landscape, that is, the human environment in which we live in, is constantly evolving and rewriting itself. The study of this
evolution and its subtle movements may yield critical information about who we are and where we’ve come from. However,
as with all historical narratives derived from critical analysis, some information is inevitably lost or overlooked; this
is Lost History. It is maintained in this thesis that the transient and/or momentary qualities in a landscape, such as Lost
History, are paramount to its comprehension. In this investigation, a methodology for the archiving of Lost History is outlined
and performed. The strategy involved incorporates the disciplines of Archeology, Historiography, Architecture, and Curatorship
to compose the narrative of a Lost History in physical form. It is argued that history can be given a form when the author
of an historical narrative embraces fiction and imagination. History does not necessarily need to be the direct recording
of facts in order to represent an historical account. With respect to this argument,
a case study at Point Isabel in Richmond,
CA, has been executed and reviewed.
Lost History: A Strategy
Architecture does not stand alone, but is part of a larger social and cultural landscape.
It is this broad, complex landscape that provides clues to our civil and industrial development (1). The cultural landscape
is much like theater, a play where architecture and artifact, as well as life, are manufactured and demolished daily. By studying
the layers of this theater, it is possible to extract narratives that sketch history. These narratives may be difficult to
realize and not necessarily whole, but they are nonetheless a cultural reflection (2). While the human landscape provides
clues, it does not always provide clear-cut and comprehensive evidence; therefore, the conventional archeological method of
extraction is no more of a science than a systematic interpretation (3). While all cultural artifacts in the landscape have
significance within a specific framework, many are not recognized or recorded. These elements, which have gone undetected
and unacknowledged, are to be considered Lost History, crucial to the subtle comprehension of a cultural landscape. For the
purpose of this investigation, Lost History is defined with the following parameters:
- That not otherwise popular, acknowledged, or recorded in the annals of mainstream cultural documentation, as
significant or deserving of, celebration and/or preservation.
- Stories or narratives for which the precise language or structure has been lost and/or confused over time.
- A vestige: that which exists or existed in an environment, left to go unnoticed and disappear.
- Broken archeology: unrecoverable information.
Elements in a given cultural
landscape defined as Lost History may have characteristics of the ephemeral, fleeting, momentary or transient. They may be
elusive, microscopic, or conversely, gargantuan monoliths. It is not the scale that determines the definition; it is the circumstance
in which these elements survive. In general, artifacts of Lost History are a result of human production and fabrication. Therefore,
they are most likely to be found within the cultural landscape. It is plausible, and most likely certain, that any site or
landscape will have residuals of Lost History. For instance, cigarette butts
or footprints may be considered Lost History when examined in a particular context to the site. These artifacts may be in
plain view, or fossilized under twelve inches of soil, for there is no rule to where Lost History may be found. Moreover,
there is no rule to the classification or grouping of artifacts identified as Lost History. Much like conventional archeology,
the set of constructs arrived at to examine a specific site are to be determined by the research team involved. Lost History
is a type of artifact-element, not a strategy for the interpretation of artifacts (4).
In this study, a strategy for archiving Lost History has been developed. As outlined in fig.1, the first phase is to identify the site and/or group of sites that are
to be examined. The site is the critical domain for where Lost History will be hunted, recovered, monitored and documented. Following the establishment of the site, a series of subject fields are delineated
in which the methods/processes and tools of each are to be employed during the archiving process. The responsibilities of
each subject field may be fulfilled by one individual throughout the entire archiving procedure, or, by independent groups
representing each field, respectively (5). Each subject field will yield a final product inherent to that field’s scope
of inquiry, aiding in the actualization of the archiving process. In example, after a site has been established, the Archeologist
will examine the site and formalize a specific artifact-element of Lost History. After which, the Archeologist will then use
the tools of their field such as maps, documentation instruments, containers, and so on, to recover these elements. Next,
the Archeologist will catalog each element and attempt to classify and identify its origins. As a result of their classification
and application efforts, the Archeologist will have registered an Artifact as their final product. The artifacts and information
extracted from the Archeologist’s investigation are then passed down to run their course in the next subject field.
In which case, the archiving process moves to the Historiographer, followed by the Historian.
The Historiographer, with a base of knowledge in the theories and discourse of history,
will ultimately determine how the element-artifact of Lost History is to be read in the schema of historical context and narrative.
