Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
239 238 It makes little sense to apply to oceanic contexts the scalars normally used when considering inland urban contexts. Yet, as Nancy Couling argues, the tendency to do so reveals much about the mechanisms of ordering and production that accompany “extended urbanization”. Scale Relationships in Ocean Space A container ship classified as 15,000 TEU (twenty-feet equivalent units) defines the maximum capacity of the Suez Canal. In the marine trans- port sector, both locks and vessels are measured according to their cargo capacity—the vessel itself is merely an empty site with high-density loading potential. A rearrangement of the “Su- ez-max” volumes on one vessel could produce a metropolitan neighborhood of seven six-story-high city blocks. 1 Until recently, the actual space occupied by ocean activities has been of scant interest. But in the Baltic Sea, wind parks nudge against the outer limits of International Maritime Organization–designated shipping lanes, which are in turn restricted by the depth and width of the straits. A quantum shift in the scale and intensity of activity in all sectors has resulted in cumulative areas that now match the geographic scale of the sea itself. Offshore exclusive economic zones (EEZs) have been marked out as an extension of national territory. Can measuring units of area and volume be transposed from the unfa- miliar oceanic to familiar urban cont- exts, and vice versa? Vessels, cargos, and petroleum-license areas hold their own urban ground in terms of size, but fall short in terms of density and heterogeneity. Offshore hardware is visibly thin and shipping transient com- pared to urban yardsticks. Developed ocean sites are monofunctional and remote from human settlement. As I argue below, these porous and uneven scale relationships are an indicator of the advanced urbaniza- tion processes in ocean space. Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid argue against methodological cityism 2 and the persistence of the outmoded pa- rameters of size, density, and hetero- geneity in defining the urban. 3 Urban formations have exploded beyond this corset and imploded within it, simulta- neously rendering internal configura- tions obsolete and annexing vast ex- ternal operational landscapes. Ocean space is drawn into these processes. The urbanization of the ocean takes place within discreet, deep, remote, contingent, and constitutionally am- biguous spaces that have shielded its progression and obscured it from The Urbanization of the Ocean: Extractive Geometries in the Barents Sea Nancy Couling critical view. Unpacked cargo loads can illustrate the physical dimensions of urban indicators—however the oce- an is differentiated, inter-scalar, and kinetic, and therefore outside standard conceptions of density and mass. The urbanization of this realm has therefore created dispersed intensities within largely invisible ordering systems of planetary force. This discussion firstly examines the inherent scalar properties of the ocean itself, including the infusion of urbani- zation’s flow through the very materi- ality of this medium. These dynamics stand in contrast to the bounding of ocean space through the United Na- tions Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). A close-up view of the otherwise intangible Barents Sea petroleum “provinces” 4 in the second part, leads to an analysis of the scalar mechanisms and spatial processes un- folding in this region. The results illumi- nate the convergence of environmental and urbanization systems and the inst- rumentalisation of geometrical ordering systems to systematically investigate, establish, and extend petroleum pro- duction activities in ocean space. Ocean Scale The dimensions of the ocean’s surface have become significant due to the intensification of activities and the urge to logically distribute expanding spa- tial demands. Hence the ocean gains recognition as a sedentary space of strategic economic importance. Ho- wever, looking below the surface and beyond what Philip E. Steinberg calls “the great void idealization,” 5 the ocean is a full and intricate spatial system in its own right, within which a myriad of distinct environments are embedded: the topographical bottom surface, the upper surface, and oscillating water masses occupying the water column. Water masses are highly spatial; al- though fluid, their form is determined by salinity and temperature gradients, resulting in volume, density, and co- res—properties normally associated with solids. Water masses are not static, but transform continuously at rates determined by currents, winds, chemical exchange, and the interaction with physical bathymetry (Fig. 1). Ocean space is dense, fluid, mal- leable, and emergent. According to the combination of organic condi- tions—the logic of periodic parameters and broad thresholds—its dynamics can be precisely located in space and time. Rather than subscribing to a metricized notion of scale, however, the ocean operates according to the mechanisms of biological scale. The world’s oceans form one inter- connected planetary system; it is the main driver of weather, produces 70 percent of our oxygen, and stores vast amounts of CO 2 . The ocean is both distributor and collector, both a com- mon resource and a common sink. 6 In the ocean, the minute is directly connected to the vast. An investigation by London’s Architectural Association on form in relation to energy makes these relationships clear: “The notion of energy subverts the concept of a homogeneous space-time continu- um—with each proposal interacting The world's ocean system is urbanized by trade, extraction and production but d fies th metrics evel ped for land-based systems. Through the case study of petroleum production in the Barents Sea, Nancy Couling describes the geographic, legislative, and economic ordering of a complex, contested ocean.