Spatializing our Midwest
Lab Coordinator Brendan Ayer (MLA ‘20), Molly McCahan (MLA ‘22)
Attempting to spatially define the Midwest quickly produces a territorial fuzziness frustrating to those who seek a recognizable frame. The Midwest escapes clear demarcation, existing as an anti-region, or a territory continually out of focus, often oversimplified and homogenized because of its ambiguous nature. Without a clear definition, it is tempting to allow other, more characteristically distinct regions - Appalachia, the Great Lakes, the Plains - to disassemble and subsume the space between them. Yet this fuzziness or variation between better-defined regions exists because the Midwest is complex - it is the result of a collision of materials, cultures, and natural systems resulting in a rich, varied environment that is far from flat or invariable.
We earnestly believe that between here and there is better than either here or there. We strive to unsettle the common narrative of our region’s flatness or ubiquity and instead celebrate its complexity. We seek to understand and showcase our particular Midwest through design research and scholarship. Our particular Midwest is made up of many individual places, pieces, and conditions worthy of study - it is at once urban, rural, renewed, forgotten, productive, infrastructural, post-industrial and ecological. The complexity and varied nature of our region - its particularities - should be acknowledged, and we strive to work within these places to expand how the Midwest is seen.