Must be made

Without much fanfare, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, takes leave of living as the designer’s primary point of departure. The task of designing the city’s metabolism in the form of distribution centers, water-purification installations, high-tension lines, waste-disposal locations, and infrastructure bundles is at least of equal importance. In precise analyses supported by diagrams and aerial photos, Alan Berger y Pierre Bélanger, among others, sketch these components of the new programme. The book also denounces both the suburban city’s spectacularity wasteful use of space and its failure to reuse such things as disused industrial estates and abandoned agricultural land, whose reanimation and completion/revitalization must be made, with the help of environmental know-how, into primary tasks.

Dirk Sijmons, A reflective Plague organism (2009)

That’s the point: things that must be made: a group claim for commissions that seeks the support of the whole group of the discipline appealing to the common interest. It’s true that is necessary to think about new programmes for the contemporary city but, one can say too that this is not the only possible analysis, especially if you think about all the cities of the world or that, claiming for work too often mean to renounce to have a critical point of view on urban policies as disciplines used to do in the past. You can say indeed, as Leanne Muir and other do (check this), that all that is just marketing bullshit. And all this can be true, sometimes, we need to understand when a project is pure self-marketing and when is not. And maybe we should recover some discursive devices for the critic of urban policies and support the brave authors that openly make those critiques. That’s not bad for enthusiasm.

Alan Berger+P-REX lab, Pontine Marshes Study (2007)

(See also the New York Times article)


One. Dross is understood as a natural component of every dynamically evolving city. As such it is an indicator of healthy urban growth.

Two. Drosscapes accumulate in the wake of socio- and spatio-economic process of deindustrialization, post-Fordism, and technological innovation.

Three. Drosscapes require the designer to shift thinking from tacit and explicit knowledge (designer as sole expert and authority) to complex interactive and responsive processing (designer as collaborator and negotiator).

Four. The designer does not rely on the client-consultant relationship or the contractual agreement to begin work. In many cases a client many not even exist but will need to be searched out and custom-fit in order to match the designer’s research discoveries. In this way the designer is the consummate spokesperson for the productive integration of waste landscape in the urban world.

Five. Drosscapes are interstitial. The designer integrates waste landscapes left over from any form or type of development.

Six. The adaptability and occupation of drosscapes depend upon qualities associated with decontamination, health, safety, and reprogramming. The designer must act, at times, as the conductor and at times the agent of these effects in order to slow down or speed them up.

Seven. Drosscapes may be unsightly. There is little concern for contextual precedence, and resources are scarce for the complete scenic amelioration of drosscapes that are located in the declining, neglected, and deindustrializing areas of cities.

Eigth. Drosscapes may be visually pleasing. Wasteful landscapes are purposefully built within all types of new development located on the leading, peripheral edges of urbanization. The designer must discern which types of “waste” may be productively reintegrated for higher social, cultural, and environmental benefits.

Alan Berger, Drosscape. Wasting Land in Urban America (2006)

According to Berger, both “dross” – technically defined as the scum formed on the surface of molten metal and reinterpreted by Lars Lerup as the leftover of creative destruction, the ignored, undervalued, unfortunate economic residues of the metropolitan machine – and “scape” are created and destroyed by processes and values derived from, or because of cultural tastes and actions. “Drosscape” is the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space. Drosscapes are neither intrinsically bad nor good but a natural result of consumption activities, industrial and economic growth. Indeed, waste landscape is an indicator of healthy urban growth at least from the corporate perspective – where the lure of liability reductions and tax incentives is significantly compounded by inadequate public awareness – which has stimulated the rapid development of land for short-term gains and occupancy.

Kelly Shannon, DROSSCAPE. The Darkside of Man’s Cultural Landscapes (2006)

Header: Car salvage and junkyard near Ayer, Massachusetts. (2003)