Direct intervention into the earth’s surface through technology – the coupling of the planet with technological objects – could be phrased as ‘geotechnical,’ a word I thought I invented – until I discovered that ‘geotechnics’ is already a long-standing professional concern of engineers and architects. Gone was the whiz-bang neologism, but born was an intense curiosity in what ‘geotechnical engineers’ actually do.
Unforeseen ground conditions. Reuse of old foundations. Ground investigation. Geological voids. Borehole geophysics. ‘Geo Frontiers 2005’. Ground engineering, which includes ‘international geotechnical events’ and ‘covers all aspects of the engineering of the ground’.
The vocabulary alone justifies awe. Where else can you read: ‘Sui Field compression project: the tectonic structure of Northern Pakistan’, and take it seriously?
Ground improvement!
‘The geotechnics of contaminated land’!
Applied geology.
My enthusiasm coming here not from some pre-adolescent obsession with digging machines, but from the black-out inducing intellectual high of outright planetary engineering, a geosynthetic *Wunderproject*, where remote-sensing meets hydrological engineering, geotextiles, ground improvement, and mega-scale, antigravitational, interstellar industrial machines hovering 350 miles above the dark, unfinished surface of a geoengineered planet.
‘The engineering of the ground’!
After geotechnics, the whole planet could be already artificial, bearing marks of human intervention. To find in a moment of ultra-fast zoom-out cello-soundtracked awe that the earth you’re standing on is always, already, everywhere a huge Mt. Rushmore, a man-made, artificial, technological, geotechnic project.
A hollow earth, a geosynthetic planet. Sculpted from geotextiles.
Landscape architecture taken to the megalomaniacal extreme. And funded by multinational petroleum companies.

5 thoughts on “Geotechnics”

  1. Your post raises some interesting questions about the ethics of geotechnical engineering, something that should definitely be questioned. However it fails to raise the “good” that engineering can provide to those on the planet, for example a clean water source that is controlled by a earth dam, or homes and shelters that are earthquake resistant.

    p.s. I am not a geotechnical engineer, I just work with them!

  2. Loved this post.

    I was trained as a mining engineer (read geotechnical engineer) where we learn first hand during work terms at mines that geotechnics is what separates a safe, productive mine (underground, where geotechnical engineering is often called rock mechanics) and just another gaping hole. Without geotechnical engineering, mines can’t operate, meaning materials are not available, meaning that you and I can’t drive, cook, go to a warm home, and most other things that we do everyday. Then there was the time that some families with houses built near a hillside were waking up to SUV-sized boulders smashed through the swing set in the back yard. With proper monitoring, detecting just millimetres of movement, pagers and alarms went off at my boss’ place while he was sleeping when ground shifted, allowing for safe evacuation of all the families. Phew!

    BLDGBLOG is one of my RSS staples… keep it up!

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