The Other California


  • Neeraj Bhatia California College of the Arts, Urbanism



The surface, container and conduit have become the primary infrastructural formats for logistics, operating and negotiating the scale of urbanism and landscape.Surfaces’ are planes of mediation that typically function at a territorial scale as they are primarily implicated in a form of harvesting or collection. ‘Containers’ are architectural shells of enclosure often sited between the formats of surfaces and conduits – for storing, refining, or distributing a particular good. ‘Conduits’ are used to transfer matter and energy across vast distances, cutting through local settlements, political boundaries, ecosystems, and connecting to both containers and surfaces. These spatial formats typically reside in the ‘background’ of spatial design, yet are increasingly organising large tracts of land both in the hinterland as well as on the periphery of cities. Engaging in these background logistical formats holds promise for designers to have agency over territorial arrangements and could potentially offer alternate organisations that repay nature for its unpaid work. This article uses California’s Central Valley – an operationalised landscape that sustains the state and country’s food and energy needs – as a visual case study to reveal how these formats are deployed and organised.

Author Biography

Neeraj Bhatia, California College of the Arts, Urbanism

Neeraj Bhatia is a licensed architect and urban designer from Toronto, Canada. His work resides at the intersection of politics, infrastructure, and urbanism. He is an Associate Professor at the California College of the Arts where he also directs the urbanism research lab,The Urban Works Agency. Bhatia has previously held teaching positions at Cornell University, Rice University, the University of Toronto, and is the 2018 Esherick Professor at UC Berkeley. Neeraj is also founder of The Open Workshop, a transcalar design-research office examining the negotiation between architecture and its territorial environment. He is co-editor of the books Bracket [Takes Action], The Petropolis of Tomorrow, Bracket [Goes Soft], Arium: Weather + Architecture, and co-author of Pamphlet Architecture 30: Coupling– Strategies for Infrastructural Opportunism.


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