COALESCENCE WITH UNLIKELY COMPANIONS

We, as a society, have chosen to erase and neglect the problematic images and narratives of wastelands from our, American, history. Therefore the thesis aims to offer a third space in which Human Ecology coexists with the previous erasures of Toxic Ecology. Currently, these wastelands are portrayed as foreign entities which American companies engage with, rarely do the cameras turn to our own background though. Rather than remediate these industrial sites and thus revive nature, the work looks to coexist with the consequences of our past and ongoing present through myth.

Attempted Removal of Huldufolk Home

Inversion Day in

Salt Lake City, Utah

With a grant from the Syracuse University’s SOURCE Office, our curiosity of myth began with on site research of Icelandic folklore. In Iceland, the strength of their cultural heritage actively engages with urban expansion and community design since most of the nation’s society believes in a parallel community of Huldufólk - or hidden people- living in the rock. To most, these encounters are unnoticeable or appear only as a strange positioning of rock to design. To engage with America’s subculture of toxicity in a parallel manner to Iceland's engagement, how can architecture foster this collision of two ecologies: the human and the toxic?

 

When challenged with the imagery of these damaged sites one is confronted with an unfamiliar and deeply disturbing ecology; a toxic blind-spot in the community. Passed down to this generation is a poisoned landscape and ignorant compulsion which only perpetuates the industry’s perverted, never ending carnage. This new American landscape, most notable in the mid-west, can no longer exist in adjacency, and society must come to terms with the consequences of mass industrialization. Sites such as these are “the materialization of our cultural heritage” and must be engaged with as such (Davis). 

 

Known for its industrious “worker-bee” culture, Utah is faced with a multitude of Superfund sites - thousands of highly contaminated sites across the nation, due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out, or poorly managed. Situated on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, a magnesium production plant has left the surrounding landscape scarred with waste lagoons and smut piles. Reaching beyond the extents of their site, excess chlorine gas settles onto Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Basin. 


In Salt Lake City, these consequences have become part of everyday life as the community has surrendered their outdoorsy culture to a disturbing sub-culture of toxicity. Salt Lake City exists in parallel with their Inversion Days - a phenomenon unknown to those visiting, thus furthering an existing myth of the city.

Inversion Day in

Salt Lake City, Utah

To enhance the dissonance of the fictitious American landscape and the authentic reality we refuse to acknowledge, the Hive makes space for an extraordinary companionship with toxic ecology. These new forms pose an opportunity to contend with a third space, one which exists now, but not yet designed for. An intensified third space contests current culture with the reality of its own ignorance. Already challenged with dueling identities, the tensions between ecologies often partitioned brings into question Salt Lake City’s accountability and thus the myth of the Hive.

The existence of the hive as an innocuous zone utilizes the design to further an alternative reality of the city, one which calls upon the atemporal myth. Rather than veiling the damage surrounding Salt Lake City, the design incorporates an additional system of magnesium processing.

The bunker zone is a system to evacuate sensitive groups from the thick air during stretches of inversion days. When evacuated there is no guarantee of how long the inversion days will last, and thus “Pray for Snow” becomes all the more relevant as Salt Lake City’s unofficial motto. The de-watering sludge system is bringing the industrial pollution to the forefront of the urban conversation - a conversation previously partitioned to the edges of the Great Salt Lake. The canyon is the mediator between the two systems, systems which only exist at the mercy of the other. Thus, the popular identity inhabits the third space, perverting the relationship of the other two.

The ambition then is to establish a jarring narrative between cultures normally at odds. Designed as a deep scar in the topography of the city, the hive simultaneously provides refuge from the inversion days while furthering the industrious and outdoor nature associated with Utah.

We are not designing a building or normative infrastructure.

We are not problem-solving.

We are not entertaining sustainability.

We are not operating for the practical.
 

We are designing foreboding encounters and troublesome artifacts.

We are embracing the friction between human ecology and toxic ecology.

We are operating in the fictitious.

We are designing in coalescence.

Inversion Day in

Salt Lake City, Utah

US Mag site near

Salt Lake City, Utah

US Mag site near

Salt Lake City, Utah

US Mag site near

Salt Lake City, Utah

Relocated Huldufolk Home near Budardalur, Iceland

Clear day in 

Salt Lake City, Utah

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Syracuse University Architecture Thesis 2020

Genevieve Dominiak + Hannah Michaelson