Utopia Charrette Wendover

A week-long charrette based at the Center for Land Use Interpretation's Wendover Residency Program, Wendover Utah. Together with students and staff from the Land Arts of the America West program, the University of New Mexico. September 3 to 7. 2012


Utopia is nowhere, but historically and conceptually it cannot be just anywhere – Utopias are primarily urban phenomenas and are usually built around a sustainable system of urban agriculture. The first utopian novel – "Utopia" by Thomas Moor, published in 1516 was used by its author as a critical tool from which to reveal the contradictions and problems of the society in which he lived. This three-fold analysis was at the heart the week  – the city, its potentialities and critique. By using a charrette type model for the workshop we explored our immediate urban environment and proposed ways in which the city and our locale could be radically redesigned and rethought, using ideas and techniques from urban farming initiatives to earthworks, artistic interventions, and eco-activism.


Monday/Tuesday Nils Norman made a series of presentations about his research projects, teaching and art works.


Tuesday - Friday we broke-off into groups looking in detail at the city and meeting city officials in order to brainstorm and design utopian ideas for Wendover – culminating in a group presentation of design proposals and ideas on the Saturday. We also visited Simparch's Clean Livin project at CLUI.


Land Arts of the American West is an ongoing experiment in an interdisciplinary model for an Arts pedagogy based in place. The Land Arts program provides students with direct, physical engagement with a full range of human interventions in the landscape, from pre contact Native America architecture, rock paintings and petrogylphs to contemporary Earthworks, federal infrastructure, and the constructions of the US Military. Land art includes gestures both grand and small, directing our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and track in the sand to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military/industrial projects such as hydroelectric dams, interstate highways, mines, and decommissioned airfields.


  Each year the Land Arts program travels extensively throughout the southwestern United States and north central Mexico to live and work for over fifty days on the land. Our time is divided between investigating cultural sites such as Chaco Canyon, Roden Crater, Hoover Dam, Wendover Complex of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Juan Mata Ortiz, Spiral Jetty and the Very Large Array and working in the variety of eco-niches provided by our campsites at places such as the Grand Canyon, Grand Gulch, Gila Wilderness, Bosque del Apache and Otero Mesa Grasslands. Our current focus is on the issues of sustainability with a particular interest in food production and water use in the southwest.



Chris Melville presents the West Wendover, Nevada, city plan for the future

The CLUI Center and Wendover airbase

The CLUI Center and the Land Arts campsite

Walk to the Blue Lake swimming hole

One of Wendover's many casinos

The amazing Salt Flats

Simparch's Clean Livin' project at CLUI

Making a clay wedge from clay found naturally in the area

Group discussion of proposals. Model made from found materials

A meeting with Mike Crawford, mayor of Wendover, Utah

Exploring the city

Climbing the city

West Wendover's planning office