JAMES THOMAS

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Archive for the ‘008/ Archi Appropriation’ Category

Scraper Sitting

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From: Lebbeus Woods

SLUMS: to the stars

A lot of attention is being paid to squatters taking over an unfinished skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, and rightly so. It is both a morality tale from which we can draw many harsh lessons about our contemporary global society, and a prophesy of the future. Surely, with vacant land running out in the vast cities that migrants from rural areas are now flocking to by the millions and in every part of the world, it is inevitable that slums will occupy abandoned, unfinished or unleased skyscrapers. The harshest lesson of this phenomenon is that slums are radically out of the control of governments and private institutions that we have no choice but to look to for treating the existence and the effects of this human scourge. Without some measure of control or at least slowing the spread of poverty and slums, it is conceivable that in the next few decades they will begin to overwhelm organized society and eventually push it to the brink of a new Dark Age. In such an age, it will not only be public services that will begin to collapse from overuse, much of it illegal, but social systems of every kind, from education to art, as the financial burden of paying for the problems created by a vast population that pays no taxes will make many of civilized society’s essential activities unsustainable. This is a grim and frightening prospect indeed and one that is already beginning to happen. The takeover of the Caracas skyscraper is not just an oddity. Rather, it is a first drop of rain in a coming storm caused when the global financial system falters, even a little, and a financier-developer must abandon a project for lack of funds. A crack has opened up and it is immediately filled by people desperate to find shelter and establish a community, people who have every right to them but have been excluded from those provided by established society. These people have no choice but look for cracks in the social edifice and, when they find them, move quickly and decisively. As mainstream society falters more under the increasing weight of the impoverished and excluded, more cracks will appear and be filled. It will be an incremental process, but inexorable. Unless, that is, the powers-that-be in our present society begin to address the root causes of poverty.

Another lesson to be learned from the Caracas story is that all those who have been hoping for a social revolution to emerge from the dispossessed squatters and slum-dwellers—the poor—had better think again. What these people want is not a new, egalitarian society founded on ideals of social justice, but only what most others already have—a consumer society with all the bells and whistles and toys. Clearly, the Caracas tower is not a breeding ground for radical social change. It is an unintended parody of the society that created the squatters’ dire situation to begin with.

LW

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Written by James Thomas

19/05/2011 at 16:01

Barrier Kult

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“THE MILITANT AND VICIOUS WORSHIP OF THE TIGHT TRANSITION ALTAR – THE BARRIER.”
BA.KU. interview. http://www.payinginpain.com
youtube video here

photo found at http://www.concreteskateboarding.com

Written by James Thomas

25/09/2010 at 13:55

Reverse Engineering

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Cabinet Magazine: Issue 8 Pharmacopia Fall 2002
‘Skateable Reverse Engineering’
Jocko Weyland

Skateboarding’s evolutionary leap from flat ground to the vertical walls of Southern California’s empty swimming pools in the mid-70s was the starting point for an inspired re-appropriation of familiar sites. This was followed by a construction boom in commercial skateparks, almost all of which had gone bankrupt and been bulldozed by 1985. The­ subsequent dry period made skateboarders a breed of connoisseurs unique to the building arts: they possessed an instinct for evaluating every type of manmade object from the sole standpoint of whether or not it was skateable. For the last 25 years, a growing number of virtuoso manipulators of wood and cement have been using this criterion as a template for large-scale orchestrations of physical space that combine utter functionality with sensuality of form. ­ ­
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Photos Jocko Weyland, Newburg, 2000.­
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­The epitome of renegade, untrained skatepark construction, where architecture and engineering come together, is Burnside in Portland, Oregon. Started in 1990, it lies under a bridge ­that used to be frequented by drug addicts and other undesirables. It was the perfect place for a dedicated group of self-taught designers to build without any meddling from city authorities. Over an eight-year period, Mark Scott, Mark Hubbard, and their colleagues led the effort to transform the desolate 50-by-80-yard plot into an unprecedented urban renewal project. They started with one banked wall and from there went forward, learning by trial and error, until they realized the current mind-boggling conglomeration of bowls, corners, and vertical walls. Burnside has enough quarter pipes, funboxes, curves, blob-like shapes, and radical contours to rival efforts by the avatars of the new architectural language that eschews ninety-degree angles.

Lacking an adequate place to skate, Scott and Hubbard started building out of necessity. While they illegally assembled Burnside, they also worked as masons or built residential swimming pools to learn how to pour slump and to mix sand and 3/8-inch pea rock to suit their special needs. What Hubbard calls “reverse engineering” means imagining the craziest skateable surfaces possible and then fabricating them. As Hubbard claims, “Anything with a curve, any shape that could be skated, especially rooftops … you look at it and then figure out how to make it happen.” The city of Portland belatedly gave them an award in the late 1990s for civic improvement, but the real proof of their success is defined by the pilgrims who travel from around the globe to enjoy the free-flowing, intricate environment.

Hubbard, Scott, and their company DreamlandSkateparks have built, in addition to Burnside, five free city-funded parks in Oregon and have recently completed projects in Washington state and Austria. The undulating cement moonscapes they have realized at Newburg, Lincoln City, and Aumsville in Oregon take the Burnside model to a level never reached in the commercial parks of the 1970s or the backyard halfpipes of the 1980s. Their new parks are organic and fluid, allowing skaters to roll unimpeded until they fall down or drop from exhaustion. When filled with skaters perambulating from side to side in an instantaneous choreography, they provide an arena for numerous riders rushing to and fro, zigging and zagging, flying above the coping in a poetry of motion that Hubbard likens to “a play where people are making up their lines as they go along.”

Jocko Weyland is an artist and a writer based in New York. His book The Answer Is Never: A Skateboarder’s History of the World is forthcoming from Grove Press in September 2002.

Written by James Thomas

23/09/2010 at 14:14

New Jersey Barrier

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Written by James Thomas

21/09/2010 at 20:55

K-rail

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Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_barrier

A Jersey barrier or Jersey wall is a modular concrete barrier employed to separate lanes of traffic. It is designed to both minimize vehicle damage in cases of incidental contact while still preventing crossover in the case of head-on accidents.

Also utilized extensively to re-route traffic and protect pedestrians during highway construction, such barriers are increasingly deployed in anti-terrorism roles as both quick fixes and semi-permanent protections against perceived landborne threats.

Jersey barriers are known colloquially by a variety of names in the U.S., including K-rail in the western states, a term borrowed from the California Transport department specification for temporary concrete traffic barriers.

Written by James Thomas

21/09/2010 at 20:55

∞ /*extend*

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*TO WRITE*

Near the Football Pitches.

Every Saturday morning – group of remote control car enthusiasts meet to race – track has slowly formed in this corner of the pitches.

INFINITY LOOP/CLAIMING OF TERRITORY/CHANGE OF LANDSCAPE/WD40/
TOOLBOXES, OIL, BRAKE FLUIDS/NEW SOUNDS/…

Written by James Thomas

21/09/2010 at 20:54