Building the World

April 14, 2022
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WATER: Noah’s Ark for Marine Life

“Noah’s Ark,” by Edward Hicks. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Public Domain, USA. Image: wikimedia

Coral reefs cover just 1% of the ocean floor but support 25% of all marine life. According to The Ocean Agency’s founder Richard Vevers, even if we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, we may lose 90% of our coral reefs by mid-century due to ocean warming and acidification that causing coral reef bleaching. Working with the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland, The Ocean Agency and a team of scientists selected 50 coral reefs that are most likely to survive climate change with a little help. The reefs chosen are a sample “large enough to allow protection of reefs in all major regions” (UQ 2017).

“Coral planting and reef restoration,” by Profmauri, 2011. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia.

Given this ‘Noah’s Ark’ for coral and marine life, how can this precious resource be preserved? Much like the examples of humans helping Nature as in the National Trails System, Roman Aqueducts or the New River, natural coral reefs may get a boost from engineering innovations. Coral can be grown in a lab, where growth that could take 100 years in the ocean can be accomplished in two years under laboratory conditions. Once the tiny corals are ready for transplanting, they can be placed on reefs that are suffering but still able to recover; it’s a process known as “reskinning.”

“The Silent Evolution” by James deCaires Taylor. Photographer, allenran 917, 2014. Creative Commons 2.0.

Another option: forming new coral reefs using underwater sculptures like those created by James deCaires Taylor for the Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art on Great Barrier Reef, and Mexico’s Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere, for the Museo Subacuático de Arte. Some debate whether such sculptures are helping or harming marine life. Similar underwater sculpture gardens created by Angeline Chen and Kyle Block, founders of Global Coralition, are located in Koh Tao, Thailand, and in the Dominican Republic, where art honors the traditional water deities of the Arawak/Taino cultures of the Caribbean.

“Blue Spotted Stingray in Koh Tao, Thailand coral reef,” photographer Jan Derk, 2004. Generously dedicated to the public domain by Jan Derk. Creative Commons. With appreciation to Jan Derk.

Vevers worried that coral is an emergency that is invisible to all but divers and the denizens of the ocean. To make the invisible visible (coincidentally the theme for World Water Day 2022 referencing groundwater), The Ocean Agency reached out to Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes to collaborate on a Netflix film: “Chasing Coral.” During filming, the most dangerous coral bleaching event in history occurred. The film debuted at Sundance and has helped to make coral’s plight more accessible. Watch the film here.

“Coral reef locations,” by NASA, 2006, from Millennium Coral Reef Landsat Archive. Public Domain. 50 are chosen for “Noah’s Ark” preservation. For information on each reef, visit http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/landsat.pl

Art may help to raise awareness, and respect, for the world’s coral reefs. In addition to nurturing 25% of marine life, coral provides 1 billion people with food, jobs, and income that generates $375 billion in economic benefits. Coral reels are not visible to most of us, so they may be out of mind. But there is much each of us can do. Recycling plastic that can harm reels and marine life, being cautious about the use of some sunscreens when enjoying the beach, or by supporting ocean sustainability and coral reef regeneration, we have an opportunity to build a modern-day Noah’s Ark for coral.

Beyer, Hawthorne L, et al., “Risk-sensitive planning for conserving coral reefs under rapid climate change.” 27 June 2018. Conservation Letters, Volume 11, Issue 6, e12587. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12587

DeCaires, Jason Taylor. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED talk. December 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life?language-en

Drury, Madeleine. “Are giant underwater sculptures helping or harming marine life?” 07/09/2021. Euronews.com. https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/o7/13/are-giant-underwater-sculptures-helping-or-harming-marine-life

Global Coralition. https://www.globalcoralition.org

Netflix and Exposure Labs: “Chasing Coral,” Film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGGBGcjdjXA

The Ocean Agency, “50 Reefs.” Video: https://youtu.be/pFfVpO_q4sg

University of Queensland, Global Change Institute. “Which reefs are the most important to save?” 24 February 217. https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2017/02/which-reefs-are-most-important-save

Vevers, Richard. “Interview,” https://youtu.be/8hMAgr4p7Sg

Wilson, Amy. “Microfragmentation: a breakthrough for coral reef restoration.” 18 September 2018. Medium.com. https://medium.com/@amykwilson/microfragmentation-a-breakthrough-for-coral-reef-restoration-6a2e86c4e2

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

January 17, 2022
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CITIES: Landscapes and Dreamscapes

“I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on 28 August 1963. Photo shows the view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Image: wikimedia.

