Once the third-largest lake in California and among the world’s greatest sources of dust, for decades the dried Owens Lake was merely a footnote to the most notorious water grab in modern history. Now, the desert lake has undergone an ingenious “redemption” that tenuously preserves Los Angeles’s main water supply and controls the dust. In The Spoils of Dust this “bargain” redemption and its conjuring of an ecologically rich “lake-like” landscape is the backdrop for investigating contemporary relationships between landscape architecture, engineering, and perception. Assembled atop a barren waste, the Promethean lake reveals the frameworks we use to reinvent nature in the Anthropocene. Whether by dust “drawings” or birding fieldwork, the new, water-wise lake is an awkward and beguiling monument to the prismatic ways we know and value landscapes today. Unexpectedly, this has made its imaginative design the linchpin for critical water resource decisions, thrusting landscape architecture into a consequential position. The book concludes with a landscape atlas and robotic interface for a playful and integrated approach to landscape infrastructure design.
The Spoils of Dust
Reinventing the Lake that Made Los Angeles
Once the third largest lake in California, and among the world’s greatest air pollution offenders, the deadened Owens Lake was for decades merely a catastrophic footnote to the most notorious water grab in modern history. Now, the lake has been re-assembled to exceed the value of what was lost – without refilling its shores and depriving Los Angeles of its water supply. In The Spoils of Dust, the lake’s peculiar redemption is the backdrop for investigating contemporary relationships between landscape design, control, and perception. The lake-like terrain is our most intimate display of modern technocratic vision and exposes the limits of our invention and control of infrastructural ecologies. Whether by observations of dust or scenery, it is as much the product of how we perceive and value landscape today. Answering its analysis, The Spoils of Dust concludes with a visual atlas and proposal to induce more imaginative outcomes and perceptions.