The Center for Land Use Interpretation: "More To Be Discovered Than We Have Ever Imagined"

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CLUI Archive photo

Founded in 1994, The Center for Land Use Interpretation is both an essential and furtive organization. In the Center's 2006 publication Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, founder Matthew Coolidge shares his hope that after reading the book, "You forget about us–the Center." What matters to Coolidge is that after an encounter with the Center, "You come away with a widened sense of awareness of the physical world that surrounds you." Aside from its physical locations scattered across the country, the Center provides an online Land Use Database of "unusual and exemplary sites throughout the United States." The database catalogues sites as diverse as an abandoned pyramid project in Bedford, Indiana and the Cannikin nuclear test site on Alaska's Aleutian Island Chain. As an ongoing project, the Center is dedicated to the creative interpretation of America's already radically transformed and continually changing landscape and utilizes a decentralized model of research and inventory.

Abandoned Pyramid Project in Bedford, IN

Overlook offers this explanation of how locations are selected: "The Center regards a site as 'unusual' if it stands out as unique, extraordinary, singular, rare, or exceptional. An example might be a piece of land art of a plutonium processing facility. A site is considered 'exemplary' if it serves well to represent a more common type of land use, if it is especially articulate, descriptive, coherent, or concise. Or if it represents an apogee of its type: perhaps it's the first, the largest, the smallest, or has some other superlative quality."

Essential to the Center is the process of interpretation without the burden of encyclopedic objectivity. It offers residencies to a variety of interpreters, who engage in a creative process of understanding and interpretation. The Center ...

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