Concrete Island

July 11, 2009

Picture 2CNCRETE J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island is the story of architect Robert Maitland, whose car accident in April of 1973 leaves him stranded and confined to the forgotten land under the spur of the M4 motorway in London.

Maitland, the hero of the story, ends up stranded in an ‘island’ defined by the concrete structure of the highways that surround it and the deafening roar of the cars. No-one sees him as they drive by and, as he remarks more than once, no will ever think of looking for him there.

The ‘island’ – and extension of his car and of himself- is nothing but the wasteland of urban living. The space is constricted and airless, left to overgrowth, trash and a seemingly abandoned outbuilding where Proctor and Jane (a brain damaged acrobat and a social outcast) live forgotten and isolated from and by society.

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Observations

June 28, 2009

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Square footage comparison: Interchange vs. shopping strip

Having visited the interchange a few times already, we’ve made a number of observations. One of the most important (and recurring) one is the shear size of the space. Read the rest of this entry »

Jumping K-Rails

June 22, 2009

THOUGHTS ON OUR FIRST SITE VISIT

Existing Conditions

Once, when I was about 13 or 14, we had some massive flooding out in Humble. Highway 59 was totally under water starting just north of FM 1960 going almost all the way to Kingwood. We lived in a neighborhood right off of the highway and I remember wading out to the freeway with my cousin. We just sat there in the middle of this concrete speedway.  It was quite the experience. Remembering walking along the deserted highway always brings to my mind Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story, By The Waters of Babylon.  There was something powerful about being there, in that space, totally unprotected, small, and vulnerable. Maybe that is where this whole obsession started.

We made our first “official” site visit to our site on an early Sunday morning.  After consuming unhealthy amounts of caffeine, and recovering from the shock of finding other people actually awake at 7am on a Sunday, we made our way to the empty Northwest Transit Center Park and Ride. Read the rest of this entry »

Inevitable Dross

June 8, 2009

Cities produce waste, not unlike living organisms. Alan Berger advices us to accept the residual space that comes as a direct consequence of urban living, and embrace it as a possibility for innovative design.

“To expect a planned city to function without waste (such as in a cradle to cradle approach), which represents the in situ or exported excess not only in its growth but of its maintenance, is as a naïve as expecting an animal to thrive in a sensory deprivation tank. The challenge for designers is thus not to achieve drossless urbanization, but to integrate inevitable dross into more flexible aesthetic and design strategies.”


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PHOTO: Interchange Construction at Interstate Highways 610/10, Houston, TX

Drosscape