NASA’s Enclosed GardenJeffrey S Nesbit
“The closed world includes not just the sealed, claustrophobic spaces metaphorically marking its closure, but the entire surrounding field in which the drama takes place.” – Paul Edwards, 1996
Architects have described spaceport facilities as empty industrial boxes in the American landscape. These are not dull boxes but represent the federal government’s attempt to generate architectural modernity, as space programs relied heavily on strategies for enclosing scientific activities, coordinating logistics, and simulating extraterrestrial environments. Particularly in the postwar era, humanity became obsessed with generating a fully “closed” and synthetically constructed “world in a machine.” The spaceport complex was no different. Traditional practices and our understanding of “landscape” are completely detached when intellectually and critically exploring the evolution of the spaceport complex. Instead, the enclosure of the rocket assembly in the American spaceport demonstrates radical changes and blurry associations between technology and land—from the romantic wilderness (or manicured English gardens) to a series of technical lands exemplifying global power. Assembly, manufacturing, and distribution of rockets all contribute to the enclosure of the space program. Curiously, such activities relied on the construction of the garden—the place of natural history tied to technological power—as transformed from the wilderness “out there” to a garden enclosed in the machine. And therefore, the notion of landscape and garden are defined and appropriated into an image of a nation in Cold War politics.
Lunar Module suspended inside Operations & Checkout Building, Kennedy Space Center, 1967, Merritt Island, Florida, USA, NASA Archives
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