News & Blogs The most isolated town on earth wants a radical redesign (1 Viewer)

DoctorApocalypse

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From Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/the-most-isolated-town-on-earth-needs-a-radical-redesig-1694550855

The Most Isolated Town on Earth Wants a Radical Redesign

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Smack dab in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 miles from human civilization, lies one of the most isolated towns in the world. It’s on an island called Tristan da Cunha, and for the first time, it’s looking to the outside world to plan its future.

It takes more than a week to get to The Settlement, as Tristan’s town is often called, by boat. When you do, you might not be able to land because the ocean swells are severe. There’s no airport. It’s a location so remote and unknown, it’s become almost mythical. To geologists, Tristan is the result of an eruption of a volcanic “hotspot” in the middle of the Atlantic. To historians, it’s a time capsule where the last remnants of colonial England remains. To Tristanites—or Trist’ns as some historians call them—it’s a community that preserves a way of life they’ve chosen over the outside world.

But this month, Tristan is looking to the world far beyond its tiny boundaries for help. Working with The Royal Institute of British Architects, the local government is staging an open competition for a plan to bring the community into the 21st century and bolster its ability to sustain itself over the next few decades, using everything from architecture to energy and farming innovations. But to know why it’s asking for ideas, it helps to know a bit more about the island itself.

Utopia in the South Atlantic
About 300 people live on Tristan today—which is a lot, considering its population has dipped far below that throughout its 200 year history.

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Brian Gratwicke

The community was officially established in the 1810s because it was “close” to St. Helena, the remote island where Napoleon was exiled, and the British thought France might use it to spring him from his prison. But Tristan is still more than 1,300 miles away from St. Helena, which would have made springing the Little Corporal out of his prison very difficult.

But when England abandoned its paranoia-induced outpost, a few men stayed behind, signing an agreement that designated their property and their labor shared. “That document, now in the British Museum in London, embodies the communal, noncompetitive spirit that has characterized the culture of Tristan da Cunha ever since,” writes Donald Theodore Sanders about the island in Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions.

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St. Helena marked in red, Tristan marked in green.

Thanks to a slow trickle of other settlers, Tristan slowly grew into its own tiny community, self-sufficient to the extreme. Without regular contact with the rest of the world, settlers had only themselves and the land to depend on for everything from produce to clothing to materials with which to build boats and homes.

Tristan existed with relative continuity until 1961, when the volcano it sits on the edge of erupted—and the entire town was evacuated to England. Faced with the wonders of modern life, most of the world seemed to assume that the move would signal the end for Tristan. Who would go back to a rough, remote settlement after experiencing the comforts of contemporary technology and entertainment?

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Brian Gratwicke

It turned out that modern England had the exact opposite effect on Tristan’s community. If anything, life outside their volcano only reinforced their desire to return. It “actually strengthened their group structure and consciousness and therefore placed difficulties in their expected adaptation,” writes Óscar Álvarez-Gila about the Tristanites’ time in England.

So after those few years in England, most of the Tristan group returned to their tiny speck of ultra-remote land. In Crisis in Utopia, the sociologist Peter Andreas Munch sums up how bizarre the decision seemed to the rest of the world:

[t]he Tristan Islanders did indeed return to their own simple life before the very eyes of an amazed, dismayed, and somewhat insulted Western World... It was as if our whole ethos and way of life had been put on trial, and had failed.

Terra Incognita
It sounds almost utopian. But while Tristanites prefer their way of life to any other, it’s still a struggle to survive on the island—and it’s getting harder. As its 200th anniversary approaches next year, the future of the island is in limbo, and the government is inviting designers from all over the world to think about its issues.

“Tristan’s economy is however shrinking and the cost of living continues to rise,” explains the competition organizers at RIBA. “It is critical that cost-effective long-term solutions are found to improve the community, to make buildings energy efficient and reduce the living costs of the Island’s population.”

