Holes | Sites

One of the main contextual starting points of site design is the topography of sites… flat, sloped, steep, gradual – all influence the eventual end. What do we do when there is a significant depression – either natural, or created via cultural activities. Whereas we consider the malleability of the site as a generic field for activities. A different tack must be taken when the starting point being a depression in the site.

Archidose offers an extreme example of this idea, with an interesting project by Aziza Chaouni in Fez, Morocco called Hybrid Urban Sutures… inhabiting tanneries for university open space. Chaouni “…inserted university functions into the dense network of Fez, as well looking at existing tanneries as opportunities for green space. Paired with LA-based urban planner Takako Tajima, the plan addresses three sites in Fez, the tanneries, a playground, and a transit hub. The tanneries offer the project’s most striking imagery.”

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A definite oasis in the parched cityscape – these pockets are inserted with vegetation, both in the holes as well as the interstitial spaces – giving the site an evocative armature for formgiving. The result is pretty dramatic – specifically from above.

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A recent post by urb offers another interesting physical ‘holes’ in this case, mines – which are rife for potential rehabiltation and reinhabitation. Via the site: “…look at these images of Diavik Mine in Canada, featured in an NPR article today. They look like a land_art-megastructuralists wet dream: a massive earthen superstructure just waiting to be infilled, modulated, and plugged-in.”

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As urb mentions, these images are stunning and mortifying. The potential for earthworks art and landscape interventions is pretty compelling. ” Diamond companies also have to show how they’re going to close their mines safely even before they’re open.” (emphasis mine) That is an interesting fact for artists and architects interested in intervening on such a large scale. Land Artists such as Robert Smithson come to mind, as well as Landscape Architects such as Alan Berger’s Drosscapes and Shlomo Aronson‘s Negev Phosphate Works.” urb evokes Smithson, as well as these studies of man-made holes by Herbert Bayer, sort of a 3-D figure ground study of landform.

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More man-made – but similar in idea, is the manipulated ‘Stair of the Week’, via Treehugger, the stepwell (aka bawdi/baoli “…at Chand Baori, India, is a hundred feet deep and has 3500 steps. Legend says that it has so many steps to make it impossible for someone to retrieve a coin if it is dropped into the well.”

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Via Treehugger: “All forms of the stepwell may be considered to be particular examples of the many types of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed in India, mainly to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability. A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, was to make it easier for people to reach the ground water, and to maintain and manage the well.”

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Wrapping up the dialogue, the design blog features the fusion of perhaps all three of these features in a post on Seuthopolis: “The ‘Underwater City’ in Bulgaria is a similar revolutionary town that is ‘built in the middle of a lake, not on an island, but actually below water level’. Though, the city isn’t fully under water, a huge dam (1,377 feet in diameter and 65 in height) around the city, will keep the water away from the living area that can be accessed only through water transportation. The underwater city is actually the ancient city of Seuthopolis, discovered in 1948, which came into being, after a dam was destroyed in Bulgaria, to become one of the most ambitious under water projects ever.”

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the design blog

While dynamic, there isn’t a large difference between the elaborate systems that maintain the delicate balance between water and urban area… particularly present in areas where the developed areas are below sea level (e.g. levees of New Orleans, polders of the Netherlands)… perhaps bigger and less distinct, but still, nonetheless holes.

3 thoughts on “Holes | Sites

  1. Morris’ Untitled, Johnson Pit #30, 1979 certainly came to mind promptly from this post.

    and some of Morris’ writing on it:
    though i think this is different from the essay in his collected writings Continuous Projects Altered Daily.

    A great work to visit and his intentions, specifically in not transforming the scared site into an idyllic landscape, rather creating a site where in we able to access the existing intervention of the mining activity, is enlightening. It can’t always be spruced up with a bit of careful planting after all.

    The tree stumps and logs planted above the pit, I believe it may have been called “forest of ghosts” or some such thing, is really interesting in forcing us to face our creation of death in equivalence to our ability in enabling life.

    I especially find his statements at the end of his talk on the project enlightening on the way we narrativize our relationship with specific environments:

    “It would seem that artists participating in art as land reclamation will be forced to make moral as well as aesthetic choices. There may be more choices available than either a cooperative or critical stance for those who participate. But it would perhaps be a misguided assumption to suppose that artists hired to work in industrially blasted landscapes would necessarily and invariably choose to convert such sites into idyllic and reassuring places, thereby socially redeeming those who wasted the landscape in the first place.”

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