The Historiographer’s job is to design a method for the evaluation, analysis and development of an historical narrative.
Because each subject field is entrenched in its own theoretical dialogue, the Historiographer will draw from each field’s
discourse to propose a common language for the narrative assembly, description, and representation of Lost History. As a final
product, the Historiographer’s work resembles a theoretical design that will guide the archiving process in the subsequent
With the artifact and historiography determined, the Historian will then start the process
of information retrieval. In the performance of archiving Lost History, the Historian acts like a detective, following leads,
interviewing witnesses, and shuffling through manuscripts. The Historian’s job is to search out any outside data not
found on site that pertains to the Lost History at hand. In some cases, there
may be an abundance of information readily available to the Historian. In other cases, there may be no recoverable information,
forcing the Historian to seek out unconventional leads. The Historian must
postulate Lost History as to Who, What, Where, When and Why, negotiating research that will strive to answer their questions.
In addition, not only will the Historian search for narrative material, but they will also document the entirety of the archiving
process. The end product of the Historian will be an account of the Lost History’s origins, morphology, accomplices,
and final conclusion, followed by the systematic creation and collection of the archiving production records (6).
In the next phase, the archiving process shifts to the Architect. While the practice
of architecture is generally not utilized in traditional archiving processes, its use as outlined in this strategy considers
architecture to be absolutely essential when investigating a cultural landscape (7). In which case, the Architect plays a
significant role in the study and creation of the archive. Unlike the previous subject fields, the Architect is to design
a new form sensitive to the Lost History in question. With the artifact-element, historiography, and history well established,
the Architect is left with both theory and data to consider for design. The Architect must then evaluate the sites’
geological conditions and position to determine how they might best represent Lost History with a tangible construction. In
some cases, it may not be feasible to work on site, or, there may be multiple sites which deserve special attention. This
determination is to be made on a case by case basis by the Architect, in collaboration with the other subject field’s
researchers. As each project is different and every architect arrives with a different range of sensibilities, the design
process will inevitably follow the judgment of the architect, so long as it fits within the scope of the project as outlined
by the previous subject fields. With the design of a new form for Lost History, the artifact-element is interpreted not only
by means of investigation, but architectural invention.
The final phase of the archiving process may be the most difficult, while at the same
time, the most important. The subject field designated as Curatorship straddles a line between institutional archives and
private collections. In both cases, the Curator-Collector takes on the responsibility
of artifact-element display and archive management. The term “archive” was first appropriated from the field of
archeology, originating from Sheppard Frere’s 1975 report, Principles of Publication in Rescue Archaeology (8). In Frere’s
report, “the archive” was meant to mean “the whole product of excavation organized in accessible form”,
rendering it, “capable of critical re-examination” (9). As it is outlined, the objective of this strategy for
archiving Lost History is the establishment of a collection that can be made available for future review and re-examination.
Due to the ephemeral nature of Lost History, it is possible that a particular artifact or evidentiary specimen could evaporate,
deteriorate, or disappear forever; in essence, Lost History can be lost more than once. Therefore, it is important for some
semblance of an archive collection to be maintained for future study. The fundamental job of the Curator-Collector is to preserve
the integrity of the archive, while at the same time, making it accessible to the general public for educational interests
if so desired by the institution. Moreover, the Curator-Collector must seek to acquire new material pertinent to the collection
should it become available. The role of the Curator-Collector is an active one where they are expected to interact daily in
the acquisition, disposal, conservation and organization of materials, such as artifacts, environmental evidence, and documentary
records (10). The scope of the collection and its management policy may differ
among various institutions, public and private; however, their goals must always be oriented toward archive preservation.
A strategy for archiving Lost History may appear to be more abstract than its definition.
As it has been alluded to earlier in this text, there are no definitive rules for how to locate a Lost History, or, how to
retrieve it once found. In some cases, it may even prove impossible to rescue. What
is important to note about this strategy is the way in which a History is formalized, from unacknowledged and undetected data,
to object-artifact. Through each phase of this process, the narrative of the object is transformed and redescribed during
the navigation of each subject field.
As time passes and the world around us changes, it does so without notice or warning.
