Alas, I did not have a chance to write about this project while it was still on public display last month at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, but Design With Co.—an interesting firm previously featured here for their “Farmland World” proposal—has put together an analytic landscape model called the “Midwestern Culture Sampler.”
The idea behind the model was to use “a fictional institutional entity called the Institute for Quantities, Scale and Image” in order to illustrate patterns of land use across the United States.
The resulting model, at ten-and-a-half square-feet, thus showed “a full square mile of the average geography and settlement patterns of the United States in their representative proportions.”
In other words, if 27% forest cover, 11% asphalt, 53% agricultural, or any other possible mathematical combination—including number of sports fields, schools, roads, or even hospitals—was the average American use of a given square-acreage of land, then that is how it would be modeled by Design With Co.
This would result in a perfectly calibrated but, for that very reason, utterly absurd representation of the ideal countryside.
In fact, the designers’ quest for exact calibration also extended to the architecture itself, which became a cartoonish, postmodern exaggeration of midwestern building styles.
Further, the designers explain, “Within this territory are various landmarks and attractions that are relocated in ways that enhance or challenge their architectural metaphors.”
These include, for example, the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” as rebuilt in Niles, Illinois.
An accompanying guidebook, which I have not yet seen, called Mis-Guided Tactics for Propriety Calibration, apparently offers a history of their fictional institution, but perhaps also, as its title suggests, includes a series of instructions for how one’s own land use patterns could brought into mathematical alignment with the national average.
Build another baseball diamond!
Their overall intention, according to the designers, was “to reframe the familiar in a way that begins to feel like a hyper-real fairy tale,” a landscape of exaggerated relationships and distorted terrains that, nonetheless, are mathematically accurate reflections of the country.
I believe the model is now traveling to other venues, so keep your eye out for the American average landscape popping up in a gallery near you.