34.682, -120.604 // Returning North to Continue South

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Soon it would be too hot.

More than once this opening line from J.G. Ballard’s “The Drowned World” rang through my mind. The further South I drove the more I foresaw entering a world where continued heat, check points, and the Darien Gap consumed my energy and time, leaving me in jeopardy of missing scheduled light documentation and ultimately the December 21 solstice in Ushaia.

Project Update: back in CA for a quick month to arrange vehicle shipment from California to Peru, and Light 110 continues with a new “North + South of the Tropics” itinerary.

Traveling solo south in Baja California increasingly consumed more time than the project schedule afforded. I soon found myself facing what comparatively was a black hole event horizon, demanding within nine weeks I acquire nine project sites documentation each averaging four days, cross nine borders, and arrange a symphony of logistical puzzle pieces to overcome the infamous Darien Gap (think shipping containers, terminal fees, limited language).

Bypassing latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer and Topic of Capricorn stockpiles time on the Southern Hemisphere.

Gain – this new itinerary provides time to process, create, and summarize images gathered from the seven sites and seventy four days spent in the Northern Hemisphere. Also looking forward to following up with, reaching out to, and visiting resources I missed on the first round. Anyhow, there is always 2016 to run a Light 110 “Between the Tropics” excursion, grant funding pending.

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light cannon play

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Documentation from a recent model based on Le Corbusier’s light cannon as seen in his 1960’s Convent of La Tourette project.  This playful light cone is made of paper and two nested conical forms adding variation to how light tracks along its surfaces.  The double layer paper translucency reveals shadow and light contrast created by the simple wrap assembly while the added cylinder aperture introduced a spatial joint slightly shifting the passing light.

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tower power

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At 70 mph and timed right with the setting sun’s golden hour the wind turbine farm along HWY 84 between Lubbock and Dallas performs, and can be appreciated, just as Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico.

Only when placed in repetition, like one sees in wind turbine farms, Dia Art Foundation work, or harbor ports, do I appreciate the obstruction of a pole in the landscape. It is unfortunate then to observe installation of utility lighting as single steel stadium-like poles along the Marsha Sharp highway extension in Lubbock, Texas instead of lights suspended from lattice tower structures. The primary organization of these stadium-like poles is a factor of the road condition, such as highway overpasses increase light needs, instead for example the distance between poles determined as a factor of wind dynamics across turbine blades.
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With lattice tower structures you have two opportunities of reading the structure:
one to see the object, and two, to see through the object.

One can not see through a utility pole. Instead you are left with a singular condition, just the object itself. Additionally lattice tower structures are able to use smaller steel members, such as 1.5″ angle iron, to achieve the open airy matrix. Lattice tower structures probably require more labor for assembly but the monolithic poles as objects alone offer no relationship of scaling between the person and environment. We are left with just the object, no space, rather than a relationship or material, space, and landscape.

Science writer Brian Hayes compiled a fantastic guide of utility systems in Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape. It is a perfect resource with detailed information of dimensioned, engineered, and practiced conditions that allow us to better understand, and see, the infrastructure in our environment.

l.a. sun spots

Recently I returned to a series of photographs taken in 2006 while living in downtown Los Angeles titled LA Sun Spots. Each image captures the fleeting sun light as it passed across the built environment of spotted towers, street ways and surface parking lots. Fortunately the grid of downtown Los Angeles is rotated roughly 40 degrees off of North accommodating the contrast of sun-light against shadow-masks and recalling slivered landscapes of canyon configurations. Edges of these urban voids are activated as downtown buildings are placed in this celestial spot-light.


LA sun spot location

A study of the urban void orientation, geometry and occurrence coupled my search for sun slivers. The metropolis void can be perceived as a three-dimesnional screen catching the shaped light modified by adjacent buildings. Not only does early morning and late afternoon light produced dramatically different results across the same urban void but the light quality at the same time varies depending on the atmosphere.
LA sun spot location

LA sun spot location
Solar activation of a metropolis core introduces changing predictability at a civic level and places at least one argument for the necessity of urban voids.

LA sun spot study

shadow landscape

In Lubbock along both sides of Avenue A, just North of the 50th street intersection, is a fantastic stretch of drainage infrastructure that scars the typically flat street-scape into a sculpted terrain.


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At the deeper stretches, this line of divots drops 4′ to 8′ below the street’s surface, allowing shadows of adjacent street lamps, trucks and buildings to warp and reshape in these basins. This shadow-tracking got me thinking about Valparaiso, Chile street-scape, the Valparaiso studio exercise “site of shadows” and a resulting student’s comment, “The sun moves faster here than in Lubbock”. Immediately my response was not that the sun moved faster, nor is their observation a result from the earth’s rotation at latitude relative speeds (given Valparaiso at -33.0 is nearly the same latitude distance from the equator as is Lubbock’s 33.6, with both rotating around 1400 km/hour).  What the student experienced and verbalized was a registration of the narrowing street-space and shorten time in which the sun, thus shadows, fills the street volume.

A quick proportion comparison sketch of residential street-space between Lubbock and Valparaiso demonstrated how dramatically wide and open to the sky Lubbock’s streets are.  This widening reduces the impact shadows have on shaping our collective city space as any marker, building edge or variation in the landscape becomes lost in the distance.  Surprisingly the Avenue A infrastructure gap retains similar proportion to Valparaiso shallowest street spaces and offers a place to register and experience shadows changing our collective space.  Here you can enjoy a changing shadow landscape.