The landscape grows, evolves and deteriorates, but not necessarily in that order. It is possible that the ocean was once a
desert and the desert an ocean; sites eat themselves irrelevantly, this much we know is true. Either by natural or human inertia,
the landscape breathes in and out, advancing and receding, depositing evidence of overlapping histories. Boulders to rock,
pebble to sand, the ground is pushing against the archeology of footprints and industry, weakening iron around the rivet.
Fossils look something like erector sets and goliath-cogs wedged in the dirt; the landscape is harboring secrets. The suggestion
is that the landscape around us is constantly changing, and we are active participants in its development. Archiving Lost
History is not necessarily about recording the facts, but acknowledging that which is fleeting about us.
Archiving Lost History:
A Case Study
For purpose of this study a section of the shoreline at Point. Isabel, located
in Richmond, California, was established as the primary
site for investigation. (see figs. 2-5) Point Isabel was formerly the dumpsite of The Technical Porcelain and Chinaware Co.
(TEPCO). As a major producer of china and restaurant ware, TEPCO could manufacture as many as 30,000 dishes a day. TEPCO was
a major producer of china for the Pacific Naval Fleet during WW2, as well as such notable restaurants like Trader Vic’s
and Mel’s Diner’s (11). In operation from 1918-1968, TEPCO employed a great number of El
Cerrito citizens, whose production efforts are still in use today in restaurants and homes nationally.
While the majority of TEPCO’s designs made it into circulation, those that were deemed flawed or unfit for sale were
dumped into the San Francisco Bay off
of Point Isabel. Walking along the shoreline, countless pieces of china fragments can be found set thick in the bay mud and
strewn about the shore. Today, the fragments found at Pt. Isabel represent what may be the last physical historical and archeological
link to the TEPCO china production process. In 1968, the TEPCO factory was demolished to make way for a new California Department
of Motor Vehicles branch office, in El Cerrito, CA. Therefore,
the DMV was also established as a secondary site. (see figs.5-9)
Walking along the coastline you can hear the subtle roll of waves sounding in spurts,
washing across the mud flats onto the aggregated shore, then receding back into themselves as if attempting to cancel. With
careful attention, listening past the wind and cars from nearby I-580, a faint sound can be heard as if in a restaurant kitchen.
The clatter of china against china lingers as though suspended somewhere over the Bay, perhaps even as far as the Golden
Gate. But you are not in a kitchen and the noise is more abstract, closer to you than anticipated; it is directly
under your feet. At first glance it’s not noticeable, but upon closer examination it is apparent that the shore is embedded
with china fragments; you are standing on china. These fragments are the result of approximately forty years of dumping by
TEPCO. (see figs.10-12) The shards exposed on shore are those that have managed to surface. The rest remain buried in the
earth above the shoreline, revealed only by sudden fits of storm or digging. Point Isabel has been designated a state park
as part of the East Bay Regional Parks District. While the park is fairly popular among dog owners and bicyclists, this part
of the park makes up only a small area which is rarely visited by anyone other than the occasional fisherman. This section
has gone largely unnoticed and sits as a quiet memorial to discarded restaurant ware; those who are familiar with the site
and its history call it TEPCO Beach.
With a site as provocative as TEPCO Beach,
the artifact-element of Lost History seemed readily apparent; it was the china fragments. However, on a site where there are
easily millions of artifacts to recover, the question of which fragments to extract was principal. After reviewing the artifacts
in their natural state and identifying common groupings, the Archeologist made the decision to take specimens exhibiting merit
in each of the following categories:
- Fragments exhibiting unique patterns and/or text, broken or whole.
- Whole artifacts, not broken.
- Artifacts at least 80% intact, so long as their aesthetic features are deemed worthy or significant upon initial
examination in the field.
- Fragments with considerable ware, demonstrating the effects of time and elemental erosion.
- Instruments of production: those artifacts found which aided in the production process, such as plaster slip
molds, sprues and kiln supports.
- Miscellaneous fragments that represent the impression of the overall site and production efforts of TEPCO, such
as coffee cup handles, saucer fragments, gravy boats, and bowls.
After identifying the areas
of greatest concentration, artifacts were removed by means of surface collection and shallow excavation. The objects were then carefully placed in transport bags or buckets and moved to an offsite location for
cleaning, examination and documentation. (see figs. 13 & 14) In the examination
process, artifacts were closely inspected for significant markings and patterns which could indicate dates of production and
style. (see figs. 15 & 15b) The artifacts were then photographed and separated by style and category as noted (1-6), in
preparation for archive placement.
