University of Westminster DS18, 2013/2014
Lindsay Bremner, Roberto Bottazzi
DS18, a M.Arch Design Studio, is interested in relationships between architecture, energy and matter. In this unit, we will be investigating the processes and after effects of shale gas fracturing. Fracking is a contested process of resource extraction that emerges in complex networks of geology, politics, power, economics, energy, regulation, infrastructure, land use and data, with a built in tendency towards friction and failure. It is a process of micro mining that draws geological strata lying up to 2 kms beneath the earth’s surface onto the surface and into the atmosphere. This produces a vast urbanism of sorts, an emergent system of clearings, holes, caps, pipes and roads and other less visible contaminants, spreading virally and violently in ways that are seemingly oblivious to older agricultural, forest or urban ecologies.
During Semester 1, DS18 will: Investigate the complex networks and operational logics that underpin hydraulic fracturing; Investigate site specific ecologies and geometries with which it intersects; Generate ways of visualising this data using computational tools; Research fracking’s inbuilt tendency towards friction and failure (deregulation, corruption, toxic contamination, pollution, loss of wildlife, loss of farmland, loss of income, medical conditions etc.), in order to develop individual design agendas to respond to them; Develop a geological approach to design by exploring material processes through computation tools.
During Semester 2, DS18 will: Undertake a field trip to the Dorset Coast; Undertake an individually defined micropublicplace in response to a resource extraction condition in Dorset.
Bennet, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter. A political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; De Landa, Manuel. 1992. ‘Inorganic Life’ in: Sanford Kwinter and Jonathan Crary (Editors). Zone: Incorporations. New York: Zone; Fox, Josh. 2010, 2012. Gasland; Latour, Bruno. 2004. Politics of Nature. How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Trans. C. Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Manovich L. 2013. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.http://www.manovich.net/; Ellsworth, Elizabeth and Kruse, Jamie (eds.). 2012. Making the Geologic Now. New York: Punctum Books. <http://punctumbooks.com/titles/making-the-geologic-now/>; Close Up at a Distance. Mapping, Technology and Politics. New York: Zone Books; Shale gas extraction in the UK: A Review of Hydraulic Fracturing <http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Shale_Gas.pdf>; Varnelis Karzys, Simultaneous Environments – social connections and new media, http://networkedpublics.org/locative_media/beyond_locative_media
1. Claire Holton: Leaking Landscape
In this series of four drawings, Claire Holton, drawing from numerous sources, maps the well head rigs, well heads, pipelines, underground directional drilling lines and drilling and pipeline companies involved in shale gas fracking in Midland County, Texas. The result is an extraordinary image of an entanglement of clearings, holes, caps, pipes and well and pipeline companies fading in and out of view.
2. Philip Hurrell: Residential Respirator
In this project, Philip Hurrell responds to the increase in smog and health related issues linked to air pollution from fracking activities in Washington County, Pennsylvania. While air emission from fracking has not been seen as as big an issue as water contamination, largely because it is less visible, it is nevertheless known to be linked to respiratory and other diseases. Referring to Rob Nixon’s book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press, 2011), Hurrell is concerned with the ‘slow violence’ affecting people who have no other choice but to live in toxic environments and how they might be protected from them.
3. John Cook: Remediated Landscape
This project by John Cook investigates the relationship between agriculture and fracking in the Wattenburg Gas Field in Weld County, Colorado. The Wattenburg Gas Field was on of the first shale deposits discovered in the USA and lay under an agricultural landscape. Fracking has resulted in heavily contaminated soil and water conditions. Cook proposes to use the bioremediating plant species Helianthus annuus, commonly known as the sunflower, to gradually extract toxins from the ground and restore the damaged landscape to grassland. Sunflower seeds are grown, transported and loaded into giant seed hoppers placed in the contaminated landscape. In May each year, these are raised, and using the wind, they disperse seeds across the landscape. The sunflowers grow, extracting toxins from the soil. They are harvested before they develop seeds that would infect birds and animals using automated satellite controlled combine harvesters; their volume is reduced in on-site drying bins. Mobile rotary kilns fire off the derived carbon derived biomass, leaving only a small quantity of heavily concentrated toxic waste. After twenty annual releases, the surrounding landscape is remediated. The dispersal masts release a final batch of native grasses and wild flowers, initiating the return of the landscape to a natural grassland. The dispersal masts are relocated to remediate the next contaminated zone. As the technology to safely process this cocktail of hazardous elements does not yet exist, the concentrated waste is securely buried in the vacant seed disperser’s lined stone pit. Stored in the sealed toxic vault, it awaits the generation who will know how to safely recycle it.