Leighton Beaman awarded 2016 MacDowell Colony Fellowship

Through a systematic manipulation of landscape, humans account for the fastest geological transformation of the Earth’s surface in its 4.54 billion year history. Anthropogenic activity is responsible for the re-formation of more of the Earth’s surface than all other agents combined. Through agricultural and industrial practices - mining, farming, grazing, and damming - combined with formations and functions traditionally held within the domain of environmental design - habitation, occupation, assembly, and transportation - humans have steadily increased the depth of the Earth’s anthropocentric event layer to over 2,000 meters. Historically, these changes occur outside the temporal and spatial scales considered by environmental design disciplines.

Human beings already operate as geomorphic agents, directly reshaping the surface of the Earth to provide capacities not currently or adequately available. The Speculative Landforms Project (SLP) treats this activity as a design problems by expanding the operability and agency of environmental design practice via historical inquiry, simulation, and representation. SLP builds on previous research - The Landformation Catalogue, which examines generative methodologies of, and resulting spatial artifacts from, human landform manipulation. This research was the focus of an exhibition at the Harvard University in 2015, and the subject of a book currently in development. By contrast SLP is projective, utilizing an analysis of existing/ongoing anthropogenic activity to create future conditions.