Conference Agenda

J: Paper Session_C7: Territory, Landform and Performative Infrastructure
Saturday, 10/Apr/2021:
9:45am - 11:15am

Panel Moderator: Jennifer A E Shields


Vision Machines of Territorial Control

Ersela Kripa

Texas Tech University College of Architecture, United States of America

The US-Mexico border in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts is inundated by dust storms, increasing in intensity and scale due to climate change. While large-scale dust events are monitored by formal networks of stationary sensors, smaller and more spontaneous dust formation evade monitoring. Dust devils—small swirling of dust due to localized hot and cold air mixing—erupt quickly and can cause health and safety hazards at the scale of the human body. Vast areas of the desert, especially near the border, are not densely populated, and spontaneous effects of small dust events impact mostly border crossers. As desertification continues to affect the geology of the region and force more humans into climate migration, tools for better visualizing and predicting small dust events gain urgent importance.

Existing dust event monitoring relies on stationary time-lapse cameras, which capture visual qualities of dust events but limit the ability to capture spatial (3D) and time-based (4D) information at a fine scale. Camera networks are often managed by governmental or environmental agencies, which rely on limited deployments at statistically-probable sites. Many local dust events evade monitoring, while those that are monitored are captured from a single viewpoint. Small dust events happen unexpectedly and are unpredictable, which calls for mobile measuring techniques.

The paper will describe a method currently in development to visually capture small dust events. The project argues that the bottom-up visual recording of these elusive formations has the potential to invert the power structures of vision in the highly surveilled border region. The current prototype of a dust simulation environment captures volumetric data from dust events using a smartphone as a means to radically mobilize and crowdsource the gathering of spatial information during dust events.

The experiment attempts to photogrammetrically measure and digitally reconstruct a small dust event. The method relies on visually scanning and processing data of particulate matter capable of emitting electromagnetically radiant information. The constraints of the scanning rely on the camera’s ability to detect physical objects no smaller than 4-5 ml, or .001 inches. While dust particles are 2.5-5 microns in size, alone they are imperceptible, however, when simulated as an expulsion of dust by air pressure, the mini dust cloud is detected as a continuous object where the outer edges of the form are registered as topographically different from their context. The global particle behavior gives the cloud ability to enter within the visually observable threshold, which orients the optics of dust towards formational densities rather than molecular characteristics. Like any field observation, the measurements are affected by uncontrollable environmental inputs, which the drawing prototype attempts to accept and allow for by scanning multiple clouds in varying light, temperature, and background settings (3 scans).

In addition to specific method development tools, the paper will contextualize the development of vision machines that control territories and bodies, will discuss blind spots of surveillance regimes, and will expand upon the instrumentation of climate change and desertification as part of larger infrastructural systems designed to enable control over all ecological bodies.

Performing Air: Landforms and Ventilation

Gabriel Fries-Briggs

University of New Mexico, United States of America

Air vents and ducts trace a 20th century history of building mechanization and the standardization of interior climates. The vent and it’s corollary material systems stand in for countless episodes where building design became increasingly inseparable from mechanical determination. Understanding the ubiquity of air-conditioning requires untangling the architectural profession’s implication and cultural-reliance on these technologies. As an assemblage of entities, ventilation threads together a social-ecological-technical system.

This paper outlines an alternative formation of air in architecture, addressing built form as an unexpected assemblage of entities through a reshuffling of technological systems. It positions Dune Ducts, a recent gallery installation in Los Angeles, as an alternative methodology for designing ventilation. Dune Ducts plugged into the mechanical infrastructure of an existing building system. The newly installed ductwork replaced the existing system of diffusers, a ventilation prosthetic distributing conditioned air across the interior. This reshuffling of air’s visual and historical formations link landscape, environment, comfort, and building systems.

Sand dunes present an alternative image of air as built form. Wind-driven landscapes, assembled by aeolian processes, depict forms conditioned by air outside the traditional ‘built environment.’ In looking to geology and meteorology, the installation-as-building-fragment combines diverse ontological origins of ventilation. The inertia of systems design and the predetermination of ventilation through standards require a rewiring in light of both climate change’s effects and the spread of pathogens. This paper proposes a shift to spatial, formal, and planetary considerations as means to rethink the performance of air.

Parks as Performative Landscapes: Networked Green Infrastructure for a Flooded Desert City

Courtney Crosson

University of Arizona, United States of America

Cities regularly seek to optimize the value of each single infrastructural investment to their citizens. When city parks are viewed only as spaces for recreation, important performative landscape benefits are not optimized. Tucson, Arizona recently approved a comprehensive bond to renovate and expand the city park system over the next ten years. Given these slated investments, this research investigated how the City could provide additional value beyond the traditional neighborhood park assets listed in the bond. Tucson has the highest yearly extreme storm count across Western US Metropolitan Statistical Areas and averages $9.5 million in property losses each year from flooding where stormwater infrastructure was historically not installed. This chronic flooding occurs at peak events during the North American Monsoon season. This research framed the urban park system as a potential network of performative landscapes able to provide critical urban flood mitigation throughout the city.

Through an upper-level architecture studio, this project designed six parks slated for park bond investments that currently experience chronic flooding during monsoon season. These parks represented six dominant use typologies: large recreation, neighborhood pocket, school playground, street right-of-way, industrial conversion, and mall parking lot conversion. County Flood Control sponsored the project and provided iterative hydrological modelling throughout the semester to improve overall site and network flood mitigation design performance. The computational fluid dynamics software, Flo2D, provided the iterative performance results to the student design teams. The six design teams also completed multiple community engagement activities to understand and prioritize local needs and desires for the parks.

Overall, the six park designs provided a network of an additional 3.5 million gallons of distributed flood water storage to the city. Projects with the largest areas and highest existing flooding volumes (e.g. typologies of large recreation or mall conversion) were most effective at contributing to overall watershed flood mitigation. Smaller neighborhood interventions (e.g. typologies of neighborhood pocket and school playground) offered important, localized mitigation, but contributed minimally to alleviating wider watershed flooding issues. For example, a large park in an area of extreme flooding provided 1,335,988 gallons of annual storage with a 99% peak flow reduction for a 100-year storm. Whereas a neighborhood pocket park provided 64% peak volume reduction for a 100-year storm with 456,000 gallons of storage.

Across these six typologies, this paper concludes that early collaboration between architects and municipalities can ensure infrastructural investments are optimized to achieve multiple purposes for the greatest value to the city and benefit to the local community. Modeling and monitoring the technical performance of ‘soft’ or ‘green’ infrastructure is critical to expanding urban resilience against acute and chronic shocks. The six park designs created a network of performative landscapes able to deliver decentralized flood mitigation throughout the city. The City is moving forward with several of the larger park designs completed by this research and design project through the scheduled bond funding.