The Northala Mounds and the age of digital landscapes
Standing right beside the A40, a short distance from RAF Northolt, are four conical mounds, the the tallest stands at 26 metres. These are part of Northala Fields, one of London’s newest parks, opened in 2008, and were constructed using waste material from the original Wembley Stadium the new Westfields shopping centre.
The mounds shield the rest of the park, created on the former Kensington and Chelsea’s Playing Fields site, which includes a model boating lake, play areas and an amphitheatre, from the noise and pollution of the A40.
So the mounds served as a landfill as well as sonic shield, but is there a more mystical reason for their creation?
Are they homages to the great stone and earthworks of the olden days or simply a direct continuation of them disguised by the seemingly mundane and practical municipal services they happened to offer?
Visitors ascend the largest mound in a spiral motion in an initiation ritual that represents the long up-hill struggle of life and the reward of illumination and the view from above.
An interesting aspect about these modern earthworks as well as where they are being located or whether their dimensions follow any kind of sacred geometrical pattern, is that they are digital.
They have been designed using CAD. The ancient monuments are analogue designs, as far as we know, created without the assistance of digital computers.
This is what give the new earthworks that slightly artificial, slightly too perfect feel to them that you can’t quite put your finger on but you know it when you see it. It’s the same with cars, planes, boats, houses, buildings, music, photography – everything that has been processed digitally during the design phase.
You sense the signature of the algorithms of the software package used to produce the undulating landscape designs.
To the modern geographer, the ‘lay of the land’ can be explained purely through geological terms having no mystical significance attached to it. Their bible is the Ordnance Survey with its matter-of-fact cartography of material space and although precise and practical lacks any deeper meaning to the places and the planet it describes. The birth of an island is merely the rising peak of volcanic activity from the depths below that has breached the water-line and not a wondrous act of creation and associated mythology and spirit attached to it. The surface of the earth is just a random sprawl of the aftermath of volcanic activity, tectonic shifts, space debris and earth-quakes.
Yet mankind has always placed great importance on the dips and peaks of his surroundings. Mountains are worshipped as gods. Rivers are often-times seen as holy. The river Thames for instance becomes the river Isis as it flows through Oxford. For thousands of years the waters of the river Ganges have been seen as holy.
The multi-dimensional time-river the Nile is seen as the ‘tree of life’ providing fertility above and below a vast continent.
As the modern world developed, nations placed more importance on artificial demarcation lines and borders based on politics, always marked with straight-lines. The continent of Africa was forensically sliced into rectangular blocks. In the olden days, clans, tribes and peoples were separated by natural demarcations governed by the fracticalities of the flow of rivers, mountain ranges, jungles, deserts and oceans. Villages evolved organically and at their own pace compared to the top-down decisions made by town planning committees such as the Milton Keynes Development Corporation who laid out MK as a grid.
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