Repurposing Empire



After the death of American Empire, what will be done with its material residues? This thesis begins with the assumed premise that if we are to survive as a civilization in the next twelve years, we will have to assume that the American Empire--driver of capitalist accumulation, ensurer of oil consumption, promoter of individual alienation to prevent mass resistance through suburban development--will meet its demise.

This thesis focuses on Southern California: a region built and defined by rampant capitalist suburban development, the imperial military industrial complex and the oil industry. This far corner of the nation was developed in the vision of American Empire: famous for its seductive individualism and alienating built environment. It is the task of this thesis to consider how such spaces can be repurposed: dismantled and reused, for the sake of combating their intended purpose.  Two sites indicative of the excesses of capitalism embedded in our built environment have been identified as sites of redemption for this near-future. The first is the site of neighboring gas stations in West Los Angeles, one of them the famous Helios House designed by NADAAA and Monica Ponce De Leon in 2009. The other, an abandoned hotel in the failed real estate speculation town of California City: 100 miles North of Los Angeles built deep in the Mojave Desert.

Ultimately, this dismantling and rebuilding cannot be accomplished without first committing also to the détournement of their respected mythology. This thesis hijacks the existing “high weirdness” of this region to create a new myth: a tale of alien virgin marys, Tahquitzes, and a mission to slay the tessellated beast to create a new spiritual heterotopia in the desert and public park in the city to fight the stifling, cold rationality of environments constructed in the image of American Empire.