The Anthropocene - anthropo- from anthropos "human" and -cene from kainos "new" or "recent" – is the proposed name for our current geological epoch, defining the period of time in which ‘human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age’  - as a part of my fellowship, I’ll implement a series of field studies researching the concepts of ownership, belonging and taking of land related to this.
I hope to study how architectural methods like mapping and technical drawing can be used as subjective and investigating tools - and as means to translating whatever findings the field studies will bring into spatial characters.
 Merriam Webster: Anthropocene
In Chicago, I visited ‘Steelworkers Park’ at South Works, previously the home of a US Steel manufactoring plant, the largest blast furnace in the world. The area was incrementally built out from the shore of Lake Michigan, artifically shaped on a foundation of slag, the non-iron byproduct of the steel production.
Artifacts of the iron melting and ore walls at South Works, Chicago.
Exploring this sense of otherness, I wonder how–and if–it can be depicted; how it can be drawn, cut, measured.
In the essay ‘The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting back to the Wrong Nature’, William Cronon analyzes the trouble with the Western dualistic understanding of nature and humans as something completely separated and distinguished from each other. By understanding nature as something opposite from civilization, something sublime and frontier-esque, and a place to escape the struggles of the modern world, we create a bipolar moral scale between nonhuman and human, the natural and the unnatural. The idea of wilderness, in this way, becomes a reflection of mostly bourgeois, urban and masculine values - a depiction of Americas "most sacred myth of origin".
As my first month and a half at Myefski Architects has passed by - I've mainly been getting familiar with the projects, programs and ways of working at the office - I’m slowly beginning to initiate my research project by investigating sense of ownership and belonging in the Anthropocene.
Views from my noteboook: Exploring ways of visualizing data. Selected diagrams from "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward R. Tufte.
Views from my notebook: trying to make sense of it all
As a particular intense period for Myefski Architects comes to an end, I am looking forward to focus a bit more on my Fellowship project again. This month I’m planning the first of my out-of-state field studies; exploring the remnants of copper- and slatemining in Vermont. The field study will present an opportunity to try out strategies for collecting, archiving and representing, and for combining the theoretical and the practical – and I’m very excited finally to activate this part of the project.
The Hetch Hetchy Valley
Views from my notebook: Exploring ways of representation - diagram of the properties of slag and mapping of South Works. Historical aerial photos via Illinois Geospatial Data Clearinghouse.
Today, the remnants of the huge ore walls stand as ruinous monuments among prairie vegetation, with forgotten iron pellets and huge chunks of slag still present and still shaping the landscape.
Cronon, William: ‘The trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting back to the Wrong Nature’ in William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground, Rethinking the Human place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995.
When seeing wilderness as the truest form of nature, only achieved by escaping civilization, our perception of nature becomes too distant from our everyday lives, Cronon argues, and too distant from the actual root of the ecological crisis we’re facing. "(...) by imagining that our true home is in the wilderness, we forgive ourselves the homes we actually inhabit."
"(…) wilderness came to embody the national frontier myth, standing for the wild freedom of Americas past and seeming to represent a highly attractive natural alternative to the ugly artificiality of modern civilization. The irony, of course, was that in the process wilderness came to reflect the very civilization its devotees sought to escape."
Instead, he makes clear the value of acknowledging the concept of wildness (as opposed to wilderness) which can be found anywhere and the sense of otherness.
"How can we take the positive values we associate with wilderness and bring them closer to home? I think the answer to this question will come by broadening the sense of the otherness that wilderness seeks to define and protect. (…) Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. (…) By seeing the otherness in that which is most unfamiliar, we can learn to see it in that which at first seemed merely ordinary."
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