Engineers of the Little Ice Age agonized over every move and countermove. Decisions were achieved cautiously, as each detail, no matter how subtle, met with a feat of scrutiny. Lining a gutter with icicles required a week’s effort by a team of three. To puzzle up with frost the windows of a saltbox house took just slightly less effort. A complex project—say, Oscar Kuo’s classic snowed-in Oldsmobile—was expected to consume years of a career. Whatever can be said about that first generation of designers, they were in no hurry. Out of the black hat of memory they pulled winter detail by detail, aided only occasionally by a photograph or a holiday postcard or a set of mittens once attached to the cuffs of a heavy coat. That slick pane of ice encasing the air-conditioner’s grille. Starry pixels of snow, seen in halos about street lamps. Crescent-shaped drifts bowing across the acres of cornstalks to the anemometer atop a tall tripod of aluminum legs. These memories heightened in resolution, year after year. And as techniques and applications kept pace, winter’s costs fell. Ordinary families could now afford to frost their own windows. Municipal authorities developed wintering programs. Snow was delivered and spread throughout parks. Ice was installed up in trees. Pavements were made slippery then sprinkled with rock salt as warnings were posted: “Hazard.”
Decades of naturalism defined the Little Ice Age, whose scope ranged from single snow crystals to glaciers in the Ligurian Alps. Winter was sketched, modeled, and built according to a rigorous process of design. So the season returned entirely, as documented in the Whole Winter Catalog, and its producers were celebrated. They accepted certificates of merit signed with calligraphy pens; they received chunky medals on black silk ribbons; they won monies. Meanwhile, children were steadily born, kids who had no experience whatsoever with a firsthand winter.
Among them were fraternal twins Clement and Angela Goodsun, who grew up making snowmen and mounding up forts in the parks of suburban Massachusetts. Clement would remember his favorite park, which contained a steep and bald hill that was groomed each winter and visible through the sunny haze from the streets below. Even on the outskirts of town he could see this bald hill with its historic fire lookout, atop which Clement had stood and surveyed the distance. All Angela saw was the gradient between the groomed spots of winter and the rest of the city. On a weekend afternoon, the teenage Angela Goodsun would walk the perimeter of their yard or the border of a park, photographing the point at which the snow elapsed into blond grass, paving, gravel, and oily, decomposed leaves. Clement studied geophysiology; Angela earned a degree in landscape architecture while also excelling at finance and economics. Clement completed several additional tests to certify as a winter science professional. They worked apart from one another in several cities until, at age twenty-nine, they submitted an entry for the Maine State Pier Winter Garden, the annual competition to create a winter landscape at an old pier in downtown Portland. The Goodsuns’ proposal featured a snowy massif that could be scaled by different paths to reach handsomely framed vistas of the city and ocean. In his presentation, Clement cited the steep and bald hill, as all the greats he had studied sourced their designs through poignant memories of the past. Afloat at varying distances around the pier, however, was a scattering of luminous and irregular objects.
The jury interpreted these lights, seen in plan and perspective, with ambiguity. Are they buoys? They look to me like a system of waterborne lamps whose positioning might vary as a means of indicating ocean conditions? Is their light calibrated to match the cold color of the moon? I don’t see anything about them in your brief. Can you characterize your decision to include them in the project? Are they ornamental? Are they functional?
Icebergs, replied Angela Goodsun. They are a necklace of icebergs.
A necklace? They are glowing.
The illumination is internal.
Do they melt then?
No, she said. They are not that kind of iceberg.
The Goodsuns won. And that winter, beyond the freshly constructed massif, there spread a sequence of blue-white icebergs without precedent in any memory. The installation remained invisible from outside the park until dusk, when the icebergs switched on. Tourists arrived to witness the icebergs, to photograph them, and then post about their experiences. Kayakers were seen paddling close enough to embrace them. A theory circulated attributing the plan of the iceberg necklace to the I Ching. Another compared icebergs to crop circles, to popular star constellations. The city council and chamber of commerce even considered keeping the Winter Garden open until June. The city agreed to close on schedule in mid-March only after they learned that so many feet treading its paths had badly worn down the realism of the massif. A few of the icebergs had short-circuited, too. One iceberg was even stolen, never to be recovered.