When Martin Luther King delivered a speech that would ring throughout history, “I Have a Dream,” he did so on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the nation’s capital. King’s words echoed Lincoln’s, who proposed and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and were framed by the setting of a monument dedicated to equality, freedom, and justice. The crowd assembled stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, in a public gathering space first envisioned by the country’s founders. Today’s march to urge passage of a law to protect  voting rights is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Peace Walk.

L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, D.C., facsimile, us.gov. Image: wikimedia

With the vision of capital to be both a center of government and a landscape that invited public art and public gatherings, George Washington engaged architect and engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791 to map out a new city. The plan was inspired by the open boulevards of Paris, L’Enfant’s original home before he at the age of 22 the young engineer volunteered to serve with the Corps of Engineers of the United States Continental Army: it was then that he met Washington. However, the relationship proved volatile and Washington fired L’Enfant in 1792.

Benjamin Banneker” from image on a U.S. postal stamp honoring the brilliant mathematician and surveyor whom many credit with preserving the design of Washington, D.C.’s design. Image: wikimedia.

Benjamin Banneker, a mathematician and astronomer with an apparently photographic memory, saved the capital. Banneker remember L’Enfant’s design and detailed blueprints exactly. He had been engaged by Major Andrew Ellicott to survey the land. Banneker particularly noted L’Enfant’s design of grand open space for monuments, public art, and common ground for gatherings, and kept the vision in the city’s plan. Others on the capital team included Latrobe and Jefferson. Benjamin Banneker and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a vision, and some background: both shared an African-American heritage.

“Original Plan for Brasilia” by Lúcio Costa” from O Spaço Lúcio Costa, Brasilia, permanent exhibition: photograph by Uri Rosenheck. Image: wikimedia.

Cities, especially capitals, have an opportunity to be more than an urban conglomerate. In some ways, a capital is public art. When Brazil moved its capital from coastal Rio de Janeiro to the center of the country, the nation gave a new name, Brasilia, to its capital. Recognizing a new era in global perspective and transport, Brasilia was built in the shape of an airplane.

“Drivers, Processes, and Impacts of Sinking Cities” graphic by Wbliss10, 2019. Wikimedia commons.

With global warming and rising seas, we will see the rebuilding of coastal cities. It is a fact that many capitals, especially ancient ones, were ports. Indonesia plans to move its capital because the current one is sinking at a rate of 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) per year due to coastal location exacerbated by aggressive draining of groundwater under Jakarta. Bangkok, Thailand recently reviewed projections that it could be underwater by 2030, due to a combination of heavy skyscrapers built during a real estate and economic boom, and depletion of groundwater resources,  despite attempts to slow the process including Thailand’s Ground Water Act of 1977. Dhaka, Bangladesh is sinking at a rate of 0.55 inches (1.4 centimeters) and sea level rise in the Bay of Bengal is higher than the global average. Nigeria moved its capital from coastal Lagos to central Abuja.

“Aerial panorama of Bremen and the river Weser – Bremen von oben” by Moinichbins, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Sea rise may soon cause nations to rebuild and redesign some cities, especially those located near water. How can capitals be both centers of efficient governance and inspirational gatherings? If you were to design a new capital, based on the virtues and values of a nation, how would you create a city that is both a landscape and a dreamscape?

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Jakarta: first capital to move due to sea rise.” 2019 Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/05/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise/

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker.” The White House Historical Association.” https://www.whitehousehistory.org/benjamin-banneker

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have A Dream.” 28 August 1963. LISTEN: https://youtu.be/vP4/Y1TtS3s

Rosane, Olivia. “8 World Cities That Could Be Underwater As Oceans Rise.” 5 October 2018. EcoWatch. https://www.ecowatch.com/cities-vulnerable-sea-level-rise-2610208792.html

Thailand. “Ground Water Act of 1977.” http://www.dgr.go.th/en/about/391

Washington D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Walk. 17 January 2022. https://mlkholidaydc.org/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

November 23, 2021
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THANKS Giving: Global traditions of gratitude

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States. Photograph by Derek Jensen (Tysto) 2004. Generously donated to public domain by the photographer. Image: wikimedia commons.

