DE S IG N
AT WOR KK
R E V I E W
architecture and land
$7.50 display until may 2006
call for articles for On Site issue 15,
Architecture and Per formance the architecture of performance spaces: theatres and such street performance and urbanism the performance of both innovative and traditional materials architecture as a performative act festivity commemoration and architectural performance architecture and investment performance architecture and cultural performance OED: performance. 1. the carrying out of a command, duty, purpose, promise. 3. a ceremony, rite or public function performed.
send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 1 2006. articles (500-1000 words) and images (300dpi/1200+pxwide/jpgs) due March 15 2006.
On Site is looking for someone to be the website editor. Right now, the website [onsitereview.ca] contains back issue contents, calls for articles, and subscription information: it is minimal and does not take advantage of the web as a vehicle for communication and other kinds of informational projects. We see the website, ultimately, as being a parallel venture to the print magazine, with perhaps different content, more agile conversations and more participation. If you are interested, please contact us at email@example.com
ka t her i ne b our ke
publisher The association for non-profit architectural fieldwork [Alberta]
comments, ideas, proposals firstname.lastname@example.org www.onsitereview.ca
editor Stephanie White
advertising sales and general inquiries t: 403 266 5827
design + production Black Dog Running
subscriptions On Site is published twice a year. per year/two issues: $15 students: $12 back issues: $6
printer Emerson Clarke Printing Corporation Calgary Alberta
we wish to acknowledge the support of Stantec in the publishing of this issue of On Site
shipping and handling included. US subscriptions add $5
subscription forms available at www.onsitereview.ca/subscribe make cheques out to On Site and send to 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary Alberta Canada T2G 0Z5 published with the assistance of the Canada Council Grants to Literary and Art Magazines
cover: Myron Nebozuk Maurice Martell
contributors Tammy Allison Heather Betz Katherine Bourke Aleta Fowler Rafael Gomez Moriana Julian Haladyn Cynthia Hammond Peter Hargraves Armando Hashimoto Abdallah Jamal Miriam Jordan Florian Jungen Michael Leeb
Thane Magelky Francesco Martire Roger Mullin Myron Nebozuk Tonkao Panin Markku Rainer Peltonen Greg Piccini Darrel Ronald Surella SĂŠgu Steve Smyth Tom Strickland Paul Whelan Stephanie White
on|site issue 14 fall 2005
Canada Post Agreement No 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 copyright On Site Review and ANPAF[A] All Rights Reserved The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of Copyright Law, Chaper C-30, R S C 1988.
ka t her i ne b our ke
L A N D Locating Landing
1 Two citywalkers located in berlin, germany and yeongju, south korea walk the land - with questions, with an urgency to notice or perhaps create palimpsests of understanding and pleasure in the uncertain land between the inner urban core and its periphery. No, the thing that keeps coming back to me is TO LAND mostly in relation to arriving at an idea though walking. To land at an understanding of the the organically grown city via walking. To land in the outskirts of a city and land at another opinion of it... land and movement.
L A N D Locating a Landing
temporary landing 2005 Katherine Bourke
2 Land – Landlines – Upon landing
3 an update...
The thing that locates landing, the thing that I keep coming back to with this word is arriving at an idea, place and image through movement.
a walker glances towards the building...
Land... could we think of it as an idea, place or image arrived at via movement. The body moves, the mind thinks. Landing as with sensing - it isn’t fixed. It’s in between. Perhaps thinking of it as in between walking and arriving and departing, thinking and speaking and writing, and seeing and imaging is helpful. What is left? A trace, a landline. Lines that reach outward. Lines that keep moving –
blue with sound, peach with light, green with breath, and rust with motion. the mind rests upon and idea - landing - for a moment or two, before finding another temporary landing, colour and idea.
