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A 21st Century Steppe Fable
Harvard GSD Masters in Landscape Architecture 2013, Advisor: Pierre Bélanger
This thesis is posed as a projective fable and a design strategy where a country’s political economy become catalyzed through leveraging sectors that have been traditionally seen as anti-modern and challenges towards development. As a strategy proposal, it understands the Steppe’s ecology as one of time and cycles of economic sectors, with portions to be amplified and dialed back depending on seasonality. By capitalizing on nomadic pastoralists’ movements across vast territory and modes of transport that are able to go farther than areas of roads or bridges, through rerouting and coordinating existing economic processes, Mongolia can capitalize on one of its inherent strengths: an economy of logistics. The proposal is for a set of nomadic free trade zones that change location depending on the seasonal economies, leveraging pastoralists as a logistics company in themselves. Rather than approaching the issues facing Mongolia as isolated problems or positioned in binaries to each other, this proposal takes a systems view to Mongolia’s current political economy – understanding that the veneer of mineral riches that Mongolia possesses are actually unable to leave the country due to lack of infrastructure, that its status as underdeveloped is tied to a lack of data on its territory and the condition of being unmapped at high resolutions. The proposal pushes on the idea that economic plans must be rigid or persistent throughout an entire year, and instead its strategy takes cues from local knowledge and local economies; understanding the careful economic events of each season and the importance of timing (going to market, a proliferation of mining during warmer seasons). Using coincident timing, it allows the overlaps such as increased nomadic movement in spring and summer, along with increased mineral ore production, to spur a spring-summer increase in free trade zones. In fall and winter, free trade zones are decreased and used for sites of data processing (from grassroots mapping for increased economic and political visibility in a global context) to educational facilities. The strategy recycles and reuses spatial structures that serve as the foundation of this proposal. Video Description: Somewhere from 2030, a woman recounts how Mongolia became the center of the Asian economy. Unearthing an arc of history from a single point in 1990, a land of nomads, deep ecology and open pastureland seems diametrically opposed to emerging resource extraction, urbanization and infrastructure building. While Mongolia remains poised to shed its communist past, by the early 2000s it remains indexed as a developing country, full of mineral riches that seem unable to leave its borders. What have the men of science and technology overlooked? To answer this, an ambitious young geographer proposes an economy of time that so carefully aligns with the Steppe’s ecology of time. His Ten Year Plan identifies 133 free trade zones that exist seasonally, dependent on a site’s water availability, location to seasonally appropriate pasture, wind direction and topography. Within these free trade zones, a careful circuitry of ecological infrastructure propels temporary airfields and ice shields for water storage, bathhouses and agile infrastructures of hangars. As the Ten Year Plan nears completion, the young geographer discovers that his plan has cycled through – Mongolia has turned its story around, becoming the key logistics corridor between Russia and China, a stronghold of inland trade. The model of Steppe urbanization spreads to other countries in Central Asia, a model predicated on careful timing, mobility and restraint of trade events with meteorological ones. China’s own infrastructure building has slowed down, and its economy begins to lag in contrast to its nomadic neighbor, a neighbor unconvinced of patriarchal utopias and the sheer poetry of data and parameters. To fend off economic threat, China launches a campaign against the Steppe itself, to attack this ecology that remains fertile for flexible accumulation, of nomadic capitalism, by beginning a Great Green Wall project to prevent desertification. In all cycles, the young geographer realizes, time becomes distanced from the linear. As his plane takes off from one of the temporary airfields he has designed, he begins to write his letter to the woman, a woman who will recount the events that have unfolded. His letter is nothing else but a resignation to the impermanence of things.
The Proposal: 133 Nomadic Free Trade Zones across the Mongolian Steppe
Mappings for 133 sites + automated zoning diagrams made using Processing Processing sketches available online at http://xiaoweiwang.com/steppeurbanism
Overall Geographical Context and adjacencies for Free Trade Zones
Indexical Model showing abstraction of DEM + additional layering in preparation modeling stochastic movement through a compiled suitability model. If the old model for urban planning (an industrial based one) was points/lines as function of cost and suitability boundaries, vivid plans for an advanced capitalism use a Markov chain for calculating probability and eventual steady state.