Giving thanks can take many forms including exchanges to strengthen friendships between nations. American presidents sit at the Resolute Desk, given by Britain to the United States in 1880 as a gesture of thanks for rescuing the HMS Resolute from an Arctic ice-jam, repairing and returning the vessel to the United Kingdom. Six years later, in 1886, France gifted the United States with the Statue of Liberty as an icon of freedom and democracy, and to honor Abraham Lincoln. The famous sculpture proposed by Éduard de Laboulaye (French political philosopher, abolitionist, and expert on the US Constitution) was commissioned to Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi with interior designed by Gustave Eiffel, of the Paris Tower fame.

Norway has given a tree to Trafalgar Square, London, annually since 1947, in thanks for the end of World War II. Photo by Anneke-B, “Trafalgar Square Tree,” 2008, the year the tradition switched to halogen bulbs for energy conservation and sustainability. Wikimedia CC2.0, with thanks to photographer Anneke-B.

World War II’s dangers formed alliances later celebrated by partners in thanks for solidarity, including annual gifts of  20,000 tulips bulbs from the Netherlands to Canada for sheltering Princess Juliana during the war, and Norway’s yearly gift of a holiday tree to grace Trafalgar Square in London in commemoration of World War II’s alliances, cooperation, resolution, and peace.

Most festivals of harvest and thanks feature traditional cuisine. Here is a vegetarian feast from Seoul, Korea. “Korea-Seoul-Insadong-Sanchon” by Julie Facine. Creative Commons license CC by SA 2.0, wikimedia. Included with thanks to photographer Julie Facine.

As Americans observe Thanksgiving, it’s a time to recognize traditions of gratitude around the world. Countries celebrating a holiday of thanks include: Barbados (Crop Over Festival), Brazil (Dia de Ação de Graças), Canada (Thanksgiving), China (Chung Ch’iu), Germany (Erntedankfest), Ghana (Homowo Festival), Grenada (Thanksgiving), Israel (Sukkot), Japan (Kinro Kansha no Hi), Liberia (Thanksgiving), Malaysia (Ka’amatan), Netherlands (Thanksgiving), Norfolk Island (Harvest Home Festival), South Korea (Chuseok), and Vietnam (Têt-Trung-Thu). Many world festivals of thanks honor the harvest, the family, and the power of alliance and cooperation.

Received at the White House on 23 November 1880, the Resolute Desk (seen here with John F. Kennedy, President, and son, John) is a Partners’ Desk. Photo by Stanley Tretick, October 1963. Public Domain image. Wikimedia.

Today, we observe an anniversary with a message. The Resolute Desk, that began this discussion, arrived at the White House on 23 November 1880. When the gift was opened, it was discovered to be a partners’ desk: crafted for two people, facing each other, to work together. The design is believed to promote cooperation. Should be there be an international holiday of thanks to honor cooperation and peace?

Deron, Bernadette. “This is how 15 other countries around the world celebrate thanksgiving.” 7 November 2021. All That’s Interesting.com. https://allthatsinteresting.com/thanksgiving-in-other-countries

“Gifts Given Between Countries.” Accessed 22 November 2021. https://visual.ly/community/Infographics/travel/gifts-given-between-countries-weird-and-wonderful

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

July 4, 2021
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CITIES: Liberty, Diplomacy, Art (and Fireworks!)

“Statue of Liberty” by Tysto (Derek Jensen), 2005. Image is in the public domain, from wikimedia commons.

On Independence Day, France will give a gift of diplomacy to the United States, celebrating the shared value of liberty. France’s national motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), and the American holiday of independence, will join sentiments as a replica of the Statue of Liberty is presented by the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris for a ten-year visit to the land of her big sister. “Little Lady Liberty” (9.3 feet or 2.8 meters) joins the original Statue of Liberty (305 feet or 93 meters) that was a gift from France to the United States in 1886.

“The Eiffel Tower – State of the Construction.” Photograph by Louis-Emile Durandelle. public domain. Image: wikimedia.

While Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed the sculpture, the creator of the eponymous Eiffel Tower in Paris, Gustave Eiffel, crafted its internal structure, introducing an innovative design that relied not on weight as support but on a flexible structure with a central pylon supporting a web of asymmetrical girders. Since its arrival in 1885, the iconic monument has stood on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, welcoming those who came to its shores in search of freedom. The visiting French replica will be displayed on Ellis Island to bear witness to Independence celebrations, before moving to other locations, culminating in Washington, D.C. for its unveiling on July 14, in honor of Bastille Day. The visitor will remain for 10 years. As the world seeks to foster shared values, should countries exchange public art for display, especially in national capitals, as an outreach of diplomacy? If you’d like to follow the journey of Little Lady Liberty, click here.

