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Update on the UCI Desert Modernism Project (Lyle Massey, James Nesbit)

Originally posted on: University of California, Irvine. On April 25–26, UCI Professors Lyle Massey and James Nisbet will convene a workshop at UCI’s Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center. The workshop will bring together graduate students and invited scholars to discuss the American desert and the built environment.

The Steele/Burnand Desert Research Center, a former country club donated to UCI and renovated into a facilty for the study of desert ecologies and economies, is itself a prime example of desert modernism (featured in photo).

“We are interested in how the desert has figured as a ghost image and symbolic landscape of both modernist and anti-modernist spatial forms in the second half of the twentieth century,” says Professor Massey. From utopian architectural projects like Arcosanti and Taliesin West to elite mid-century desert architecture in Palm Springs and land art experiments by Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria, the desert has been a productive site for re-imagining landscape and space.

This event will kick off a year of programing, including an online photography exhibition and on-campus film series at UCI, and will culminate in a two-day conference to be held at the Huntington Library in April 2016. The Desert and Modernism workshop is funded by grants from the UCI Humanities Commons and University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA). The project helps link the School of Humanities to broader campus discussions around water, desert ecologies, and the built environment, including the UCI Water Initiative and the Salton Sea Initiative.

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