have enjoyed a relatively benign period as far as our Earth's climate is concerned, but can civilization survive in a world far more dynamic than its current state and can cities be designed even today with measures in mind to make the future incarnations of these cities more adaptable?

I know this topic is a tad long-winded but I have yet to see this addressed all that much outside of Lebbeus Woods' work, so what about it archinect, do you guys think its time to consider an Apocalyptic Urbanism?

 
Oct 3, 07 2:55 pm
vado retro

thanks for ruining my day with your scenarios, mr. buzzkill...

Oct 3, 07 3:02 pm  · 
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xtbl

ha ha ha, funny.

but really, interesting topic.

i'm not really sure how to best sink my teeth into this, though!

this topic is begging for a charrette.

Oct 3, 07 3:05 pm  · 
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Apurimac

glad to help

Oct 3, 07 3:06 pm  · 
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mdler
Oct 3, 07 3:08 pm  · 
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liberty bell

Who did that competition entry recently that had NYC all flooded and people using water taxis? I think they did a beautiful illuminated blue plexi model?

Oct 3, 07 3:09 pm  · 
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mdler
http://www.floatingcubans.com/
Oct 3, 07 3:14 pm  · 
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vado retro

and if california slides into the ocean
like the mystics and statistics say it will
i predict this hotel will be standing
until i pay my bill...

Oct 3, 07 3:22 pm  · 
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Apurimac

is that hotel california?

I fuckin hate the Eagles man!

Oct 3, 07 3:24 pm  · 
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Just wait:

Due to global warming Greenland becomes prime real estate. As a result Denmark becomes one of the northern hemisphere's big oil-rich nations. Jet-setters winter in Dubai and summer in Greenland.

I've never set foot on Greenland, but I have been there (back in 1963). Our plane needed fuel, so we landed somewhere in Greenland. It was night, so you couldn't see much, but I distinctly remember a single light burning over the door of a small building next to the runway. I remained enchanted.

Almost 20 years ago over dinner at Copa 2 I told Tony Drexel Biddle to buy land in Greenland. He laughed it off. I'm laughing now.

Oct 3, 07 3:43 pm  · 
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evilplatypus

People will prob just abandon it and go somewhere else - its romantic to think watertaxis will be driving down the Bowery but humans move on to the next place. Ice water entombment is the only way to go.

Oct 3, 07 6:14 pm  · 
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el jeffe

commercial property is amortized over 39 years.
that's th extent of your future events lense.

Oct 3, 07 6:36 pm  · 
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manamana

would need all new sewers....

Oct 3, 07 6:57 pm  · 
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@ liberty Bell
A link to a NYT article on the City of the Future (NY) competition
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/04/arts/design/04tomo.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

Also the link below the to the History Channel.com website for the competition
http://www.history.com/marquee.do?marquee_id=51808&content_type=Marquee_Generic&content_type_id=52117

Oct 4, 07 12:20 am  · 
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liberty bell

namhenderson comes through with the answer yet again, you're the best!



I adore Adam Yarinsky of ARO.

Oct 4, 07 9:10 am  · 
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@ Liberty Bell,
Here to serve

Oct 4, 07 9:55 am  · 
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Apurimac

I actually think its unlikely a city like New York would be completely abandoned after the flooding. I think the only way to kill it is with glaciers.

Oct 4, 07 12:11 pm  · 
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Yeah, if the hyperbole doesn't kill it first.

How much of New York City 1807 still exists today? How much of New York City 2007 will still exist in 2207?

Oct 4, 07 1:13 pm  · 
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cornellbox

I recall seeing some Isozaki buildings rendered not as the pristine buildings they would be when they were finished but as the ruins they might become in the farther distant future.

I thought that was fantastic. It's less an Apocalyptic Urbanism than it is Apocalyptic Architecture, but nonetheless an intriguing way of showing an actual project.

Oct 4, 07 2:27 pm  · 
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Apurimac

John Soane also rendered his proposal for the bank of england as a ruin back in the early 19th century. I can't link an IMG because i cant figure out how to see an image source on a freakin mac.

Hitler also tasked Speer with designing buildings so that they would look good as ruins after the reich fell 1000 years down the line. Where these the first thoughts towards designing buildings while accounting for civilization's collapse? Soane's renderings of his bank ruined may have been romantic in intent but they hint at something a bit more apocalyptic.

Oct 4, 07 2:38 pm  · 
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And don't forget that Soane was an avid collector of Piranesi prints (of the ruins of ancient Rome). The dissemination of views of the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome were still a fairly recent phenomenon in Soane's time.

The ravages of time and apocalyptic are not exactly the same thing. And besides, there's really no reason to prepare for something apocalyptic because it's ultimate doom, ie, there are no survivors.