Another iconic display – both on American Independence Day and French Bastille Day? Fireworks!

“Animation gif of Fireworks, July 4, 2007, Gainesville, Florida” by Sistromc. Image: public domain, wikimedia commons.

Chen, Roselle, with editing by Rosalba O’Brien. “Mini Statue of Liberty retraces her big sister’s steps to New York Harbor.” 2 July 2021. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/mini-statue-liberty-retraces-her-big-sisters-steps-new-york-harbor-2021-07/01/.

Varga, Eva. “The Engineering Feats of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.” https://evavarga.net/engineering-feats-alexandre-gustave-eiffel/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

June 29, 2021
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CITIES: Iconic Pride

“Empire State Building in Rainbow Colors for Pride.” Photographer Anthony Quintano. 28 June 2015. Image: wikimedia commons

Cities have an opportunity to inspire and unite urban denizens in shared values. As Toynbee demonstrated in Cities of Destiny, the metropolis can create a unique cultural climate. Many urban centers possess iconic monuments, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that may serve as cultural billboards. As the world gathered in Paris for COP21 in 2015, that landmark beamed the message: “1.5” –  indicating a shared goal of limiting global warming to that level. Other issues like social justice have illuminated city monuments: San Francisco’s City Hall has often been displayed in rainbow colors.

“City Hall, San Francisco, California, USA.” Photographer Torrenegra. Image: wikimedia

London, England, has many landmarks including the fabled London Bridge and the recent addition to the cityscape: the London Eye. This month, the “Eye,” formally termed the Millennium Wheel when it opened in 2000, displayed rainbow colors to honor Pride, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall turning point for LGBT+ rights.

White House with LGBT+ Rainbow Colors. Image: wikimedia commons.

In June of 2015 when the United States Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) two people of same sex have the right to marry, the White House celebrated by illuminating the iconic Washington D.C. building in the colors of the rainbow. As we strive to build an equal and sustainable future – environmentally and socially – how can cities Troop the Color?

“Malloy, Allie and Karl de Vries. “White House shines rainbow colors to hail same-sex marriage ruling.” 30 June 2014. CNN. VIDEO https://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/white-house-rainbow-marriage/index.html

Public Broadcasting System (PBS). “The American Experience: Stonewall.” VIDEO https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/

Toynbee, Arnold. Editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames and Hudson, 1967.

Wingate, Sophie. “London landmarks light up in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride Month” 2 June 2021. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/london-landmarks-light-up-in-rainbow-colours-for-pride-month-vd05b2fba.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

April 7, 2021
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WATER: Fashion Forward

“Miami Fashion Week 2019” showing designs of Claudia Bertolero. Image: wikimedia.

Fashion designers and producers are leading a revolution in the garment industry, currently responsible for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions (Briggs 2021) and 20% of global untreated wastewater resulting from dyeing fabrics. Ralph Lauren Corporation announced “Color on Demand” in its adoption of ECOFAST ™, a sustainable  textile method developed by Dow, to be used in 80% of Ralph Lauren wear by 2025. ECOFAST uses 40% less water, 85% fewer chemical, 90% less energy. Leather jackets made from mushrooms, garments produced in safe and just factories, fibers that are sustainable, shoes that biodegrade, and plastic shopping bags transformed into fabrics, are some of the circularity trends transforming fashion.  The Circular Fibres Initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation brings together industry leaders to change the life cycle and supply chain of fashion fibres and textiles. Stella McCartney placed sustainability fact sheets on seats of the Palais Garnier for the 2020 spring collection show. Will garments of the future have sustainability ratings, and ingredient tags along with laundering instructions?

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “New Circular Fibres Initiative brings industry together to build a circular economy for textiles.” 11 Ma7 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/new-circular-fibres-initiative-brings-industry-together-to-build-a-circular-economy-for-textiles

McCartney, Stella. “Circular Fashion/Circular Economy.” StellaMcCartney.com. https://www.stellamccartney.com/experience/en/sustainability/circularity-2/

Newbold, Alice. “Stella McCartney: Sustainability is the future of fashion, not just a trend.” 30 September 2019. Vogue. https://www.vogue.co.uk/tags/stella-mccartney

Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL). “Ralph Lauren Revolutionizes How the Fashion Industry Dyes Cotton.” 22 March 2021. https://corporate.ralphlauren.com/pr_210322_ColorOnDemand.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

March 31, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Suez Canal

Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal. What is the future of shipping? Image: wikimedia.

