geometry and land patterns, part 3

Another in a series of posts looking at patterns of land use and agriculture, thanks to the aerial photography available from Google maps.

In this post, a number of photos of agricultural land patterns from around the world.  I don’t know much about any of these other than seeing the patterns and wondering what combination of crops, irrigation, tradition, use, etc. creates the sometimes radical, sometimes subtle changes from one field to the next.

Above, fields of very different crops, in Japan, carefully and precisely defined in one direction, with variability in the other direction.

Above, in India, pastures dotted with the occasional perimeter tree.  Probably the same kinds of plant species, but within that there are fine variations of color that result from slightly different intensities of use, irrigation, etc.

Above, in Switzerland, neat and organized.

Above, in Vietnam, subtle gradations betweens fields, maybe of all the same crops with only slight differences.

Above, in Mississippi.  This is not agriculture, but rather some strange road and development pattern, like little pea tendrils spreading out without regard to fields, woods, etc.

If you have any thoughts or knowledge about what makes these patterns the way they are, drop me a line.

geometry and land patterns, part 2

In part of an ongoing series, another look at fascinating land patterns created by the intersections of typography, irrigation, hydrology, agriculture and culture.

patterns of planting and fields, the circular geometry determined by meandering rivers, in Louisiana

Above, the small fields and pastures of Ireland, cut into an odd amalgam of shapes and geometries, more defined by pastoral farming than mechanized field work.

Above, the beautiful image of the mouth of the Mississippi River as it enters the Gulf of Mexico, a stunning kind of squirrel-like hand grasping at the blue sea.  As related to the images of agriculture shown above –  the dead zone created in the Gulf as a result of oxygen-depleting agricultural fertilizers draining down the Mississippi, makes for a strikingly clear blue sea.

geometry and land patterns

you just gotta love Google maps and the vast amount of aerial photography that has been made accessible.

In a culture increasing dominated by cities and suburbs, it is instructive to take a flyover via Google maps.  The patterns of topography and hydrology, roads and towns are occasionally broken by striking moments of clear, simple geometries.

The photo above is from Colorado’s San Luis Valley showing the patterns created by circular irrigation systems.

Above, again in Colorado, this time the eastern plains and the patterns of irrigation and dryland farming (long rectangular strips make better use of the geometries of planting and harvesting equipment)

Above, yet more high plains farming, this time in North Dakota, and alternating directions of large combine harvested wheat fields.

Altona Grange hall

Just north of Boulder, Colorado is the Altona Grange Hall.  It is one of the original 492 granges in Colorado, established in 1891.  These buildings were built as part of the Grange movement of farmer solidarity known as the Patrons of Husbandry.  They advocated for modern farming techniques, water rights protections, bank farm loan policies and railroad price fixing.  The buildings become the social center, the “culture” of agriculture,  of often very isolated farming communities.

These are buildings built without architects, usually by the farmers themselves.  Unlike Europe where so many farmers live in town and migrate daily out to their fields, the homestead movement in the United States occupied the land in a much more dispersed fashion.  Farmers often lived great distances to cities or town and from each other.  These buildings are some of the richest examples of truly vernacular building in the West.

The Altona Grange has a long and rich history and is still a thriving enterprise.

I find the building fascinating in its lack of consistency to roof pitches, materials usage, etc.  As you can see, the siding and roofing changes for different locations, the various additions wrapping around the original building based on use and necessity, not aesthetics.  But what ends up is a really dynamic building.

This is architecture put together by the people who use it and have to maintain it collectively.  It is not graceful or delicate, but it has a solid presence that comes from occupation and some very clear relationships.  The main building is clearly dominant and the additions and sidecars are secondary.  You can tell from looking at the building that the main hall is the center of the community, the other forms are there to support that main function.  This is a simple, albeit not elegant, description of “spaces served and spaces in service” that Louis Kahn delineated in most of his better works and gives a building a clear sense of both its genesis and use.

This modest building serves as a good lesson to architects designing buildings that stand isolated out on the plains.  A simple, strong form needs to be strongly articulated to sit in the massive panaroma of the landscape and the small additions lend human scale and occupation.  A beautifully simple building more satisfying that so many current architectural flights of fancy.