[Image: Preflooded Wetlands by Liam Young and Darryl Chen].
Unexpectedly apropos of the previous post, Liam Young of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, together with Darryl Chen, has created a series of quite beautiful images called "Postcards from a Green Future" – one of which, seen above, uses the Maunsell Sea Forts as a gantried foundation for suburban anti-flood design in an idyllic southeast England.
The entire suite of images is almost farcically green – it's sustainability redone as Grand Guignol. These speculative scenes of "a green future" show us an over-the-top, solar-powered utopia of detached single-family houses and wind turbines, woven together with light rail and renewable energy technologies; it's an Eden of sprawl spreading out into London's most distant scattered cityscape.
[Image: Waste and Biogas and Permacultural Hinterland by Liam Young and Darryl Chen].
But the images also betray an interest in the murky borders between the synthetic and the geological, the organic and the mass-produced. What if those verdant fields of green out there are actually cloned and genetically-modified? What if that well-trimmed nature is simply an exhibition on display?
[Image: Primordial Garden Sanctuary and Incarceration Tower by Liam Young and Darryl Chen].
You can read about the entire project in new four-part series of blog posts over at Tomorrow's Thoughts Today – just go to the righthand column ("Slow Thoughts") and keep scrolling down...
This piece originally appeared on BLDGBLOG.
It seems like we are missing a whole lot of landscape architecture here, though. I think that's why these come across as so dystopian. Considerations about how varying degrees of softscape and hardscape weeve together have not been made. I think "sprawl" is the operative word here. These elements are merely montage. They have not been spatially ordered for fear of being too optimistic.
Don't get me wrong. I think they are beautifully painted and well considered. I just believe there is a severe lack of landscape architecture in these images. I think this level os design is very hard for the fine artist to achieve in their futuristic images, because of the level of consideration involved in landscape design.
Hopefully this is more Nostradamus than dreamland. The images each have a distinctly unsettling element, bringing up a more explicit question than the ones the author of the post raises; not whether the grass is GM (though the scenes certainly paint a green future reliant primarily on tech and rules than behavior) but whether you would want to be a part of this world?
From the incredibly mismatched juxtapositions of industrial and sublime nature, people and machine, comes particularly uninviting settings. Preflooded Wetlands looks like the pastoral makeover of war of the worlds. And as much as I love bats, their prominence in that world, flying in or out or at your window would not be welcome by most residents. As the green tech wades in the river of Waste and Biogas the water takes on a warily polluted looking angle. Today’s world has established that industry and people do not mix, it’s a smell thing (as well as a health thing). The associations in this image though are visual only and therefore we cannot take in just how new this world might be, perhaps the air smells permanently of roses. Permacultural Hinterland is such a forced mating of old and new that the people living there (happy hippies though they are) have felt left out of the implementation process of a grand new green bill or some other green mandate. So much has been dumped into their frame that it has no option other than to be a busy mess. Finally the Primordial Garden Sanctuary exposes this green future’s failure. Excluding humans in the interim creates a culture where we can look but not touch nature, but for who's benefit, nature or ours? How can humans help if excluded. (sort of an incomplete idea, can you get it anyway?).
This is not my dream but a portent I can believe in. Each image lacks in design thinking so severely as to make the viewer uncomfortable just gazing on it before even imagining being there. It scares me that way. Thanks to Liam Young for putting together such strong, questionable images. I am thankful that these images only reinforce my feelings about design and its important role in our future. I wonder if these were put on display whether they could actually lead to constructive critical discussion by the public of what our future should look like, beyond how it/we should function.
I also wonder what would be written on the backs of these postcards from our future generations. Do they love it or hate it? Is everything better with the world? They could have a lot of answers for our present. Be sure to check out the Tomorrow's Thoughts Today post. They have written descriptions of the world they present. They add a lot more definition to the little world they've created. Did you know it's a a vision of a small English area to be known as "the Fortress"?
And what’s with all the geese?
A lot of vernacular urban design is ecological. My vision of an eco-city always has to include some of the ideas in Diane Schatz' old posters from RAIN magazine and many of the pictures from _A Pattern Language_. Add green roofs and solar collectors and John Todd's biological waste treatment systems and you've got something I can see a way toward.
Let's take a field trip to Curitiba and stop by Gaviotas on the way.
This is a recycled comment copied from "What Would Eco-cities Look Like?" in June 2006.
Saw Peter Head of ARUP speak at MIT last Monday. He has a detailed vision of ecological cities by 2050 at http://www.arup.com/Publications/Entering_an_Ecological_Age.aspx