SUPERBLOOM: Shelter, Drought, and Sculpture in the California Desert

This studio will focus on the Yucca Valley, CA, and its adjacent desert settlements. Students will consider the desert as a physical and metaphysical void, exploring opportunities to amplify experiences of both sublimity and reflection within the void. Against the current backdrop of climate change, the desert environment becomes the stage for ethereal and extreme manifestations of the landscape: the superbloom is one such phenomenon. Extreme drought, followed by torrential rains, collide on the desert floor to produce a spectacular and fleeting explosion of life, color, and energy.
The studio will confront the nature of shelter in the desert environment, the history of utopian modernism, and broader intersections of the aesthetic and the environmental in a rapidly changing climate. In all of these cases we will avail ourselves of various philosophical models, including phenomenological approaches to the aesthetic experience as constituted by a dialectical movement between perceiving subject and object perceived, and critical-theoretical approaches to the historically-conditioned relationships between humanity, technology, environment, and utopia.

The studio will be composed of a series of discrete and interconnected sections:

  • SHELTER – body in the void: The tentatively planned studio visit will reflect critically on the very nature of shelter in the desert. Students will explore and build fundamental components of shelter through the manipulation of the ground as well as architectural tactics and interventions.
  • OASIS – landscape as refuge: Students will explore the regional landscape and identify potential avenues for the transformation and amplification of ecological systems.  Site-specific opportunities for a destination/exhibition space for sculpture will be proposed.
  • UTOPIA – ideology and manifestation: The studio will explore historical frameworks and spatial strategies related to the imaginative frontier. Physical manifestations of ideological frameworks responding to ecological and social phenomena will be considered as points of departure for designing a site-specific artist-in-residency program.

The studio will be open to both Landscape Architecture and Architecture students, however there will be a strong emphasis on engagement with the landscape.