GRANT BAUERMEISTER On the Rails; Hansen Prize Finalist

On The Rails is an exploration of rural America’s natural resource cultivation, collection, and processing via its facilitating infrastructure.

When given our site, I was enamored less with our assigned flood plain and more with the thundering freight trains rolling through every 15 minutes. 92 of these trains pass through our site every single day. The noise, the vibration, and the blur of motion effectively became part of the site itself, situating our site in a more grand, continental setting.

These trains brought with them graffiti, projections of culture far removed from our Ames location. Trains become a sort of bottle for the messages created in countless unique environments, from a vast range of cultural regions. Artists from these cultural regions leave their mark on their illicit canvas, then cast it out in to the world to move through the entire continent with the will of the route.

Like the graffiti, my studio rides passively along the Union Pacific freight lines. To contrast the banality of normal train graffiti, my studio leaves its mark or the communities through which it passes, not destructively as with spray paint but with art projections examining the many industries the rails facilitate. These industries, and therefore the railroad itself, are a vital part of many rural communities.

These rural communities often have limited access to the arts, and such projection events could spark interest in community development of more artistic ventures. These projection events would also serve to bolster community engagement.

As the train moves to its next overnight stop the crew has ample time to experience a vagabond-style inspiration as it moves through the land bearing the resources the rail system moves. The images of Mike Brodie, one of my most visceral precedents, perfectly captured the countercultural wanderlust spirit my architecture had to accommodate.

The studio itself is built on recycled train cars: a modified grain hopper for the living quarters, a container car to act as a mobile plaza and bleachers for projection events, and a gutted and rebuilt wrecker car to act as the studio and projection machine. The car’s crane attachment, housing the projector and a camera unit, allows for a bird’s-eye view for images and increased flexibility in projection mediums. In addition to the benefits of a crane-mounted projection unit, the boom also features a retractable canopy, creating a mobile viewing shelter.


Grant Bauermeister is an active contributor to DATUM. This work was completed in Firat Erdim's Architecture 301 studio.

Datum ISU