In an interview taped many years after the state pier, Clement Goodsun reveals that he and his sister had no understanding how they would identify the buoyant, illuminated objects in the water around their design: Angela’s answer had been impromptu. In the interview, Clement announces, I have never felt I had a stake in putting winter back into the world. Months go by, and we just have to take winter down again. It never lasts, so, in our work, we think of the season as just a conceit. People look at al-Khobar and they can’t understand why it should be there, where they never had any winter in the first place. They don’t say the same things about Rhode Island or Maine or other parts of this country where we’ve built because there is a consensus about what winter is, about where to expect it, and where it should never trespass. These are very arbitrary things to me, concludes Clement.
Following the completion of the Maine State Pier, the Goodsuns contracted to create two identical projects utilizing icebergs: one at Port Judith, Rhode Island, the other at al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Twin icebergs for twin designers. The projects’ sponsor, a consortium of investors, cited as their motive a passion for great public spaces. In the case of the state pier, the Goodsuns had created a wonderful winter park, to which the icebergs were added as a secondary element. Shop drawings show the state pier icebergs at fifty-four inches on average in diameter, all roughly six feet in height. These two identical icebergs the Goodsuns undertook next leapt forward in scale to almost modern dimensions, featuring some five hundred square feet of surface area above the waterline. Requirements that the icebergs be visible from shore and have a capacity to host small landing parties defined their form. Scalloped in plan, the Port Judith/al-Khobar icebergs are massed so that the interior of the curve ascends into jagged terraces topped by a enamel-white crest. The outer curve is a sheer wall rising straight up from the sea. Mostly opaque, the icebergs reflect sunlight, although closer inspection reveals some translucent spots rippled with frosty white veins. Nowhere, however, are they actually cold. The icebergs channel the ocean temperature but also absorb some of the day’s heat. They contain no internal illumination, requiring them to be spot lit from shore after dark. Only a belt of red beacon lights glow faintly along the Port Judith iceberg’s crest, complying with an American requirement for all large, maritime objects. Both communities planned to complement their icebergs with flags until their creators intervened.
Winter knows no nationality, argued the Goodsuns.
The twin icebergs opened a new section of the Whole Winter Catalog, what has since come to be called supernaturalism. What was left of the Little Ice Age traditions withered as citizens posted statements about how simple snow and ice were no longer enough now that they had experienced icebergs. I do not linger with snow, said one. Snow is like a crowd of strangers, laughing together about a joke I cannot possibly get because their lives are vastly better than my own life. Another posted, Each year I take a small amount home in Baggies and I save an icicle or two because, who knows, my grandkids might like to see it someday, the old-fashioned winter.
Another Goodsun interview, with Angela alone, dates from the years right after Port Judith and al-Khobar. She gives her opinion on the expectations her work sets. She is smiling, seated at her desk, one leg crossed, showing her foot in a dark sock. A red fabric band holds back her blonde hair. Angela says, I remember painting the windows and spreading that thick old-timey white paste all over our steps with a trowel. Winter was all very nice, very safe back then. Supernaturalism today invests in a more lifelike winter, far less predictable, absolutely more difficult to control. The opportunity Clem and I saw in the icebergs for Port Judith and al-Khobar was that they could be a sight for everyone to see from shore but they could also become a destination. The idea just detonated, like that—Angela’s fingers snap—we were right.
Think of the launches departing. Aboard are the families, the couples, the part-time retirees with their devices all standing by in camera mode. Everyone safe inside life vests. From speakers above the ticket booth bells peel as the two o’clock pulls away. Wind streams against the flag mounted on its stern. They are going at last, after gazing out over the water from their bedrooms, from their offices downtown, from highway bridges, from computer monitors. Passing on the highways they have tried to count the number of icebergs. They have tried to gauge an approximate distance of how far out there these icebergs really are. They wonder, How are nautical miles different from regular miles? The pilot speeds up the launch in open water, nodding the travelers up and down. Striking changes to the icebergs’ appearance occur as they draw closer. There are more of them. They aren’t just cone-shapes either. Nor are they just 2-D as somebody was saying back on shore. Aren’t they a whole lot larger than you expected? Frosted white by day, a luminescence turns on after dark, no brighter than a flashlight held inside a child’s closed mouth. Linda Demonchaux first achieved this effect in her iceberg at Vancouver, where tiny light-emitting diodes, are arrayed in tissues throughout the iceberg’s fabric.
The icebergs resolve into view, exhibiting characteristics never before considered. The travelers hold their breath as the launch decelerates, its motor quieting. Uncertainty arouses them, as one iceberg in particular appears to be their destination. The natural world’s rugged character is conveyed through its formal and material qualities. In the spirit of the Goodsuns, this iceberg is a punctured torus of open terrain staged with concave as well as convex surfaces. Ideal qualities are present as well, including navigable ice caverns, crevasses, and the capacity for adjustable levels of that inner illumination. The travelers’ encounter with the iceberg involves no reception, no ramps, no stairs—only the launch’s stamped metal gangway used to disembark. Their first steps are uncertain, as if the iceberg might suddenly tip under their weight.
