Th 6:30–9:00 p.m.
Anderson Hall, Room 153

In 1902, the U.S. Congress passed the National Reclamation Act, a policy promoting the “reclamation” of arid lands for agricultural production and urban expansion through irrigation. This legislation initiated nationwide infrastructure development projects, such as the construction of the Derby Dam on the Truckee River. While these projects facilitated agriculture in regions like Reno, they also caused significant environmental damage to neighboring areas, notably the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation. 

Such a conflict raises crucial questions: How can we better define our relationship with the land? who and what are the constituents of the land? Whose land is considered the land? How can we work with the land in architecture and design for a more equitable future? Over the past decades, the environmental discourse surrounding land and nature has undergone a radical shift. This transformation has introduced alternative perspectives that deviate from traditional colonial conventions, providing designers with insights for uncovering ways to reframe our relationship with the land.

The Watkin Degree Project Seminar will dissect the contemporary understanding of land as a cultural construct and uncover environmental knowledge that could offer alternative design methods. We will see “land” as layers of knowledge that reflect how our ideas of it have been culturally situated. Through weekly readings, guest lectures, workshops, and research projects, we will uncover species, histories, and cultures that have been overlooked in contemporary building and environmental discourse. The goal is to (re)work the concept of land by layering the political, ecological, aesthetic, and economic tensions, as well as the ownership, rituals, and other forms of habitation that span a shared terrain. At the end of the semester, our collective efforts will materialize as a research dossier that will support our Spring Watkin Studio (ARCH 402).

This seminar will also establish the theoretical and contextual framework for the Watkin Studio. Fourth-year undergraduate architecture students enrolled in this section will continue to work with the same theme and instructor in the spring. Our spring studio will provide the context for students to implement their knowledge and research gathered from this seminar in site-specific architectural design interventions and potential hands-on small-scale design-build projects.

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