The thing is we’ll always be landing. To see clearly and land for an instant – breathe – then back to the uncertainty.
architecture and land
katherine bourke is a writer, photographer and english teacher currently based in yeoung-ju south korea.
tammy allison abdallah jamal
peter hargraves aleta fowler
surella segú and armando hashimoto
cynthia hammond julian haladyn | miriam jordan greg piccini
katherine bourke rafael gomez moriana rainer markku peltonen michael leeb
contents : On Site 14 | architecture + land | fall 2005 1 2 3 4 7 10 12 16 20 22 25 29 32 35 36 40 42 46 48 50 53 56 57
masthead | information | contact us Katherine Bourke | temporary landing | Yeoung-Ju, South Korea contents + us | the people behind this magazine Tonkao Panin | rebuilding after the tsunami | Pang-Nga and Krabi, Thailand Florian Jungen | l’oeuf’s benny farm project | Montréal, Québec Tom Strickland | the problem with littletowns | Toronto, Ontario Armando Hashimoto | informal housing interventions | Mexico City Rafael Gomez-Moriana | pleasure in a point block | Benidorm, Spain Rainer Markku Peltonen | berlin holocaust memorial | Berlin Cynthia Hammond | memorials and memory at the world trade centre site | New York City Paul Whelan | brown + storey’s massey harris park | Toronto, Ontario Greg Piccini | a bio-regional education in the malcolm knapp ubc research forest | Vancouver, BC Francesco Martire | killbear provincial park interpretive centre | near Parry Sound, Ontario Parasites: a call for engagement Aleta Fowler | rubble building | Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Thane Magelky | northern site issues | Juneau, Alaska Tammy Allison | sculpture studio | Cape Dorset, Nunavut Miriam Jordan and Julian Haladyn | the garden works of ron benner | London, Ontario Peter Hargraves | scratches in the land | the Orkneys, Montana and Winkler, Manitoba Abdallah Jamal | the clark house | Gabriola Island, BC Michael Leeb and Heather Betz | apotheosis, transcendent churches | middle Alberta Stephanie White | land and environmental art | a book review www.OFA.com | sites to watch architecture and land on|site 14
In rebuilding the land we belong Tonkao Panin
n the morning of December 26, 2004, Tsunami waves struck a large number of coasts surrounding the Indian Ocean, affecting many countries, destroying both the built and the natural environments. Nearly a year has past, wounds have been healed, shelters have been rebuilt and communities have been reborn. Yet, the memories remain. The number of places affected by this natural disaster is countless: rebuilding projects everywhere, no matter how different in the methods and the outcomes, have helped us understand our delicate relationship with the natural environment as well as the way we see the world. Along the southern seaboard of Thailand, the provinces most affected are Phuket, Pang-Nga and Krabi, whose white-sanded coasts have a blend of beach resorts and local villages. The land around most beach resorts has been domesticated — resorts are located ‘without’ the natural environment. In the destroyed local villages where people depended upon oceanic natural resources, their shelters and communities were sited ‘within’ natural surroundings, united with the land and the sea in such a way that the villagers never saw themselves as capable of living elsewhere, nor do they desire to be anywhere else. Since the Tsunamis, this relationship with the natural environment has changed. Some, like the Morgans, the sea gypsies with no nationality, cannot imagine themselves living inland. Others are not so sure that they want to go back to the same locations they once called home, nevertheless, most of the villagers were relocated.
architecture and land
Finding a place Being relocated simply means that most villagers did not have a chance to choose locations for their communities. Under Thai law, people can apply for legal title to a plot of land after 10 years of continuous use. In practice, very few succeed and millions of Thais live on what is technically public land. After those lands became inhabitable because of the Tsunamis, they were assigned to new places which mostly belong to the local Buddhist temples, schools, or were donated by both private and governmental sectors. In finding new homes for the villagers, two conflicting ideas emerged. On one hand, some authorities strongly urged that the locals needed to be returned to their previous locations to make them feel at home, replicating what they once had, but now with additional Tsunami protection built around their communities. On the other hand, some authorities vehemently advocated completely new strategic locations, new types of communities, new types of shelters and new kinds of environment: the planning of the community and the design of the houses would be done for the villagers. In other words, the solutions were to be either the immediate return to previous lives, or the invention of completely new ones. Perhaps neither the first nor the second will suffice. What is missing from the lives of the villagers is not only physical shelter, but also a sense of belonging.