As a rule of thumb, icebergs available to parties such as the one described above must offer square footage appropriate for the average number of travelers anticipated, if the solitude and sublime quiet are to be effective. A landing party too closely crowded together cannot experience truly meaningful moments, however compelling the iceberg might be. Some planners will spec only smaller-scale icebergs, the kind that might be visited by canoe for a picnic lunch. Mexican designer Alejandra Pérez is the foremost creator of miniature icebergs, what she describes as “everyman islands”, while Studio Shioya of Roppongi has perfected a design able to be arrayed in several smaller individual pieces or as a single large iceberg. Others prefer mansion-like icebergs, designed to feature three, four, sometimes even five interior spaces—say, caverns or galleries. This is how some of the party can visit inside the iceberg while other members remain outside, very much alone in their exposure to the elements. Federica Gallon’s iceberg for Dubrovnik interprets the city’s medieval walls in its wide, high massing situated parallel to the waterfront. It accepts no visitors and is accessible to maintenance crews only by helicopter. Critics wondered about Dubrovnik, if the project aimed to be only a sight, might not holography be just as successful? Gallon defied them again in a similar sequence for Lima, Peru.
Travelers must have time enough with the iceberg to find their own relationship to it. It’s so empty, so bluely white or so whitish blue, and how meticulously textured. What coarseness here. But so delicate there. And see how smooth? Like feathers but so densely packed. The sunlight pools over the iceberg’s face, pushing shadows back into their corners and crevices only to draw them right back out again as the day wages. Nowhere is anything written. There are no patterns to be found. No materials like wood or stone or metal are visible, though amounts of grit and gravel accumulate as visitors pass through. It is crucial travelers are not left so long with the icebergs that they become too comfortable or begin to study their surroundings. In the distance are more icebergs still, all massed differently and yet unexplored. Goodbye, they say, goodbye, as the two o’clock steers off, its wake caressing the iceberg.
In theory, visibility and access to icebergs are restricted to months formerly assigned to winter, when an iceberg, however fantastically, could have arrived from the pole. Also in theory, travel to and from an iceberg or ice floe should be limited within this open season. Rochester, New York, allows access only on Sundays during the month of December, and then only when the weather is fair. Grooming the surface of an iceberg is expensive and time-consuming, yes, but the best reason to limit access may be that it preserves an iceberg’s popular appeal. The few communities that do offer year-round access require advance notification or restrict trips to only a few days each month. If a municipality is overly eager for a return on its investment, however, it often contracts with a big boat operator who takes as many people out as often as possible. Planners and designers must be cautious. However exceptional an iceberg, its application and management are exceedingly important. Should its effects wear off, an iceberg or floe is little better than those huge seaborne rafts of polypropylene bottles, condoms, six-pack bridles, and cellophane.
Related to this problem, Linda Demonchaux says that all the really great icebergs are unknowns. I could never disclose the locations, she reports. Even if it brought my good friends new work.
Since the Little Ice Age, the best work in winter science has always been sealed behind nondisclosure agreements, never to be photographed or filmed or visited by the public. Icebergs are no exception. There are towns for the wealthy, call them resorts, where snow and ice are precisely groomed to match specific weather conditions. They have real penguins and genuine seals, refrigerated flocks of seabirds and giant white bears that swim between the icebergs. Lucky designers invited to work in such settings keep mum about what it is that they have seen and what it is that they have built.
One iceberg in seven is the scene of occupancy. This is when an individual or group travels to and then lives aboard an iceberg for a given period of time. Much depends on the outlook and character of the occupants. They might be seasoned adventurers or simply young lovers out to practice their feelings. More common is the solitary figure, the man or woman with a tent and a space heater plugged to a solar battery plus a stock of dried beans or smoked meats or packaged meals. They smoke cigarettes and drink rice beer or whiskey or soju or cane liquor. They involve a pistol. Knives, hooks, spiky crampons, walking sticks are among their common equipment, as if the occupants expect to find the iceberg more vast than it had appeared from land.
