A Matter of Horizons ∙ Jesse Vogler ∙ FL17
ASLA St. Louis  student merit award 

The American Bottom: a culturally rich landscape of precolonial inhabitation, typified by Native American mound construction, has had its history archived and rewritten through the lens of colonial signification. The conditions of the project engage in issues of the following: contemporary narratives of place-ness and indigeneity, without historicizing and prescribing a colonial viewpoint; processes of American landscape formation, and richer and more productive zones of contact between contemporary colonial and indigenous inhabitants.
The proposed landscape interventions forgo the ascription of meaning to matter but rather understand the vitality of matter. The proposal reckons with modernity’s replacement of indigeneity through rupture and self-justification. Three critical conditions constitute a framework for understanding the position of the project within this larger context. Mounds are medium; this argues that mounds are perceivable. Mounds are in flux; this argues that mounds are in various stages of construction and destruction. These occur culturally, geologically, and ontologically. Mounds are epicenters of disruption; this argues that mounds have transient moments of intensity which have a sphere of influence.

The sites selected lay on a continuum of remoteness in regard to an acoustic horizon (threshold or boundary at which acoustic perception is null) with respect to the listener-composer (one who engages in the multisensory landscape).

Map created in collaboration • Research conducted as a studio • Medium: 6’x6’ Matte Plot

DECOLONIZING LANDSCAPE: significant + insignificant mounds
Preliminary group research on mound settlements and other mounds throughout the American Bottom and St. Louis was conducted and synthesized into a large-scale map of the region. The selected mound sites of particular investigation were the following: Cahokia, Big Mound, Sugarloaf, and Milam.

ESTABLISHING HORIZON: reconceptualizing volume
A mound is a mass occupying a particular volume. Volume has a duplicity of meaning, it is both an amount of space occupied by an object and an intensity. Therefore, when volume is redefined as the boundary between the occupation of one medium and another sound becomes volume, in effect a mound of sound or a volume of volume.

The acoustic horizon of a single FM transmitter emitting a single tone is tracked and mapped in a radial fashion. The perception of the tone degrades along a gradient (a thickened boundary) as the listener-composer moves away from the source.

CAHOKIA: proximate acoustic horizon
The Cahokia Mounds are the most legible and arguably well-known of the sites selected for the investigation. However, this is not simply a pristine landscape. The mounds have been altered and removed throughout time. Monk’s Mound stands as the largest pre-Columbian earthwork in North America.

Medium: sod, bell-shaped metal tube, AM/FM radio, wood stand

The Cahokia intervention consists of a single source, and a single listener-composer. At the top of Monk’s Mound, a speaker connected to a radio receiver is placed at the bottom of a single borehole. A bell-shaped metal tube is then set into the ground.

As the listener-composer puts their ear to the ground, one hears not the chthonic murmurings of the earth below but rather a reversal of expectations, a Schizophonia. Instead, the listener-composer hears the sounds of the AM radio, the heartbeat of America where religion and politics are not so different.

MILAM: distributed acoustic horizon
The Milam Landfill is situated a mere two miles from Monk’s Mound, and is often confused with the mound settlement. The contemporary manifestation towers above at 220’, at which height the redefined Midwestern mustaba is at the same elevation as the crest of the Gateway arch and visible from the top of Monk’s Mound.

Medium: wood base, Ipad + amplifier (playing recorded translated seismic movement), plastic tube, metal tube, fly ash, sand, quikrete, aluminum, mulch, clay, sod

The Milam intervention consists of a single source and multiple listener-composers. A single broadband seismometer is placed at the bottom of a borehole through the depth of the landfill. The movements of the settling waste mass is converted to an audio signal and broadcasted via loudspeakers around the perimeter of the site.

The sectional profile of the Milam is represented through the materiality of production methods as well as literal translations. The profile reveals the minimal amount of separation between the waste mass and the subsurface landscape. In this, humanity’s legacy is considered.

Medium: translated audio waveform from seismic movement.

The peaks in the waveform correspond to waste mass movement. The amplitude is corollary to the intensity of the shifting and settling. Digital geokymophony programs were used to translate the seismic analog waveform into an audio signal discernible to human perception.

BIG MOUND: interior acoustic horizon
The disturbed landscape of Big Mound lies downtown at the base of the I-70 overpass. The only testament to the Mound grouping is a large rock with an accompanying inscription, a sign with the history, and the referential street name, Mound St.

Medium: piezo disc, amplifier, cast-concrete mass, FM transmitter, battery pack, load tester

The Big Mound intervention consists of a single source and multiple listener-composers. A piezo disc is attached to the base of the overpass and the sound is transmitted to the listener-composers above via an amplifier and FM transmitter interrupting their regular broadcasting as they drive along.

The signal canceling broadcast reveals the power of the void. The mound is not so much removed as remote. There is a carving of silence, a punctuated ambience, replacing the expected radio feedback. The only sound one hears is the vibrations of their auto resonating through the structure of modernity.