Grasshopper scripts + Processing code available on xiaoweiwang.com/steppeurbanism
This layered model shows the topography of site 35 (Sayan Ovoo), its hardware (logistics corridor), but most importantly serves as a study model for real time data of soil moisture to live update the Rhino model. As sensor points increased or decreased in moisture levels, it changed the settlement grid in Rhino, either decreasing or increasing in density based on subdivision rules established through precendent study of nomadic camp sites. A second level of processing occurred after the distorted grid was gathered in order to make this approach abide by the overall rules of the stochastic matrix/nomadic capitalist index.
Scripts available on xiaoweiwang.com/steppeurbanism, use of Grasshopper, Arduino + Firefly components
Sensor values A 36.639582848474 B 222.80287495945 C 578.88868710906 D 59.215234117217
Sensor values A 538.04295851758 B 25.254398223597 C 685.50926387567 D 826.98814914887
Sensor values A 537.66835595373 B 716.65121823393 C 506.90772421048 D 119.2894206379
Sensor values A 614.02305555252 B 542.01913573873 C 168.9188041207 D 651.26787132177
Flashfloods + temperatures decline
Aug Наймдугаар сар
Jul Долоодугаар сар Naadam+ travel to soums for events
June Зургадугаар сар
May Тавдугаар сар
Peak of Field Exploration Season and Mining Season
Height of traveling season for small time traders begin
y lit bi la ai av er
em ov m ist al or st pa
er dd fo
s ed ne
Sept Есдүгээр сар
ng ini m ld go
al im an
p ee sh
Mongolia’s Economy of Time
Sedentary months begin Localized manure increases
Dec Арван хоёрдугаар сар
Industrial + informal mining merge Increased movement to market doubles for logistics routes ICT+ Mining intertwine in nomadic mapping Nov Oct Sept Aug Jul
Dec Beginning of Grazing Season
Shipping + transport increase with climatic advantage Nov Арван нэгдүгээр сар
June May Apr Mar Feb Jan Jan Нэгдүгээр сар
Preparations for Winter season, Forage stock piling Mining slows due to permafrost
Oct Аравдугаар сар
Feb Хоёрдугаар сар
c a tt
loc ali ze d
e nt lem sett
no m ad ic
g nin mi fe cu+
ppi s hi
co al m in
ity ns de
s ice erv ry s i na v et
pa st ur el a
no m ad ic
t or sp
ice /w at
Apr Дөрөвдүгээр сар
Calves + Foals born
Beginning of Dairy Sale
Cashmere + Wool Harvest
Travel Towards Markets, Cashmere + wool sale
Willets Point Flushing Bay Studio project
Harvard GSD, Studio Critic: Miho Mazereeuw
Notions of food scarcity and urban agriculture have become pervasive in contemporary dialogues on urbanism today, alongside the potentials for programmatic layering for transportation infrastructure. This project pushes these notions and hypotheses to the extreme, proposing a strategy that exploits the future expansion of LaGuardia Airport as an opportunity to integrate the airport into the urban fabric, acknowledging its vital role in New York City’s city and regional economy. Through using the site as anticipated expansion of LaGuardia’s cargo handling and warehouse storage capacity, new systems of urban agriculture employing livestock and phytoremediative plant fodder are implemented to activate existing and anticipatory social networks of the city. Instead of assuming a decrease in land adjacent to LaGuardia, existing dredge along the site is reused for land reclamation, forming this new logistics park-grazing ranch. While many strategies employ a range of scales from backyard plots to community gardens, this project investigates a set of phytoremediative strategies that also serve as the fodder for urban livestock: cows, sheep and goats that generate new economies for New York City ranging from manure sale for fertilizer production to education programs for New York public schools. On site, the area closest to the airport is used for warehouse space. Building typologies in a combination of commercial/warehouse/ residential were generated which allow for increased fodder needs in fall and spring along with a gradient from logistics/industrial close to the airport and residential on the existing site of Willets Point tying back into the neighborhood. A central corridor is cut through the site making way for efficient logistics use and simultaneously connecting the existing edge of residential housing to new housing units that offer accommodation for urban livestock and urbanites alike, and connecting into the existing MTA infrastructure of the 7 train.
