OWENS LAKE Symbiosis: infrastructural ruralism

To wrap up the collective reading of my chapter, ‘Reconstructing the Void: Owens Lake’ from The Infrastructural City organized by Mammoth, here is my 2005 MLA/MArch University of Pennsylvania thesis project. #mammothbook


What is infrastructure’s cultural role in the rural landscape?

  • How to adapt static large-scale civil projects into dynamic emergent systems?
  • How to adapt single use infrastructure to multiple uses?
  • How to transform infrastructure into an evident contributor of place?


RURAL: places that human activities are sufficiently present to be obvious, but with a low population; contrasted to wilderness where the traces are few and far between. [http://roadless.fs.fed.us]

SYMBIOSIS: Two or more dissimilar organisms living together in close association with one another.

PARASITISM, where one of the organisms harms the other(s),

MUTUALISM, where association is advantageous to all

where association is advantageous to one organism but doesn’t affect other organism(s). [www.ucbiotech.org/glossary]

Project goals:

Design a water containment system (levees, dams, channels, and earthworks) to create a low-salinity/deeper pool in the lakebed, fed by the Owens River & mitigation.

Nearby, design structures & access network for the inhabitation and the intimate experience of the lake (observation, sleeping, eating, et cetera) that engage the landscape and visitors.


Ephemeral habitation of the Owens Lakeshore and the Los Angeles Aqueduct.


Foreign Tourists
Hang Gliders/Sail Planers
Cultural Heritage Tourists

Only the Snowy Plover is accommodated within the current mitigation process. No other animal/plant has been considered.

How to make this place useable by people and other critters?


Develop an Infrastructure that has a cultural role & multiple uses
Mitigate the impact of the Los Angeles Aqueduct:

  • Reclaim Owens Lake through partitioning the basin into a brackish lake and a hypersaline lake
  • Tie Owens Lake and the Los Angeles Aqueduct together with a system for ephemeral habitation and occupation


Here is the November draft of my thesis proposal that was approved by my Committee.

The final presentation...


Please contact me if you are interested in higher rez versions of my boards.

3 thoughts on “OWENS LAKE Symbiosis: infrastructural ruralism

  1. Pingback: reading the infrastructural city: chapter one index – updated 5.5 – mammoth // building nothing out of something

  2. Mr. Lehrman:

    my name’s Dan Wynne. I teach California Geology at the Sacramento City College. I saw your blog piece about Owens Lake from April this year.

    Would you be willing to send me some of the high-res stuff to use in teaching the students? You have both good “existing condition” graphics and great “what it could be” ideas.

    Dan Wynne
    adjunct prof, Sacramento City College

  3. Hi,
    your project is awesome. I am a landscape student too and interested in selecting Urmia lake as my thesis topic. Lake Urmia, in north-western Iran is the largest Lake in the Middle East and It is remarkable for the extreme salinity of its waters. But the lake is drying up due to combination of drought and the construction of dams on rivers feeding the lake.
    I would be glad to have your high resolution of your boards and be talk with you about some concerns and design ideas to restore these lakes.

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