SUGARLOAF: remote acoustic horizonThe Sugarloaf mound lies south of the city off of I-55. This landscape has been dramatically altered throughout history. The mound had been partially removed for a dumping ground, since replaced, and a house was built on top of it, only recently removed.

Medium: AM/FM headphones, wood stand, (4) digital recorders, (4) recorded audio tracks, (4) FM transmitters, (4) Battery packs, (4) Load testers

The Sugarloaf intervention consists of multiple sources and multiple listener-composers. Four FM transmitters, connected in various ways to distributed audio sources, are located at the corners of the site broadcasting different audio transmissions across the site and surrounding landscape.

The audio transmissions are representative of competing voices, an intent to communicate versus a failure to be heard. The sources are stakeholders in the site: the Deed’s office in St. Louis, the Osage tribe, the previous resident of the house, and the adjacent industries. As the listener-composer traverses the site, the different audio transmissions harmonize, overwrite, and cancel relative to position.

The Deed’s office represents property rights, audio is of the banal office environment. The Osage tribe represents present day ownership, audio is of a roll call at one of their hearings. The interview represents prior inhabitation, audio is of the transcript. The industry represents the agents of erasure, audio is of the environment.

A Matter of Horizons

on/off the grid



Reality Capture ∙ Tomislav Zigo ∙ SP17

Reality capture of subjects both natural and constructed, via Laser/Lidar imaging and Photogrammetry, yield two-dimensional images and three-dimensional space. While the accuracy and efficiency of these methods of measurement far exceed analog measurement and representation, there is still room for improvement. The proposed testing site located adjacent to the Cotton Belt building along the near North Riverfront, will utilize a myriad of natural and synthetic objects and systems to fool, break, and therefore iteratively perfect computer vision via machine learning.


Laser/Lidar imaging has its basis in the simple fundamentals of sending a beam of light out and it reflecting back. A machine then computes, the distance the beam has traveled. For the course, the machines used were more complex but followed the same principle. The seminar took advantage of using 3D laser scanners (FARO) to determine within a variable set tolerance form, shape, and an associated color. The 3D model generated is formed as a point cloud, which can then have BIM objects and families mapped onto them for use in the Architectural and Engineering fields. The focus of this seminar was not on this particular aspect but rather in the ability to trick the laser scanner into creating a space that did not match reality. This was not accomplished through intentioanlly messing up the scan or settings, but rather through testing the limitations of the scanner by moving or changing material surface.
Photogrammetry is a different approach for generating the similar end condition of a 3D space. However, Photogrammetry utilizes geo-referencing images in order to construct space. This can be accomplished on a small scale by taking passing series of images at 0,45, and 90 degrees orbiting around the object. These photos are then compiled and mapped into a mesh by using Autodesk ReCap or ReMake. From here, the object meshes can be further manipulated in Meshmixer or other similar programs. These meshes are highly detailed and precise due to the amount of overlap and total coverage relative to the size of the object. Limitations occur on a larger scale when a drone is flying and taking a similar series of photos without the having the specs of a DSLR camera and is resticted in its access to variable-angle passes. Therefore overhangs, cantilevers, and areas in shadow tend to be be error-filled.

This is the premise for the testing site, pushing the envelope of existing lmitations and discovering new ones for these technologies.


Alterations of scanned subject matter can occur in immediacy as well as prolonged through both space and time. These alterations are resultant from both natural and calculated actions, yielding respectively nonlinear and speculative results. This system of scanning, validation, and comparison generates a feedback loop improving the machine’s ability over time. The actions and consistency of the subject matter for the scan can trick both Laser/Lidar imaging and Photogrammetry through changes to its shape and volume, material, lighting conditions and emittance, and location over time.
Physical erroneousness was present when analyzing organic material, such as trees and grass, in the class context. Scanned trees yielded an RGB value associated with the atmospheric conditions of that point in time. Since the trees are not static, in many instances, the value assigned to a voxel was of the sky behind the subject rather than of the subject itself. Interpolated and interstitial space is generated to stitch together a conceivable solid object, even though this may not depict reality. Instead, it yields a referenced visual overlay, similar to the digital overlaying of layers in Photoshop of like objects, creating an averaged depiction of reality. In comparison, the relatively static turf grass surface of the Givens lawn yielded a more physically and color accurate result. Since the proposed site lacks a large amount of trees and consists mainly of sedges and low shrubs, trees should be planted in order to iteratively test the quickness of the Laser scanner and fine detail via drone Photogrammetry. Tests should be conducted as the plant matures at various distances away from the trunk, thereby testing the limits of altitude/azimuth accuracy, and slight growth perturbations from the tree’s apical meristems. The site could also be regraded, testing a natural version of the scan flatness/levelness compliance test on a concrete floor shown in class.

