Sunday, November 22, 2009

Urban Crude

One the most fascinating passages of the book 'The Infrastructural City' was the chapter on oil production that still existed in a variety of forms throughout the urban form. The fabulous Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) has done some investigations, which are captured on a post in the Places portion of the Design Observer site.

:: image via Places

"Los Angeles is the most urban oil field, where the industry operates in cracks, corners, and edges, hidden behind fences, and camouflaged into architecture, pulling oil out from under our feet. . . . Los Angeles is an active laboratory for how to extract oil from a developed city, something more likely to occur as the world urbanizes. Generally considered unsightly, dirty, and smelly, the oil industry has had to develop defenses against the rising value of the land and the encroachment of housing and retail. Sound muffling technology, visual barriers, and the concentration of wells into smaller areas, using directional drilling techniques to access fields through diagonal and horizontal wells, are all technologies developed here."

One aspect beyond the mere existence of these in the city, but also interesting was the methods of hiding this infrastructure within the urban form. One of these is the Venoco Oil Field Tower, which is " urban drilling and work-over tower is clad in soundproof insulation, decorated during the permitting process".

:: image via Places

Or the Breitburn Energy’s Cardiff Well Site which has the "...drilling and work-over derrick is concealed within a tower which vaguely alludes to synagogue architecture."

:: image via Places

A slideshow offers many more images in typical CLUI style. It brings to mind the ideas mentioned in the recent post on Subnature, where we want the pure urbanism, but are often forced to incorporate some of the messiness of natural resources and industrialism in our cities - and what that leads us to come up with for ideas.


  1. I saw an interesting post on this subject on Friday:

  2. Is this a way of making oildrilling more accepted? :)
    Some of them really fools the eye and doesn't show any sign of what is really going on, effective!

  3. Thanks Kirsten... will check it out.

    Gabriel. in a way I think it is a way of making it more difficult to tell what's happening, and thus camouflage the process at work within the urban area. The fact that they still pump oil from below LA is pretty fascinating - but I wonder how many people who live there actually know what's happening.

    I guess it's similar to the way we try to 'hide' cell towers by mocking them up as trees or other natural features. Sometimes it may be more authentic to just let something be what it is... and let everyone make a judgment based on that knowledge.


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