THE|PORTAL – failed monument

1st: The Site (California City)

The location of the monument THE PORTAL is California City, a failed urban development project from the late 1950s in the Mojavi Desert, 150 miles north of Los Angeles. Originally planned to rival California‘s capital in size and population, today only 14.000 people live in California City. Empty streets carved out into the desert sand covering an area bigger than L.A. become the lifesize blueprint of a modern city. There is a feeling of missed opportunities. Cal City is a failed-monument.

2nd: The Idea

Following the path of the european settlers and many engineers after the 2nd WW, I came from Germany to California to build a Portal. Referring to the tradition of sacred architecture, one side of the Portal will represent the entrance to hell, the other side the entrance to heaven. The two sides face east and west. Turning the religious into the geopolitical, hell is the entrance to the “Eastern World”, heaven the entrance to the “West”. THE PORTAL will mark the end of the „Western World“ in a geological, historical and cultural sense. The gateway doesn‘t lead anywhere, hell and heaven are on the same construction and „western culture“ is spread all over the world.

3rd: The People

A true democratic monument should be built by the people. I proposed to build this monument together with the High School students of California City in September 2013. The students would create their own depictions of heaven and hell. These depictions would then be fired and glazed onto self made ceramic tiles that were to form the walls of the two sided portal. The gate would have been a literal construction of the students values, as well as the values that shape this country.

After numerous public presentations at the California City city council and several meetings with the intendant and the arts teacher of the High School, the super intendant of the Mojavi School District as well as with the local arts commission, with no result, I finally decided to do the Portal Project on my own. It seems to this point that building a monument of Good and Evil that will also mark the end of the “Western World” together with the local community of Cal City failed.


Currently I am in the process of building the archway of the heaven‘s side of the Portal, consisting of 34 portraits of missing californian children on ceramic tiles. Together with the support of Russell Michael, a local artist and Vietnam Veteran, we built an information center at the city entrance in order to promote the building of a gate to hell and heaven. By submitting photos of loved ones you miss, the local community could still take part in the project.

Though I would still like to build the Portal, I remain uncertain if not the documentation of a failed monument-project may actually be the main part of the work.

Dennis Rudolph, California City, 0ct 2013