Kira Clingen

MDes

TEOTWAWKI: A Designer’s Guide to Prepping

Advised by Danielle Choi

Preparing, colloquially known as “prepping,” is a political act that can be read through the medium of landscape, extending from the colonization of the United States to the present. While mainstream media portrays preppers as eccentrics living in hardened architectures on the fringes of society, fully 1 percent of the American population identifies as preppers, and they increasingly shape our shared built environment.

Preppers perform acts of landscape-making in anticipation of their particular visions of TEOTWAWKI, or “the end of the world as we know it.” In this way, prepping challenges societal reliance on just-in-time production and market security by rejecting ornamental garden culture and decorative landscape consumption in favor of productive practices of self-reliance. 

This thesis is delivered in two parts: first, a long-form essay that interrogates the myth of the American prepper and investigates the futures we are preparing for; and second, an illustrated guide to three prototypical prepping landscapes, or prepperscapes, sited in the northeast. These prepperscapes are works of speculative fiction that draw on canonical projects and texts across landscape architecture, survivalist blogs, and other media. 

Through these reference materials and provocations, this thesis situates prepping in the American landscape across time and the political spectrum, and casts the designed elements of preparedness campaigns as social artifacts with a historical provenance beyond the movement’s present conservative ideological affiliation. TEOTWAWKI argues that prepping activities fall along a broader spectrum of beliefs and practices than conventionally assumed, and these activities can expand our idea of a resilient landscape. 

Black-and-white line drawing of a large federal style home with attached barn and greenhouse. Wind turbines and solar panels are on the roof, a sheep, chickens, and basement food and shelving are shown.

Sheep are bred to be low methane emitters by eating sugar kelp hoisted over the seawall using a winch in the shadow of an elevated solar array located behind a ha-ha, while a golf cart pulls a chicken tractor across the landscape.

A dugout shelter is camouflaged under a bed of wild ginger. The shelter is surrounded by an edible gap garden with three defensive platforms overlooking the structure in the forest.

A stone patio is bounded by a seasonal sunflower fence with an orchard in the background with various medicinal herbs and edibles planted underneath. A chicken run leading to a coop repurposed from a swing set is in the background.

Two rabbit hutches are in the middle of a chicken run spanning from a sturdy chicken coop to a chicken coop made out of a recycled swing set. The rabbits are let out of the hutch in front of a backyard orchard, bounded by a living juniper hedge that encloses the backyard.

Espaliered apples and pears climb up a 10 foot south-facing brick wall, with another shorter wall with espaliered grapes 3 feet in front of the apple wall. Two greenhouses are behind the walls, while chickens roam in front.