One ship 1,300 feet long (400 meters); 14 tug boats; 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand cleared; 369 ships waiting in line behind the behemoth vessel: these are the elements that marked the reopening of the Suez Canal this week. When the Ever Given stopped traffic on 23 March, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) estimated a $14 million revenue loss for each day of the blockage. Moreover, trade along the waterway that contributes 2% to Egypt’s GDP also stopped – costing $6.7 million per minute. (Russon 2021) Alianz insurer reported the Suez Canal March 2021 blockage cost between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Ever Given earlier in March in the port of Rotterdam. Image: wikimedia.

Almost everything we touch has reached us, at some stage in the supply chain, via ship. Suez averages 106 container vessels and cruise ships per day. Trends in the container shipping industry reveal continuous pressure for size increase: since 1968, container ship capacity has increased 1,200%. (World Shipping Council, 2021) Why the pressure for bigger? One reason is because shipping is twice as energy efficient as rail and seven times more than vehicle. Shipping emits 3.1% of global CO2, but that percentage could rise as other industries decarbonize. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) is a globally-binding design standard established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reduce climate damage caused by shipping: ships built from 2020-2024 will be required to improve energy efficiency by 15-20%, and by 30% after 2025. Many of those ships will transit the Suez Canal.

Suez Canal, southern part, as viewed by Hodoyoshi satellite, 2015. Image: Axelspace Corporation, via wikimedia commons.

As container ships get bigger, canals will too. In 2015, Suez built a parallel waterway deepened by dredging one million cubic meters of sludge daily. Six companies did the work: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (USA), Jan de Nul Group and Deme Group (Belgium), National Marine Dredging (UAE), Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord (Netherlands). The Panama Canal, begun by Ferdinand de Lesseps but completed by the US, recently installed new locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides that are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than the originals. American ports like Baltimore, Charleston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Virginia have seen increased container traffic from the Panama expansion, according to the Supply Chain Management Program at MIT. The current US proposal “American Jobs Plan” allocates $42 billion for ports (air and sea) that may spur improvements.

Aida performed in the Arena di Verona, Italy, 2006. How can we celebrate great infrastructure in our times? Photographer: Christian Abend. Image: wikimedia commons.

Egypt’s famous waterway opened in 1869; 1.5 million people worked on the canal’s construction, evidence that infrastructure building creates jobs. Ferdinand de Lesseps, retired diplomat, visited his childhood friend now the khedive and viceroy of Egypt, in 1854 and gained concession to build the canal. Diplomacy remained a central value: the Suez contract Article VI states “tariffs of dues for passage…shall be always equal for all nations.” (Building the World, p. 193) To mark the inaugural opening of the Suez Canal, Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera Aida.  Should the “American Jobs Plan,” aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, include funding for art?

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Building the World: Great Engineering Projects in History. Volume 1, Chapter 16, “The Suez Canal,” pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO, 2006. ISBN: 9780313333736

DC Velocity. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?” 20 December 2018.  https://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/30335-has-the-panama-canal-expansion-changed-anything.

Edwards-May, David, and Li Denan. China’s Grand Canal: Mirror of Civilisation. Xanadu Publishing 2020. ISBN: 9781784591830.

Gooley, Toby. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?”

Inland Waterways International (IWI).  https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/

Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership and World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. “Mitigation: Moving towards low carbon navigation infrastructure.” @NavClimate.  https://navclimate.pianc.org

Russon, Mary-Ann. “The cost of the Suez Canal blockage.” 29 March 2021. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56559073

Street, Francesca. “What’s it’s really like steering the world’s biggest ships.” 29 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/steering-worlds-biggest-ships-suez-canal-cmd/index.html

Tankersley, Jim. “Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy.” 31 March 2021. The New York Times.

Transport & Environment. “Shipping and Climate Change.” https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do-/shipping-and-environment-shipping-and-climate-change

Verdi, Giuseppe. Aida. Performance by Pavarotti. LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

World Shipping Council. “Container Ship Design.” https://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/liner-ships/container-ship-design.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

January 21, 2021
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CITIES: WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Presidential Inauguration 1905.” Library of Congress, image.

