believe nothing until it has been officially denied

April 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Soergel was a Bauhaus architect and author of a number of works on design and far more ethereal, floating-castle ideas. His most spectacular contribution—incubated in the mid-1920’s and still clinging by its fingertips as an idea among some current thinkers—was to put a dam across the straights of Gibraltar. The dam would generate electricity of course, but most importantly to Soergel, it would also empty an enormous amount of water (lowering the sea by 200 metres)  from the Mediterranean leaving vast new expanses of land to be developed and colonized over generations into the future. The water of course would have to go somewhere, and that somewhere was the Sahara Desert, somehow in its wake creating farmable and productive lands. Soergel was creating a certain, very wide, fantastical future of uncertain monumental prospects.

A “brief outline” of the idea was published in this four-language pamphlet, Lowering the Mediterranean Irrigating the Sahara (Panropa Project), which was published by J.M. Gebhardt in Leipzig in the very bumpy year of 1929. (The Weimar years in Germany were already into deep bumpiness; the rest of the world would follow suit in October of that year.) To be fair, Soergel didn’t plan on emptying the entire Mediterranean, just a bunch of it–at least enough to be able to rename it.

[Here’s a map of the new Mediterranean, or the Mediterranean that would be made to go away. As you can see at this point Sicily and Italy become enormous, and the Greek Islands are combined to form one large land mass–this last bit alone is enough to form total and complete resistance to this idea. Also at this stage perhaps 150 or so miles of new lands have been reclaimed from the sea all along its former borders–more so in Turkey. There is no mention as yet of any new islands that are formed in the sea water’s wake.]  As it turns out Soergel thought that this plan would add at least 660,000 KM2 to the base of the surrounding countries of the Mediterranean, or roughly the equivalent of the combined land masses of Italy and Germany. Having the sea pulled back from hundreds if not thousands of seaside towns and cities would no doubt be a “problem”, for them; but that doesn’t matter to Soergel, as they were inferior thoughts to the grand idea of emerging a new continent.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Juergen Teller

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“To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too!”

March 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Question: What is 150’ in diameter, weights 80 tons, carries 60 scientists, a cannon, a big rooster, an escape pod for women, and makes transcontinental flights?

Answer: nothing.

And so: what is ten times bigger, and carries ten times more people? Bigger but still the same nothing–though a more-magnificent nothingness.

The first example did however live in print as the great balloon La Minerve, the  prankish gesture of the Belgian optico-magician, physics experimenter/exhibitionist and general experimenter (and probable crumbun) “Dr. Roberston”, who was actually Étienne-Gaspard Robert (1763-1837). Robert did have vast experience with balloons—he was Commandant des Aerostiers during the war, serving under General Jourdain in Belgium and Holland in 1803/4, providing valuable observations on the enemy troops and movements from tethered (and not) balloon observing stations; he is also regarded by some as the inventor of the parachute. He had a wide interested in optics and toys, making a very profitable tour with Brewster mirrors, demonstrating all manner of specters and floating bodies and such for a paying audience.

He came up with this sci-fi-ish idea in the early 19th century, and published his dream broadsided swipe at other aeronauts in 1820 under the title of La Minerve, vaisseau aérien, destiné aux découvertes et proposé à toutes les Académies de l’Europe par le physicien Robertson. There was nothing about this balloon that would’ve worked, and Robertson knew it…  read more

ART: Christian Hetzel

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