Posthuman Landscape: The Underground

November 6, 2014

When the surface of land is overcrowded and we still have to relate to the force of gravity, the underground became the solution for infrastructural systems as the subway/underground/metro, drainage and numerous other circuit lines. But as for today – western society year 2014, living underneath the surface is seen as a place of decay.

In fiction or as future visions, the underground is often illustrated as a dystrophic solutions while utopian visions are more often set in the air. This might be since it rule out one fundamental condition of the photosynthesis:

Carbon dioxide + electron donor + light energy → carbohydrate + oxidized electron donor

Without the sun and light energy this equation of life is impossible. It would affect some primal parts of our well-being.

 

The underground for living
But there are settlements throughout history that has opposed this theory. In the eastern part of Turkey lies the ancient region of Cappadocia which is known for its many underground communities which could host up till 20 000 inhabitants. Why they settled underground or when they did is yet unknown, but there are theories. Many of which is based on the fear of one external threat weather they were human-, climate- or space invasions are to be argued

According to one of these, in “ancient astronaut theory”, the highest spirit of worship in the monotheistic Iranian religion Zoroastrianism (that might have been the religion of the region at that time), Ahura Mazda – who is from another world – had predicted an approaching ice age and wanted to protect the people of the region. Very similar to the tale of Noah.

The porous mass of the volcanic rock has a beneficial isolating effect for this purpose. There is a major pendulum variation in this region’s climate. It can go from being – 30 Celsius degrees in the winter to + 30 degrees Celsius in the middle of the summer.

Another theory is that the people of the underground cities were the first Christian inhabitants of the region, and had to hide and that forced them underground.

A lot of the design of some of the cities implies that there were some outside threat. In one city, the passages between the floor planes were possible to shut from the inside. Blocking someone on the outside to get in.

derinkuyu4  undergroundcity_life

This brought me to the contemporary underground systems made for human use: the subway/metro/underground. A space not made because of an extern threat. We are not forced to take shelter but rather forced to turn to the underground in lack of space for all modern necessity. It might be the one space where traditions and normative construction no longer applies since the rules of life (the photosynstesis) already is broken.

david-macaulay-underground-01david-macaulay-underground-08

Underground was a catalog of city sites that are clues to systems we completely take for granted until they break down, and then we say, “Hey, how come I don’t have any electricity? What’s wrong with the water?” We are so dependent on those systems, and that’s what motivated that book. I did the book because I wanted to say to people, “Hey, look again. This is amazing stuff. We all count on it.” I mean, I don’t know what we’d do without this stuff, but we just completely take it for granted.

The Boston Underground Ilustrated in 1976 by David Macaulay and later presented in the quote above, year 2001 on teachingbooks.net via Socks Studio.

Malin Wester

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