Reflection has strength in manipulating laser scans in an extremely confusing way. Taking a concept from pure mechanical and artificially created mirrors recreate regions that read as regions of reality to computer vision. Effectively depth and color and not skewed in anyway whatsoever making them a perfect candidate for spatial depth inhibitions for machine learning and computer vision processes.

A much more refined factor of this is when we start to itegrate regions of more than reality capture through natural reflection, but a genuined skewed perception defined by material refractive index changes. This can result in extrememly warped scenarios wether it be as regularly set, uncontrolled surface systems like windows or glass dividers, or as regularly modulated regions of polycarbonate slats that have interuptions in transpereancy and material at regular intervals. This begins to further move into the realm of even greater disruptions in LASER LIDAR and photogametry, namely the quality of refraction and reflection being integrated into systems of change.

The most volatile inhibitor of computer vision becomes water. An extremely unpredictable fluid, water becomes a means by which we see reflection, refraction, and movement simultaneously. This is the quality of disruption that becomes condusive to various reality capture systems. Both Photogamtery and LASER LIDAR will be tested to the greatest extent. The matter becomes a pure facade and region integration.
Projects such as Cloud Gate show depict a reframing and skewed perception reality through space making and material choices. Namely the warped form and shape of reflective stainless steel become a means through which to view the city and sky with a different lens. The impacts on LASER LIDAR and photogamtery especially.

With the movement people in the piece become a moment of movement change that bcome vary tough for these computer mechanisms to capture. Effectively and architectural intervention that begins to explore the warped and hidden or dark thorugh organic reflective/refractive form-making along with the dynamism of water movement will be a strong direction to take a testing facility for reality capture technology. Designing an architecture that isn’t actively dynamic but is more passively dynamic through a reframing or direct reflection of the dynamism of the external stimuli through which it interacts.

WILL JAMES Downtown Clayton consists almost entirely of uninspiring office towers, but one structure incorporates an interesting, environmentally responsive feature. Somewhat ironically, it is a parking garage, but by delicately hanging thousands of aluminum cards in an immense field across the façade, it transforms into one of the most compelling and street-activating built works in the area.
This kind of geo-activated kinetic feature is not only interesting from an architectural perspective, but has implications for the field of remote sensing and reality capture. Both photogrammetry and laser scanning rely on unmoving, unchanging, solid surfaces to provide reliable approximations of the physical reality of an object. Introducing an element of motion is confusing to these technologies, as each tries to provide a static interpretation. While something like a laser scanner can process enormous amounts of data at very high precision, it cannot interpret motion, particularly unstructured, organic motion, to anywhere near the degree that the human mind can.

There are limits though to how much a kinetic windscreen like the one in Clayton could do to influence the outcomes of remote sensing testing. Scans taken at different times would be difficult to register against each other, but discrepancies would be small in scale. To further complicate the situation from the scanner’s perspective, we are proposing the introduction of refractivity. The combination of complex organic motion caused by site effects and refractive materials creates a dynamic façade condition that is ideal for pushing the boundaries of remote sensing technology. When paired with interventions in the project landscape and building form, it could provide limitless opportunities for the improvement of these technologies.

This intervention is best suited to a building façade so as to provide the opportunity for testing both from the inside out and the outside in, which allows for greater variability in the light condition combinations possible. We imagine this façade looking like a combination of other wind-activated facades and wind chimes. Cables strung taut between floor and roof carry refractive panes (likely silica glass, but in theory could be strontium titanate, silicon carbide, or another compound with an extremely high refractive index). The cables run through these panes, which are spaced apart slightly by low friction bearings to best facilitate their rotation in response to wind.

Public Lab River Rat Pack ∙ Derek Hoeferlin ∙ SP16

The Public Lab River Rat Pack Seminar was an interdisciplinary seminar focused on studying the characteristics and fluctuations of the Mississippi and other bodies of water in the St Louis region. Thousands of images were collected via a camera rigged to a large helium balloon or kite. These were then stitched together to form panoramas of the site in focus at a given point in time. Analysis was further conducted by the class, analyzing particular access and control measures on the river, and how those changed based on the river stage level. The class collaborated with the US. Army Corp of Engineers, the Audubon Institute at Riverlands, among others in an effort to gain access to restricted areas as well as learn further information about each of the areas in focus. The information collected was displayed in an exhibition at the end of the semester, open to students, faculty, and the general public. The map on the left was completed with a fellow student, and compiles the areas mapped during the class and overlays further information on river control measures, flood extents, hydrology networks, and land ownership.

Many of the issues that had been brought up in other ecology, biology and architecture classes became abundantly clear through the course of the semester. This was evident through seeing the gradients of vegetation and occupation throughout the city, and the changing river levels at each site, mapped multiple times. The DIY aerial mapping demeanor and anti-drone nature of using a large balloon rigged with a small camera generated social interest and amusement with the public in proximity to the class on each trip. This is definitely a new step in the right direction of how, architecture or landscape architecture students (and even for those in practice) can document their terrain in which they are working within for any given project, as well as the surrounding context, in a non-invasive manner.