A monument to outlast humanity

A monument to outlast humanity
Heizer, a pioneer of the earthworks movement, began “City” in 1972. A mile and a half long and inspired by ancient ritual cities, it is made from rocks, sand, and concrete mined and mixed on site / © Jamie Hawkesworth

In the Nevada desert, the pioneering artist Michael Heizer completes his colossal life’s work.

“City” is a monumental architectonic work, with dimensions comparable to those of the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., and a layout informed by pre-Columbian ritual cities like Teotihuacan. Heizer started it in 1972, when he was in his late twenties and had already established himself as an instigator of the earthworks movement, a group of artists, including Robert Smithson and Walter De Maria, who made totemic outdoor sculptures, often in the majestic wastelands of the American West. “City” is made almost entirely from rocks, sand, and concrete that Heizer has mined and mixed on site. The use of valueless materials is strategic, a hedge against what he sees as inevitable future social unrest.

“My good friend Richard Serra is building out of military-grade steel,” he says. “That stuff will all get melted down. Why do I think that? Incans, Olmecs, Aztecs—their finest works of art were all pillaged, razed, broken apart, and their gold was melted down. When they come out here to fuck my ‘City’ sculpture up, they’ll realize it takes more energy to wreck it than it’s worth.”

It is either perfect or perfectly bizarre that Heizer’s sculpture, a monument meant to outlast humanity, is flanked by an Air Force base and a bomb-test site; in recent years, the land surrounding “City” was under consideration for a railroad to convey nuclear waste to a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain.

As it happened, Senator Harry Reid, a dedicated opponent of Yucca Mountain and an advocate for public lands, fell in love with Heizer’s crazily ambitious project and its quintessentially Nevadan setting. “I decided to go and look at it,” Reid told me. “Blew out two tires. I just became infatuated with the vision that he had.” Last summer, at Reid’s urging, President Obama declared seven hundred and four thousand acres of pristine wilderness surrounding “City” a national monument, meaning that it will be protected from development, including a nuclear rail line, for as long as the United States exists. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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