IDA Major

Mourning Walk

While I am still figuring out if I want to call myself an artist, designer, or aspiring architect, I know my passion for creativity stems from the women in my life. Growing up around fiber artists and painters, I loved exploring materials and subjects, often in unstructured ways. It was (and is) my affinity for tinkering and doodling that piqued my curiosity in capturing spaces. My grandmother, Mumdee, champion of all things green and wild, is most responsible in my life for encouraging freedom of thought and play, but also consideration for the world around me. I think it’s due to her love for walks in the woods and along many coasts that I fell in love with projects that address the environment and community wellness as well as projects that are self aware and sustainable.  

Sustainable Design and Land Art have been massive influences in my interests and practice, allowing me to explore both ecological and human-centered disciplines. What I enjoy about Land Art is its assumed ephemerality, or at least the idea that at some point our work is at the mercy of time and the elements. Things are created and then reclaimed. Land Art either cultivates or challenges a sense of place, creates and dissembles expectations of a landscape. Sustainable Design, while fostering appreciation for the environment, allows for flexibility in thinking about scale. One can explore the potential for the sustainability of a material, such as seaweed, or the impact a new park might have on surrounding neighborhoods.  

As I continue to grow as a thinker working within the uncertainty of creative titles, I’ve found my practice is largely driven by conversations and collaborations with those around me. This gives me hope, because I truly believe for design to be sustainable and speak to a range of authentic experience it must include as many voices as possible. 

Side by Side Comparison digital drawing and collage. 4000 x 2250 px.

I believe my natural inclinations towards narrative and nostalgia are responsible for my interests in memory and space making. In considering a “total environment,” rather than just a social or ecological one, I am able to synthesize my interests in community building and individual experience, all whilst incorporating what I see as necessary principles of climate responsibility and adaptation. As I move forward in my practice I am always looking to experiment with different scales and ideas, whether that’s the sustainability of a material, or the social impact of a project on a community.  I am a student concerned with scarcity and resources in relation to building, and enjoy being challenged to think at different scales and for different cultural/community needs. I see Design and Architecture as a way to collaboratively tackle issues facing society today. 

Mourning Walk, my thesis project, rethinks the quintessential American graveyard, and instead proposes a climate appropriate space that houses a rhythmic wall constructed of bricks made from a mixture of human cremation (ashes) and adobe. The project exemplifies my interest in finding solutions to issues that exist in both quotidian and emotionally saturated spaces. In this project I was able to combine knowledge of geology, ecology, environmental science, and design to create something that abstracted familiar forms to create a climate appropriate space to mourn and build community, as well as rethink how we consider the body as a material.   

Brick Making Process digital drawing. 4000 x 2250 px.
Site Plan digital drawing. 4000 x 3289 px.
Plant Index digital collage, mixed media. 1500 x 844 px.

As I wandered Fairview Cemetery researching for this thesis, I was reminded of walks in Mumdee’s favorite graveyard. A main event of those walks was seeing the daffodils erupt on the hillside each spring. As I looked around me in Fairview, none of the landscaping looked native. I wondered how one would connect to this space authentically. This presented an opportunity to address both the issue of water scarcity and the task of creating a sense of place. Xeriscaping, or climate appropriate landscaping, saves precious resources and allows visitors to develop an appreciation for the climate they live in.  

MUM DIZZLE digital collage. 1500 x 844 px.

Mourning walk not only addresses resource scarcity in the west- grief and mourning, in short dying, in America is an expensive, inaccessible, and lengthy process. What I enjoyed most about Mourning Walk was brainstorming ways to make the idea not only accessible from a monetary perspective, but also palatable for those open to experimenting with burial forms. I believe cultivating a sense of place is one of the strongest ways to build community, and after a year marked by incredible loss I believe building support systems around grief is more important than ever. It was through non-serious play with clay, torn up tea boxes, and paper that I found a form that reminded me of Maya Lin and Richard Serra’s sinuous works. Inspired by them, my form draws visitors along the wall whilst encouraging respite in the gentle eddies and formed by the curves. As I continue to imagine Mourning Walk as a genuine and earnest idea, I benefit greatly from the many voices of the Art Department at CC, as well as loved ones beyond this campus.