by Lauren Gryder and Carly Smith
In fall 2015, the Georgia Tech School of Architecture was delighted to welcome distinguished alumna, Merrill Elam, back to campus to teach a design and research studio. Elam and 10 graduate students took a trip to the little town of Marfa, Texas. What, you may ask, is the allure of this desert town seemingly so far from civilization? Marfa is an art oasis, a small whimsical community residing within the great expansive desert landscape, beautiful at any moment of the journey.
In the 70’s, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved from New York City to Marfa to produce his works on a larger scale. After his death, the city turned into a permanent home for Judd’s art. Artists of all movements and media flocked to the area, turning Marfa into an American art mecca. Our architecture students were able to get up close and personal with this art -- not only works by Donald Judd, but also installations by other celebrated contemporary artists, like Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain.
Marfa gave the students an experience like no other. They camped at El Cosmico (a fascinating and unique hotel made up of tents, teepees, and trailers dispersed across rugged grounds), traveled to see mysterious lights dance along the horizon known as the “Marfa Lights” (a phenomenon brought to fame by the town), and attended a "star party" at the McDonald observatory. The students were left awestruck and amazed by the magic of Marfa, truly becoming desert travelers.