“Most of us do not spend much time thinking about parking unless we are looking for a space. Yet those paved spaces have a vast impact on the design of cities, and the character of our built environment.
Large impervious surfaces…the basics of parking lot design have not been significantly rethought since the 1950’s…so situated, the parking lot is a landscape ripe for transformation…”
- Eran Ben-Joseph from ‘A Lot on My Mind’ in ReThinking a Lot
Special thanks to Professor Ben-Joseph for allowing us to borrow the title of his book for the title of our seminar.
Starting the Gallery & Game……. quotes to warm up the player…
On Defining Surfaces
Our world, so to speak, has become superficial. It is composed of made, invented, and artificial surfaces. They form our walls, our house of mirrors - or simply our artificial, fabricated, composite, specialized, integrated, controlled, and manipulated environments. They establish mind and body, home and work, street and landscape….…[The] analytic historical approach to surfaces cannot escape a nest of perplexing questions. It cannot finally resolve differences between natural and made surfaces and our perceptions and conceptions of them. Nevertheless, this approach, which joins narration, explanation, and speculation draws a tight bead on human relation to surfaces - and the dialectics between made surfaces and surfaces that define makers.”
Surfaces are the boundaries of both natural and human environments. They are both the great fact and the mirror of nature, being, and what we humans make and who we are. Surfaces provoke our first sensations, evoke our initial reactions, and become the stuff of our comparisons, analogies, images, and representations. Surfaces permit instantaneous, if sometimes only rough and provisional, classifications. They allow us to identify, to name, and, from a very early age, to associate actions with actors, and movements with sources and consequences. All this learned from surfaces, has no end of importance for memory, judgment, and will.
- Joseph Amato, from Surfaces: A History
On Perceiving Surfaces
It is clear that the operations we perform or intend to perform upon objects influence how we speak about their surfaces. This comment also applies to the sorts of materials we use in carrying out these operations. Not only do certain kinds of contrasts become operative in carrying out such operations, but the sorts of materials we use influence our talk about surfaces as well.
Does [a] quarry have a surface? If so, in looking at it, are we looking at the surface of the earth? It is questionable that we can say so without a special story. Shall we say that the surface of [a] quarry, if it has one, is below the surface of the earth? This sounds odd. If we are examining a deep well with a flashlight, can we say that we see the surface of the well when we see its bottom; and can we say that the well is in the surface of the earth?
-Avrum Stroll, What are Surfaces?
We live in an environment consisting of substances that are more or less substantial; of a medium, the gaseous atmosphere; and of the surfaces that separate the substances from the medium...The medium permits unimpeded locomotion from place to place, and it also permits the seeing, smelling, and hearing of the substances at all places...The substances of the environment need to be distinguished. A powerful way of doing so is by seeing their surfaces...A surface has characteristic properties that can persist or change, such as its layout, its texture, the property of being lighted or shaded, and the property of reflecting a certain fraction of the illumination falling on it.
- James Gibson, Ecological Approach To Visual Perception
On the Design of Urban-Technical Surfaces
The contemporary processes that configure our cities do not always begin and end they way they were originally configured....The spaces that host conflicts and contradictions differ from the city landscape..Instead of strictness, we encounter here imperfection. Instead of boring logic, we are confronted with intriguing irrationality. Instead of the usual banality, we experience here poetical paradoxes...We should stop cherishing and perceiving our city as an ultimate and faultles living environment and allow the unplanned and improvied to inspire future urban development.
- Guy Konigstein, Paradoxical Spaces
This [asphalt] singular material innovation, coupled with the reflexive mechanisms it supports, can be traced back as the source of some of the most generic and ubiquitous aspects of the North America landscape today - those aspects that are gaining increasing attention by the practices articulated through the prism of landscape urbanism.
- Pierre Belanger, Synthetic Surfaces
[T]he Emphasis in the future must be, not upon speed and immediate practical conquest, but upon exhaustiveness, inter-relationship and integration. The coordination and adjustment of our technical effort... is more important than extravagant advances along special lines, and equally extravagant retardations along others, with a disastrous lack of balance between the various parts.
- Belanger quoting Lewis Mumford from Technics and Civilization
On Rainwater and Surfaces
In the time of this moment, the lines that divide water from land also draw out clear and distinct “things” that are given the status of beings, beings that are personified, even deified, but more seriously taken for granted to be “natural” entities with a significant role to play as agents of change on the surface of the earth and in everyday life.
Or is it a competing belief, namely, that water is everywhere before it is somewhere: it is in rain before it is in rivers; it soaks, saturates, and evaporates before it flows?
-Anu Mathur and Philip da Cunha, Design in the Terrain of Water
My hope is that rain does not merely force us to “cope” with a showering world, but actually takes us to a better ontological humility, a co-implication of climate and culture, that has potential for more humane kinds of (non) human relations.
- Lowell Duckert, When it Rains