HILL power generator.
This past summer we collaborated with Chester Rennie, a landscape architect at Public Work, on the Land Art Generator Initiative design competition, which was held for a site within Freshkills Park (the former Fresh Kills Landfill) in New York City. Here are a few paragraphs from our project description:
The Sisyphus Project proposes a series of mechanical power generators which capitalize on the energy of falling kinetic bodies. These generators are composed of low tech structures which would harness the power of tumbling bodies using simple machines and gear systems at the point of impact with the device. These High Impact Low Level power (HILL power) generators do not produce emissions, are constructed of low embodied energy materials, can power nearly two hundred net zero energy homes, and, because of their low profile, do not create visual pollution in the city’s skyline. Most importantly they provide park visitors with an opportunity to become an integral part of the power production system…
The Sisyphus Project is an attempt to create a power infrastructure which is built from a limited and easily renewed supply chain, mostly wood, stone and steel. The wood is harvested from local sustainably grown sources. The stone is tumbled concrete reclaimed from demolished city infrastructure, and the steel is reclaimed from fallow industrial sites across the country. The work that produces energy is derived from an actively engaged consumer, rather than an entrained nature. The process of quantifying the “cleanness” of the energy is an attempt to uncover the extensive roots of energy consumption in daily life, and to reflect upon the geographic inequalities of energy production…
A view of “The Sisyphus Project” from the east side of the river
Despite having spent a solid weekend of our summer on the submission, we weren’t shortlisted, but our entry, along with all the others can be found on the LAGI website.
This past summer we participated as ‘creative collaborators’ in an outdoor art installation called The Encampment by the public artists’ Thomas+Guinevere as part of the City of Toronto’s bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812 and Luminato, Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity. The installation was a great opportunity for exhibition goers to visit Fort York, a now urban piece of historic preservation and a great spot to view the massive condo boom reshaping the not so beautiful Toronto skyline. The installations within each tent referenced, with varying degrees of abstraction, the lives of two hundred individuals who lived during and were somehow effected by the War of 1812.
Aerial view of The Encampment looking North. Photograph by Luminato.
Our installation, based loosely on a famous speech to the US Senata by Seneca orator and chief, Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket. Photographs by Ya’el Santopinto.
The adaptive reuse of more and more exquisite post industrial leftovers seems to be slowly catching on outside of Europe. There now seems to be a demand not only for repurposing already built form, but landscapes as well, as exemplified by this hotel we saw on the the Toronto Standard about a month ago.
A five-star hotel in China by Atkins.
It’s too bad that the program isn’t inclusive, we all love to explore post-industrial relics, but we’re delighted to finally see a project that actually capitalizes on our man made geologies rather than restoring to antiquated reclamation practice. Sites like the one seen here are abundant across the globe and it’s easy to imagine them becoming architecture projects (see our previous Adirondack Holes series). Peabody Energy, Barrick Gold, BHP-Billiton, De Beers, Freeport-McMoRan, XStrata Plc, Codelco, Anglogold Ashanti, Rio Tinto, HudBay Minerals, are just a few of the major mining companies with future mine sites in dire need of serious repurposing projects.
Repurposing built form also seems to be on the rise, as architecture sites like Archdaily seem to feature a new gem almost daily. The two re-purposed factories we’re showing below are European prescedents, but it takes no imagination to see similar projects happening in cities across the US; Detroit and Pittsburgh immediately come to mind.
Ricardo Bofill’s head office and house in a former Cement factory.
The Steam Blower House, by Heinrich Böll BDA DWB. Photographs by Thomas Mayer.
The Tar Creek Supergrid on the IABR’s Smart Cities-Parallel Cases 2 Exhibition webpage.
We were invited to the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) yesterday to attend an awards ceremony for the Smart Cities: Parallel Cases 2 Exhibition, where The Tar Creek Supergrid is on display. The exhibition parallel’s the IABR’s current theme of Making City. More on the main exhibition following our return to Toronto.
