It’s difficult to appreciate how malodorous the Salton Sea is without actually visiting it. Formed in the early 1900s when the Colorado River was accidently diverted into California’s Imperial Valley, the rampant architectural speculation of the ‘Salton Riviera’ – a ‘Palm Springs with water’ – soon faded with the toxic reality of 140-degree summers and apocalyptic wildlife die-offs. Fed solely by polluted agricultural runoff, the stench of millions of rotted Tilapia fish has literally been baked into every surface. Shoreline properties remain the cheapest.
‘You know it’s shame for America that special California have big-ass lake in USA and let ‘um go like that’, one local resident – Hunky Daddy – noted of the situation. ‘Can’t clean up the fuckin’ place…Sonny Bono’s wife worked on dit, dit, projects around here to clean up this fuckin’ yard…but the fuckin’ money never got here’.
During the 2011/12 academic year, Intermediate 1 extended our fascination with architectural extremities and cultural oddities by examining this ‘accidental sea’. Acting as ‘archaeologists of the immediate future’ (to paraphrase Reyner Banham), our forensic examinations uncovered misplaced artefacts, dilapidated architectural precedents, and images of past declines and future glories. This speculative and often spurious research drove our designs for a ‘new miracle in the desert’, providing suggestions for playful and disconsolate architectures, sly ruses, deliberate falsities and romantic critiques.
In response to the Salton Sea these projects included: the last view from a funereal trailer park, a house for a paranoid American Ninja master, an optical illusion, a Jacuzzi for septuagenarian swingers, an experiment in primitive living, an underwater city, an algae blossom, a reflection on dwelling in transitional landscapes, a motel for curiously stranded individuals, a progressively diminishing simulacra, a trailer park of dust collectors, a domestic recasting of the American Dream, and a floating landscape of duck-hunting blinds.
With thanks to
Barbara Ann Campbell-Lange
Constantino di Sambuy