An intensive survey of the most desolate regions of the North American interior from Canada to Mexico. These territories are the seat of disproportionate political power as they are a core of the American identity and narrative and have the ability to create, reflect, and distort national and international ideals.  Growing populist tendencies in these lands are highlighting a divide which is reverberating globally. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route will be used as a research process to study the relationships between sublime landscapes, the sparse architecture which nestles and dots these landscapes, the people who inhabit these spaces, and the way in which these environments shape and are shaped by their ideologies. The bike is slow and vulnerable enough to intensely engage and understand a people and a place, and yet, is fast enough to cover many territories to gain the insights of context and transition. Interviews, photographs, cartographies, and models will tell the story of the Great Divide.


A vast division has just been revealed before us. Shifting economic landscapes and the problems they present in the small towns of the rural hinterland were overshadowed by urban obsession. Yet, power still pools in the territories of agrarian production and the desolate mountains of ‘Real America’. These are the lands that still have the say. And this is by design.

These times require us to take an introspective look at the relational dynamics established in North America to frame the global perspective. The populist instincts of small town America determine how we intervene in foreign affairs and trade, and how the global community perceives us. How have the spaces of the rural affected these leanings? How will this affect space and architecture?

As algorithms have defined bubbles for us to inhabit, digital space is distorting reality. Fake news and echo chamber comment sections entered the civic realm with force, yet this digital space has served to overwhelm an already low amount of understanding between the rural and urban. As the politics of the countryside drives us away from globalism we must better understand why that urge exists. We must stop to look inside to inspect the spaces of division and global influence to find solutions. As Aaron Betsky stated: "Architecture that constructs a better world, not better bubbles, is the true task in this new year."

Our cities intertwine with their hinterlands with vigor and regularity. More and more, architects must face a dichotomy of cultures as the fabric of our centrifugal city and suburbs extend out into the rural, as we extend our ideas into the countryside, and as our actions extend into international dialogues. Many architects now exist on this divide, even as it grows.

I am proposing to help begin to bridge this gap by providing tools of understanding. In the summer of 2017, I will be cutting a cross section through North America to explore the depths and spaces of this divide and the cultures of our country and our neighbors through an architectural lens. I will be riding over 3,000 miles on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff, Canada to Torreón, Mexico. Two weeks in Canada and Mexico will provide contrasting bookends for studies in rural spaces internationally. The bicycle is the best way to steep in local culture and an experience which promotes incidental and authentic interactions with distinct others. 

Gradients of landscapes, ideologies, and architecture will unfold along the way. My goal is to produce an ethnography through drawings, cartographies, models, photography, and interviews with architects from Canada to Mexico. Work produced from this journey will contribute to an understanding of our neighbor’s countryside and our own while providing insight to the spaces and landscapes which help form these ideologies. This study will create a space of complete otherness that distorts distance, time, landscapes, architecture, and relational proximities to allow for a thorough exploration of the division that has been revealed before us.


These investigations are to be nonpartisan while showing the architectural space and vastness of the North American interior for what they are. The inclusion of the Canadian and Mexican countryside will likely provide for a flip which bookends and highlights aspects of the American. Interviews with Architects in these areas will stitch together a narrative of practice in these politically sensitive times.

The work produced from this trip is meant to bridge understanding just as much as it may be to celebrate the rural condition that has always been a defining feature of the American psyche. Ultimately we must begin to work together as a nation and understand the causes of the divide in our country and to break through our bubbles. We must work to take the space between us and reduce it however we can. These actions have a global impact through effects and actions on climate change, immigration, and community building.

It is up to us to determine the level of agency we take in creating communities across cultural boundaries within the city as well as within our countryside.

To confront these ideas, I am designing an active, informal space that measures in thousands of miles rather than feet which promotes intense study and interaction. The Great Divide mountain bike route becomes the medium through which I investigate the greatest divide our country has experienced since the Civil War. It is a research method to understand the rural places and people beyond our cities and their attitudes expressed through their architecture. It is a medium to soak in the vast landscapes and analyze its spatial relationships.

A bicycle tour is the ideal method for this exploration. Baked into the process is a vulnerability that lends itself well to unexpected interactions. People from the other side of the fence openly enter this space and create moments of authenticity. Strangers from all walks of life begin to open themselves to you along the way. They invite you into their homes and communities with a level of trust I’ve never encountered. Temporary communities form as other riders meet along the way and at campgrounds. Sometimes these communities last longer as you see the same riders night after night and sometimes these communities become a family as another rider joins you on the voyage for weeks at a time. The nature of these interactions allow for a comfort that makes conversation and documentation of the events genuine as people let their guards down.


The ultimate goal for this research project is to produce findings for public evaluation in an exhibit. Methods may vary as conditions allow, but the core of productions is as follows:  


-Scaled physical representations of the spaces of the American interior will be important to create a strong impression of the landscape and to create a continuous foundation for additional explorations

-A field of 3D-printed landscapes will give a sense of the varied landscapes while providing an idea of the sectional qualities of the sites of study. Landscape models may also begin to convey the data of political power of the American interior by mixing the representational power of a land with its scale

- Architectural models of buildings most useful to the discussion will punctuate the field of landscape models to allow for the context around to permeate the architectural.


-Important architectural sites will be included through analytical drawings. Works will take ideas discussed and overlay them with the architectural significance found. Mobile apps now allow for quick documentation of floor plans for use in drawings.

-Cartographies exploring relationship and experience will be included. Some may have been of necessity during the trip. Drawings conducted in the field will also be included.

-Photography of the architectural spaces which exist along the Divide is the focus of the exhibit. I will follow the tradition of Ed Ruscha in documenting the spaces and buildings of the route as frequently as possible 

-Photographs of buildings interiors and their owners will serve to link the ideas of architecture and the space of personal ideas.

-Photographs of campsites, landscapes and touring activities will showcase the temporary communities we come across as well as explore ideas of mobile architecture. 360 Degree photos (funding dependent) may allow for the viewer to be fully immersed in the environment.

Click here for photos from past tours.

(Funding Dependent Due to Time Restrictions)

-Interviews will be completed with the general public discussing their homes, places of work, and communities. What priorities they have on architecture and politics will take focus. -

    © 2017