California City, California (2014 - present)

This project focuses on California City, a master planned community in the Mojave Desert conceived by sociologist turned real estate developer Nathan K. Mendelsohn in 1958. California City was envisioned as the next major metropolis in California in response to the population and economic growths after World War II. This development was based on the belief that even in a harsh desert landscape, mankind had the freedom and power to produce a built environment that provided all of the essential needs for a prosperous modern life. Mendelsohn and his associates carefully designed the layout of 187 square miles that is still technically the third largest city in the state in terms of land size. The early promotional materials for the development also employed water as a recurring motif to emphasize the eventual creation of a water-rich wonderland. Today, California City exists as a place that has yet to meet the original ambition of its developer and the idyllic image that was promoted to the public. These photographs focus on the “second community” of California City, which is mostly uninhabited despite having a complex network of streets that stretch across the landscape. Aerial photography is used to document the scale of the vision Mendelsohn proposed in the desert and question whether this “wonderland” could have even been sustainable in this environment. Despite having the foundation for a city in place, there are no indications that this city will ever be realized in the future.

Using Format