Washington, D.C., setting of two distinctly disparate 2021 events on 6 January and 20 January, was designed for public gatherings in wide open spaces. Major Pierre L’Enfant, born in France but an ardent supporter of the American Revolutionary War who volunteered to serve in the Corps of Engineering of the Continental Army, met George Washington and proposed himself as the designer of the country’s new capital. In L’Enfant’s vision, wide avenues would radiate from the house of Congress and the house of the President. L’Enfant sketched 15 open spaces for gatherings and monuments: L’Enfant stated that open spaces were as important as buildings.

Washington Mall, site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, and of 200,000 flags heralding the Biden-Harris Inauguration of 2021. Image: “National Mall, Washington, D.C.” wikimedia.

L’Enfant may have been influenced by the design of a renovated Paris, France, by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who enlarged the boulevards for two reasons: better air circulation to lessen the spread of viral disease, and large public gathering spaces. Paris still benefits from these two reasons, as does Washington.

“L’Enfant’s Plan of Washington, D.C., 1887.” National Register of Historic Places: 97000332. Image: Library of Congress.

L’Enfant ‘s grand vision was almost lost. Apparently there was a dispute, and L’Enfant fled the city with the detailed plans. Enter Benjamin Banneker. Bannekar, who had attended a one-room school while studying independently with his grandmother, was known for mathematical brilliance when he came to work with Major Andrew Ellicott as a surveyor to establish the District of Columbia’s official capital borders.

Benjamin Banneker, from Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Wikimedia.

Among Banneker’s considerable talents was a photo-perfect memory. L’Enfant’s design was imprinted on the surveyor’s mind and, according to some reports, soon reproduced for completion by Benjamin Banneker.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture site, in Washington, D.C., is within an area now named Benjamin Banneker Park. Banneker also wrote an almanac, with an inaugural publication entitled: Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and published abolitionist material advocating a vision in part realized, in the capital he helped design, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20 January 2009, and 20 January 2021, the inauguration day of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Washington, D.C., joins a small group of designed cities in history. Baghdad was created from a drawing of three concentric circles etched by sword in the sand. Abuja, Nigeria’s new capital, was influenced by Haussman’s Paris, as well as Washington, D.C., and Brasília was the first city designed to be seen from the air, and shaped like an airplane when seen from that vantage point. Capital cities are an iconic kind of urban center, embodying ideals of government and national values. In The New Science of Cities (2013), Michael Batty proposed that we see cities as systems of networks and flows. Arnold Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, stated that cities, led with vision, may become incubators of art, culture, and science.

As Washington, D.C., takes on a new character in 2021, encouraged by inaugural address values of respect and unity, and led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, how might L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s design give what Lawrence Durrell called the “spirit of place” to a new spirit of nation?

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. inaugurated in Washington, D.C., on 20 January 2021. 

Batty, Michael. The New Science of Cities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262019521

Bedini, Silvio A. The Life of Benjamin Banneker. Rancho Cordova, CA: Landmark Enterprises, 1984.

Durrell, Lawrence. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel. edited by Alan G. Thomas. Open Road: Integrated Media.

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer Who Presidents Couldn’t Ignore.” White House Historical Association.

National Museum of African American History & Culture. “The NMAAHC Museum Site,” https://nmaahc.si.edu/nmaahc-museum-site.

Reston, Maeve. “Biden: ‘Democracy has prevailed.'” 20 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/joe-biden-presidential-inauguration/index.html

Tan, Shelly, Youjin Shin, and Danielle Rinder. “How one of American’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol.” 9 January 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/capitol-insurrection-visual-timeline/

Toynbee, Arnold. editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

November 30, 2020
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WATER: Art and Environment

“Coral Reef” by photographer Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia.

As coral reefs around the world suffer effects of climate change, BlueLab Preservation Society has responded to “combine art and science to address issues of sustainability,” according to art director Ximena Caminos. The result: an ‘art-ificial’ reef, designed by artists, for Miami Beach, to stretch seven miles along the coast. Some compare ReefLine to the High Line in Manhattan, but instead of walking shoes, one traverses the area with fins – both piscatorial and human. While the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost 50% of its coral, and reefs worldwide are similarly damaged, Florida hopes to re-establish marine life with the underwater art installation. Some have noted that Pantone’s color of the year in 2019 was “Living Coral.” It quickly became a hair color of choice. Can fashion and art play a role in raising environmental awareness?

“The Silent Evolution” in Cancún’s MUSA. Image: wikimedia.

