ARC 588-1111- The Eternal Blast


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Course Details

Course No.: 22190

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2014 Spring

Location: Diefendorf – 208

Meeting Day(s): Thursday

Meeting Time: 10:00AM - 12:40PM

Faculty: Centis

All the sites connected with the Manhattan Project, the program that produced the first atomic bomb, together constitute the most powerful contemporary North American “monument.” They raise crucial questions about landscape, nuclear energy, and collective memory. The vastness of the land areas involved in the Project and the nearly infinite life of the toxic byproducts produced are equally impossible to grasp, a fact that radically subverts contemporary notions and perceptions of what a “monument” is as well as many preservation paradigms.
The multidisciplinary research approach being proposed for the seminar would greatly enrich the existing literature on the Manhattan Project (MP). The way it interconnects architecture, sociology, and the visual arts would help elucidate the issues raised by the MP from multiple perspectives through the production of texts, drawings, diagrams, photographs, interviews, and videos. The research project would begin by addressing the important legacy of a specific historic event, the MP. This would then inevitably lead to a broadening of the field of research to include other issues that currently are—and will continue to be—at the heart of political, environmental, cultural, and economical debate around the world, including the management of radioactive waste, energy-production and -consumption policies, the symbolic and material heritage of military and civilian nuclear plants, and the sheer vastness of the territories and resources involved in these programs. A group of “nuclear islands” where new models of preservation and coexistence are being explored have also been identified for closer study. The borders separating these islands from the areas that surround them represent critical points: rather than being political in nature they are more subtle, for they are defined by different forces, such as administrative decisions and scientific parameters.
The involvement of professionals in the fields of the humanities, science and architecture, who will be invited to give a lecture and engage in discussion both with the students and the instructor on the Manhattan Project topic, will greatly enrich UB’s academic activity and research. Students will be asked to develop their work through a different set of techniques that allow the MP to be explored and represented in all its richness and complexity: texts, storyboards, interviews, technical drawings, views, models, photographs, and videos. They will then be encouraged to intertwine the work developed in the classroom with fieldwork at one or more of the sites related to the MP.
The result of the year of research will be collected in a body of work bolstered by and intertwined with secondary research about the MP. This would ideally take the form of a book and an associated exhibition, and these would constitute important tools for disseminating the fruits of the proposed research to both specialist and general audiences.