Creative Displacement of Narrative
In the archiving of TEPCO Beach,
a theoretical principal was developed that focused on the composition of a narrative without a direct recording of facts as
historical account. It was determined that the most faithful way to represent historical narrative was by the displacement
of Lost History into a new space or form. The historical narrative is redescribed as a new construction with a new spatial
Nothing is important.
Nothing is a verb.
Fiction is not synthetic and
is not born of Nothing.
Architecture is written like
Spatial-fiction looks like
Imagination resembles spatial-fiction.
Imagination is the thinking
Fiction is the architecture
Narrative is an imaginary
Architecture eats narrative
Narrative is a material property.
Memory is the material of
Memory changes shape.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish
one thing from another.
Architecture is not magic
and magic is not architecture, When they meet they destroy each other.
With this language, the emphasis
is not on providing a direct narrative timeline, but a reinterpretation of the common elements generally used to create historical
accounts. Therefore, the artifact-element of Lost History symbolizes the seed
of a narrative, not its end result. And so, in composing a narrative to describe Lost History, imagination, invention and
three dimensional space merge to reproduce memory; history is reshaped into a tangible form.
History: Finding Witness
To realize TEPCO both industrially and culturally, it was necessary to do some investigative
research. The first step was to figure out where the china fragments at Point Isabel came from. This was accomplished by doing
a general search on the name TEPCO, as identified by the maker’s marks found during artifact examination. With the manufacturer
of these artifacts positively identified, it was possible to piece together strings of information by enlisting the aid of
local residents, amateur historians, and industrial archeologists. It was rumored that the TEPCO factory was originally located
on the site of the current El Cerrito DMV office. This information was later substantiated by reviewing planning and zoning
records found at El Cerrito City Hall.
(see fig.16) These records revealed the dates of the companies operations, as
well as original factory plans and upgrades. Local residents who had lived in El Cerrito
during TEPCO’s operation were familiar with the company and its dumping practices, lending reason for how these china
fragments arrived at Point Isabel. While little was revealed about the company itself, this research helped to identify the
origin and original production site of the artifacts recovered.
Column as Origin
In composing the narrative
for TEPCO, a proposal was made for an installation at the DMV site that redescribed Lost History through a set of visual references.
(see figs.17 & 18) Working directly with the Department of Motor Vehicles,
a strict set of guidelines was given for the type of interventions that would be allowed. The intervention could not be a
“trip hazard” or take up what they considered as valuable floor space. Furthermore, all interventions were to
be easily removable and unobtrusive to DMV patrons. In effect, this meant that the installation had to take on a two-dimensional
form. Therefore, the challenge was one of activating the space three-dimensionally with a set of two-dimensional operations.
(see figs. 19-25) In which case, the following interventions were proposed:
Sidewalk stencil designs,
generated from china fragments patterns found at Pt. Isabel, were to be applied to DMV entrance ways.
An exposed concrete column
in the lobby was to be covered with a photographic mural that replicated the low tide condition at TEPCO
Conceptually, by bringing
the essence of TEPCO elements from Point Isabel back to their site of origin, the El Cerrito DMV, the missing link is reconstructed.
By calling attention to the column as ground, a reference is made to the evolution of the site; the narrative of production
is reversed. The column, structural and intrinsically vertical reflects the horizontal ground that is the byproduct of that
which came before it. In the case of the stencils, markings given to the china fragments in their production and later found
out of context are returned to their site of origin, even if that site no longer represents the same logic. In both cases,
the historical narrative is redescribed through the physical interaction with space. Even though these interventions may have
a strong conceptual agenda, they do not expressly explain their function. They exist only as aesthetically satisfying attributes
in the DMV office environment. The objective was to get DMV patrons to think about their immediate environment; to foster
imagination and intrigue inherent to historical narrative, without necessarily giving them a history lesson.
To continue the composition of the historical narrative, a second intervention was made
at Point Isabel. As a prelude to that intervention, it was necessary to perform various experiments and observations to better
understand the physical site conditions. This included tasks such as moving large rocks, observing tide patterns, and small
constructions. (see figs. 26-28) Each of these experiments helped to inform the
final composition of the narrative, which was the casting and launching of the Archeological Vessel (13). The vessel was conceived
as a sectional casting of the ground at TEPCO Beach.