The remoteness of icebergs that makes them so appealing as destinations also makes them especially expensive to patrol. Some security solutions are on the market, such as the costly Minotaur, which amounts to a set of cameras and a stun gun. Other nightly measures range from the dramatic (submerging an iceberg) to the primitive (loosing Rhodesian ridgebacks). Most communities, with no obvious or cost effective recourse, allow the icebergs to float openly in the dark each night. If a case of occupancy is discovered, however, any news of it is strictly suppressed. Studies show that public awareness of even a single occupancy diminishes an iceberg’s affect, just as a single bad tooth defeats a smile.
After an eight-month occupancy by the Hayden family, the sequence of icebergs created by Victoria Lenaerts and David Dudley to celebrate the harbor at Depoe Bay, Oregon, was withdrawn and demolished. But a documentary about the family’s experience, called Hardship: The Haydens, has lately become a sensation, and Depoe Bay is now in the process of fabricating icebergs identical to their demolished originals.
With occupancy arose the notion of the iceberg as a floating residence, a genre as old as the boat. The “crystal lantern” houses created by former lighting designer Seungyeoun Moon for a suite of Korea’s wealthiest families exemplify this startling trend. In plan and section, they resemble some of the most successful contemporary work, though they are designed in a separate spirit with a totally domestic program using the gamut of expected materials. Because formalizing occupancy threatens the role icebergs play in the collective imagination, the Winter Sciences Institute has struck references to and images of it from their Whole Winter Catalog.
The appeal of icebergs also extends to inland communities, who make an astonishing number of frozen lakes available to themselves. What they do is find a low hollow or gulley, have it surveyed and then fit with a frozen lake. After a few weeks, skating runs its course, and a prefab iceberg is assembled on site. The lake is cut and the appearance of the iceberg is established, often at a low level of realism to keep costs down. Maybe the ice of the lake won’t fit flush against its edges. Or the lake itself might be too translucent, revealing that the iceberg is only mounted to its surface like a checker glued to its square on the game board. But it is all very affecting nonetheless. People gather, standing still on their iceberg, looking back over the crisp surface of their new lake, the sun shining down through the haze. Those below wave up at their neighbors. Messages are shouted back and forth. The children leap off, causing the poured smooth surface of the lake to creak beneath the crowd’s feet.
Think of a woman coming alone just before the dinner hour to cross the solid lake and climb the iceberg. Picture her paused on the uppermost corner, seen against the peach sky that contains all the newly replenished birds. A highway in the distance shuttles its cars back and forth. Everyone remembers their alertness atop an iceberg or along a frozen lake, a moment ringing with significance. And when teams arrive in early spring to demolish the lakes and dismantle their icebergs, families often gather to watch them work. No weeds or grass are left where the lake was installed, and the area must be combed for any remaining pieces of ice before it can be reseeded. An odor of thunderstorms then lingers for weeks over the site.
Deployed in the Ariake Sea off the Japanese city Saga are two very large icebergs plus a third smaller one, all built in the supernaturalist tradition. Ten years after the original trio, the city has just released a fourth iceberg, smaller yet and quite low in profile. At first sight, it disappoints; its purpose is not clear. Compared to its neighbors, its circumference is notably smaller. But closer inspection shows that the iceberg is fabricated from a material more like clear resin or acrylic than the sclera-white ice typically specified. And agape at the center of this fourth iceberg, leading down into its interior, is not a cavern but a double-wide staircase of the same materieal. The reservations list to visit Saga #4 is already twelve months long. Photographs are prohibited, so posts about trips to Saga #4 are full of anguished descriptions. Their words chisel away the experience.
Accounts report these stairs lead to a winding ramp whose contour is marked underfoot by strips of fluorescent magenta. People hurrying up the ramp sometimes shout at visitors: Descend at your own risk. Watch out, they say, watch out. There is shouting in many languages and nervous laughter until the corridor blooms into a cavern whose walls climb into a peaked vault. Actual sunlight filters down through the vaulted ceiling into the cavern, while along the floors and walls faint blue diodes are embedded. Unprogrammed galleries and subgalleries stretch away from this main chamber, wrapping paths to points deeper within the iceberg. Visitors report that, at its lowermost point, the iceberg features a sloped wall against which you can lean and look up through all the translucent chambers toward a faint afterlife of sky. Black against that light is the mobile constellation of small shapes made by the other visitors above. With an ear against this incline, one supposedly hears all the sound made by this minimal and blatantly artificial iceberg. It is in fact very cold there at the bottom, they say. And lighting in this final room is done to produce dim reflections along the walls. There is a sense, also supposedly, that you have arrived at a place apart from past experiences. What you have known about the world thus far is of no help here.
