(Note: this post is part of the Infrastructural City Blogiscussion. Click here for mammoth’s introduction to this chapter)
Warren Techentin’s Tree Huggers (chapter seven of Varnelis’ Infrastructural City) explores the impending fate of Los Angeles’ iconic, yet water-consumptive palm trees. As the city seeks to create a more multi-functional urban forest, the nearly shadeless trees are on their way out. As mammoth’s post on the chapter probes at depth, a shift from iconography to “productive machines” opens up broader questions about what future urban natures might be and by what performance criteria they might be measured.
To explore urban vegetation as a “foundational infrastructure” (which we fully support) begs for a closer examination of what vegetation is intentionally planted in the city and to what effect (which we think many cities are already doing), as well as examining what plants spontaneously grow and thrive in the highly-altered environments that cities provide. A second and more complicated question concerns the broader relationships and systemic effects each species can engender. For this post we are limiting ourselves to views of the spontaneously generated urban forest.
Incidentally, the BLDG Blog recently had a fortuitously timed post on Crypto Forestry and set up a group on Flickr on the subject of “minor landscapes on the rebound; urban forests in their earliest, stunted stage; insurgent fringes of suburbia coming back to vitality; derelict groves extending underground roots…” You can view and add to it here.
If you happen to read this blog with any regularity you know that we spend a fair amount of time looking at derelict landscapes and experimenting with ruderal vegetation. Thus we couldn’t resist posting a few images as part of taking a closer look at present and future urban forests of the western seaboard. Most images are from explorations around Portland.
[The terrain vague of highway underpasses. Typically there is no perceived need (or financing) for beautification in these situations as no one sees the landscape below. Thus a competitive free-for-all develops underneath. These spaces are typically massive in scale and offer a variety of opportunistic habitats, from near dessication beneath the center of the roadway to very wet at the peripheral drainage outfalls. I love these spaces.]
[The unintentionally generous open expanse, or urban prairie typically occurring on vacant lots.]