Traces of a Pre-Military Landscape

A definite sonic quality to this 1932 aerial view of San Francisco Bay.  Found via.
Much has been made of exploring post-military landscapes, but what is to be said of the pre-military landscape?

For instance, survey the busy San Francisco Bay in the photo above, just a handful of years before the military began its massive transformation of the watery edge.  It is worth observing how well this landscape lent itself to being transformed by the military.  Alameda Airport, tucked away in the bottom left, was positioned adjacent to the Oakland shipping channel. Both sides of the mouth of this channel would become intensely militarized leading up to WWII.  In the middle of the Bay sits Yerba Buena Island before it and the unborn Treasure Island became militarized.

These peripheral spaces--the thickened crust at the city's edge--were fertile territories for projecting the city's and by extension, the nation's power.  The gridded financial district and the commercial vitality of Market Street depended on these militarized edges for protection and free trade.  Thus the landscape of the bay played a crucial role in projecting American power into the Pacific.

So a curious thing happens to the landscape then when that fountainhead of power withdraws its might.  There is a power vacuum.  An almost infinite array of possibilities arise, then, when the military departs suddenly, by act of congress or explosion of volcano.

This is a roundabout way of announcing my talk "The Post-Military Landscape Future" to be given at Architecture for Humanity's 848 Folsom St. office, at lunchtime on September 7th.  I will be speaking about my tour of US military bases around the world in 2009, focusing on bases closed and bases in transition.  The former military bases of the Bay Area formed a good part of my inspiration for setting out on this traveling fellowship.  AFH and the Open Architecture Network are gearing up to announce a competition on finding strategies for reclaiming military bases: [un]restricted access.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to collect knowledge and project possible futures for military landscapes around the world.

The second local event to announce is that DEMILIT will be leading a walk at the Headlands Center for the Arts on September 25th as a part of the program "Desire Trails".  We will be scraping sounds from the former Nike Missile site, now a Marine Mammal Center, across the lagoon from the old Army barracks in which the Headlands Center for Arts is sited.  Stay tuned to DEMILIT for more details on the event.

Concluding here, it is useful--necessary, even--to interpret the post-military landscape for clues to its pre-military nature.  For we cannot predict exactly how our contemporary landscape will shift due to future militarization.  We can, however, extrapolate from current and past transformations of space what it is that makes up a military landscape.  It is the task of DEMILIT and others to document that change.  The medium of sound, examined and projected here as part of the architectural practice called Soundscrapers, enables but one of many media which may expose these traces of militarization.