Liam Merrigan

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17927 – Centralia’s New Frontier

Once a thriving rural mining settlement situated in Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region, Centralia suffered decline throughout the 20th Century caused by the collapse of a once profitable local industry. This typically American ‘Boom/Bust Cycle’ was aggravated by human negligence: a 250-year mine fire continues to extend beneath the town, leading to catastrophic degradation of the natural and built environment.

Despite a government order for homes to be demolished, a handful of people continue to inhabit the dilapidated structures. An alternative is imagined: houses capable of reacting to the volatile landscape are cobbled together from a toolkit of recycled parts and technological bolt-ons.

Total restriction of the town is imminent. In a speculative near future, the boundary of revoked ZIP code 17927 will mark a safety exclusion zone imposed by the state. A scheme is housed by a research facility devoted to Centralia’s unique mineralogy, providing income and safety equipment for local prospectors enlisted to gather samples from the wasteland.

Rather than to shift focus towards regeneration, the building demands a continued exploitation of an altered landscape whilst defending itself against the hazards it imposes. All available resources are utilised to support regional industry, as well as for the good of scientific discovery and welfare of a disadvantaged local population.

  • Filed under: Student Work 2014-15