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INVENTING GREENLAND

WITH A TOTAL population of 56,000 spread across a landmass twice the size of all other Nordic countries combined, Greenland’s overall density hovers at just over zero. The precursors to Greenland’s modern-day inhabitants were settlers both indigenous and European, dating back millennia and including the Saqqaq, Independence I-II, and Dorset cultures, as well as the Greenlandic Vikings who settled in the far south in 982 (led by Erik the Red). All these prior cultures and settlements, however, disappeared, leaving only archaeological records.

John Peck
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PHOTO GALLERY: GROßER HEINEBERG

The Großer Heineberg is a 56-meter hill in Potsdam-Bornim (peak at 52.435010, 12.988588, map below). After WWII it was used as a dump for building materials, and while the vegetation has generally made a comeback the soil is still filled with pieces of brick, tile, and glass, with larger piles of rubble appearing frequently.

John Peck
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ROBOTIC LANDSCAPES: DESIGNING THE UNFINISHED

AT OUR CURRENT moment in third decade of the 21st century, the relationship between technology and conservation could generously be described as uneasy: decades of greenwashing have seen the goodwill behind formerly sound words like “eco”, “organic”, and “autonomous” erode like so much sand. Current technological advances, from electric / autonomous vehicles to drones to the self-perpetuating slurry of metaverse and NFT content, pay occasional lip service to the impending wave of climate catastrophes, while rarely working to counteract it, and in some cases even accelerating it.

John Peck
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ANTARCTIC RESOLUTION: DOCUMENTING A THAWING WORLD

Antarctic Resolution, a monumental new “1000 page study of Antarctica’s architectural, historical, ecological and climatic peculiarities” from Lars Müller Publishers, traces the history of the southernmost continent from the early “Heroic Age” explorers up through the present. The book sets out to map the world’s least-known continent in numerous ways: cartographically, to be sure, but also chronologically (in both human and geological scales) and sociologically. Via dozens of essays and hundreds of maps and photos, the book creates a multidimensional model of Antarctica, with contributions from a diverse group of experts in science, history, ecology, architecture, and even art and literature. The essays are grouped into thematic chapters with unusually vivid and evocative names for a science-focused book (“Antarctic Pie”, “Twenty-Six Quadrillion Tons of Ice”, “The Ideological Use of Relics”), which serve more as prompts for creative thought than strictly organizational designations.

John Peck
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OLD IS NEW: ARCHITECTURAL WORKS BY NEW MATERIAL RESEARCH LABORATORY

The architectural firm Shinsoken (“New Material Research Laboratory”), founded in 2008 by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and architect Tomoyuki Sakakida, takes as its mission statement the paradox inherent in its name:

Notwithstanding its name, New Material Research Laboratory examines materials from ancient and medieval times and focuses its activities on reinterpreting and reimagining the use of these materials in the present.

Old is New, from Lars Müller Publishers, documents the studio’s impressive body of work from the past 13 years. In texts arranged geometrically alongside a generous spread of interior and exterior photos, the studio’s founders discuss their approach to architecture and design, giving particular attention to the use of old (or even ancient) materials and traditional techniques.

John Peck
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SOVIET SEASONS

PHOTOGRAPHER ARSENIY KOTOV takes a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground approach to photographing his home country. His new book, Soviet Seasons, is the result of traveling vast distances across Russia and the former USSR, with the goal of showing “how beautiful and diverse are the cities and nature of this vast region at different times of the year.” For those outside the former Soviet Union, who could perhaps be forgiven for reducing its seasons to either “snow” or “not snow” with each spanning about half the year, the book reveals wonderful gradients of weather, vegetation, and daylight that accompany seasonal change in various regions.

John Peck
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PHOTO GALLERY: MOUNT MISEN, MIYAJIMA, JAPAN

Mount Misen is the highest peak on Miyajima, a small semi-tropical island located a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. The island is sparsely populated, and deer roam freely through the forests and streets at lower altitudes. The particular latitude of the island gives it a unique biome in which coniferous trees coexist with lush jungle plants and wildlife, including monkeys and poisonous snakes.

John Peck
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PHOTO GALLERY: FUNKY FUJI

Shots of the ring road around Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi, Fuji Five Lakes Area) in springtime. The lake and surrounding areas are a wildly varied mix of posh resorts, working-class restaurants, dilapidated former-glory hotels, modernist developments, and empty lakeside parks, reminiscent of South Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border and countless other mountain resort towns.

John Peck
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