“Ocean Siren,” an underwater sculpture for the Great Barrier Reef by conservationist artist Jason deCaires Taylor, was the first art to be included in Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). “Ocean Siren,” modeled after 12-year old Takoda Johnson, member of the Wulgurukaba People, changes color in response to varying ocean temperatures. Jason deCaires Taylor was also the architect for Mexico’s Museo Subacuático de Arte or Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), with 500 statues between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, with the goal of protecting the Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere. The sculptures are made with a neutral PH cement surface to promote coral tissue growth. Florida’s ReefLine will feature works by artists Shigematsu, Ernesto Neto, and Agustina Woodgate.

Coral reefs: locations. Image: wikimedia.

While some environmentalists may question the practice of drawing more tourists to visit delicate coral reefs, others may find ways of raising awareness of the importance of marine life helpful. Perhaps the movement towards biodegradable beach flip-flops and other products replacing plastic endangering our oceans will accompany Florida’s initiative. What do you think about underwater art and artificial coral reefs?

Blue Lab Preservation Society. https://www.instagram.com/bluelab_preservation_society/?hl=en

DeCaires Taylor, Jason. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED Talk. VIDEO: https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life

Hutchinson, Carrie. “An underwater museum is opening inside the world’s most famous reef.” 29 April 2020. cnbc.com. Includes VIDEO. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/29/museum-of-underwater-art-to-open-inside-australia-great-barrier-reef.html

Palumbo, Jacqui. “An otherworldly underwater sculpture park will open in Miami.” 26 November 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/reef-line-miami-underwter-sculpture-park/index.html

November 9, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES: Welcome to the Club

“DJs at the club.” Photographer: Malagalabombonera, 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

The wall fell down and so did a lot of other things on November 9, 1989. “No photos on the dance floor!” is an exhibition documenting Berlin’s club scene since the fall of the Wall. According to Felix Hoffmann, curator, “After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, clubs, bars, galleries, and studios began popping up everywhere, filing empty buildings, factories; the club scene became the driving force behind the city’s rejuvenation.” Hoffman believes that Germany was first reunited on the dance floor. The city was not officially re-united administratively until October 1990; meanwhile, there were yet no rules. Pop-up parties met in forests, drawing together thousands of people who were formerly kept apart. Many believe clubs like Metropol and Tresor fostered a dance and music culture that all people, despite their former differences, discovered together.

In Cities of Destiny, Arnold Toynbee explored the idea that some cities, at moments in history, generate a climate of exceptional capabilities; example, Athens in the age of Pericles or Cyrene. New capital cities, from Baghdad to Brasilia, are built-visions of a nation, offering both governance and culture. In the future, climate change may cause some coastal capitals to move inland; as Indonesia moves the capital from Jakarta, due to sea-rise, what might exemplify the new vision? Dance clubs could be a factor, for another reason:

Floors that give light (and sometimes delight). “Break Dance” by Kalka, 2008. Image: wikimedia commons.

If dance brings us together, Pavegen’s idea does double step: floors that generate electricity when people dance, or walk, over special tiles. Pavegen demonstrated the innovation at the London Olympics when the West Ham Tube station lit itself from electricity generated by 2012 Olympic Games attendees as they arrived at the tube step nearest the stadium. It may not be surprising that Pavegen got their early start in dance clubs.

Be it dance clubs, or floors in schools, or even sidewalks in cities, why not build floors of the future that give light? Perhaps moving because of rising seas, there could be cities with streets paved in a new kind of gold, like the legendary El Dorado. Streets, walkways, sportsways, buildings, and dance clubs generating renewable just-in-time clean electricity may become the foundation for cities of the future.

Building the World. “Jakarta: first capital to move due to sea rise.” 1 May 2019. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/o5/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise

Building the World. “Dancing (and Walking) in the Light. 23 October 2015. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/10/23/dancing-and-walking-in-the-light/

Glynn, Paul. “Berlin Wall: ‘Germany was first re-united on the dance floor.'” 9 November 2019. BBC.com

Hoffmann, Felix, curator, C/O Berlin, “No Photos on the Dance Floor! Berlin 1989” 13/09/19 to 30/11/19. https://www.co-berlin/en/no-photos-dance-floor/

“No Photos on the Dance Floor!” YouTube. https://youtu.be/iKAvU9jyl/

Toynbee, Arnold J. editor. Cities of Destiny. Thames & Hudson, 1967. ISBN: 9780500250198.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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