Critics writing on Saga #4 observe that it is very much an iceberg about icebergs: We are able to travel to it, then pass through it, and inside the iceberg contains its own pavilion for viewing itself. Happening on all sides, meanwhile, is the ocean’s volume, with darkness and cold and indifference enough to compete with outer space. It spells a unique trauma for visitors.
Saga #4 was a collaboration between Kenichi Shioya of Studio Shioya and artist Alan Kepler. Shioya had been an assistant with the Goodsuns for the Port Judith iceberg, then moved on to supervise several of their other projects before returning to Japan. Despite the many joke pieces in their portfolio, Studio Shioya brings to bear a strongly supernaturalist style. Generally with their work, the larger the scale, the fewer the self-conscious moves. Alan Kepler has never spoken out about the design of Saga #4, not even to state his role in the process of its creation. Although he is old enough to remember winter, the material selected for the iceberg suggests that Kepler was not interested in memories. Online footage of Kepler, seen discussing some of his earlier work (a collection of booby-trapped suitcases, boxes, and crates), records the statement that his ideal medium would be the old-fashioned haunted house. Saga #4 might be considered closely in this context.
I make threats, Kepler says. Nothing would make me happier than if all my things came out of the galleries and the private collections and were just dumped into ordinary life someplace. I mean, I have made some dangerous stuff, but how scary is any of it under a Plexiglas vitrine or on someone’s lawn?
Saga #4 is considered by most to be a single lively exception to supernaturalism. But there are groups actively working within winter science to make statements about the mission to replenish nature. Gdansk-based Goodbye Clock is only the most well known of them. Founder Fabian Moser is a writer of manifestoes and a speechmaker. In one of his archived speeches, Moser argues, Our work is a loud noise against the consensus. We are trying to draw everyone’s attention to the opportunity available now to install something in nature’s stead rather than these stuffed animals. Is it possible now to proceed along new lines with new methods and use new technologies? Yes, I know it is so. We want to throw out the Whole Winter Catalog, to stop work on all projects now underway.
Moser met his co-founder Ostap Gruss after posting a manifesto against the new icescape commissioned for Gdansk’s waterfront. The two wrote letters, appeared on radio and television, and organized lightly attended protests that did little to halt the implementation of the new icebergs. Neither have a background in winter science, architecture, or engineering. Gruss formerly drove a truck while the good-looking Moser was an industrial designer by profession and a sculptor by training.
Goodbye Clock’s reputation rests largely on published conceptual work. With commissions principally from institutions and private collectors, they have admittedly built few real icebergs. Urine yellow icebergs. Icebergs that froth rabidly like effervescent tablets, spreading over the dark water a kind of foam. The iceberg impregnated with ash from California forest fires. Icebergs made from COR-TEN steel that plunge into the ocean never to be seen again. Goodbye Clock’s most well known project is in fact a small supernaturalist iceberg about the size of a yacht—suspended from an elaborate tensile cable system nine feet off the ground in an Emirati garden used for diplomatic events. Long days shine off that unmelting ice. Dinner parties are held there, a long table and comfortable seats assembled directly beneath the iceberg. In the morning, distant tankers regard the sunlight this iceberg reflects. During the afternoon and evening it shades the diplomats and officials. Ostap Gruss, in his lectures, tells of how the guests are always looking up nervously from their plates.
Goodbye Clock is said to have two portfolios. First, its purely conceptual and gallery work, now the subject of so much scholarship and critical opinion. Second, their private commissions, whose scope and character are better left unknown. But for a firm so interested in its statements, it is strange that Moser and Gruss are not able to work more in the public purview. Their submissions to recent competitions in Estonia and Portugal were disqualified. Rumor has it, as leaked by a member of the Portuguese jury, Goodbye Clock’s approach to the project was exceptionally antagonistic.
Moser says, We are not the next Goodsuns, and I wish we could break the frame that requires such expectations. But when the history is compiled, yes, I want them to say about Goodbye Clock that we were ahead of our time. They’ll say, Winter science? That was all just taxidermy.
Applications completed during the Little Ice Age were deemed so expensive that they had to be saved for use again the following year. The furry line between groomed winter and town streets that so preoccupied Angela Goodsun as a teenager wriggled throughout the world, wherever families and communities could afford winter. Only as costs declined and public agencies adopted wintering plans did snow and ice find their way into landfills. The popularity of larger and larger icebergs adds to this growing challenge of what to do with winter once we are done with it.
