Quick Links 13

1) Have you been reading The Launch Box? “The purpose of this blog is to document activities in and around the 2nd Avenue Subway Tunnel Boring Machine Launch Box construction site between 91st and 95th streets in Manhattan.”

[Image: “This odd looking structure is part of the steel form that is being used to cast a concrete lining for the 72nd Street work shaft. This shaft, and the other one that’s just like it [at 69th Street], will be used during the construction of the 72nd Street station”; photo by The Launch Box].

As such, it features a pretty fascinating weekly catalog of the shifting surface structures found on-site—from plywood shacks to piles of tarps—as well as the actual subterranean work sites, including temporary elevators, off-duty digging equipment, and even rat infestations (“a Maginot Line of rat traps has been deployed along the east fence line of the work site”), associated with this massive urban engineering project. Start here, perhaps—but also don’t miss what The Launch Box calls “the official New York City rat map.”

[Image: Photo by The Launch Box].

2) Pruned has redesigned—complete with its own personal artificial sun.

3) Check out this book about Improvised Architecture in Amsterdam Industrial Squats and Collectives. “This web-book presents a visual-conceptual-experiential documentation of four occupied industrial sites in central Amsterdam, researched and recorded between 1990 and 1997 and between 2006 and 2008.”

[Image: A projection for day 360 of the oil spill, courtesy of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology].

4) “There are more than 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, according to AP,” we read in the Guardian, “of which 600 belonged to BP.”

The oldest of the abandoned wells dates back to the late 1940s and the AP investigation highlights concerns about the way in which some of the wells have been plugged, especially the 3,500 neglected wells which are catalogued by the government as “temporarily abandoned.” The rules for shutting off temporarily closed wells is not as strict as for completely abandoned wells.


AP quoted state officials as estimating that tens of thousands are badly sealed, either because they pre-date strict regulation or because the operating companies violated rules. Texas alone has plugged more than 21,000 abandoned wells to control pollution, according to the state comptroller’s office. In state-controlled waters off the coast of California, many abandoned wells have had to be resealed. But in deeper federal waters, AP points out, there is very little investigation into the state of abandoned wells.

If you’d like to see where all of BP’s oil might end up, check out this frightening simulation of one full year of ocean currents bringing the spill out into the Atlantic Ocean; the above image is the projected Day 360, courtesy of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

On a side note, this all reminds me of an architectural detail from H.P. Lovecraft’s scifi/horror story “The Shadow Out Of Time.” The story’s narrator discovers a massive abandoned city full of “never-opened trap-doors,” we read, “sealed down with metal bands and holding dim suggestions of some special peril.” He keeps returning to these doors, over and over again, as if obsessed by what they might be holding back—”those gigantic sealed trap-doors in the lowest level, around which such an aura of fear and forbiddenness clung,” “sealed trap-doors,” he says again, as if stuttering, constructed “for strategic use in fighting the elder things if ever they broke forth in unexpected places”—only here, in the Gulf of Mexico, it is a shapeless presence older than human history, an “elder thing” made of black liquid petroleum, leaking slowly into the subtropical waters of the planet. So will our “sealed trap-doors” hold over time? Generations from now, will ruptured fittings and broken “metal bands” release untold amounts of shapeless toxicity into the sea?

[Image: “A tapping machine used in tests to evaluate the ability of floor coverings to reduce the transmission of impact sound from one floor to another in multi-family dwellings,” courtesy of the National Research Council Canada].

5) Over at the CCA, I have posted a Q&A with sonic historian Sabine von Fischer, who is visiting Montréal for the summer from the ETH in Zürich. Here’s an excerpt:

Sabine von Fischer: The tapping machine, as it was first published in 1930 and as it was standardized in the 1960s, has five steel rods that hammer against the floor. The speed has changed a bit over time—and its speed is now standardized—but it just tramples on the floor. It’s a very basic machine.