Tsunami problems Most of the strategies were developed by local authorities with countless local and foreign organizations involved in the planning, designing and rebuilding. In some cases, the sense of urgency in the preparation of new lands to accommodate a whole village meant the bulldozing of woods and forests to create flat empty sites. In some other cases,exigency rebuilding of a whole community was translated into a uniform layout where hundreds of houses are neatly lined along thoroughfares. This has destroyed the sense of cooperative community among the villagers. As for the design of the house itself, the urgent need for both temporary and permanent shelters as well as a very limited budget is sometimes transformed into a prototypical house without windows. So, despite the gracious aiding efforts and the great amount of resources, many of the rebuilding projects have become the constant reminder of what the locals have lost. Many projects succeeded in relocating and rebuilding communities within a very short period of time by dealing mainly with the provision of a large number of ‘individual’ houses. Authorities believed that as long as people have roofs over their heads, they will be satisfied. But the problems are far more sensitive than the provision of physical shelter. In similar houses all lined up in rows, the villagers’ already diminishing sense of identity was now lost. They are forced to ask: Where are we? Where are our families and neighbours? Who are next to us? How do we live? What will we do? And perhaps the most daunting question without any answers: Who are we?
Kuraburi Many aid organizations recognised this issue as soon as they arrived in the area and looked for solutions other than rows upon rows of similar houses on empty land. But the crucial question was: what do the villagers want? Looking for solutions How do we know what the locals want? So we simply ask them? In reality, it was not that simple for although the locals traditionally knew what was best for them, after the disaster everything changed. They were not so sure if they wanted to go back to the exact same lives or what would be best for them. Ways to solve this issue by local authorities were also divided into two opposite approaches. Some believed that the best way to deal with the problem was to decide for the villagers. Both communities and houses were pre-designed and promptly built without knowing who were to live there. Others strongly urged that the people had to participate and build their own communities, but because of uncertainty among the villagers, idealistic process of rebuilding communities did not yield satisfactory outcomes. During the early stages, the process of people participation failed because people did not want to participate; it was too early for them to do so. The reason was simple, they had just lost everything.
When neither reinforcement nor cooperation really worked, many organizations began to shift their strategies. Emergency shelters were already installed; it was now time to build both the temporary and the permanent ones. Temporary in this sense means something that will sustain the lives of the villagers until they find their own ways, which may take months or years. Thus, the needs of each particular group of villagers must be taken into account. Close observation and sensitive interpretation of their needs became primary, to create both the necessary shelters and a sense of belonging. In villages such as Kuraburi, Pang-Nga, where 30 families needed to be relocated, temporary shelters were built within the existing woods. The new site was further from the previous one, but with familiar environment. The planning of the village was focused on the relationship between houses and communal spaces as well the natural surroundings â€” existing trees were the major factor in planning the community so that the village seems as if it grew with the trees. Full of uncertainty and fear, simple activities such as meeting and talking among themselves have become a great necessity for the villagers. Rather than lining them up in rows, the houses are clustered into small groups, with communal spaces as a fundamental element of the community. This simply allows each family to both own a house and belong to a community. With a sense of reassurance after their great loss, the community quickly adapts to the new village. Some people even begin to individualize their typical houses with humorous paintings.
architecture and land
In other villages such as Paktriam, PangNga, prototypical houses gave rise to various alternate offspring that could be adjusted according to particular needs of each family. Basic modules of the house were introduced, but only to welcome subsequent adaptations. Only the basic architectural framework was given in order to allow multiple modifications. As for the planning of the village, the layout was neither organic nor rigidly geometric. Houses would revolve around small communal spaces so the inhabitants feel the presence of others around them. Each of these communal spaces would in turn be woven into an intricate network of the whole village. In regard to existing natural elements of the place, both the sizes of communal spaces and the distances between each house must allow variations in the growth of the community. In this way, the village is neither a product of chance nor a product of imposing design. For almost a year now, various organizations have been working with great efforts to find possible solutions for the villagers. While those organizations would not stay in the area for long, the villagers will, thus everything done must allow the locals to live sustainable lives after the aids are gone.
