Places

About
Foundation
Partner Schools
Print Archive
Peer Review
Submissions
Donate
Contact


Departments

Critique
Essays
Gallery
Interviews
Multimedia
Partner News
Peer Reviewed
Poetry & Fiction
Projects


Topics

Architecture
Art
Books
Cities + Places
Community
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Film + Video
Food
Geography
Health + Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Infrastructure
Landscape
Photography
Planning
Politics + Policy
Preservation
Public + Private
Reputations
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
Urbanism
Water



Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact




Gallery: Brian Rosa & Adam Ryder

The Edge of Light: Wendover




Two thousand miles west of New York City, Interstate 80 crosses the final hurdle of the Rocky Mountains, the Wasatch Range, and drops down onto the Great Basin that covers much of the interior West. On the last day of a week-long road trip, we passed Salt Lake City and drove two more hours across the Bonneville Salt Flats, a startlingly white and largely featureless expanse — a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville — eerily geometrical in its flatness. Signs on the shoulder warned us not to fall asleep at the wheel. We were on our way to Wendover, Utah, to participate in the artist-in-residence program at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, which maintains an outpost in this isolated but historically important pocket of the West.




Bifurcated by the state line, Wendover, Utah, and West Wendover, Nevada, form a community that straddles the border of nowhere and nowhere. Established in 1906 as a maintenance stop on the Western Pacific Railroad, early Wendover was home to a small population of rail workers and miners. A couple of decades later, William Smith, proprietor of a service station — then Wendover’s sole business — literally hit the jackpot when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. Smith converted his shop, which was right on the state line, into the Stateline Casino, today the Wendover Nugget. The Nugget was soon joined by four other casinos on the Nevada side, which collectively form the area’s economic backbone. West Wendover is comparatively populous and financially prosperous, with suburban-style tract housing, a golf course and a shopping center. Cross into Utah, though, and Wendover is economically restricted by the state’s gambling and alcohol laws; the town has little business of its own. Residents, mostly Latinos, commute across the border to work in the casinos.

Prosperity here was not always so uneven. During World War II, Wendover, Utah, was host to the largest bombing range in the country, training bomber crews across the vast desert. It was from the Wendover Army Air Field that Col. Paul Tibbetts took off in the Enola Gay, bound for Guam and then Hiroshima. The war effort boosted the town of 200 people into a small city, with its own hospital, library, interfaith chapel, bowling alley and multiple movie theaters. At its height Wendover housed 23,000 military personnel in 668 buildings. After Japan’s surrender, the air field became obsolete and fell into disrepair. The Air Force departed for good in the ‘60s and ceded the derelict property to the city. Today only two dozen of the military buildings remain.

The unique topography of the region, which lies at the foot of the Toana mountain range and the Leppy Hills, offers the opportunity for unexpectedly dynamic vistas. Trudging up to the promontories that loom over town, we had oblique views of the city, of the perfectly straight and flat stretch of Interstate 80 through the salt flats and of the monolithic communication arrays. From this vantage on a clear day, we found ourselves at one of the few points where the earth’s curvature can be seen on the horizon with the naked eye. At night, while the Utah side was nearly lightless, the casinos and hotels and parking lots on the Nevada side glowed bright as day, projecting a harsh screen of light on newly built tract housing, piles of concrete rubble from building demolitions and the mountains beyond.

In this gallery we present a collection of nighttime photographs of Wendover that record our investigations of the area. We explored the interstitial, unoccupied spaces at the edges of the interstate, among the ruins of the military base, and between the nightlife zones and the casino workers’ tract housing. We set out to document the ambient light emitting from commercial, municipal and residential light sources in an attempt to find a mythical “edge of light“ in the high desert.


Editors' Note

For more on work originating at the Center for Land Use Interpretation's residency program in Wendover, see Martin Hogue's research on the Bonneville Flats and the land speed record, published in Places in August 2010.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Writing on the Wall


Paju Bookcity: The Next Chapter


Expect Everything


Beyond Zuccotti Park: Making the Public


Design with the Other 90%: Cities



RSSSubscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (5)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

I currently live in Utah and while I visit Wendover, Nevada fairly often, I didn't know Wendover, Utah existed!

Fascinating photography! The idea of the mythical "edge of light" is very inspiring.
Jonathan
02.10.11 at 04:08

Wonderful photos! They make me think of what an early moon settlement would look like.
Mark S Fisher
02.12.11 at 08:40

The only drawback is not being able to view these gems full screen. Wrote a short review here: http://camusliveart.blogspot.com/
Great work.
Camus Live Art
02.15.11 at 06:32

Thanks for the comments, Jonathan and Mark.