Oct 4, 07 3:08 pm  · 
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Apurimac

i was thinking more along the lines of apocalyptic in terms of a civilization's collapse and subsequent changes, and not neccesarrily in the biblical/final sense.

Oct 4, 07 3:19 pm  · 
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Catastrophic urbanism might be a better term, and indeed New Orleans during and post hurricane Katrina provides an ample textbook on the subject. Pockets of civilization may well succumb to catatrophes, but the rest of civilization does just go on. At least that's the situation now, and probably for some time to come. Even the Great Tsunami 2004 had widespread effect, but still only on a small portion of civilization at large.

It's probably more worthwhile to contemplate catastrophic urbanism than to conjecture apocalyptic urbanism.

Oct 4, 07 4:18 pm  · 
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Apurimac

yeah, but apocalyptic urbanism sounds cooler, and i'm more interested in investigating major catastrophies, like the ones impending climate change will bring about, gamma ray bursts, asteroid collisions, catastrophic warfare, etc. Most of the time, cities are designed to accomodate small catastrophies, like earthquakes but what about major ones, the ones we haven't dealt with yet?

Oct 4, 07 4:24 pm  · 
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Oh, in that case, when one of the major apocalyptic events is about to happen, I think a lot of people are going to frantically search the internet to see what was investigated about just such an event and its aftermath.

"Eureka! They said this was all going to be really cool!"

Oct 4, 07 5:05 pm  · 
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Apurimac

LOL, which is why I posed this as a rather academic discussion. I mean, you can't really plan for the apocalypse can you?

Oct 4, 07 5:11 pm  · 
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phuyaké

well....

Oct 4, 07 5:36 pm  · 
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I don't know about you, but I already have planned for the apocalypse (the second coming actually). It's not is our lifetime; circa 3091.

Which reminds me, apocalypic urbanism has already been described--the New Jerusalem, lots of gold and gems, sounds a lot like a royal crown.

Oct 4, 07 5:46 pm  · 
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phuyaka, that's astonishingly close!

Oct 4, 07 5:46 pm  · 
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unthinking you a Naustradian reader?

Oct 7, 07 1:02 pm  · 
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If you mean Nostradamus, then no, I have not read any Nostradamus.

Oct 7, 07 1:12 pm  · 
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Apurimac

Actually Unthinking, I hadn't realised the biblical example untill you mentioned it. New Jerusalem, bathed in gold, decending from the heavens behind Christ's army, with its rivers of crystal and buildings of light, is actually a really interesting precedent as far as apocalyptic urbanism is concerned.

Oct 7, 07 4:06 pm  · 
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won and done williams

isn't that the only example? (besides of course mad max beyond thunderdome and burning man.)

as much as i like al gore, i'm not sure you can count rising sea levels as "the apocalypse," but i suppose that is a question of semantics.

Oct 7, 07 4:17 pm  · 
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aml

alan weisman's world without us has this slide show on new york without humans, flooding and ice age included [wasn't this on archinect this past week? i don't remember how i got to it]:

http://www.worldwithoutus.com/big_slideshow.html

Oct 7, 07 6:36 pm  · 
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vado retro

my generation grew up under the shadow of newclear annihilation. apocalypse is no big deal to us. wanna go to starbucks?

Oct 7, 07 7:20 pm  · 
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vado - it's pronounced noo-cue-luhr.

... and can you pick me up a caramel frappuccino?

Oct 7, 07 7:38 pm  · 
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vado retro

yes i;ll get you a vente and have em double cup it so the world will end sooner.

Oct 7, 07 7:48 pm  · 
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SDR

The specifics of this particular kind of apocalypse, i.e. slowly rising sea level, taken in isolation, could be designed for. Manamana mentioned sewers, which could conceivably be replaced by self-contained toilets and waste-water management (?). Water supply is perhaps more problematic, as is electric service. A combination of self-generated current and vastly improved efficiency might make each large building self-sufficient -- in a best-case scenario. Desalinization plants in each major structure ?

The advantage of plenty of lead time to prepare for the new conditions is what makes this scenario even plausible.

An advantage is the eventual availability of the surface streets as magnificent (flooded) utility chases. New pedestrian/light-vehicle courses could be erected to connect buildngs above water level; the buildings would essentially sacrifice their ground and subterranean levels and new "ground floors" would be established at (say) the third level. The loss of several levels of rentable space is emblematic of the general lowering of economic efficiency, compared to the present city.

How quickly would stuctural steel corrode below the water line ?

The compression of the immediate inland elevations -- those unflooded -- by coastal businesses and individuals trying to remain in the area is the other major issue of strife, individual and collective loss, and skyrocketing land values.

Oct 7, 07 8:34 pm  · 
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SDR

[And this is without reading any sci-ci for about forty years. There must have been some menton of this scenario, somewhere. . .?]

