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 one 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 an adaptive landscape.
TEOTWAWKI: A Designer's Guide to Prepping explores the prepperscape, or landscape for preparation. This thesis is delivered as part of the Master in Design in Risk and Resilience program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, May 2021, advised by Danielle Choi.