Conclusion All rebuilding projects after the Tsunami disaster, no matter how different in the methods and the outcomes, have confirmed that there exist factors by which the spatial and formal configurations of human shelters are determined. Human settlements were never determined by anyoneâ€™s will. But as much as the formations of places are shaped by rituals and habits, the nature of places could also condition human activities. Perhaps the relationship between rituals and the formation of places are reciprocal. With the problems that occurred, one learned that architectural creation is not a contingent marked by cause and effect for while architectural spaces and forms are shaped by pre-existing activities, it also conditions actions that follow. In the cases of the post-Tsunami reconstruction, the forms of both the shelters and the villages also prompt human social action and ritual within the places. Architectural forms could not respond to only physical requirements, but has to follow psychological factors as well. The role of the â€œarchitect,â€? in this sense, is very limited. Although a house or a village could be artistically composed, but in the end it remains a setting formed by specific needs and patterns of inhabitation. Human shelters cannot be considered as a void space and form that can be repeated after a certain type or model, but refers instead to the production of artifacts that reciprocates life and action according to different criteria g and conditions. Note: Both Paktriam and Kuraburi villages mentioned in this article are collaborative efforts between CARE and CASE Thailand.
architecture and land
Tonkao Panin: practicing architect, Bangkok and a member of the Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University, Bangkok.
Land and Community Benny Farm Housing | Green Energy Utility, Montréal L’OEUF — Pearl, Poddubiuk Architectes Florian Jungen Greening the Infrastructure at Benny Farm has been given a Gold Holcim award (2005) for North America. These awards are conducted in partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, MIT, Tongji University, Shanghai, the University of São Paulo, Brazil; and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The universities define the evaluation criteria and lead the independent juries in five regions of the world. See the entire awards program at www.holcimfoundation.org
Built in 1946/47 to house veterans returning from the Second World War, the 18 acre development at Benny Farm, in the west end of Montreal, remains one of the largest government housing projects to be undertaken in the history of the Canadian welfare state. By the early 1990’s, at a time when governments were engrossed with cutbacks, privatisation and economic liberalisation, CMHC was ready to sell off the majority of the property for private condo development. Nearly 15 years later, Benny Farm is about to emerge revitalised, with 445 new and renovated units of sustainably built, affordable housing being unveiled with buildings on different properties linked by a cooperative green energy infrastructure project.
he original development at Benny Farm was conceived in the ideal of providing modern, comfortable housing for veterans to reintegrate into civic life. Its serpentine arrangement of three story brick buildings resulted in a uniform, loosely grained and small scale residential fabric surrounded by generous, if poorly defined, green spaces. The veterans successfully appropriated these spaces and developed a vibrant community over many decades until the original buildings, with their lack of elevators, could no longer support the needs of the aging population. In 1992, partners at L’OEUF, Daniel Pearl and Mark Poddubiuk, countered CMHC’s plans to demolish much of the site with a proposal for extensive renovations and infill to be occupied by various neighbourhood housing co-ops. When the condo market in Montreal crashed after the sovereignty referendum in 1995, Canada Lands (the new owner of the property) was persuaded to re-examine its plans through a competition for the redevelopment of the site. Though L’OEUF’s proposal was ultimately unsuccessful, their work was influential in promoting a mixture of new and renovated housing. L’OEUF today is realizing the construction and renovation of 187 new affordable apartments for some of the same neighbourhood co-ops which had supported their original proposal. A cooperative housing tradition where autonomously formed groups are assisted in representing their own needs directly to an architect, has been carefully fostered in Montreal over the past several decades.