Oct 7, 07 8:38 pm  · 
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SDR

Aaand. . .some people could make a lot of money. Since there would (will) be a simultaneous world-wide market for whatever specialized products and services this catastrophy would (will) require, speculators and investers are hereby notified of the opportunity. The only question at the moment is, how high will the waters rise, and how soon. Three feet is one thing, thirty is another.

Oct 7, 07 8:57 pm  · 
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Apurimac

those are some awesome images aml, thanks for posting.

I think the idea of buildings re-appropriated after flooding in a planned sense maybe a little far-fetched due to the increased loading and weakening of flooded structures. I can however see a sudden boom of illegal/slum housing as people who have lost jobs/money due to catastrophic change choose instead to live in the old flooded towers of lower Manhattan. However, it may be possible to bolster the submerged parts of structures to be able to handle loading changes due to submergence enabling the buildings to be re-leased and sold.

Oct 7, 07 9:23 pm  · 
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You guys should check out Archinecteur Bryan Boyer's project from last semester: Zeemonster

Oct 7, 07 9:59 pm  · 
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SDR

Interesting, isn't iy ? I wonder if anyone has tried to model this yet (not the physical condition but the possible demographic): given a seal-level rise of X, and the probable consequences, how many would choose to relocate ? This is what would drive the search for solitions to retaining the use of the structures, I guess. Ground zero gives a picture in miniature of the fiscal (i.e, insurance) ramifications of major loss of property value.

So, what do your best/worst scenarios look like ? Any predictions or. . .?

Oct 7, 07 10:05 pm  · 
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upside

i do remember reading a fitional account of the rehabbitation of london after a massive sea level rise. the idea was to inflate a plastic mebrane inside submerged buildings, filling all the available space and allowing people to live bellow the waterline.

it sounded quite evocative, if you imagine swimming down the old streets, strange forms bulging from the windows and doors of the buildings.

Oct 7, 07 10:09 pm  · 
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Apurimac

To note in response to that SDR many of the people who want to rebuild in New Orleans are working class people who find themselves unable to do so due to insurance issues. Even though rebuilding New Orleans to its old state would mean its inevitable re-destruction eventually and it would probably be better to build new cities on higher ground. The working class maintain a sense of community that is usually lost on the higher classes who can remain more moble. We're faced with an ironic consequence now, with rich developers splitting up New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to make resort/upper-class communities and at the same time using insurance/bureaucracy to keep the people who have real attachment to the land off of it. Could such a thing happen to Coney Island/Brighton beach if it were destroyed in a hurricane?

That Zeemonster project is pretty sweet, I love the renders.

Oct 7, 07 10:17 pm  · 
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SDR

Is the mistake in N'Orleans the assumption that there won't be another Katrina anytime soon ?

Oct 7, 07 10:41 pm  · 
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vado retro

the youth are so cynical. why are you so cynical young people?

Oct 7, 07 10:54 pm  · 
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SDR

Bet I'm older than you, vado ! (Or maybe you weren't referring to me.) (Or maybe that's your facetious voice.) But planning for the worst isn't cynicism, surely ?

Oct 7, 07 10:58 pm  · 
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Apurimac

Because Vado, we live in pretty good times, one could argue as good as they've ever been but they've gotta end someday...

And yes SDR, i think its massively dumb to think there wont be another katrina anytime soon. I don't care what Hillary says about how the Netherlands can conquer the sea and how we should do the same either. The netherlands don't have to deal with cat. 5 hurricanes and if they didn't have the world's best levee system they'd lose half their country.

Oct 7, 07 11:01 pm  · 
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SDR

Well here's some real cynicism, I suppose, but if rootin'-tootin' America ever demonstrated the kind of serious and long-term planning that's evident in the Netherlands, she doesn't have it any more. It's one day at a time, and every man for himself.

And I'm a proud native !

Sems to me that Holland (do they still call it that ?) suffered many deaths in a flooding incident several decades ago, and got serious about things after that.

Oct 7, 07 11:36 pm  · 
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Urbanist

I think that the other side of the sword that is "apocalyptic urbanism" is design speculation about what types of interventions will be necessary to overcome the apocalypse. What would a massive seawall/barrier (a la Thames barrier but much bigger) protecting New York Harbor or LA Harbor look like? How might it hybridize with other systems of urbanism to create new formal systems and vocabularies. If global warming requires large-scale infrastructure urbanism to address, then conceptualizing the form of that urbanism, as a series of built works or systems of built works becomes a very compelling discussion by itself. Apocalypse doesn't just mean the failure of cities.. it just speaks to hybridization, transformation and transcendance... :)

Oct 8, 07 12:16 am  · 
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