a maintenance called desire

Although early “yard” and “street” sites have already been identified for maintenance experiments, “park” sites suitable for guerilla landscaping hadn’t yet been chosen.  I visited a few sites around town and was reminded again of the importance of desire as an act of generative maintenance—most notably in the creation of paths as the often fetishized “desire line.”  Park use is most visibly a design instrument in German parks such as Naturpark Südgelände  in Berlin where successional landscapes rise around railway tracks and trampled ground, foregrounding the urban ecology of ferns, bees, funghi, lead, crickets, birds and steel grating.  More than 2600 parcels are cultivated as “maintenance gardens” by clubs such as Old Goats Grazing, Hilarity, Sunbath and Lime Grove.

apparently steel rail is irresistible to humans

The American park context more often contains colonies united under sports, vegetables or dogs, however by interpreting desire as a maintenance instrument, we can uncover a diversity of alliances that might not be immediately apparent.  Upon inspecting a particular system of desire lines in Washington Park more closely, an unlikely alliance of VDOT technicians, child explorers and coyotes emerge, all sharing the same paths along an eroded, culverted, ivy-covered stream.  To understand this path maintenance we might as well look to the stream, which somehow in all its anonymity has successfully aggregated this motley crew as it finds its way down to the ocean.

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One thought on “a maintenance called desire

  1. Starting with the stream is logical and indeed identifies the only function that landscape has in bureaucratic terms, as either an infrastructure or as a reservoir for infrastructure. As I argued in the introduction to the MESH book, infrastructure is never about what it looks like but always about what it does and when it gains visibility it does so either because its stopped working or because we are being modernists and fetishising function. The stream then is about water and because of topography, connection. But also in that landscape it has by-product qualities: openness, traversibility. These also suck services to it, as open space draws in infrastructure. Because its open, open space can take the infrastructure while private land cannot; because the stream is open it is then the logical location for it. And when it connects to another parcel, there is a good chance that will be open too because its got to keep going man..

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