Western American Spaces

In the West we are constantly moving across vast lands, between islands of artefacts situated around water wells and hydroelectric dams. Water, minerals, vistas, capitals are connected by roads that followed wagon wheel ruts following the trails of the indigenous peoples and the deer who lived here.

The westward Euro-American pilgrimage of rural entrepreneurs, trappers, and miners related to the West personally and economically. Just as the Native Americans had done, the later Americans modified the landscapes and left artefacts scattered about. At the turn of the century, as activities in American cities began to mold into specific forms, the Geological Survey completed its topographic grid-ordering of the Western spaces of America and its various niches began to fill with buildings and modifications. Today, a mix of local, national and global icons and memes vie for existence on the hot asphalt and desert varnish. 


We, the most recent inheritors of this space, are further modifying, memorializing, and mimicking the ecological spaces in our pursuits, language, arts, architectures and interpersonal relationships. The Center dedicates itself to articulating the particularly Western American life-experience through analysis of its more salient approaches and appreciations of landscape.

Localized and indigenous inhabitants of Western spaces often relate to cultural landscapes as essential markers of identity. Indigenous peoples realized the complexity of the human-to-landscape relationship and reflected it in their place-based cosmologies. Their religiosity often consists of a deep appreciation for spatial aesthetics. Formal juxtapositions added to this sense of the sacred: a sudden shaft of white quartz embedded in a bolt of black rock; geoforms that astound, rocks that mimic animal shapes were all appreciated for their spiritual worth.  

Juxtaposition and irony are wrought into the experience of the West and the identity of the Westerner. 

From here the Center begins.

 The Center will pressurize the present with historical landscapes and artefacts; will mine spatially-related teleologies for textures, rhythms, ruptures; and celebrate the mystery of origins which continues to pulse from the sage deserts and basalt ridgelines.

The Western American Landscape Project approaches the research questions of how a nascent culture, first presented with an unlimited area and a Congressional mandate, crafted identity. We want to map the progress of this social unfolding into the present. Not limited to the built environment, we approach this wide-open question through participating in the social construction as it is performed by Western peoples from all arid areas from southern Mexico to the Canadian border.


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