Almost every aspect of life on Tristan is fair game. For example, the island’s economy depends mainly on fishing, and the current harbor only allows docking 60 days out of the year. A better one is desperately needed. Farming is another crucial issue, so it’s asking designers to consider contemporary ideas about improving soil quality and agriculture management. Water (and drought) is also a major problem, so the brief encourages entrants to design a more modern system for maintaining and recycling water.

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3

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Brian Gratwicke

And the houses and buildings are another issue—the current structures are decaying and inefficient, and they’re badly need an overhaul. “Construction of the houses is variable, but lack of insulation, lack of central heating, the maritime damp and mould are common complaints,” explains organizers. Tristan also wants to kick its diesel habit, and is asking participants to help it reach a goal of using 40 percent renewable power within the next five years.

Even education is on the table, with designers asked to consider the infrastructure needed to bring vocational training programs to the island.

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The Official CTBTO Photostream

Internet and Experts
More than 60 years ago, Tristan’s inhabitants had the chance to abandon their town and chose to return. And while it’s tempting to see the competition as asking the outside world for help after all these years, that’s not quite it.

While Tristan has spent hundreds of years surviving on its own, the information age is arriving. The internet came to Tristan in 1998. In 2006, it opened an internet cafe with several computers with 256 kbps connections. The town may never reach the speeds the rest of the world enjoys, for technical reasons: “There are some places on earth–their locations are such that they are not in close proximity to fibre optic cables and they are not in close proximity to the footprints of satellites,” as one expert told the Tristan Times in 2005. “Frankly there is little we can do other than recognize the fact that it is going to be expensive and for people who live in those locations to accept that it is expensive and it’s a way of life.”

Slow internet isn’t such a huge problem. But it illustrates why the town is interested in an international competition: The lack of experts in particular industries, like architecture and engineering. When the internet arrived in 2006 Sarah Glass (who shares a last name with William Glass, who settled Tristan in the 1800s) wrote in the Times that “Tristan has continued to prosper in the last 500 years since its discovery and there’s only one piece left to the puzzle, and that’s a (safe operational) new harbour. Consultants are due to visit in September for an assessment of the old harbour, so we continue to be optimistic.”

It seems internet is an easier problem to solve than specialized knowledge—which helps explain why Tristan looking to the rest of the world for ideas about how it can use design to adapt. As RIBA explains, the competition doesn’t guarantee that any of the designs will be implemented—after all, Tristan doesn’t have a budget or workforce for a massive overhaul. But what it will do is bring new ideas to an isolated community.

It’s difficult for us to comprehend what that kind of isolation is like. On the internet, good ideas are plentiful and almost suffocatingly common. It’s hard to imagine a place where a good idea about farming or water recycling or harbor design isn’t just a smartphone button away.

In the end, Tristan and RIBA are staging a competition that’s unlike any other ever held. Here’s an island that is truly isolated, with only a few hundred inhabitants, that wants to rethink what a communal, sustainable, extraordinarily self-sufficient town looks like. Let’s hope designers and architects get excited about it, because what happens on Tristan over the next few years could become a blueprint for communities all over the world.

If you want to read more about Tristan, check out this account written by the wife of a clergyman who traveled to the island in the 1900s. Or head over to RIBA to learn more about the competition.
 
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Odin

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I wonder how the locals would take to someone showing up from the blue to set up permanent residence...
 

Tude

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@Odin - are you kidding? Upon landing about 25 young ladies would come running and screaming "IT'S A MAA-AAAN!!"
 

creature

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This is really interesting...

Thanks for the post!!!
I've been thinking the Pacific, but...

i have a goddamned engineering background.. i could help do whatever shit they decide...
 
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Kim Chee

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I wonder how the locals would take to someone showing up from the blue to set up permanent residence...
I would hope they would welcome the potential deeping of the gene pool as well as the diversity of talent and experience that you bring. I think they'd probably find you at the very least entertaining.
 

creature

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@Odin - are you kidding? Upon landing about 25 young ladies would come running and screaming "IT'S A MAA-AAAN!!"
Ok.. that settles it.. i'm going...

except.. when the get a load of me, it might be in the other direction ; )
although..

after a 2,000 mile sail (assuming we leave from Boston.. 'Bahstahn...?), & lived off a lot of fish & fucking seaweed, i mighta lost 25 pounds, by then...

