Center for Land Use Interpretation

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CLUI logo
Clive disposal facility
Cementland tower
Grand Portage MN boundary line

The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)[1] is a non-profit research and education organization, based in the Westside Palms neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles, in southern California. The CLUI organizes exhibitions, programs, field trips, and maintains an archive and database to engage the public's understanding of the man-made landscape, and extent and impacts of human interactions with the surface of the earth.[1]


The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) was founded in 1994 by Matthew Coolidge, and is a non-profit research and education organization that involves exploring, examining, and understanding land and landscape issues. The Center employs a variety of methods to this end, engaging in research, classification, extrapolation, and exhibition.


The mission statement of the CLUI is to "increase and diffuse knowledge about how the nation's lands are apportioned, utilized, and perceived."[2]

Programs and notable projects[edit]

The organization produces exhibitions about land use phenomenology in the USA, and displays them at its exhibit locations and at other museum and non-commercial and educational venues. The CLUI produces publications, online resources, tours, lectures, and other public programs across the country. Activities of the Center are summarized and discussed in its annual newsletter, The Lay of the Land, in print and online.[3]

The CLUI's main office is in Los Angeles, on Venice Boulevard, across from downtown Culver City, where it operates a display space open to the public.[4]

It also operates other facilities and interpretive sites in the USA. The Wendover Test and Research Facilities are located in Wendover, Utah at the Nevada border, an artist residency program housed at a former military facility; and the Desert Research Station in Hinkley, California.[5][6][7]

CLUI is also the lead agency for the establishment of the American Land Museum, a network of exhibition sites in various interpretive zones across the country, which together form a dynamic portrait of the national landscape.[8] According to Coolidge, the "man made landscape is a cultural inscription that can help us better understand who we are and what we are doing."[9]

The CLUI organizes public field trips to sites of interesting and unusual land use. This has been documented in the book, Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation.[10][11]

Since 2009 until the present, Aurora Tang, a curator and independent researcher based in Los Angeles, has served as a program manager for CLUI.[12]

In 2008, the CLUI mounted an exhibition, Texas Petrochemicalscape: A Portrait of Gallery Selected Petrochemical Sites at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston.[13]


Neither an environmental organization nor an artist collective, CLUI resists categorization by maintaining a diverse, eclectic program of activities that invite a closer examination of "humankind's interaction with the Earth's surface." Writer and curator Lucy Lippard suggests the CLUI occupies “a tantalizing liminal space (that) has opened up between disciplines, between the arts, geography, history, archeology, sociology.”[14]

Culture writer Doug Harvey calls the Center, known for its “multidisciplinary examinations of human/landscape interaction, 'uncategorizable'.”[15] He refers to CLUI programs, such as the 2008 Post Consumed exhibit and bus tour as “subtly infused with formal beauty and wit…unobtrusively informed by a patchwork of art historical, contemporary theoretical, sociological and geopolitical concerns and brimming with new information you don’t know is here until the ride home.”[16]

According to Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, the CLUI's activities “all tell some version of the same story: how we shape and find meaning in the physical landscape around us, whether it’s through oil exploration, architecture, map-making or freeway building.”[17]

The CLUI specializes in what writer Nicola Twilley describes as a “brand of perceptual revelation”–“in which a previously overlooked site is made not only visible, but also legible as a guide to understanding larger, nationwide systems.”[18]

Programs and projects[edit]

The CLUI also executes exhibitions, research projects, and public programs. The Center's programs and projects cover many types of land uses in the USA, including those related to agriculture, energy, industry, mining, communication, waste management, water resources, transportation, commerce, housing, recreation, and defense and preparedness.[citation needed]

Online resources[edit]

The CLUI makes a collection of "unusual and exemplary" land use sites in the United States available online, through the database Land Use Database. The database compiles site-specific images taken by members of the CLUI, and are attributed to the CLUI Photo Archive. Also available through the CLUI website is the Morgan Cowles Archive, an online resource of over 100,000 images of thousands of locations taken by a range of CLUI participants throughout the years which exists though the support of "an endowment from the family and friends of Morgan Cowles, in his memory."[19][20]


  1. ^ a b "The Center for Land Use Interpretation". Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  2. ^ "About the Center". The Center for Land Use Interpretation. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Strausbaugh, John (24 September 2006). "Take Nature, Add Humans, Observe Results". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  4. ^ "The Administrative Sublime, or The Center for Land Use Interpretation". Afterall Journal. 2006. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "Center for Land Use Interpretation: Wendover Residencies Collection CAE1041" (PDF). Center for Art and Environment, Nevada Museum of Art. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  6. ^ Pancin, Jean-Michel; Ardenne, Paul; Le Gac, Christophe (2008). "Wendover, no(s) limit(e)s". Blou, Monografik Editions.
  7. ^ Clements, Alexis. "In the State of Nevada, This Land Is Not Your Land". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  8. ^ "THE AMERICAN LAND MUSEUM AT WENDOVER, UTAH". Cabinet. Property (10). Spring 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Matthew Coolidge-CLUI". Knowlton School, Ohio State University. October 2011.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Coolidge, Matthew; Simons, Sarah; Rugoff, Ralph (2006). Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation. New York: Metropolis Books. p. 264. ISBN 1933045337.
  11. ^ Currey, Mason (1 September 2006). "This Land Is Your Land". Metropolis Magazine. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Lecture | The Center for Land Use Interpretation | Swiss Institute". Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  13. ^ Mueller, Kurt (May 2009). "Center for Land Use Interpretation". Frieze (123). Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Lucy Lippard, Imagine Being Here Now: Towards a Multicentered Exhibition Process". The Falmouth Convention. May 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  15. ^ "Doug Harvey, The Big Nowhere". LA Weekly. November 1999. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "Doug Harvey, Wading in the Waste Stream with the Center for Land Use Interpretation". LA Weekly. August 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "Christopher Hawthorne, Architecture review: 'Centers of the USA' at the Center for Land Use Interpretation". Los Angeles Times. January 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  18. ^ "Nicola Twilley, Finding Tarzan at the Sanitation Department". Good Magazine. April 2011. Archived from the original on 2016-10-02. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  19. ^ "The Center for Land Use Interpretation". Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  20. ^ Rothstein, Adam (2015-04-29). "Morgan Cowles Archive at the Center for Land Use Interpretation". re:sculpt | International Sculpture Center. Retrieved 2019-03-05.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]