Investing in the Ground: Reflections on Scarcity, Remediation and Obdurate Form

by ytheory

My essay ‘Investing in the Ground: Reflections on Scarcity, Remediation and Obdurate Form’ published in  Architectural Design, ‘Scarcity’, edited by Jon Goodbun. Extract below.

“In design practice, it is the ground, and its articulation, from which form is derived. The ground becomes, as Castro and Ramirez refer to it, a ‘design tool’. Many of the sites with which AALU and Groundlab have been engaged, for example, particularly those in China, suffer from scarcities of land fit for farming, or even inhabitation, due to soil pollution and degradation that require processes such as excavation, cutting, filling and capping in order to facilitate their remediation.  More than a problem-solving exercise, however, this type of ‘groundwork’ also provides an opportunity to generate artificial topographies with the formal capacity to structure relations between environmental, social, cultural and economic factors on a given site. The remediation of scarcity is grasped as an opportunity for formal interventions, establishing the possibility of specific urban conditions not readily amenable to the flexibility of reprogramming sought by urban entrepreneurialism. As opposed to the conception of the urban as a mere surface always open to reprogramming in the service of strategies of accumulation, form becomes an obdurate investment in the ground.”