dirt: statement of intent for 26:DIRT

Dirt. It is more than the neutral tray upon which we do our projects and live our lives. Dirt, as it emerges in this issue of On Site review, has its own integrity, its own history, its own power. 'Dirt is matter out of place', that famous phrase of Mary Douglas, echoes through this issue.  But often dirt is exactly 'in place'.

Ancient architecture is characterised by a deep relationship with the elements: earth, air, water and fire.  Geothermal heat recovered from the earth, and its dark twin, geophysical extraction of oil from the earth — both remain in our future.  Construction sites, those semi-permanent installations, places of great danger, are the ground plane of the city; they question all sorts of notions of cleanliness and architectural propriety.  
And earth itself, made up of dirt: we walk it, we measure it, we more it around.  It is our plasticine, rarely accorded much respect, more seen as an exploitable resource.  
Matter out of place? Weeds, say, or vigorous hybrids: the case for micro-zoning, or no zoning at all.  Things that don't fit an urban paradigm based on zoning are seen as transgressive, week-like and as such are vulnerable to a good sanitising scrub.  Often to our loss. 

Stephanie White