The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship︎︎︎ is a one-year grant for independent, purposeful, humanitarian research outside of the United States, awarded to ≈ 50 graduating seniors from select U.S. colleges and universities each year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


Clark O’Bryan found early solace roaming the forests of his grandmother’s home in rural Waitsfield, Vermont. Graduate of Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont) with a dual degree in architecture and biology, he is drawn to the material origins and cycles of (a) building; whether from a forest, field, quarry or marsh, the impact of a structure as conceived and erected from its ground source. Certified as a dry stone waller through The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA I) and current apprentice at carpentry company Somakosha ︎︎︎ (Okayama, Japan), he is determined to revive the millennia-old knowledge, materials and methods of traditional building crafts as essential reference points in the future development of his home region of the northeastern United States.              


The northeastern United States is a borderland of multiple intersecting geologic, climatic and ecological regions. As a result, a diverse body of natural materials, biotic and abiotic, constitute the vibrant traditional, historical and contemporary resource economy and building culture.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
In the coming century, the region is projected to change at an accelerated rate. Shifts in mean temperature, humidity, severity and frequency of rainfall events, duration of freeze-free periods per year, will displace current distributions of plant species, pressured by increased pestilence, and open room for emigrating, primarily southern-originating, species. The region will thus become a home for climate migrants of many sorts. As new human populations flock seeking refuge, environmental conservation and mass infrastructural development will need to be maintained simultaneously. From what sources, then, will this movement materialize?                                                                                                                                                                                                        
By traveling to regions of the world with climates expected of the northeastern United States in the coming century, and working alongside traditional building craftspeople deeply embedded in the material origins and processes of their work, I hope to recover the materials and methods relevant to the changing ecological conditions of my home. It is my hope that, by listening to these traditional sources, practicing and refining a crafted touch on the land, I will be able to offer an approach to the question rooted in place, in my time, and most important, by hand. This is how I understand the essential directive of my future work as a craftsman.  

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship︎︎︎


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