Forensic Architecture Reconstructs the Beirut Port Blast, and Other News

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Beirut Port Explosion report by Forensic Architecture

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Forensic Architecture reconstructs the deadly port blast that rocked Beirut in August.

Nearly four months after a massive explosion left more than 6,500 injured and 200 dead in Beirut, we’re getting closer to understanding what exactly caused the blast, in which 3,000 tons of seized ammonium nitrate detonated. Though the Lebanese government has remained quiet, Forensic Architecture has been getting to the bottom of it. The London-based research collective has released the Beirut Port Explosion report, which uses videos and photographs to geolocate pieces of reference material and place cameras in an open-source map of the city to match each vantage point around the warehouse. With the help of  UN explosives expert Gareth Collett, the team traced the four smoke plumes from when the warehouse was on fire back to arrangements of specific materials. Using videos of the area, they created a 3D model of the building and reconstructed where the ammonium nitrate was stored.  

The group ultimately places blame on the government for failing to inspect and fine the warehouse owners for keeping ammonium nitrate there for six years. “Ammonium nitrate is extremely difficult to detonate by fire alone,” Collett wrote in the report. “However, when confined and contaminated, this can lead to catastrophic detonation. It is sensitized by the presence of even the smallest quantity of additives and hence should be separated.”

Bates Smart has a plan to transform Melbourne’s parking garages into rooftop gardens

Melbourne considers a clever new plan to transform parking garages into rooftop gardens.

What if parking garages could be as beautiful and as they are useful? According to Julian Anderson, a director at the architecture practice Bates Smart, they can. In Melbourne, there are more than 41,000 parking spaces in the central business district alone—the third largest land-use in the city, while public and community space ranks at the bottom. After crunching the numbers, Anderson found that parking accrues nearly 1,200 acres (more space than one and a half times Manhattan’s Central Park) and those spaces sit empty most of the time. 

The solution? Convert parking into public spaces such as community gardens, playgrounds, and rooftop gardens. Anderson is working with the city government to develop a plan to incentivize owners of parking with an initiative that “allows landowners to sell development rights from their land to a developer or other interested party who then can use these rights to increase the density of development at another designated location,” also known as a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). “There is a lack of space for people to enjoy in the city that is not privatized,” Anderson says. “This is the next frontier for cities if we want to turn them into truly vibrant, exciting, interesting, more diverse places to live in.”

In lieu of a Miami fair, NADA’s 18th edition will take place across 44 international cities.

What will art fairs look like post-COVID-19? Maybe something like NADA Miami’s 18th edition: a digital and multi-city staging of small-scale viewings. This year, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) is reimagining its annual Miami fair with a new approach: The 18th edition, taking place next month, will not only be online, but also in a series of accompanying scaled-back viewings in New York, Low Angeles, Riga, Warsaw, Tokyo and 39 other cities around the world. With a total of 87 galleries, exhibitors have created site-specific presentations to go with the online viewing platform. “NADA is perfectly suited for the present moment, because it’s meant to be a mutually supportive organization,” says NADA board vice president and dealer Jeffrey Rosen, co-owner of the Tokyo gallery Misako and Rosen, which is organizing an in-person show with Margaret Lee and hosting three other spaces. “The challenge was to figure out how to work together to make a successful event in the absence of a fair.”

What could it be?

A strange monolith straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey appears in the Utah wilderness.

Officials from the Utah department of public safety had a Stanley Kubrick moment when they spotted a monolith in a remote landscape in the southern part of the state known for its otherworldly red rock formations. In this encounter, however it was bighorn sheep—not apes—surrounding the shimmering slab. “I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” says Bret Hutchings, the helicopter pilot who was assisting wildlife resource officers to count the sheep. The artist Liam Sharp has perhaps the best commentary on the discovery, tweeting “I love this. I imagine it’s an art piece, but what if it isn’t?”

Los Angeles is developing a zone where innovators can test new transit technology.

Los Angeles is developing a Transportation Technology Innovation Zone, an area where transit innovators can test their technology solutions. “Transportation and technology each have the ability to connect communities, create jobs, and contribute to progress on sustainability, equity, and economic growth—and Los Angeles takes pride in serving as a testing ground for dynamic and innovative mobility solutions,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in an announcement. “The first-ever Transportation Technology Innovation Zone will unite local businesses, workers, and inventors around how to revolutionize mobility in the West Valley, and it will serve as a model for what’s possible as more zones come online in areas across Los Angeles.” The initiative is one of the flagship programs of Urban Movement Labs (UML), the transportation solutions accelerator launched by Mayor Garcetti in November 2019. 

The Social Mask, winner of the MIT Pandemic Response CoLab #ReimagineMask Challenge

Today’s attractive distractions:

MIT imagines a face mask that actively scans the surrounding air for germs.

The last surviving fiberglass Jaws shark docks at the Academy Museum. 

A new film about László Moholy-Nagy traces his post-Bauhaus trajectory.

There’s something secretive about Formafantasma’s new watch for Rado.

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