Project Global: Ground

This exploration of our current day metropolitan condition as a system of systems deals with the crust of the Earth as a primary carrying capacitor of human activities, from the extraction of resources deep within the ground, to agricultural operations that barely scratch the surface.

Part 1: Lexicon

Part 2: Atlas

Part 3: Architectural Projects

Part 1: Lexicon index

︎ Formation

    ︎ Kaapvaal Craton
    ︎ Johannesburg Dome
    ︎ Vredefort Dome
    ︎ Topsoil
    ︎ Müggelsee

︎ Measurement    ︎ Schwerbelastungskörper
    ︎ Mining Earthquakes
    ︎ Low-tech Soil Testing
    ︎ Soil Texture Triangle
    ︎ Geologic Time Scale 
    ︎ Stratigraphic Colum
    ︎ Geographic Information System
    ︎ Ecotone
    ︎ Cultural Landscape

︎ Prototype
    ︎ Unter den Linden
    ︎ Zoological Landscape
    ︎ Counterculture
    ︎ Cultural Agency
    ︎ Mine-pit Lakes
    ︎ Parliament of Things

︎ Land distribution
    ︎ 1913 Natives Land Act
    ︎ District Six
    ︎ Eavesdropping
    ︎ Reconciliation Policy
    ︎ Land Grabbing
    ︎ Land Acting
    ︎ The Red Ants
    ︎ #PutSouthAfricansFirst
    ︎ Suburban Enclaves
    ︎ Parallel State

︎ Extraction
    ︎ Cullinan Diamond Mine
    ︎ Platinum Group Metals
    ︎ Zamazamas
    ︎ Gold Rush Inertia
    ︎ Sinkhole
    ︎ Maize Doctor
    ︎ Coal Hands

︎ Infrastructure
    ︎ Gautrain
    ︎ Le-guba
    ︎ Lesotho Water Project
    ︎ Deutscher Wald
    ︎ Arrival City

︎ Production
    ︎ Safari Economy
    ︎ Agritourism
    ︎ Rainfall Line
    ︎ Upington Airport
    ︎ Tiergarten Transformation
    ︎ Pivot Irrigation
    ︎ Allotment Garden
    ︎ Bokoni Terracing
    ︎ Johannesburg Forestation
    ︎ Game Farming Cycle

︎ Waste
    ︎ Trümmerberg
    ︎ Fab-Soil
    ︎ Mining Waste Belt
    ︎ Sanitary Landfilling
    ︎ Soil Structure
    ︎ Biogas Technology

︎ Pollution
    ︎ Dry Stacked Tailings
    ︎ Water Pollution
    ︎ Soil Pollution
    ︎ Uranium Sandstorms
    ︎ Poaching

︎ Remediation
    ︎ European Green Belt
    ︎ Conservation Agriculture
    ︎ Airfield Urbanism
    ︎ Solar Park
    ︎ Gold Reef City
    ︎ Mine Pit Lake
    ︎ Loess Plateau
    ︎ Erosion Control


“Big ambitions require big ways to figure out if they actually have any grounds to stand on.”

The Schwerbelastungskörper, or load-bearing body, is a massive concrete structure built in 1941 that was designed to conduct subsoil testing and surveying for feasibility studies in Berlin. During the Nazi regime, Hitler and his chief architect Albert Speer reimagined Berlin as the “New World Capital.”1 Because the envisioned buildings and structures were so ambitious in their physical scale, it was decided to examine whether the sand-marshy soil in Berlin could sustain such heavy loads.
        The cylinder’s structure is eighteen meters deep into the ground, fourteen meters above ground, and weighs twelve-thousand-six-hundred-and-fifty tons. It holds two underground instrument chambers where undisturbed soil sampling was collected and analyzed.
        Construction started in 1941 by the forced labor of French prisoners of war2 at the borough of Tempelhof in center-south Berlin, that was to be the anchor point of the North-South axis of future Germania. Once the measurements and testing had been completed, the underground cylinder was to be covered and used as a foundation to erect the north-east pillar of the four-pillared, planned “Great Triumphal Arch.” Its construction halted by the end of WWII, the pillar was resurveyed and revealed that the structure had sunk nineteen centimeters and had tilted three-and-a-half centimeters at maximum, indicating that the soil was insufficient to sustain building construction without additional reinforcement and prior ground consolidation.
        It was used as an engineering test site by the Technische Universität Berlin and the German Society for Soil Mechanics until the 1980s, and then was declared a historical monument in 1995. Today, it is an information center, open to the public, as part of the urban development of West Berlin. It sticks out of the ground as a remnant retaining wall engulfed by wild vegetation and the smell of grand political ambitions.

Image source: Section of the Schwerbelastungskörper (Diaarchiv Degebo, TU-Berlin)

1.  Kate Connolly, “Story of cities #22: how Hitler's plans for Germania would have torn Berlin apart”, in The Guardian, 2016.
2.  Wikipedia. 2022. Schwerbelastungskörper. Last modified 23 February, 2022.