Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Hyperion Factor

Hyperion treatment plant, aerial picture. From

This week, I´m reading Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley, so I have his writings in my mind. And I suppose it was my perception what made me go back to City of Quartz, a book by sociologist Mike Davis. I still didn´t finish it, and I opened it randomly and found these paragraphs, from page 197, edition New York, 1992:

The sewer. 
Intermediate pump station
Cryogenic air separation facility
Egg shaped digesters

¨As Huxley recalled it, a few months before the outbreak of World War Two he and Thomas Mann were walking along the south shore of Santa Monica Bay, ¨miraculously alone¨and rapt in discussion of Shakespeare, when they suddenly realized that ¨as far as the eye could reach in all directions, the sand was covered with small whitish objects, like dead caterpillars¨. The ¨caterpillars¨ were, in fact, ¨Malthusian flotsam¨- ¨ten million used condoms¨ Huxley estimated -washed back on shore from Los Angeles´s main sewer outfall at Hyperion Beach. Whithout recording his famous companion´s reaction to this bizarre sight, Huxley contrasted the scene on the same beach fifteen years later: ¨the sands are now clean... children dig, well-basted sunbathers slowly brown... etc.¨ This ¨happy consummation¨ had been brought about by one of the marvels of modern technology, the Hyperion Activated Sludge Plant¨. 
In an otherwise ironic essay about hygiene and class distinction, Huxley took for granted that Hyperion really was ¨the triumphant solution¨ to an ancient urban problem. Indeed, other writers have evoked teh ¨euphoric feeling¨ of this Grand Coulée of sewerage plants which transforms the waste of three million people into what has been described as ¨the largest freshwater stream in Southern California¨. 

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