; )
 
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Odin

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@creature heck yea... okay...:cool:


I start a new regime of push-ups and crunches today with a vegan diet... in a couple months we set sail from Boston harbor!!::eyepatch::

Upon arrival... we are in female heaven... ::woot::




....


.


BY female heaven... I ... that is I mean they will be TELLING us to what to do... ... fix the bathroom sink and tub... take out the trash.... rake the leaves... feed the dog.... pick up our socks... eat our veggies... cut your hair shave your beard...

And Dammit you dirty boys scrub clean behind your ears and keep your dress clothes clean!!!


Sigh... Paradise. :D
 

creature

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The town may never reach the speeds the rest of the world enjoys
Well.. that figure was from 2005, so now.. with compression technologies & other waveform engineering, digital EM transmitted information will easily hit about 30 mbps (about cable speed) in the next few years, in not available already..

Some folks in japan have gotten 155 mpbs, and that was in *2008*:
http://www.spacemart.com/reports/World_Fastest_Satellite_Internet_Connection_To_User_Terminal_Via_KIZUNA_999.html

Anyways.. just a point to consider, although if i ever land there, i think i would kill my fucking computer pretty early..

Also, though stuff is expensive, if you load a boat up with good, cheap, garage sale stuff *here* & *then* head down...

Well.. Odin? you could prove to them young ladies that not only are you a mighty Norseman, but..
ya might be a hero, too ; )

anyways..

great post!!

im'a gonna look at that competition!!
 

Lielanthris

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I got this from their website. 10 years without seeing another soul save for those on the island.

"Tristan’s most isolated period was during the First Word War when the Admiralty abandoned the annual supply ship voyage (as in the Boer War) and it is reported that Tristan had no incoming mail for ten years until HMS Yarmouth brought news of the armistice in July 1919."
 

creature

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i've gotta tell you..
i'd take 10 years on the ocean, with fresh air & knowing people & a sense of lifelong community over the shit that goes down here, any day..

'course the only way that might happen again is when the shit hits the fan..

'prolly a nice place to watch the satellites burn up from..

& you know.. with the gulf stream collapsing, it might become even *more* remote..
 

creature

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Interesting that you mention WWI

When I was in Abaco, Bahamas (not fucking nassau), i took a scooter ride through a bush road down to what was called "Soldier's Road", a staging area for the brits off of abaco point during the days of empire & the war..

amazing crap..

being in the shipping lanes, even that remote beach was covered with literally scores of tons of shit..
otherwise incredibly beautifull, & the kind of desolation where the only thing you can be aware of is yourself & presence of nothing more than your own being, the earth & that of other organic life..
 
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Odin

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Beachhead:


We have a destination
A beautiful lonely beach
Scattered with sharp edged ordinance
Glittering in clear cast starlight
Where without any fright.
We walk along skipping questions of whats right
So in your minds clear skies sight echos
This rusted metal heaven
A Bursting yet empty
Astronomical constellation
Where ground scraps of rusty sea salt steel outnumber my count of seven
And then remember
My minds lyrical member
So you shall
Watch your step
Where you tread
Through
Histories desolation
On an empty stretch
Of sandy bed
When death tolls
Shall remind you
That once a Hell
Of seaside grains stained Bloody Red.
Existed for a time
On this lonely beachhead

ODin

(I'll move this somewhere else later perhaps... just felt like writing dammit... ::drinkingbuddy::)

edited... bout half past seven
 
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creature

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good stuff, buddy..

strange.. on the beach, after the hell-ride in, where they staged for war, you look out to the Atlantic & there is a rusting hull about 2 miles out..
a tanker or something..

"This rusted metal heaven"

she looked like what we should become..
 
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