Regional Facilities Report
6235 The CLUI Owens Lake Land Observatory is in the Swansea Dunes, a beach of windblown sand on the dry shore of Owens Lake. CLUI photo
THE CENTER OPENED ITS OWENS Lake Land Observatory at Swansea, in California’s Eastern Sierras, in February 2020. Unlike other observatories, which examine the sky from the land, this facility examines the land from the sky, presenting views, objects, and forms not immediately apparent from the ground.
 
The Land Observatory is based in the Owens Valley in order to explore the visual characteristics and phenomenology of the region, especially Owens Lake itself, which is a new landscape, engineered to control the effects of desiccation. The technologies being employed on Owens Lake by water managers on the lake surface produce a new vocabulary of terrestrial structures and effects that are in many ways unique, and on the vanguard of future mitigations, seeking to manage the results of human interaction with terrain on a local and global scale.
 
The Land Observatory was open on weekends over a five-week period, before closing in mid-March. We look forward to opening it to the public again in 2021.
 
6236 The lobby of the Land Observatory at Owens Lake. The water cooler provides refreshing DWP tap water, brought back upstream from Los Angeles. CLUI photo
A second structure was added to the site this year as well, an office trailer supporting research led by Alexander Robinson, of the University of Southern California’s Landscape Architecture and Urbanism program, who is also the principal of the Office of Outdoor Research and the Landscape Morphology Lab, in Los Angeles. Robinson has led field programs with students at Owens Lake for many years, and we are pleased to support his ongoing research in the region. 
 
In November 2020, some of the Center’s video landscans of Owens Lake were put on display at the Metabolic Studio’s Walter Hopps Curatorial Space, in the Owens Valley town of Lone Pine, California. The display is in the windows of the storefront, and should be visible to the public for some time into 2021, at 123 Main Street. (Metabolic Studio’s space is named after the curator Walter Hopps, who founded the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, in 1957, and over his career, guided other regional and national institutions through innovative moments in contemporary art. He died in 2005, and is buried in the Mount Whitney Cemetery, north of Lone Pine.)
 
The Center’s facilities at Wendover, Utah, have been closed for the 2020 season, for the first time since being established in 1996, due to the pandemic. Some of the structures underwent maintenance in the summer, but otherwise there was little CLUI activity there at all this year (though the casinos of West Wendover remained open for much of the year, and one of the old airbase buildings next to the Center’s flightline compound burned to the ground).
 
Likewise at the Center’s Desert Research Station, near Barstow, California, which was closed in March for the remainder of the year, due to the pandemic. More surveillance cameras were installed to keep an eye on the place from afar, and it was clear that visitors still came periodically, if only to walk the closed interpretive walking trail on the grounds. Some even made it inside the visitor center, and signed the guestbook. Where there is a will, there is a way. ♦
 
6237 Physically, if not socially distant painters, working on the phys-plant during the 2020 pandemic year of closure at CLUI Wendover. CLUI photo