UC Berkeley (Nick)



Aug '08 - Jun '10

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    big BIG news

    Nick Sowers
    Oct 13, '08 2:15 AM EST

    So last Wednesday, I received an email that has re-arranged my life plans (for the next year and a half at least). I have been announced as one of three winners of the John K. Branner Fellowship, a year-long travel grant ($35,000 award) that the department gives out to students in their final year. The deal is that you travel for the calendar year, returning in January 2010 (that sound so ridiculously far away) to finish your thesis project. So far what I have in mind for thesis (to explore the notion of defensible space in the 21st century) and what I proposed for my traveling fellowship (to look at military spaces, both occupied and reclaimed) are pretty much one and the same objective. Tradition has it that Branner winners, after a soul-searching journey across the globe, come back and do a thesis project quite different from what they planned, and often to far lesser degree of resolution than other students who worked continuously on a thesis that started in the fall.

    So, yeah, wow, this is amazing. I'm floored. I hardly know how to handle this thing. It's so immense. Even if I produced a detailed itinerary, there are so many more decisions to make, and so much other stuff I want to see besides the content of the proposal. Here's the map I produced (a modified version of this one)


    At a later date I will post my proposal as a PDF in case anyone is curious about the specific itinerary.

    and this is the kind of thing I'm going to look at:


    an image from a British newspaper about the Maginot line (source: Mallory, Architecture of War)

    I'm really fascinated by what Trevor Paglen calls the Black World, basically any military space which is land that you cannot see (or if so, only in a compromised way) nor occupy. I accept that I'm not going to get inside any of these bases, despite how much I want to see the "America Town" of Burger Kings and KFC and whatnot in the middle of a base. So I'm looking not so much at the military space but at the interface between military and civilian space.

    Oh, and I'm going to some way-out there spots like the Azores, Guam, Iceland, Okinawa, and the Aleutian Islands....

    It will be a trip.

    ps, Angel Island is on fire


    • mao_04

      That's a great news. Congratulation.

      Oct 13, 08 3:12 am  · 

      Nick that is awesome.
      Sounds you like an interesting idea to explore and would be interested in seeing the actual proposal.
      But mor eimportantly sounds liek you are about to have an amazing year traveling all over the globe..


      Oct 13, 08 8:08 am  · 

      wow... what a great opportunity... congratulations...

      you might want to contact javier arbona... if i remember correctly, his phd dissertation topic has something to do with militarized or demilitarized spaces, so he may have some good ideas for things to visit...

      Oct 13, 08 9:29 am  · 

      congratulations. sounds like an amazing opportunity. i'm sure you've looked into virilio's bunker archeology

      Oct 13, 08 11:38 am  · 

      Congrats Nick, sounds like a great opportunity. What's your wife going to do?

      Oct 13, 08 3:01 pm  · 

      thanks everyone! I feel really lucky, no doubt I'm in the right place at the right time. Thank you also for the references, I in fact cited the Javinator's thesis in the proposal (Puerto Rico is on the itinerary) and Virilio's work has me itching for a couple weeks on the coast of France to camp out among some bunkers.

      WonderK asks the question of the hour... what will my wife do? She sees the world in a totally different way than I do, so I think for that reason plus the more obvious ones, she would effectively double the possibilities and richness of the trip. On the other hand, she has a great job which she loves and wants to keep. We discussed this a bit before applying but now of course we have to start making decisions.

      Oct 13, 08 5:57 pm  · 
      liberty bell

      Congratulations, Nick. That is an amazing opportunity, and a great time to be seeing what is going on in the rest of the world. Have a blast!

      Oct 13, 08 9:48 pm  · 

      Congratulations Nick - your project sounds excellent and, if you keep the blog going during your travels, it should be a fascinating contribution to archinect. Archinect Travels + School Blogs = vicarious inspiration. We're the lucky ones.

      Oct 14, 08 10:44 am  · 

      way to go, nick! what a wonderful opportunity for you. keep blogging and post photos! many photos.

      Oct 14, 08 12:27 pm  · 

      "I'm jealous," need I say more? Congrats man.

      Oct 14, 08 3:41 pm  · 

      Nick, good luck with your decision, which I can only imagine must be difficult. Hard to imagine walking away from a job in this climate but it would be a fabulous trip for the both of you. I am in a long-distance relationship at the moment so I sympathize :o/

      Oct 14, 08 4:37 pm  · 

      Hi Nick, just read your blog since last time, and congratulations! This is great news!



      Oct 18, 08 11:34 pm  · 

      Great opportunity. Why don't you select some tropical destination to travel? It will be a different experience for you.
      photographer reading

      Jan 3, 10 10:59 pm  · 

      You can easily carry few friends with you with such a large amount of money. You don't have to bother about spending.

      Jan 6, 10 11:12 am  · 

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