A Miracle in the Desert
de Mark Campbell
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It’s difficult to appreciate how malodorous the Salton Sea is without actually visiting. Formed in the early 1900s when the Colorado River was accidently diverted into California’s Imperial Valley, the rampant architectural speculation of the ‘Salton Riviera’ — a ‘Palm Springs with water’ — soon faded with the toxic reality of 140 deg. summers and apocalyptic wildlife die-offs. Fed solely by polluted agricultural runoff, the stench of millions of rotted Tilapia fish has been literally been baked into every surface. Shoreline properties remain the cheapest. During 2011-2 Intermediate 1 extended our fascination with the architectural extremities and cultural oddities by examining this ‘accidental sea’. Acting as ‘archaeologists of the immediate future’ — to paraphrase Reyner Banham — our forensic examinations uncovered misplaced artifacts, dilapidated architectural precedents, and images of past declines and future glories.
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