GSD Course Bulletin - Spring 2014
09132: The Oceanic Turn: Advanced Landscape Infrastructure Seminar (ADV 0913200)
Seminar - 4 credits - Limited enrollment
Friday 11:00 - 2:00 Gund 510
From the laying of the first undersea cable across the Atlantic Ocean in the late 1850s to the passing of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, to the recent oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Alex in 2010, the eyes of the world are turning from the land upon which we live on, towards the waters, the shores, the atmospheres that surround, support and shape us. Once considered the sewers, the mines, or the battlefields of civilization, the dark mythological depths of the ocean are today being transformed and brought to light by a vast array of alternative perceptions, shared interests, pressing concerns, and novel discoveries. As space of exchange, oceans are thus becoming the theater of cultural, intellectual, industrial, scientific, politic, historic, economic, and ecologic action. In other words, we are urbanizing oceans, and oceans are urbanizing us.
Cutting across different fields of knowledge, this seminar turns our attention toward the seas that surround us as a way to refocus and remap vectors of influence in relation to oceans’ wealth and waters—from seas and estuaries, coasts to climates, rains to rivers, islands to archipelagos, deltas to gulfs. By exposing different models of thought and different methods of measure, the seminar aims to open a horizon of unprecedented collaboration with academies, think tanks, industries, organizations, agencies, and individuals across the University and beyond. Inspired by the pioneering work of American oceanic cartographer Marie Tharp who dedicated her life and career to mapping the World Ocean Floor (1977) and the catalytic writing of American marine biologist Rachel Carson “Undersea” (1951), the seminar draws from an array of contemporary scholars and practitioners - from the arts to the sciences, industries to institutions - to better understand the influence of our actions on the world's oceans, and in turn, how they influence us.
As a way of re-reading of the ocean as ground, we may better understand how oceans, and ocean-atmosphere dynamics, affect our own patterns of life, settlement, development, and movement. In short, how we live in it, and how it lives in us, opens a lens on the wet environments— from moist to dry, arid to saturated, that encompass us.
Through media and maps, archives and artifacts, essays and illustrations, the seminar aims to communicate and collaborate on a range of initiatives associated with the use, cultivation, exploration, engineering, enjoyment, and governance of oceans. Furthermore, by focusing on oceans as a complex system of systems, where flows, processes, rules, and infrastructures affect the littoral landscape where more than 60% of the world population lives and depends on, we can disentangle and reframe the current and sometimes catastrophic discourse on climates, atmospheres and waters, by swiftly and critically understanding the challenges, opportunities, risks and hazards—economic, politic, climatic—as contemporary civilization takes the oceanic turn.
Organized with a series of presentations and readings that span George Waring’s “Drainage Theories” (1867) to Karl Wittfogel’s “Hydraulic Hypothesis” (1937), the first part of the seminar explores the ontologies, altitudes, institutions, and ecologies of the oceanic subject with a series of guest lectures and in-class discussions. Through student-led presentations and visualization projects, the second part of the seminar explores a range of material and media to re-think the Aqua Nullius of ocean space on one hand, and re-draw the City-Centrism of urban space on the other, towards proposing deeper, and more fluid regions of contemporary life. Associated with the emergence of cross-border flows, shadow economies, counter-cultural innovations, and multi-scalar spatial patterns in a range of regions, the subjects of geographic and historic inquiry will range from containerization to encapsulation, transmission to distribution, evacuation to extraction, cultivation to conveyance, refrigeration to reclamation, sensing to mapping, preservation to power projection, standardization to regulation, territorialization to militarization. Additionally, topics of technological and material inquiry will span a spectrum of innovations and environments, from the invention of sea level to the creation of cargo, sand mines to oil fields, cold chains to cruise lines, subtropical cyclones to sinking cities, drought cycles to ocean deserts, resource reserves to risk regions, seaweed to seagrass, frozen fish to fiber optics. The seminar invites graduate and postgraduate students from different design-based, planning-based, and research-based programs with deep, intellectual, spatial, and applied interest on the converging subjects of infrastructures, ecologies, waters and powers, with a commitment and affinity for the advancement of multimedia and mapping as method of research, communication and projection. Knowledge of multimedia methods of representation, visualization technologies, advanced geospatial mapping, and archival research methods are strongly recommended.
This seminar is an advanced offering from the Department of Landscape Architecture and is open to graduate students in the disciplines of landscape architecture, urban design, architecture, planning, history, ecology, public policy, design and civil engineering. Auditors from across the Harvard-MIT University community are welcome.
This seminar is also part of a multi-year research program that focuses on 21st Century Landscape Infrastructures that are located at the convergence of the fields of planning, ecology, geography, design and engineering. Spatial conventions borne from the techno-bureaucratic factions of public works departments (waste, water, energy, food and transport agencies) inherited from classical, Old World notions of civil engineering or from the Taylorist mechanisms of legislative zoning, scientific management, and master-planning inherited from military ideologies and wartime strategies, are specifically targeted in this multi-year project. Consequently, the seminar posits how new forces & flows - such as capital and mobility, speed & communications, power & production, toxicity & ecology, contamination & cultivation, energetics and synergies, war & wealth - can be considered as dominant drivers and denominators of contemporary urban ecologies operating across different scales, magnitudes, and borders.