Regarding Camus' comment, if anyone would like to see larger versions of any of these images, email one of us and we'll send them along.
Brian Rosa
02.15.11 at 06:38

Excellent photos. The first photo reminds me of Bara-dur from Lord of the Rings, and Sauron's red eye tops it off. Ominous, but well presented.
Andrew Riley
02.26.11 at 08:25



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




Donate to Places: Your Support Makes Our Work Possible



ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

Photographers Brian Rosa and Adam Ryder set out to find a mythical "edge of light" among military barracks and casino workers' tract housing in the high desert.
View Slideshow >>

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Rosa is a photographer and Ph.D. researcher in human geography at the University of Manchester.
More Bio >>

Adam Ryder is a photographer and graduate student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City whose work investigates architecture, urbanism and science fiction.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE ON American West


From the American West to West Berlin
On Places, Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern explore the "border crossings" of Wim Wenders — the director's cinematic journeys from Paris, Texas to the West Berlin of The Wings of Desire.

800 Miles: Photographing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
On Places, a portfolio of photographs by Peter Bo Rappmund, who has documented nearly every mile of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Heavy Metal
On Places, photographer Dennis DeHart traces the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes through one of the world's largest and most contaminated historic mining districts.

Look Only at the Movement
On Places, a documentary project by Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio, focusing on the materiality of nuclear waste transport.

Walking the Darkness Home
On Places, Adelheid Fischer recounts a journey to the Grand Canyon — to a dangerous and redemptive place that by turns epitomizes and defies the expectations (and clichés) of the famous landscape.

Resurveying the West
On Places, a slideshow of images of the American West by the New York-based photographer Victoria Sambunaris and the 19th-century pioneer William Henry Jackson, curated by Aaron Rothman.

Camino del Diablo
On Places, photographer Mark Klett journeys along the Camino del Diablo in the Sonoran Desert, much of which is now a bombing range, and finds a landscape of forbidding danger and compelling beauty.

Nowhere and Everywhere: The Landscape of the Colorado Delta
On Places, planner Armando Carbonell explores, in aerial photographs, the fragile yet resilient landscapes of the Colorado River Delta.

Above Lake Las Vegas
On Places, aerial photographs of the bankrupt luxury communities of Lake Las Vegas, by Michael Light.

We Are in a Western Town
On Places, Aaron Rothman explores the enduring power of the photographs of Robert Adams, and what they reveal about the paradoxical landscape of the American West.

Drylands: Water and the West
On Places, an essay and slideshow by Peter Arnold and Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute, on what they call "the largest and least understood environmental challenge of the 21st century."

If There Be Such Space
On Places, a slideshow drawn from a collaborative exhibition by two photographers who share an interest in the perception and representation of natural landscapes.

Thirsty City
On Places, Austin Troy assesses the massive infrastructure required to bring water to the arid American West — and the huge amount of energy that makes it possible to take a shower in Los Angeles.

The Hills Are Alive
On Places, Michael Branch reflects on how deeply photography and film shape our landscape aesthetics (and how much he detests the Alpine-worshipping The Sound of Music).

Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City
On Places, Andrew Ross analyzes the contradictory political and economic forces that once made Phoenix the fastest-growing city in the U.S. — and today a prime casualty of the crash.

Water in the West
On Places, a slideshow from the collaborative photography project Water in the West, with an introduction by Mark Klett.

The Half-Life of History
On Places, writer William Fox and photographer Mark Klett document the semi-ruin of the WW II military airfield at Wendover, Utah, where the U.S. Air Force trained for the bombing of Hiroshima.

Views Across Time
On Places, an interview with photographer Mark Klett and a slideshow from his ongoing rephotography project, with views across time of the American West.

Soundscapes: Burning Man
On Places, a selection of soundscapes — ranging from dust storms to diesel generators — recorded by architect Nick Sowers at the latest Burning Man.

Burning Man and the Metropolis
On Places, Nate Berg looks at Burning Man, and how a beach party in San Francisco mushroomed into a week-long temporary city of 50,000 out in the Nevada desert.

Land, Speed and Bonneville
On Places — coinciding with Speed Week at Bonneville — a gallery created by architect Martin Hogue documents decades of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats of western Utah.

Las Vegas
Writer and critic William L. Fox reviews Las Vegas, by Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern, probing the improbable success of the gambling-entertainment world-city constructed in the midst of the Mojave.

Urbanizing the Mojave
America's greatest boomtown has gone bust. Architects Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern explore the cultural and environmental consequences of the rapid expansion of Las Vegas into the Mojave Desert, tracing a troubled history of mining, militarization, tourism, and water politics.