On Ash Clouds | Reshaping the Landscape

Iceland in August 2010. Photo by Luis Callejas

Following the serie of post we’re writing on Harvard GSD‘s course On Ash Clouds with Paisajes Emergentes as visiting professors, and after analyzing the student’s projects through a curatorial process, we found that the idea of reshaping the landscape was present in an important selection of projects. Here are some of projects which aims to transform the landscape with different kind of technologies and devices:

[1] ASKA BLÆJA [ASH VEIL] by Mara K. Smaby

ASKA BLÆJA by Mara K. Smaby

What happens when you try to isolate ash? Researching on issues such as the earth stratification or atmosphere as event, student Mara K. Smaby proposes the project ASKA BLÆJA, which moves between stratification and animation of the material composition of the ash, without significant air currents or disruptions. In these conditions, the ash would gravitate according to parent material, size, density and electromagnitude.

As Smaby points:

This suspended compositional matrix would be routinely shuffled and fluffled [sic] by inevitable atmospheric disruptions caused by wind, animals or nearby ambient movement.

The idea is to use geysers, waterfalls and steam swell as a veil which will be able to cover the extraterrestrial landscape of the area. With this intervention, it will be possible to reconfigure the intuitive opacity of this environment. The ash is presented as the medium that will act as a persistent layered veil across the island.

ASKA BLÆJA by Mara K. Smaby


[2] JÖRÐ by Xiaowei Wang

Wang 03
JÖRÐ by Xiaowei Wang

In this project, designed by Xiaowei Wang the leitmotif is to recover the green areas that have disappeared when eight volcanos has erupted with high explosivity levels. To achieve this task, Wang proposes to use a “seed bomb” to populate with vegetation the areas that will be bombed. His idea is that the new green areas will also serve as an initial point to start the observation of how far volcanic matter can travel while a volcano is erupting.

Wang has made a research to propose which vegetable species will be bombed, such as Larix sibirica, Poplar Populus, Saxaul and Birch among others. All of them are resistant to extreme environmental conditions and can be used to combat erosion.

Wang 01
Seed Bomb. JÖRÐ by Xiaowei Wang

Wang 04
JÖRÐ by Xiaowei Wang


[3] Dance Party at the End of the Universe by Mia Scharphie

Mia Scharphie has been inspired by the large number of parties or celebrations which take place globally and attract big amounts of people. As she said, “Ranging thematically from celebrations of seasonal change to freedom of expression, to a love for techno and electronica, there’s a pure visceral pleasure in the power of the crowd“. Some of this kind of celebrations are so diverse as the Burning Man project, which is a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada or the Holi, when once a year people throw coloured powder and coloured water at each other in a Hindus celebration. Scharphie also points:

Many earthquakes occur every day in Iceland, although most are so small as to be beyond human notice. Yet it is these earthquakes that scientists study to both better understand the tectonic movements of the region, and to predict future large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The premise behind this project is to make this currently invisible feature of the land visible, and to marry geological awareness to the bacchanalian insanity of a big party.

After analyzing earthquake’s magnitudes and using sensors to study them, the project is based on the geometry of the system used to monitor these earthquakes.

Sensors located around the country receive waves from earthquakes after they occur. The geometry of the sensor network is the starting point for the design of the dance floor of the party.

The inspiration to transform the landscape or to create artificial natures is essentially part of human beings. We have tried to create the so-called atomic gardens using seed bombs after World War II, we have used the mining industry extracting all kind of materials from our planet and we have even created artificial islands. Maybe is the wilderness of nature in Iceland or the fact that until now, it hasn’t been the focus of any mega-project, which has inspired these students within the course On Ash Clouds, to develop this transformations.

From the wilderness of this:

Iceland in August 2010. Photo by Luis Callejas

To the artificial nature of this:

Transposition by Isdavid Kunugi


*This post is part of a series of five [this, the third one] on the course On Ash Clouds.
Harvard GSD Course. Master in Landscape Architecture
Visiting professors: Paisajes Emergentes. January 2011

Alexander Arroyo, Siobhan Aitchison, Erik Andersen, Kunkook Bae, Senta Burton, Sherry Chen, Rachel Cleveland, Tracie Curry, Heather Dunbar, Lauren Elachi, Michael Easler, Katie Hotchkiss, David Knugi, Kara Lam, Jack McGrath, Connie Migliazzo, Emely Milliman, Madeleine Murphy, Chris Myers, Eunsae Park, Andrew Leonard, Michael Luegering, Lindsey Nelson, Mia Scharphie, Erika Schwarz, Kate Smaby, Heather Sullivan, Xiaowei Wang, Yuyu Wang, Anne Weber, Yizhou Xu, Xin You, Jeongmin Yu, Chuhan Zhang

Instructors: Luis Callejas, Sebastián Mejía, Lukas Pauer


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