[The eighty-six proposed "commonwealths" of the lower forty-eight states, from "The Commonwealth Approach".]
I’m excited that “The Commonwealth Approach”, an entry to the Arid Lands Institute’s Drylands Design Competition that I worked on with Laurel McSherry1, has been selected for a research prize by the competition jury. Taking a bit of inspiration from John Wesley Powell, we proposed re-organizing the political geography of the United States, beginning with the replacement of the fifty states with ninety-three “commonwealths” whose borders are based on water resource geography. Our paragraph on “geography and bias” explains part of the motivation behind this seemingly impractical proposal:
“Political geography — the location of bureaucracies, the subdivision of a nation into smaller units, the position of symbolic power centers like the U.S. Capitol — biases decision-making. In the United States, and with specific reference to water, the position of the federal government, its siting in the District of Columbia on the eastern edge of the continent, produces a bias against understanding the full consequences of the aridity of the half of the nation that lies west of the 100th Meridian.
This political geography constitues an organizational architecture which precedes, constrains, and produces site architecture.”
One of the nice things about this award is that, unlike many competitions where the winning entries are selected and never developed any further, the research prize gives us the opportunity to progress our design research over the next couple months, towards public presentation as a component of the Drylands Design Conference at Woodbury University in Burbank at the end of March.
Consequently, this post is just a bit of a tease — a much fuller report will be forthcoming after we’ve finished our current work.
The other eight winning entries, including four more research award winners and various honor and merit awards, can be found on the Drylands Competition website.