Stainlessness production. Video by Signal Return.
We’ve been busy for the past month and a half designing a series of “capricios” (see image below for an example of a capricio) for Etienne Turpin’s exhibition titled Stainlessness at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Here’s Etienne’s description of his project:
Stainlessness recuperates the tradition of the architectural ‘capriccio’ as a means to emphasize the history of labor movements in North America and to make legible the physical semblance of these movements in cities including Sudbury, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. While processes of urbanization have all but erased these struggles from our cities and left only ambivalent monuments to mark the past, the narrative of Stainlessness and its contemporary ‘capriccios’ assert the centrality of labor as a force capable of transforming the nature of cities, the culture of America, and the geologic deep-time marked by the Anthropocene.
Aldo Rossi’s Città Analoga, first presented at the 1976 Venice Biennale.
The Sudbury capriccio. Catie Newell photo.
Most of our Easter weekend was spent at Signal Return in Detroit, manually printing the drawings using a Vandercook printing press and milled magnesium plates. You can see a video of the process below. The exhibition of the work opened on Monday and runs until the end of the week. You can find more images of the process and the exhibition in our Work section.
Production of the Detroit capriccio. Catie Newell photo.
Etienne Turpin, our former professor and the current Walter B Sander’s Research Fellow at the University of Michigan, has commissioned the Captains of Industry to design his upcoming exhibiton tittled Stainlessness. As a preface to the exhibition, he’s also curating a symposium, which judging from the line up should be well worth attending. Here’s a brief description from his website:
Recent discourse in the fields of architecture, art, and philosophy suggest the increasing influence of geology with the design disciplines, visual arts, and theoretical humanities. The symposium A Geologic Turn: Architecture’s New Alliance, which I am curating as part of the Research Fellowship at the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Michigan, aims to bring together researchers, scholars, and practitioners whose work is at the centre of this fecund transdisciplinary research trajectory. The objectives of the symposium are: first, to allow new productive connections among current scholarship and practice, and second, to expose the students and faculty of the Taubman College to these new transdisciplanary ideas and projects.:
We’ll see you there!
A miners descends a mega ladder inside one of Tar Creek’s many underground caverns. Image courtesy of Brandon Mosley
We recently received a heads up from architecture grad Brandon Mosely regarding his thesis project; he coincidentally used Pitcher, Oklahoma, as the site for his intervention. His proposal for a museum of abandoned mines, opportunistically capitalizes on the above and below ground post-industrial features of the site and is the kind of project we’ve been advocating. Thanks for sharing Brandon, it’s great to see other people choosing design over standard reclamation practice at abandoned mines. For more on the project and Tar Creek, you can also check the Mine Plug post on BLDGBLOG.
The abandoned open pit of the former Gouverneur Talc Mine, adjacent to Rt. 58, Sylvia Lake, NY.
There are a number of abandoned mines in and around my hometown of Gouverneur, NY, but this is the one that initially piqued the Captains’ interest in the re-purposing and reclamation of abandoned mines. Growing up, I watched the waste rock piles steadily grow until about 8 years ago, when the mine closed. It left behind a 500’ hole and created an economic vacuum, neither of which has been entirely filled.
The huge terraced waste rock piles dominate an otherwise relatively flat landscape.
Despite being only 9 miles from my childhood home and having passed the mine too many times to count, my first real visit to the mine was a month ago. It’s surrounded on three sides by imposing piles of waste rock, which deters would be trespassers from entering for fear of being seen from the highway. Having finally made the hike up the piles, we were amazed to see what is on the other side.
Small scale mining operations like the one in the background are still common in the area, coming and going as the price of talc rises and falls.
The immediate sensation of finding such a massive geological feature totally abandoned, in my opinion, is somewhat similar to seeing your first mountain. There’s an initial shock that stems from the sheer scale, but unlike seeing a geological feature that wasn’t created by man, there’s also a conflicted feeling. The awe is tempered by worry about what the local and downstream environmental consequences and the future of the place might be. You are drawn to the beautiful turquoise water which has filled the pit since operations ceased and enjoy it aesthetically, but are afraid to go in for fear of what the affects may be.
