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.


Genevieve Dominiak + Hannah Michaelson

This exploration inspired us to imagine and populate narratives to strategically further the intensity of architecture’s relationship to identities. For us, we explored our interests in architecture’s ability to respond to larger conversations that refuse to unite. In this case, it is industrial waste and human ecology’s resistance to acknowledge the consequences. 

Our thesis began with on-site research of Icelandic folklore and how communities consider their cultural heritage as a parameter for design. In Salt Lake City's Inversion Days, we found a similar local culture that had yet to be designed for, but rather veiled behind other popular identities of the city. Below is our booklets from both our research on Iceland's Huldufolk and Utah's toxic identity, we hope to use our architectural training to uncover many more myths.


Syracuse University Advising Group

Daniele Profeta

Greg Corso

Kyle Miller 

The SOURCE - Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement

Summer Research Grant 2019 Recipients - "Today's Mythmakers, Tomorrow's Narratives"

Academic Year Research Grant 2019 Recipients - "America's Legacy"


Text Excerpt

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. This research project aims to speculate on the collision of two ecologies: the human and the toxic. Through an open and poly-temporal system, this thesis investigates how humans are forced to acknowledge their synchronicity with these toxic entities.

Passed down to this generation is a poisoned landscape and ignorant compulsion which only perpetuates the industry’s perverted, never-ending carnage. A magnesium production plant adjacent to the Great Salt Lake has left the surrounding landscape scarred with evaporation ponds, smut piles, and waste lagoons. This new American landscape in Utah can no longer exist in adjacency, and society must come to terms with the consequences of mass industrialization and militarization. Sites such as these are “the materialization of our cultural heritage” and must be engaged with as such (Davis).

Text Excerpt

The contemporary built environment has been motivated by global neoliberal initiatives, while vernacular narratives have been abandoned. Although discussed today, local parables are lost behind the larger ideologies plaguing contemporary architectural surroundings and discourse. We are seeking to liberate the built environment from these global incentives, through the reintroduction of vernacular narratives. The research will speculate on a new engagement with the built environment, through the lens of old and new myths. We will generate a new narrative to reinform the current architectural discourse, in the hopes to fabulate a parable for future generations.

To hypothesize on these new narratives, we will use the Icelandic Huldufólk myths as a precedent to revive cultural continuity in the built environment. Huldufólk, translated to “hidden folk”, is a society which resides parallel to residents of Iceland. The authority of this parallel community informs the strategies the local residents use to ethically engage with the landscape and accommodate for these unseen presences.


Quoted Citations

Canales, Jimena, David Hanson, and Wendell Berry. 2018. Waste Land. Taverner Press.

Davis, B. 2013. “Public Landscapes and the Aesthetics of Toxicity.” Landscape Archipelago (blog). May 11, 2013.

Main Research Citations

Burtynsky, Edward, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas De Pencier. 2018. Anthropocene. Steidl.

Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Borch, Christian. n.d. “Interview with Edward W. Soja: Thirdspace, Postmetropolis, and Social Theory.” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 3 (1): 113–20.


Selcraig, Bruce. 1996. “The Filthy West.” High Country News, September 16, 1996.

Tripp, Thomas. 2009. “Production of Magnesium from Great Salt Lake, Utah USA.” Natural Resources and Environmental Issues 15 (10): 55–61.

US EPA, OSRTI. n.d. “US MAGNESIUM Site Profile.” Overviews and Factsheets. Accessed December 12, 2019.


Syracuse University Architecture Thesis 2020

Genevieve Dominiak + Hannah Michaelson