Using a simple formwork and marine grade foam, a 12’x 6’x 6” cast of the ground was made that encapsulated
artifact-elements of TEPCO in their natural state (14). With the ground casting complete, the formwork was removed and the
casting tilted upright. It was then pushed onto the mud flat and anchored, where it would be subject to the tide cycles. (see
figs.29-49) In essence, by casting and launching the ground in this way, the narrative was redescribed as a direct translation
of Lost History, temporarily frozen in time. By launching the cast past the low tide line, the shoreline condition is exposed
when it is normally concealed during times of high tide. (see figs. 50-56) In
this way, the tide cycles become part of the archeology as well as the architecture, thus, establishing the Archeological
Vessel. In essence, the vessel is a new site that can be accessed and experienced in two ways, either by wading out to it
during high tide, or walking to it during low tide. If so desired, the vessel could be boarded at any time to endure the complete
By crafting space, time is crafted as well; the vessel is the manipulation of time,
space, and narrative. The vessel is left anchored on TEPCO Beach to be experienced, to float, and eventually deteriorate back
into the landscape; Lost History is translated into a new form, a new site, even if only temporarily. Much like the interventions
at the DMV site, the visitor to TEPCO Beach
is left to question the Archeological Vessel; no answers are provided. The landscape provides only fragmented clues. Therefore,
the visitor must find their own narrative for the vessel.
Curatorship: The Cabinet
“The most profound enchantment
for the collector is the individual locking of items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the
thrill of acquisition passes over them. …One has only to watch the collector handle the objects in his glass case. As
he holds them in his hands, he seems to be seeing through them into their distant past as though inspired.”
As indicated in the strategy for archiving Lost History, the end goal is the creation
of an archive that contains the artifact-elements and records of the entire survey. In this case, the archive took the shape
of a double-sided cabinet, specially fabricated for the artifacts in this investigation. (see figs. 57 & 58) It was determined
that the archive would become part of my own permanent collection, where I would take on the responsibility of the Curator-Collector.
The Cabinet was constructed with two sides. The front side has 7 drawers, 4 shelves and a television/DVD component (16). The
drawers are designated for incomplete artifacts, tools, samples, and documents. The shelves were designed to house complete
artifact-elements such as cups, bowls and platters. The back side has two case doors which open onto 110 specimen niches,
designed to display some of the more noteworthy artifacts in the archive. (see figs. 59-63)
The cabinet, in its own right, is a space, world, and a site of its own (17). Each shelf
or drawer contains a silent story. These stories represent a quiet narrative all to themselves, redefined only temporarily
by their placement in a collection; extracted by imagination. In the end, the cabinet as archive completes the cycle from
artifact to collection, lost to found, but it may never reveal the entire story. In Susan Pearce’s, Museums, Objects,
and Collections, she writes,
moving and significant to each of us as individuals, otherwise we would not keep them. What then is the nature of these pieces?
Souvenirs are intrinsic parts of a past experience, but because they, like the human actors in the experience, posses the
survival power of materiality not shared by words, actions, sights or the other elements of experience, they alone have the
power to carry the past into the present. Souvenirs are samples of events which can be remembered, but not relived. …Souvenirs, then, are lost youth, lost friends, lost past happiness; they are lost tears of things.
…They are an important part of our attempt to make sense of our personal histories, happy or unhappy, to create an essential
personal and social self centred in its own unique life story, and impose this vision on an alien world.” (18)
In the archive cabinet, much
like Pearce’s souvenir, the objects remain unspoken. Their acknowledgment as artifact does necessarily not make them
speak. Nevertheless, the cabinet is a tool for the continual questioning and reexamination of an historical narrative. It
is a box to be opened, a window to display that which is the memory of a history once lost and constantly escaping.
“The miracle of life
is cruelly circumscribed by birth and death; of the immensity of time before and after our own lives we experience nothing.
Past and future are alike inaccessible. But, though beyond physical reach, they are integral to our imaginations. Reminiscence
and expectation suffuse every present moment.”
David Lowenthal, The Past
is a Foreign Country.
