A Woman, A Plan, A Mine… Panama?

After looking, measuring, drawing, looking again, drawing again, and thinking about palindromes…. I have a drawn up a survey plan that (whilst not accurate enough to build or order materials from) is sufficiently representative of the Ute Ulay site to allow for a masterplan.

Surveys are very important documents, they often document a site immediately before change occurs. The previous landscape quickly passes into history and the survey becomes an historical document, describing the physical site at a particular point in time. They are also the starting point for landscape architectural design.

Surveying is a complex skill, which makes use of some very nifty technology. I am neither a trained surveyor, nor do I have any nifty technology (unless you count computer drawing software). My process is low tech and as accurate as my eyes and brain will allow.

In case you want to try this yourself, the process went something like this:

1. Take satellite images, USGS plans, any other plans you can lay your hands on and combine them in AutoCAD to scale.

2. Try to use on-site observations to re-draw contour lines.

3. Realise that 2. is not going to work because it is extremely difficult to determine contours by eye.

4. Draw sections to scale in AutoCAD.

5. Take printouts of sections to the mine site and re-draw them by eye.

6. Insert 2 dimensional sections (to scale) into Google SketchUp, above the contours you already have.

7. Extrude contours up to their correct height, and alter them according to revised sections.

8. Create 3 dimensional model of the Ute Ulay site in Google SketchUp, and position buildings and other features onto it.

9. Slice through 3 dimensional model at 1 metre intervals (I’m definitely metric), and project slices back onto a plan.

10. Re-draw plan according to new contours in AutoCAD.


The Falling-Down Shed

Last summer when the Hardrock Revision team were here, we conducted many interviews about the Ute Ulay with residents and tourists in Lake City. Many people mentioned the ‘falling-down shed’; sitting where it does on the side of the road, it seemed to be a symbol of the fragility of all of the structures up there.

On my latest visit up to the mine site, I noticed that it is looking even more precarious. It bulges out over the road, with masculine detritus spilling out in several directions. The contents are still accessible by sight, but already forever lost. It is far too dangerous to go very near the shed, let alone disturb the contents.

It is a shame that this structure will be lost to future visitors. However, it has served as a catalyst for people’s attention and concern over a place that has sat, undemanding and quiet, for many years. I think of this shed as a martyr for the rest of the site, an emblem of entropy, and as such I am grateful for its dilapidation.


Driving in the Rockies

After heavy snowfall in Denver I set off on the 287 mile drive South and West across Colorado to Lake City. It was a beautiful day, and luckily once I crossed the front range, the roads were clear and dry.

The journey is a series of passages between mountains, and across plateaux surrounded by mountains. Each time I passed between mountains I felt the excitement of another wide open space about to be revealed.

Along the route you find small towns, typically containing somewhere to buy fuel, somewhere to eat and a little more. Coming from the UK where the buildings seem embedded into the landscape by age, and urban areas cover a much greater percentage then here, these western towns appear to float above the landscape, sitting lightly, as if a strong gust of wind might blow them away.


Flying into Denver from the UK involves a spending a long time over the plains. The sights remind me of the wonderful and inspirational book Taking Measures Across the American Landscape. The sheer scale and vastness of this country become visual and real – and the manner of it’s exploitation are laid out in the landscape; the grid and pivot irrigators making order out of an expanse so large it is incomprehensible as a whole.

Denver sits at the edge of the plains, with the front range of the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop to western end of every latitudinal street.