Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Don't Even Know What a Quail Looks Like

I wrote my last post about the lack of an actual, popular, narrative on Central Asia. This was originally going to be a part of that post, until I realized that they were only tenuously related and it would've gone on way too long.

I've made my interest in architecture and the built environment very clear in the past, but I can't help but think that I'm in the minority. All of these military bases, all of these dams, all of these roads, and all of these libraries are landmarks and logistical arteries for the future. If the United States doesn't want to be an Ozymandias, doesn't want to have the 21st century version of a T83-strewn landscape, there really ought to be more of a serious examination of what the next decade of American involvement in Central Asia will do to the environment.

G. Whitney Azoy's Buzkashi was a great read, mostly because it was a very real and concise look at how daily life is led in urban and rural Afghanistan. The khan-and-his-courtyard model is completely foreign to anything the Western folks are used to, can expect, and likely can build in central Indiana. It's also awfully different from Iraq.

So the bases that are built are often completely alien structures placed in the middle of an environment that they don't interact with. Sure, the soldiers or aid workers may leave the FOB to sally forth unto the land, but they are sure to return and retain sooner rather than later. But what's the plan for these bases after the next few Friedman Units? What happens to them during the next few Friedman Units? I've already borrowed his work for one post, but Nick Sowers examines this sort of stuff on a visit to a base outside Tokyo:
The funniest thing about it is that the Army employs people to work on the 'encroachment team' yet they have no right to actually take down these violations of military space. These minor interventions by the base's neighbors offer a means of resisting the Army's presence. I asked one of my 'encroachment team' experts, at the end, if she thought the city was encroaching on the base, or if it was really the other way around....what happens if when these tacit gardens and over-hanging branches are amplified? The base edge begins to erode in this incipient form of demilitarization.
So is the expectation that military bases will eventually decay and become artifacts, or will the bases become the basis of a new way of living in the region? And does it have to be a dichotomy, or can there be a middle ground?

I just stumbled into this website, run by Alexander Merkushev, full of great stories and better photos (including the one above) about Afghanistan. That is, generally speaking, what the country looks like now. This list is for what can be done to clean up America. It's not like list B won't help pictures A.

I've been running on this theme for a while, but it still is worth mentioning. How can design help make the Central Asian states downright livable?

1 comment:

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