Despite the massive scale and alien environment, we can imagine an exciting and productive future for the site. As part of our thesis project we did a large scale analysis of the site and speculated as to what its future could be. For starters, there are numerous mines in very close proximity, all of which are already or soon to be abandoned. They could all be linked to form a physical network of exploration and energy generation. One of the sites is an underground zinc mine, which could be used to tap into geothermal resources. The talc mine could become a resource for the community, housing a research center, residential community, or recreational facilities, by capitalizing on the amazing terraced topography of the site created by the roadways used to transport talc.
Amy gathers samples for her rock collection from the top of a pile.
Possibly the most exciting aspect of thinking about projects like this, is that, although for us this is a very personal project in some ways, it can be seen more broadly as a potential prototype for addressing the hundreds of similar sites across the country, if not the world. If we can start to see the opportunities of these sites, not disregarding the serious work of making them fit for human re-occupation, what amazing places might we create?
Amy contemplates the site’s future as the sun sets behind the head-frame of the Balmat No. 2 Zinc Mine.
The Captains of Industry had a chance to visit the derelict Bensons mines in the summer of 2010. The former iron mine is located in a rather empty area of upstate New York, 15 miles inside of the Adirondack Park boundary. My parents owned a bar and restaurant near Cranberry Lake when I was a growing up and I can remember being curious about the site at a young age. We would pass the waste rock piles and abandoned buildings on trips to the dump, which coincidentally is on a tailing site across the road from the pit. Apart from a small trailer used as a home base for a skeleton maintenance crew, the site has remained abandoned for over 30 years.
Like many mines across the US, the Benson mines were in full swing during and after WWII. At the time it had some of the best iron ore in the world, which transformed the site into the world’s largest open pit mine by 1958, a mere 200 feet deep. It’s a shocking fact when you consider how massive open pit mining operations have become. You could stack 20 Benson mines in Utah’s 4000 feet deep Bingham Canyon mine. When it closed in 1978, 1200 people lost their jobs and the neglect began. Today, the 2.5 mile long, .5 mile wide Benson mine pit has become a man made lake. To the untrained eye, it could easily be mistaken as one of the many Adirondack lakes created by the retreat of the laurentide ice sheet 13,350 years ago.
Despite being abandoned for over 30 years, nature has been slow to rebound. The site is obviously quite toxic as the most plant matter you’ll find are lichens and poplar saplings, struggling to grow in the iron heavy ground and waste rock piles. Some of the larger waste rock piles noticeable from Rt. 3 remain almost barren, covered only with weeds and grasses. The current owners of the mine have found inspiration in nature’s slow recovery, proposing that the piles be used for road construction fill throughout the state. Rehabilitating the site would simply be too much of an undertaking so why not spread out the rocks loaded with heavy metals across the state? To their credit, they have also started to think about alternative uses for the site, albeit unimaginatively; a proposal for a wind farm surfaced in the summer of 2010, but as of October 2011, the proposed monitoring tower has not been constructed.
If a wind farm is slated for the site, why not use the revenue created from the turbines as an economic generator? At only an hour and a half from the Adirondack high peaks region, it’s an ideal base for eco tourism. Anyone looking for an alternative to camping in the woods or at a campsite but still interested in day trips and exploring the site could vacation in and amongst renovated ruins. New structures could even be built using the abundant materials on the site. All of this could be done cheaply, with the cost of labor and design being the main expenses, which could be offset through electricity sales. It could also set a precedent for dealing with similar abandoned mines that are in need of productive reclamation. Whynot hire a young architect to at least develop a proposal?
It seems we have finally arrived at the point where we are interested in gathering together a set of photos, links, and observations related to our design interests. More specifically, it is our intention for this blog to document and explore the possibilities for our physical industrial heritage.
So here it is … the beginning of the blog.