With Memory Landscapes, Robert Hutchison investigates the power of collective memory in sites of natural disaster.

For his conceptual project “Memory Landscapes,” MacDowell Fellow in architecture Robert Hutchison (22), reconsiders as public space the tsunami wall infrastructure along the Tohoku coastline of Japan, where about 350 kilometers (217 miles) of seawalls were built in just the first decade after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Hutchison presented his research in an exhibition last month at Mini Mart City Park, a Seattle cultural center founded by the three-artist collective SuttonBeresCuller, composed of MacDowell Fellows John Sutton (10, 13), Ben Beres (10, 13), and Zac Culler (10, 13).

The project explores the power of collective memory in designing for futures resulting from natural disaster, and in developing it, Hutchison documented the new coastal infrastructure of Tohoku using photography and drawing and spoke with local residents, whose communities were transformed by the new construction – both protection from, and barrier to, the sea.

Before setting off on a Japan-US Friendship Creative Artists Fellowship that Hutchison was awarded for the project, he came to MacDowell in the summer of 2022, performing research and creating drawings for the multi-year undertaking in our Adams Studio.

“What an incredible experience, with incredible people,” Hutchison wrote at the close of his residency. “I loved meeting all of the fellows and hearing about all of their work. As an architect I don't get the chance to be around so many other disciplines, in particular writers. Very humbling. And while I appreciated so much having dinner with the fellows, and the opportunities to learn more about each other's work through the open studio events, I also appreciate that this specific residency does not put any expectations on social and communal events. I always felt that if I wanted to just put my head down and work, that this was respected. The experience gave me much needed time to really focus on what I will be doing for my Japan fellowship, and to start understanding where the project is headed. Thank you MacDowell.”

Read about other new works supported by MacDowell Fellowships.

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A gray-haired, bearded person sits at a white table in a white-walled artist studio. On the wall to his left are architectural renderings.

Architect Robert Hutchison in MacDowell's Adams Studio in August 2022 (Joanna Eldredge Morrissey photo).