As part of the human condition there will always be a desire to understand creation,
life, death and the cosmos. The design of historical narrative is just one attempt to do so. This
project has attempted to prove that a narrative need not be rooted in words to recall the past. In this investigation, the
redescription of narrative into three-dimensional space was meant to spark intrigue and imagination. For it is this spark
which transforms imagination into record, lending the narrative a real place in the body of historical time. While the strategies
and experiments employed in this investigation are far from perfect, they have been executed with an honest conviction that
history can be given a form, even when words and meanings prove to be elusive. If only for a moment history is caught and
fashioned into figure, we just might be able to hear the whispers.
1 See: Lewis, Pierce. 1979.
Axioms for Reading the Landscape. The Interpretation of ordinary landscapes : geographical essays. Ed. Jackson, John B., and
Meinig, D. W. ; New York: Oxford University
Press. p.12. Lewis writes that, “…all human landscape has cultural meaning, no matter how ordinary that landscape
may be.” In his text, Lewis also outlines ways of interpreting and/or deciphering cultural landscapes (Axioms).
2 Ibid. p.12. Lewis writes,
“Our human landscape is our unwitting autobiography, reflecting our tastes, our values, our aspirations, and even our
fears, in tangible, visible, form. We rarely think of landscape that way, and so the cultural record we have “written”
in the landscape is liable to be more truthful than most autobiographies because we are less self-conscious about how we describe
ourselves.” While it is often difficult to read landscape and landscape artifacts, with the proper attention a narrative
can start to develop.
3 In what I call, “conventional
archeology”, I am referring to an archeology of recovery and interpretation, most commonly used in museum practice and
exhibition (also known as processual and post-processual archeology. See Hodder, Ian. 1994. Reading the past : current approaches
to interpretation in archaeology.2nd ed. Cambridge ; New
York: Cambridge University Press.) In which case, archeology
is not a strict science, but a systematic method of constructing answers to questions, derived from the political contexts
of the researchers involved, and therefore, the answers arrived at are a “reflection not of the past, but of aspects
of the present.” (see Pearce, Susan M. 1992. Museums, objects, and collections:
a cultural study. Leicester: Leicester University Press pp.157-158
4 An “artifact-element”,
as defined in this investigation, can be either a physical object such as piece of pottery, or, an element not described by
physical form such as color, sound, or other such elements without a definitive object shape. While Lost History is , “not
a strategy for the interpretation of artifacts,” a strategy as explored in this investigation, does offer a plan to
archive and interpret Lost History.
5 To be determined by the scope of the investigation, at the discretion of the initiator of the archiving
6 The Historian will document the archiving process at his or her own discretion, understanding that each
project may require different techniques and approaches.
7 It is even possible that
the architect invented the archeologist, for who else would put the pieces back together again?
8 Pearce, Susan M. 1992. Museums, objects, and collections : a cultural study. Leicester:
Leicester University Press. p.120.
9 Pearce, Susan M. 1990. Archaeological curatorship. Leicester England
; New York: Leicester University
11 Heaven, Joseph. American
Craft Magazine, (Aug/Sept. 1982)
12 See: White, Hayden V. 1978.
Tropics of discourse : essays in cultural criticism. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press. pp.81-100
13 In an effort to study the
role of each subject field, I myself executed each phase of the strategy independently. Construction efforts were aided by
the help of four spectacular volunteer assistants: Kelly Dacey, Carla Dominguez, Joe Jacoby and Andrea Wurster, to whom much
thanks is extended.
14 TAP XP-30 Marine foam was
used with a rigid wood formwork. XP-30 foam is an A+B mixture with a consistency similar to maple syrup when mixed. After
pouring, the mixture rises to 30 times that of its original volume into a hard buoyant foam.
One cubic foot can float up to 60lbs. The Archeological Vessel could take a load of 2400lbs.
15 In addition to the cabinet, a
digital archive was constructed on the web, with access to records and images files. http://losthistory.net created and hosted by Anthony Vizzari 2005.
16 The television is for the
review of video footage from the archiving and construction process.
17 See: Bachelard, Gaston.
1969. The poetics of space. Vol. 330. Boston: Beacon Press. pp.74-89
18 See: Pearce, Susan M. 1992.
Museums, objects, and collections : a cultural study. Leicester: Leicester
University Press. p.72