Obscura Day: Preservation By Expedition Obscura Day: Preservation By Expedition
Obscura Day: Preservation By Expedition
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Last Saturday you may have passed a group analyzing the remains of an urban "plant-ocalypse" in Dallas, seen a tour entering the mysterious House of Balls in Minneapolis, or discovered New Yorkers foraging for root beer ingredients in a Queens park. It was all the doing of Atlas Obscura, who organized a day of concurrent global expeditions to weird and wonderful destinations from Norway to New Mexico as part of Obscura Day.
Atlas Obscura, a self-described "compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities and esoterica," has been around for about a year-Cliff Kuang interviewed the founders, Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras, for GOOD in 2009. The site has logged hundreds of curious destinations around the world, from a building in Hiroshima that's still standing even though it's at ground zero for the 1945 nuclear bomb attack, to a test tube that supposedly holds Thomas Edison's last breath in Michigan. The Web site itself is also gaining attention as a destination in itself: Atlas Obscura won the Amusement award at the SXSW Web Awards this year.
On Saturday, March 20, the first annual Obscura Day resulted in more than 80 events in 20 countries, with approximately 4,000 participants, according to RSVPs via Eventbrite.com. I ventured to California City, a vast unbuilt suburb in the Mojave Desert, for a day of exploring the "geoglyphs of nowhere" hosted by Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDG BLOG. Manaugh also wrote a piece about California City that will appear in the next issue of GOOD.
In 1958, developer Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres of land 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. He had a dream of turning the parched parcel into the third-largest city in California, which, in a way, it is-in land area only. About 10,000 people do live there, but it was planned for probably ten times as many residents, who never purchased the hundreds of lots organized around a large central park and artificial lake. For as far as the eye can see, in any direction, the desert is carved into a suburban grid with grand boulevards and funny little cul-de-sacs now being used as ramps by ATV enthusiasts.