Harvard GSD Studio
Massachussetts Military Reservation
Fiber Optic Networks linking US Research Bases, Budget and funding for military research in the US DOD
As the national defense agenda changes and the top-down reforms within the DOD affect bases, military workers and civilians at the MMR must cope with emerging ecological and defense agenda changes. Drawing upon a legacy of the DOD as the preeminent source of technological innovation and research along with projecting an increased concern of information war as defense agenda, this project proposes the draw down of the MMR as part of BRAC (Defense Base Closure and Realignment) into a research unit. Through an opportunistic move of inserting telecommunications infrastructure, the Cape Cod region becomes host to a research urbanism with the MMR as the initial site of deployment. This networked urbanism amplifies and accelerates existing processes and conditions ranging from marine resources to explosive potentials of UXOs. Rather than a master plan or a set of fixities, the design seeks to implement a conduit for possibilities, fragmentations, and continuing insertions, giving new kinds of permeability to the MMR and Cape Cod. Ecological intelligence is seen on the UXO site, where existing unexploded mines render it currently as an area off limits. Through the mapping of unexploded artillery types on site and their depths, combined with modelings of crater morphologies, the intentional detonations of these ordinances allow for opportunistic insertion of infrastructure (fiber optic, cabcle car) and to provide a unique tourist experience. Rhizosphere remediation is employed as opposed to phytoremediation, as part of ecological intelligence. The cantonment area uses linearity of a new ecological research campus, functioning as a major point of transportation access and emergency shelter – for expanded underground shelters as well as cable car and passenger rail access.
Detail board walk, section
4.5m 4 2m 3 9 5 10 2 1 8 7 6 20cm .75m 1.7m 3m 1. Steel IPE 240 support beam 2. 12cm plank anchor 3. Cantilevered viewing platform 4. Blast resistant fiberglass protective screen 5. Steel rebar for reinforced concrete slab 6. Cut, dyed concrete paver (see plan for pattern) 7. HE-B 100 Hi flange steel cross beam 8. 20cm Reinforced concrete slab 8m 9. End plate 100/140mm 10. Elevated poured in place concrete columns 11. Concrete foundation 11
Detail: Boardwalk over UXO site for civilian access
1 2m 2 3 4 5 6
1. Steel IPE 240 support beam 2. Step to cantilevered viewing platform 3. Paver type A (cut,dyed C12 concrete) 4. Paver type B (cut,dyed C12 concrete) 5. Paver type C (cut,dyed C12 concrete) 6. Blast resistant fiberglass protective screen
Detail detonation scheme for uxos on site
25m 1. Electronically detonated charge 2. MICLIC #1 3. MICLIC #2 4. 120mm shell 5. 120mm shell 6. MICLIC #3 7. Min. 25m distance from mine clearing vehicle 8. interior inert fuse
max 100m 1m 3
.1m explosives propellant ignition cartridge
.1m propellant ignition cartridge
Air quality mapping using kites in Beijing
FLOAT Beijing Through the playful act of kite flying FLOAT_Beijing has empowered hundreds of citizens to take action and protest current air quality standards, leading to people-driven improved policies for healthier lives. FLOAT is a tool to collect air quality data and circumvent state controlled channels of information. At community workshops participants learn about the health hazards of air pollutants and their detection through DIY sensors, which they learn to build and attach to kites. FLOAT modules are designed to be transparent and reconfigured by users. Residents challenge the invisibility of official data by flying their air quality sensing kites in highly visible public spaces. Kites have a strong cultural history in China which draws in diverse participants connecting them to new technologies. Participants are empowered by the ability to sense air quality. More importantly, through FLOAT_Beijing, citizens become active agents in monitoring, and eventually transforming their own environments. For more visualizations and images please head to: f-l-o-a-t.com For video documentary see: chinafile.com/stars-haze
Beijing air quality levels, sources of anomalies (grasshopper [ghowl], processing, GIS)
Calculated average air currents over Beijing from select weather stations showing topographic correlations (gis + processing)
A proposal for Chicago’s Fire Festival 2014: a mixed reality game combining online and offline players to allow for collaboration in an urban scavenger hunt. Teams are formed by neighborhood and exchange is facilitated via SMS and a web platform utilizing locative media and real life spectacle. The winning team sets the Chicago river ablaze, restaging Chicago’s Great Fire. Cow carts are used, harkening back to Chicago’s legacy of stockyards, and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, the fabled cow that started the fire.
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