InfraNet Lab is a new research organization founded by Mason White and Lola Shepard of Lateral Architecture. The new site for the group also features a blog of the same name which features a great breadth of work, research, and discussion on infrastructure and urbanism. I've long been a fan of Lateral's work and Mason's writing frequently featured on Archinect. Their work often deals with the relationship between suburbia, infrastructure, and geography. Their's is an earnest attempt to transfigure the suburban landscape through the reconfiguration and remodulation of its everyday matter--highway off ramps, big box retail, parking lots, and a nebulous landscape in search of definition. Here is a blurb about the site from its creators:
InfraNet Lab is a research collective probing the spatial byproducts of contemporary resource logistics. The laboratory posits the argument that a body of unique built works continues to arise out of the complex negotiation of, and competition for, biotic and abiotic resources. Operating in a manner similar to infrastructures, these works have evolved to merge landscape, urbanism, and architecture into a sophisticated mutant assemblage of surfaces, containers, and conduits.New Geographies is a new journal created by 'Doctor of Design' students that Harvard's GSD under the direction of Professor Hashim Sarkis. I had the pleasure of taking part in the seminal seminar of the same name a couple years back that I assume generated the idea for the journal. The seminar explored emerging concepts in architecture, landscape and urbanism surrounding the enlarging scale of design, an expanded scope for designers, and a new focus on a 'geographic' approach to design instead of a 'topographic' approach.
The last was one of the most interesting ideas of the seminar to me--a geographic project is one which attempts to reveal the inherent nature of a larger territory through the use of geography itself. According to dictionary.com geography originates from the latin word geographia which means "description of the earth's surface," from ge "earth" + -graphia "description," from graphein "write." A geographic project can be understood as a form of writing on the earth's surface in an attempt to describe it. A topographic project, on the other hand, is one which attempts to meld with the landscape. Geographic techniques might include using a strong geometry which allows topography to register against it, creating a micro-scale version of macro-scale geographic formations (see also image below and here), or any number of techniques used by land artists (Andy Goldsworthy's work, shown above, was one strong influence in the seminar).
For more than a decade, architecture and urbanism have been seen as the spatial manifestation of the widespread effects of globalization. As cities became denser, they intensified in their horizontal and vertical thickness with large-scale urban development projects, yet they also became dispersed with urban sprawl. Within the design disciplines, key words such as rapid urbanization, mapping, networks, and flows affected the analyses and interpretation of emergent mutations on the spatial and urban dimension; and design attitudes toward this expanding scale tended to oscillate between research/mapping on emergent urban/global networks and the extra-large (iconic) landmark. On one hand, the production and popularity of design in contemporary culture has increased immensely, and on the other, designers are being compelled to address questions—related to infrastructural, ecological, regional, and cultural issues—that previously were confined to the domains of other disciplines. By encouraging designers to reexamine their tools and develop strategies to link attributes that had been understood to be either separate from each other or external to the design disciplines, those questions opened up a range of technical, formal, and social repertoires for architecture.You can purchase the first issue of New Geographies here.
(My apologies to Hashim and the rest of the NewGeo gang for my bastardization of their concepts)