LOCAL

April 22nd, 2010 — 11:17pm
map edible
Map of Nicosia (source)
Edible Estates’ Regional Prototype Garden #3, Maplewood, New Jersey, 2007 (source)

 

Locality relies on context to determine its boundaries. These contexts need not be geographical—they may exist on psychological, economic, sensorial, familial, and temporal levels. Additionally, localities can be expressed in varying degrees of specificity. Highly specific localities emerge from commonly held concerns, desires, and experiences. In contrast, generalized localities often reflect an outsiders snap-shot of a culture or context, void of its particularities.

 

Nicosia is the only divided capital-city in the world. After the Turkish invasion of 1974, it was bisected, along with the rest of the island, into two halves: one half belonging to the Greek Cypriots and the other half to the Turkish Cypriots. Each half of Nicosia exists in a perplexing spatial limbo in relation to the other: cleanly divided, yet sutured together. Although the two sides share an island the size of Connecticut and are in undeniably close proximity, they do not share a locality. To assert that you are from Cyprus requires a clarification pertaining to which side, in order to stake claim to a particular spatial and cultural position. Maps of Nicosia typically show the road names and cultural icons of only one half (alternating, depending on which side made the map you happen to belong to), showing the other side of the city as unexplored or unknown, akin to early world maps from the sixteenth century which vaguely depicted the portions of the world that were foreign or inaccessible.

 

If you ask an outsider if the two halves of the city are local, they will likely respond ‘yes’, because on a map, these areas are adjacent. To be local to Nicosia is to understand that these adjacent halves are worlds apart.

 

In North America, the average meal travels 1500 miles from where it is grown to where it is eaten. While this sound bite does not take into account the complex scientific, economic and political factors at play in contemporary agribusiness, it does illustrate one significant and somewhat absurd side effect of our current system. But, rather than focus on indicting an industry, I would like to use my space here to describe a possibility that is related to the local food movement, but which also has broad implications for urban form.



 

As a segue, I would like to quickly introduce Edible Estates, a project by landscape designer Fritz Haeg, described on his website as ‘an ongoing initiative to create a series of regional prototype gardens that replace domestic front lawns and other unused spaces in front of homes with places for families to grow their own food’.

 

What if an entire neighborhood was full of Edible Estates? What are the implications of transforming the ubiquitous suburban front yard into an infrastructure for the production of food? I am imagining a scenario where homeowners pool their resources—quite literally sharing a portion of their privately owned property—and form a sort of consumer co-operative.

 

With a neighborhood-scaled co-operative structure in place, each lawn would not be burdened with growing a diverse range of foods. Several adjacent lawns would grow potatoes, a few more could grow spinach, maybe a particular street would grow only… more

 

Jonathan Stitelman

 

 

Aaron Plewke

 

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PERIMETER

March 25th, 2010 — 3:00am
dress ringroad
Silk with Fly Fringe Cage Crinoline Dress, Mantua, 1760-70 (source)

 

Perimeter is the boundary of controlled ownership. In fashion it is a negotiable boundary. Victorian dresses of the 19th century functioned as a personal architecture, defining the space and status of the wearer, while simultaneously attracting the attention of the viewer (both parties are necessary for perimeter to have any meaning). By putting on the dress, the wearer amplified their narcissistic claim to personal space, beyond what everyday attire of the time allowed. This artificial perimeter obscured the body while expanding it in space.

 

The practice of oversized Victorian costume began with the layering of petticoats and starched fabrics to communicate social standing. Over time, the multilayered status-imbuing fabrics became too unwieldy to perform as clothing. To overcome the practical limitations of textiles, in 1856, W.S. Thompson patented the cage crinoline, a hollow metal cage that replaced the solid, stratified petticoat volume. As the cage crinoline evolved, it grew in scale and ornamentation, forcing its form to shift to accommodate its surroundings. In order to allow passage through the narrow door frames and hallways, typical of the time, the cage crinolines were flattened in profile, resulting in a silhouette that only revealed its full spatial dominance when viewed from the front. These points in the evolution of the Victorian dress depict a negotiation in the definition of perimeter from a personal volume to an objectified form.

 

Ring Roads of the World, Thumb (source)

 

…’the city in its circular fever repeats and repeats’.

 

—Octavio Paz, A Draft of Shadows

 

 

A city’s edges are in a state of perpetual redefinition. Roman walls give way to medieval walls, which ultimately give way to un-walled urban expansion. Fortified perimeters that once defined and protected entire settlements become porous thresholds between the older and newer districts of a single city. Cities themselves become nodes within greater metropolitan regions—networked conurbations with limits that are often difficult to plot. Even at the scale of the continent, the clear definition of an edge becomes tenuous, as transcontinental cities stitch nearly distinct land masses together.

 

The ring roads that surround contemporary cities are perhaps the clearest perimeter form at our disposal today, but a ring road is not a wall. Rather than containing place and bluntly delineating the extents of a city, ring roads invite horizontal expansion (as the growing number of cities with several concentric ring roads will testify). To save itself from itself, the contemporary city may need to reinvent the wall.

 

Pamphlet Architecture 13: Edge of a City showcases six projects by Steven Holl… more

 

Jonathan Stitelman

Aaron Plewke

 

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