Author: Shannon Clark
Studio: ARCS 5106 – MArch Option Studio 2 – Divided Cities
Professor: Ozayr Saloojee
Year: Winter 2020
After the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand, the scarring of the landscape has produced lustrously yellow mine dumps with disastrous environmental consequences. For over a century the untouched masses, rich in heavy metals, have been oxidizing through rainfall. This has resulted in polluted groundwater plumes beneath Johannesburg, which have been emerging at grade and seeping into streams and rivers. This pollution cycle, called Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), is a geological byproduct of mining that has transformed the Witwatersrand into a hardened white wasteland, where in some places the pH balance of the land and water measures close to 2.67, surpassing the acidity level of vinegar.
The Acidic Landscapes maps analyze AMD through the three states of matter: liquid, solid and gas. The maps ask a number of questions regarding environmental and socio-cultural trajectories: where does this dust blow? Who feels and lives, with this respiratory-deteriorating acidic dust that is carried by the wind? The maps begin to set the stage for the spatial, and ethical, implications and imaginaries of this climate. The rising encroachment of AMD is representative of the surfacing of essential inquiries regarding landscape transformation, human dignity and the particular agencies (and inabilities) of architecture.