Salt and infrastructure beneath the city

Ever wonder where all that road salt comes from?  A question that’s quite topical today.  Mammoth has a post up on an operating salt mine beneath the city of Detroit.

Detroit Salt Mine

Detroit Salt Mine

John Nystuen has a discussion of the legal implications, acquiring mineral rights for salt 1,000 feet below the surface of an active city.  His map of the area shows the approximate extent of the mine in Southwest Detroit.

Approximate extent of the Detroit Salt Mine.  Image from John Nystuen

Approximate extent of the Detroit Salt Mine. Image from John Nystuen

Nystuen notes that the shape of the mine lends itself to the economies of scale in negotiating mineral rights contracts with the larger, industrial landowners.  The main east-west axis that connects these areas lies beneath a rail yard.  Much of this area of Detroit is extremely industrial.  The middle branch of the mine above extends right up to the edge of Ford’s massive Rouge complex. This above-ground landscape has some fascinating visuals, particularly as it ages but remains in use.

The layers of underground infrastructure are fascinating – everything from storm and sanitary sewers, subways, aqueducts, and other utilities – to active industry such as this.  DC doesn’t have the same kind of active resource extraction, but it does have some massive water supply infrastructure that feeds the city’s reservoirs.  Not all of it is active, either – but the vestiges of these underground operations on the surface of the city is quite interesting.

McMillan Sand Filtration site.  Image from M.V. Jantzen on flickr.

McMillan Sand Filtration site. Image from M.V. Jantzen on flickr.

This isn’t new ground for Mammoth.  Mammoth’s interest in the forms of infrastructure and the design of spaces “looking for an architect” is fascinating, I always look forward to reading their thoughts on the matter.  Of particular interest is the disconnect between designed, architectural spaces and networked, infrastructural ones.  For some reason, there’s enough of a disconnect where the infrastructural frameworks lack the design gravitas – not everything can be a Calatrava-designed bridge, nor does that bridge alone show the true nature of the network’s design.

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