Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


Book Now For Christmas



Wondering In A Winterland.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's winter. Hold on. Let me rewind that glib phrase and start with the backstory:

Think of the universe. Think all the time it has existed, and think of all the matter in it. Imagine it expanding and spinning. Think of the orbits of planets around the sun. Think of the light emitted from the sun falling on the surfaces of planets and moons.

It's hard to imagine that all that stuff is really happening, even if you lay out apples, oranges, melons, tennis and basketballs balls as planets with marbles for moons, and shine a torch in place of the sun. On earth, all we see are the side effects: Day and night. Warm or cold. Summer or winter. Our experience of the universe is comparable to an ant walking across a page of novel: Patches of dark and light with no way to piece them together. Before we knew why and how the seasons changed, the mystery started making us act strangely.

The significance of winter first came from our rumbling stomachs. Seasonal plants had died, and the animals who ate those plants hibernating or not reproducing. Food was scarce.

We pushed stones vertical on the Wiltshire plains to mark significant risings and settings of the sun: mid summer and mid winter. Significant because having a calendar meant agriculture could be managed. Perhaps they were also significant as part of a ritual attempting to bring back the life force of nature at the dead centre of winter. The reason we built things like Avebury and Stonehenge wasn't because we were at one with nature, but exactly the opposite: We couldn't understand it, we felt removed and alienated.

These days, we are just as alienated. We've tried as hard as possible to equalise the inconveniences of seasonal difference. We can regulate internal temperatures and eat seasonal produce all year long. You can get a better tan indoors in January than on the beach in August. Technology shrinks winters discontents. It's harder to actually significantly experience winter.

It's unlikely we'll miss it though. Even in the depths of a shopping mall, where the temperature stays constant all year round, cardboard snowflakes will hang from suspended ceilings. German markets will appear in lots of places that aren't Germany. Ice skating rinks will be erected in city squares. Fir trees will be put in places fir trees can't grow. Aerated plastic foam will be sprayed onto the windows of pubs and offices - simultaneously conjuring the ghosts of Dickensian christmas' and low grade graffiti (perhaps the decorative equivalent of Run DMCs 'Christmas in Hollis' - sample lyric: 'The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's/But each and every year we bust Christmas carols'). There will be musak rattling with sleigh bells everywhere.

If you wondered exactly where you were, you might guess a pagan Germanic forest with touches of the middle east and the north pole, enjoying some apres-ski, sometime between 1550 and 1850.

All those wintry symbols have been handed down over thousands of years, from pagan to Christian to consumer. Their meanings and purposes submerged, subverted, hidden and hijacked till they form a cultural white noise: Ancient druid-magick fertility rights wired up to the mains.

Tinsel recalls strings of ivy only made sparkling, diffuse, the glistening of frost abstracted to metallic sheen. Patterns recalling foliage have passed from pagan ritual to church and are now punched into film-thin novelty.

Trees were once brought inside as a winter solstice offering. They were decorated with tree sprites, which became Christianized as angels. Now, trees are laced with LEDs, or remade from nylon and fibreoptics - as white as spacesuits. Imagine the quantities of artificial nature stockpiled in distribution centres, ready for shipping. Imagine if hillsides were planted with colour cycling synthetic forests. Imagine birds nests lit in washes of magenta and cyan tinted rabbit warrens. What kind of electric fairy stories would emerge from this unnatural forest?

We extend our artificial winters: Harrods opens its Christmas shop in august, mince pies are on the supermarket shelves in September, Christmas singles are plotted in spring. Meanwhile, winter itself is shrinking. Research into climate change shows how autumn and spring are eroding either end of winter. Many European plants flower a week earlier than they did in the 1950s and lose their leaves 5 days later. Biologists report that many birds and frogs are breeding earlier in the season. An analysis of 35 non-migratory butterfly species showed that two-thirds now range 2 to 150 miles farther north than they did a few decades ago. The spring ice thaw in the Northern Hemisphere occurs 9 days earlier than it did 150 years ago, and the autumn freeze now typically starts 10 days later.

Maybe it's because there are less real snowflakes that we need to make decorative ones.

Climate change is altering iconic winter landscapes. North of forty degrees north latitude, the growing season for vegetation has increased by several days. The artic is becoming greener. The ice cap is thinning. There are predictions that the arctic could be completely ice-free during summer months by 2060.

In the Alps, average temperatures have risen by up to 3C over the last century during the winter months at 1800 meters. A lack of snowfall in some regions has exacerbated the problems to the skiing industry. Even the snow canons, which blast artificially created snow over the pistes to augment natural precipitation can't fix it when temperatures are above zero.

Our representations of these wintry scenes become stronger, denser and more hysterical just as their reality is threatened.

Each winter, you can, like at many other places, skate on a temporary ice rink at Somerset House. What's different here is that it is just yards away from the old banks of the Thames. Since the construction of the new London Bridge and the Embankment, the rivers increased speed has stopped it freezing over. 200 years previously, it was the site of the Frost Fairs, which took place on the frozen river. The idea still persists, wearing rented ice skates, standing on ice frozen by a grid of pipes pumped through with brinewater cooled to -9 degrees by evaporating Freon.

Landscapes are as much about imagination as they are geography. The landscapes we draw and make of winter are not quite illustrations. These winter wonderland scenes freeze moments when the world looks new and fresh: coated with overnight snow; icicles glistening in the winter sun; the crystalline patterns of snowflakes. That freshness is a brief glimpse of what we imagine nature to be: an idealised version of nature before man. The myths of Eden and Arcadia served previous generations as visions of the world before the fall. Frosty the Snowman does the same thing for us.

What we are seeing now is the result of the greenhouse gases emitted up till 1968, because the climate takes about 30 years to catch up. If its true the effect of todays pollution will not become apparent till about 2030. Culturally, the lag is less predictable.

If the environment and landscape is shifting and changing, it's perhaps no wonder that we attempt to invoke certainty through other means: nativity scenes, shop window displays, and seasonal blockbusters. But it's not just these obviously ephemeral things. The line between strictly decorative items and real, proper objects becomes blurred. Think of the winter coats you might find yourself wearing: This winter might find you in some kind of military inspired trench coat - a perverse nostalgia for the certain horror of the First World war. Vogue tells us that other autumn/winter 2005 trends include other wintry visions: Victorian and Imperial Russian. Alternatively, you might well find yourself sporting a high tech jacket featuring breathable fabrics, with coatings, laminates, insulation, even Bluetooth control of your phone or MP3 player buried deep in your pockets. These items invoke the security of protection though engineering. Certainty through technology.

These things aren't just protecting you from the environment. They are protection against what you imagine winter to be.

Simulations of future climate change are running on the computer systems of university research departments. Equations represent the physical processes of the climate, and the maths charts possible futures versions of the earth. As they cycle through seasons, winters change. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that global temperatures will rise an additional 1.6 to 5.5 degrees Celsius by the century's end. What these winters will look like is probably not part of these simulations. What new meanings will we attach to winter? What new significance will it gain?

As actual winter shrinks and technology reduces its impact, we have expanded its simulation - an artificial Narnia applied to a warming planet. We have found ourselves redesigning winter, both intentionally and accidentally. Winter has become biggest, most ambitious design project we've ever undertaken.



Posted by anothersam at October 17, 2005 1:14 PM.

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Contents:

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

Swingball

Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

Other:

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