Urban deconstructor Sebastian Gutierrez says, The future of winter science requires us to address disposal immediately. Gutierrez has planned the deconstruction of vast portions of the American Midwest and Germany’s Ruhr Valley. In his most famous photograph, Gutierrez is seated on a length of American turnpike that has been excavated and rolled like so much dough. Winter science is a new practice area for him, but it is one in which he hopes to soon specialize. He says, Like everything people build, we need these winter items only slightly more than we need to get rid of them. When this balance tips, that is a very precise moment but one often ignored or denied because we cherish the way things are. We want things to stay as they are. Identifying that precise moment is the first step. Having on hand appropriate strategies for deconstruction, that is the second.
To cap excessive creativity, Gutierrez calls for all winter phenomena to be dismantled each year at the end of March and, wherever appropriate, reused again next year. Gutierrez is sympathetic. He says, OK, we know that icebergs need to be unique to be effective. In a township with a population of twenty-five thousand people and three icebergs, how long will it be before everyone has visited the icebergs two, three, four times? How long are people going to want to look at them?
Studio Shioya again stands out for the flexibility of its icebergs, some of which are broken apart and transported for use in houses, stores, and public parks. A recent trend in Japan saw boutique umbrellas and canes made from a reclaimed Shioya project in the China Sea. Following the Japanese cue, a Majorcan shoe brand recently began to sole its products in demolished European icebergs.
Among the unbuilt projects in the Goodsun portfolio is an operable ice floe. According to Clement Goodsun’s sketch, this collection of icebergs would drift slowly down from Wisconsin to Chicago during the weeks ahead of Christmas, and, upon arrival at the Chicago waterfront, the floe would become a scene of a holiday festival. Each iceberg would have a different program: a Kristkindlmarkt, eating and drinking, choral music, sledding. A built variation of this concept exists in the Netherlands, where each year twelve icebergs travel south along the Wadden Sea from Friesland past the Afsluitdijk and Amsterdam to come ashore near The Hague. Known as the Zuiderzee Monument, the project recalls ravishing floods and vast winters the Dutch used to know. Outwardly, the icebergs appear to abide by strictly supernaturalist rules. As they pass muddy beaches and medieval villages and windswept island farms, they are studied by binoculars and telescopes. No tour boats visit them. A low and tremulous syllable sounds in the distance as the icebergs negotiate the shallows of the Wadden Sea. For their navigation, the icebergs rely on a geosynchronous satellite that steers their underwater propellers and directs asterisks of omnidirectional tank treads at their base.
The Zuiderzee Monument is the recipient of nineteen international awards yet its designer is anonymous. What sets the Zuiderzee apart, one citation reads, is its total persuasiveness—not as a naturalistic winter phenomenon but as a vivid and powerful protagonist in the lives of the Dutch population. Here is a new winter, a season apart from memory, untied from any author’s signature, all but autonomous.
The Zuiderzee’s annual voyage from Friesland to The Hague varies every year, the four-week course plotted randomly by the computer aboard its satellite. It begins each year on the first Friday in the month of May at the Ems River. Along the Frisian coast they light bonfires and hold vast outdoor picnics. Out into the murky Wadden they venture in tall boots, drawing as close as they can to the voyagers, recording video, posing in photographs before them. No one tries to climb aboard, no one interferes with the icebergs’ progress. Traffic over the Afsluitdijk is partially blocked to accommodate onlookers, who stand for hours with binoculars in hand, children fixed on their shoulders. When at last the icebergs come ashore near The Hague, a tremendous welcome greets them. Bands and flags and politicians await the final groans of the icebergs wherever they lodge into the seaside. Then there is a great rush to scale them and people clamor over one another, often in their underwear or bathing suits, to press their skin up against the icebergs. Alarmed parents witness their children slip and fall shrieking into the black waters only to burst through the surface a moment later. Colorful flags of no special significance are raised up high on the icebergs. Musicians play, cooks grill and fry, and men, women, and children all drink deeply of the moment. Then the naked sky shows all its stars.
Sooner than later, claims Sebastian Gutierrez, if we are to escape smothering ourselves, we will need to deliberately forget about winter. We will have to purposefully let go of what once happened in human history. Unfortunately, that time is over.
When the Dutch wake up the following day, they might revisit the beach and admire the absence of their celebrated Zuiderzee Monument. Meanwhile, out on one of their great highways, freight trucks are hauling the icebergs away to a storage facility until winter comes again next summer.
“A Design History of Icebergs and Their Applications” was first published in “Conjunctions:53, Betwixt the Between” and is republished with permission.