COLLECTED: Tsunami stones, future cities, and 2 new hypothetical Chicagos

In Excerpts, Thoughts on May 6, 2011 at 10:00 am


NEW YORK—James A. Reeves, a good man all around, recently helped create Urban Omnibus‘ 50 Ideas for the New City.

Enumerated lists are always handy (something I learned in law school), and the Fifty Ideas imagery taps into the bygone optimism of the World’s Fair and the muscle of the New Deal. A few months ago I came across a W.P.A. poster that said, “Real Americans Don’t Carry Debt!” and it struck me how much the government asked of its citizens in the past—and how much people were willing to give in return. Donate your aluminum. Roll up your sleeves. We can do it. With this spirit in mind, I drew dozens of ugly little napkin sketches which Kristina Kassem transformed into beautiful illustrations.Big American Night


THE JAPANESE COAST—As we dialogue about the future of our built environments, we would be remiss to not look back at the wisdom of our ancestors, who did not exist in some glorious golden age, but dealt with most of the same problems we deal with today. For instance: tsunamis. Earthquakes have shaken the Earth all throughout history, and any undersea rift will send waves rippling out, gaining mass and momentum until finally crashing into continental land mass. BLDGBLOG reports on ancient markers that helped the Japanese avoid destruction.

The stone tablet has stood on this forested hillside since before they were born, but the villagers have faithfully obeyed the stark warning carved on its weathered face: ‘Do not build your homes below this point!’ Residents say this injunction from their ancestors kept their tiny village of 11 households safely out of reach of the deadly tsunami last month that wiped out hundreds of miles of Japanese coast and rose to record heights near here. The waves stopped just 300 feet below the stone… Hundreds of so-called tsunami stones, some more than six centuries old, dot the coast of Japan, silent testimony to the past destruction that these lethal waves have frequented upon this earthquake-prone nation.BLDGBLOG


CHICAGO—Pruned released a slew of fictions over the past week, more installments to its (Im)possible Chicago series. Two of the five—#10 and #14—got me. The first paints a scene where enormous, near apocalyptic wildfires sweep through the Windy City every ten years. The second is more veiled, an alternate but more possible—imminent even?—version, rendered through a highly detailed list, painting Chicago as a tech-addicted, marginalized, universalist ghetto.

(Im)possible Chicago #10

Every ten years the fires come. Starting from Land Grant Fire Ignition Stations strategically gridded on the outskirts of the city, they come howling, coronal, as though the prairies have sprouted solar prominences arcing and looping eastward towards the lake.

First they stream through the fire avenues of the Emerald Necklace, extended, renetworked and planted with highly combustible trees and shrubbery for this decennial event. Once a neighborhood is surrounded, the flaming noose contracts and gorges on the trapped kindling. … Most residents stay to ride out the firestorm, however, holed up in their thickly concreted bungalows. They only need to stock up on food and water for a week and, most critically, tap in to the city’s underground network of O2 tunnels to supply their bunkers with breathable air.

To pass the time, they tune in to The Burn Channel, watching Anderson Cooper survey the ongoing conflagration inside his Nomex suit. A solitary astronaut on the surface of Mercury. They check when the nearest firefront will singe through their street, scorch their gardens and evaporate the past decade’s ornamental fads from their home’s exterior. The sights of skyscrapers collapsing are eagerly anticipated. Correspondingly, they participate in online public forums to design a new city. All aspects of the city in waiting are decided by popular vote. … Whatever city they get next, it will be yet another fleeting thing, turning fugitive in ten years’ time.

:: :: ::

(Im)possible Chicago #10

Inside the walls, in the once sprawling city reduced, Rome-style, to a tiny enclave, are cybercafes where the mafia farm for World of Warcraft gold, McDonald’s with hot pot dining tables, ping pong halls, mobile repair shops selling jailbreak iPhones, e-waste recycling sweatshops, four-star capsule hotels, brothels inside Youth Hostels, pieds-à-terre, dormitories where college students cram into multi-level bunk beds, apothecaries, antique shops filled with Ming ceramics of questionable provenance, IMAX 3D movie palaces built in the Art Deco Chinoiserie style, chapels for Western-style white weddings, acupuncture centers, discothèques and Dance Dance Revolution arcades, coin-operated pissoirs, shadow puppet theaters, landscape architecture offices, mausoleums with the embalmed bodies of Richard M. Daley and other former mayors, topiary gardens, haberdasheries where tourists get outfitted with a Mao suit in just a couple of hours, Grant Achatz’s take-away, droning server farms, car dealerships, exoplanet radio observatories, Freemason lodges, aviaries and apiaries, abattoirs, salt mines holding the collections of the Field Museum of Natural History and the Art Institute of Chicago, cave pharms, slave labor camps, POW camps, the Obama Presidential Libraries, Apple Stores selling iPad knockoffs, bootleg DVDs and dumplings at the Genius Bar, sentient golf courses, baseball batting cages, foreign news bureaus of CCTV, favelas, Buddhist temples on the grounds of Protestant cemeteries on the grounds of the Holy Name Cathedral, which rents out one of its towers as a Falun Gong meditation center, the other as a synagogue, fog water catching stations, zeppelin loading docks, Boeing manufacturing plants, Starbucks, emergency AC cooling centers, bôiteries, karaoke bars, oxygen bars that always fill up whether or not there’s a methane alert, the venues for Postopolis! Chicago, AM radio stations, fabulous fabulous ballrooms for drag shows, hot-body contests, mock same-sex weddings, Chinese opera performances and the Miss Transgender USA beauty pageant, fishmongers, cordwainers, cobblers, tea houses, calligraphy schools, English language schools, elite boarding schools, charm schools and gao kao preparation night schools where students hook up to oxygen tanks in the hopes of increasing their concentration, National Ethnic Minority Theme Houses, outdoor escalators, sky elevators, wetland safari travel agencies, hutongs, fully immersive Cave Automatic Virtual Environments (or CAVEs), H&Ms, Zen-inspired spas, hipster boutiques, white guy rental agencies, watering holes for foreign consular workers, consulates, organ harvesting clinics, sanitariums, orphanages and missionaries, branches of the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Tate, helipads, satellite campuses of the world’s leading universities, studio spaces in which guests for A Date with Luyu are interviewed via satellite, crematoriums and cremation ghats, windmills, grottos, giochi d’acqua, betting shops, bakeries, abortion clinics and cinemas that play all the films of Jia Zhanke all the time.—Pruned

  1. those posters – how do we get them?

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