The principle of the machine can be found in older apparatuses, such as those used in grinding food items, but this particular application was to simulate the sound of footsteps, furniture, and machines on the floors of multistorey buildings. In this form—with five hammers, which are electrically operated—it was first published in 1930, in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Everyone who has been working on building acoustics claims that, since 1923 or 1926, they’ve been doing similar tests on structure-borne sound, but almost all of those earlier tests were done with women in high-heeled shoes. High-heeled shoes make a very distinct sound… [T]he National Bureau of Standards, in the period between the wars, had ladies in high-heeled shoes walking around inside buildings.

Read the interview in full.

6) Are you going to Foodprint Toronto? It’s July 31, it’s free $5, and it’s got an amazing line-up. I hope to see you there!

7) No description needed: Pyongyang Traffic Girls From The Sky.

8) GOOD reports on the UK’s Empty Shops Network: “For Dan Thompson, helping to get empty shops back into action has become a full-time job. The founder of the Empty Shops Network, Thompson says that the United Kingdom has seen a surge in pop-up shops, galleries, and community spaces that tap into a wider national mood: “There’s a DIY movement going on with more and more people setting up their own events… you get knitting groups setting up in pubs and cafes, [gardening] groups, people are really engaging with their local community. It’s a huge shift in the national culture.”

9) Doomsday economics. As the New York Times reports, “market forecaster and social theorist” Robert Prechter “is convinced that we have entered a market decline of staggering proportions—perhaps the biggest of the last 300 years.” Believing that a series of “repetitive patterns, or ‘fractals,’ in the stock market” will destabilize the global economic system, Prechter warns that “investors will be devastated in a crash much worse than the declines of 2008 and early 2009 or the worst years of the Great Depression or the Panic of 1873.”

The Dow, which now stands at 9,686.48, is likely to fall well below 1,000 over perhaps five or six years as a grand market cycle comes to an end, he said. That unraveling, combined with a depression and deflation, will make anyone holding cash “extremely grateful for their prudence.”

Indeed, Schechter compares the current state of the global stock market to the South Sea Bubble.

10) Explore the market in weather derivatives, as well as the supposed need for “weather risk professionals.”

Extra Credit: “Disneyland, with its far-flung colonies in Florida, Japan and France as well as affiliated city-states such as EPCOT, is a key symbol of contemporary American culture… The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks follows the layout of the parks themselves—from berm to Main Street, and from hub to ‘lands’: Frontierland and Adventureland, playing on the relationship between humankind, myth, and nature; Fantasyland, with its imagery from the movies; and Tomorrowland, with its once optimistic visions of the future becoming sinister, playful and ironic.” Think of it as an architectural variation on Susan Willis’s Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World.

(Some links via Tim Maly, Nicola Twilley, Steve Silberman, @oceanplastics, and other sources I might have forgotten. Don’t miss Quick Links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12).

7 thoughts on “Quick Links 13”

  1. Highly recommend watching the video linked in No. 7. The interviews with the traffic women, especially.

  2. Huh, the Dave Carr Smith site brings back memories. It was a great source for my thesis back in 2007, regarding designing a system for improvised architecture (yes, I learned the hard way how ironic that sounds). It's too bad I never really found a definitive document on Copenhagen's Christiania and its structures. Now more than ever it seems that it should be documented, as it seems to always be on the chopping block.

  3. The translation for the Pyongyang Traffic Girl video is completely inaccurate and it should be removed. I was disturbed that this video was posted on your blog, which I highly respect.

  4. A comment left immediately after mine has somehow disappeared, but it pointed out the ease with which the fake subtitles can appear real.

    But, anonymous, again, what is it that disturbs you about posting this video? If I had instead linked to a satirical video of, say, George W. Bush giving a White House address – or even Alan Sugar – would that have been permissible?

  5. In the Sabine von Fischer interview you ask "What was the tapping machine?"

    In case you didn't realise the tapping machine is still in use today as no other standard test procedure has superseded it.

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