“Science fiction is often charged with naïve technological optimism and historical amnesia. But for present-day Californians struggling with a wide range of environmental and social problems, science fiction might just provide the perspective we need to successfully pivot from the boom times of the twentieth century to the messy prospect of the century ahead” - Michael Ziser.
Image by DongXu Cai.
S2-D1 (Master of Architecture program, Studio One 2018-2019) of University of California, Berkeley, headed by Nicholas de Monchaux and Geoff Manaugh took a week long road trip to document the deserts of Southern California using the FARO laser scanner (upto 600m radius) which generated eight plausible sci-fi scenarios for the future of California! Here’s a glimpse:
Preparations: At the ranch in Joshua Tree National park, stitching our badges to our onesies (which we then wore to our convocation as well), packing the FARO laser scanner, listening to the Mojave Phone Booth podcast on 99% invisible, all set for Silurian lake the next day.
Recreating Reyner Banham’s 'Scenes in America Deserta' with the Bickerton (Nicholas de Monchaux, Geoff Manaugh, Bowen Li, Konstantinos Moustakas, Arine Aprahamian, Ioanna Sotiriou, Lei Ye, Dongxu Cai, Mathieu Iniesta, Reechal Mevada)
Scenes in America Deserta – Peter Reyner Banham
“I was driving up toward Shoshone, I knew, wearing dusty old fatigues and a filthy, rumpled Stet-son hat. The truck was grimed with dust, inside and out, grey everywhere, and so was the landscape on either side of the road-grey and white under the staring sunlight. In the back, under a brown net hooked across the truck body, was a fully grown pig. And I was old, retired and worn out . . . and it was the first and only dream in which I have been an old man. Few dreams have been more vivid in my whole life-or more psychologically neutral-this was neither threatening nor alluring. It simply reported the /act that, within barely a year of my first seeing the Mojave, my subconscious had accepted my permanent devotion to the desert, even into my old age. But why-at any time of my life-would I be driving to Death Valley with a pig for cargo? All my Freudian friends have symbolic explanations /or the pig, of course, but my own explanation is purely functional: the mere idea of me driving a pig anywhere at all is so unlikely that it guarantees that I will remember the dream as a mystery.
Scanned drawings (tools: volvox, grasshopper, rhino)
Griffith Observatory, Hike to Ennis House (and back) via Boy Scout Trail, Walk to Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Union Station, Cathedral Plaza, Grand Central Market, Meet at Bradbury Building, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Hike to Amboy, Sweeney Granite Mountain Desert Research, SGMDRC for Zzyzx, Soda Lake, Drive to Mojave Lava Tube, Ivanpah Solar Generating System, Silverton Road and Saragossa Drive (behind golf course), Silurian Lake,
Shoshone, Dublin Gulch, Death Valley, Devil's Golf Course Stop, desolation Canyon Stop, The Ranch at Death Valley, Furnace Creek for Charcoal Kilns, Ballarat, Searles Lake, Borax Discovery, Mojave Spaceport Visit, Cars depart for Palmdale, Oakland Jack London Square Station
This expedition, with the scanned images/drawings gave rise to eight plausible scenarios for the future of California – from a Prison for AI to The Last Office to Extinction, which can be found here:
Just like the MANUAL, this post will be periodically updated with images and similar findings.
A friend recently sent an excerpt from Robert Twigger’s Lost Oasis:
“The desert was about the void, the zero point, shrinking yourself and your concerns in the immensity and emptiness of it all. The desert was about a definite psychological need for vastness in the face of human confusion, brain fatigue. Mind-bothered Western man can take drugs, alter his lifestyle, turn off the television, pierce his body or run a marathon, it all amounts to just so much therapy to keep him loping along the same track towards the inevitable finishing post. I saw the desert as a huge right turn, a different path, another way out of what everyone was into, the money, goods and attention conflicts of the current century. The desert cured the malaise, not just the symptoms. Somehow the vastness of the desert signaled the infinite present, nowness, headspace, instant immortality.”
Mathieu Franck Iniesta from S2-D1:
Like a desert in the rain.
In the distance, a sign, almost too far to be read.
When the sun of the day went down, there was some kind of logical way to get from where
we were to where science fiction is.
Despite our recent arrival, we perceived the construction of an organized moment to which we were getting part of. Like new participants, we found ourselves in a perishable instant, unique, beautiful.
Being intrusive organisms, as foreigners, we did not possess the ability to reach at first sight the different surrounding codes.
This trip traced the topography of a non-specific site - an in-between zone amid two
different points - a mental place of fractured limits and larger amplitude than any physical location. From the general to the specific, it was a panoramic view of a shifting and unresolved territory composed by segmented events that emerged as vague
intermittencies among the landscape.
The feeling of permanent wandering characterized our excursion with no precise
destination, even though it was predetermined. Our journey changed us progressively and
as a consequence became unpredictable. The so-called destinations were only points
among a route, and it was the in-between moments and the continuous state of transition
that held a meaning. A world so large that its coordinates appeared to be fading, leaving behind impressions of unreality and dislocation."