Ruderal Academy@Kavtiskhevi Quarry
Ruderal Academy assembled a group of artists, institutions, architects, and landscape architects to re-envision possible futures for the landscape of a former limestone quarry in the Republic of Georgia. The project sits at a number of intersections that characterize the post-extraction landscape: building and un-building, iconographies and ecologies, social and natural ecologies, model and method, remediation and manufactured landscapes.
WITH Sarah Cowles, Jesse Vogler, Erin Forrest, Joanie Walbert, Giorgi Chaladze, Tornike Jashia, Nona Davitaia, Mamuka Japharidze, Wato Tsereteli.
Located on a hillside facing the Georgian industrial city of Kaspi and situated along the country’s primary watercourse, the Mtkvari river, the quarry has played a central role in the industrial modernization of Georgia from the early Soviet era to the present. Cement made from limestone displaced from the quarry has been used in some of the most recognizable nation-building projects in Georgia’s infrastructural development—the Mtskheta hydroelectric reservoir at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, Soviet era housing blocks, and the Great Military Road linking this Soviet satellite state with the power center of Moscow. As such, this quarry carries a metaphorical burden in which its local specificity as a scarred landscape is displaced and dispersed across the Georgian landscape. Where, for every pit in the quarry site, there is a reorganization of its matter that maps a material and psychological displacement.
Lewis Mumford reminds us that the quarry is characteristic of the process of Abbau, or un-building: “What is taken out of the quarry or pithead cannot be replaced.” But what if this un-building is reframed not as the “brutal disordering” of Mumford’s mine, but as a retroactive opportunity, as a governing technique for understanding depth, displacement, and the nature of ground? For the landscape architect, the quarry landscape points to the volatile temporality of natural systems and the need to manage input/output regimes on a regional scale. The governing attitude for the project, then, cannot be one of return, or even innocent remediation, but one of manufactured ecologies—of a new meeting of the human and the natural. In addition to its 20th century history as an industrial hub, this quarry of course also carries the mark of deep time.
Kaspi, the city, shares its name with the Caspian Sea, which currently lies 300 km to the east, and whose water once submerged the valley in which the quarry now sits. The limestone deposits of the quarry carry the mineral and fossil remains of an ancient seabed—in a particularly pure and concentrated drift form. Along with the community of plants that are already recolonizing the alkali soil can be found fossil remnants of this former sea. Currently shepherds are gradually making use of the ruderal vegetation and will remain the primary users of the quarry site once its operation is halted in late 2014.
The Quarry Life Award is sponsored by Heidelberg Cement. The Quarry Life Award is an international research competition for the promotion and education about biodiversity in quarries.