architecture and land
Renovating existing buildings at the site has interconnected ecological and social purposes for the designers. While re-use exploits existing material value and rediverts waste headed to landfill, it also promotes a sense of community continuity and takes value in the established social patterns of a neighbourhood. The original bricks from demolished buildings are being reused in new construction to help maintain the historical identity of Benny Farm as a large, continuous ensemble. The renovation of apartments originally built with vertically framed, solid, 2 1/4â€? thick plank walls and no additional insulation, involves temporary removal of the brick veneer and the application of an environmentally friendly foam insulation to the exterior of the wall. This strategy emphasises detailing for air tightness rather than high insulative value as the former is a more significant contributor to heat loss in a building. All the new and renovated buildings are being outfitted with an array of sustainable environmental systems including geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, air- and water-based heat recovery, grey-water and storm-water reuse, wetland treatment and sub-grade water-table recharge. These systems are conceived of in an integrated manner that addresses simultaneous ecological and social concerns. Geothermal heat exchange uses renewable energy to provide heating, cooling and domestic hot water and will drastically reduce production of green house gasses over the entire lifetime of the buildings, affecting a realm much greater than Benny Farm. The communal geother-
architecture and land
mal system at Benny Farm will transfer heat expelled from buildings or collected from thermal solar panels in the summer to soil 100m below the surface to be stored for use in heating during winter. As a direct benefit to the co-op residents, the system will also provide substantial savings in energy costs which can be directed to other needs. Linking buildings on four properties to the same geothermal borefield reduces the capital investment costs for individual co-ops and promotes community decision making in a neighbourhood with an established tradition of communal living. The non-profit green energy utility will be self-run by members of the coops themselves, with long term energy savings being reinvested back into the community infrastructure systems. From the urban scale of the neighbourhood through to development of minute details of envelope construction, L’OEUF’s (L’Office de
l’Eclectisme Urbain et Fonctionnel) projects at Benny Farm link interrelate concerns for social, urban and environmental welfare. The underlying values carried through the projects take sustainable building and sustainable community development as inseparable and complementary collective imperatives. While the overall redevelopment at Benny Farm demonstrates developments in social, urban and environmental concepts in Canadian architecture since the Second World War, it also reveals a lost commitment to social welfare by governments over the same period. Mark and Danny’s admirable tenacity in pursuing their convictions through thirteen years of thwarted plans, ignored proposals and unpaid efforts (acting as lobbyists and organisers as often as architects), also has to be seen as another reminder of the unsustainable mode of providing affordable housing in this country.
The NDP’s amendment to the federal budget in the spring of 2005 will result in a $1.6 billion investment in affordable housing construction (with a dedicated fund for Aboriginal housing) across Canada over the next two years. Even in the short term however, this significant injection of cash leaves us with no vision for the sustained development and investment in housing. We can state with some optimism that as one of the many high quality projects to be completed in Montreal as part of a recent municipal initiative to provide 5000 new units of social housing, the redevelopment of Benny Farm sets a precedent for what may result from the convergence of a cultural and political commitment to the social and envig ronmental welfare of the city.
Florian Jungen worked on Benny Farm projects as an intern at L’OEUF. He is currently involved in design and construction at Habitat Design in Calgary.
architecture and land
The Problem With Littletowns. Tom Strickland
reektown in Toronto is an area that is often referred to in Canada and elsewhere as an ethnic ghetto. Ghettos, Little Italys, and Chinatowns are terms used to describe groups deemed to be different. These terms transform complex social landscapes into simplistic, often polarized, divisions. They do not reflect the diverse ethnicities within a city and instead define political boundaries. In Greektown, street signs are in English and Greek, and blue and white Greek flags line the avenue. The ‘Taste of the Danforth’, a street festival hosting a ‘Greek Stage’ sponsored by Government of Greece, draws from the animated fruit and vegetable stands and excellent Greek restaurants. Recently, non-Greek shops and restaurant have begun to open in the area. The architectural presence of one group, the Muslim community, appeared at first as store fronts on Danforth Avenue. The emergence of the Madina Masjid mosque, diagonally across the Donlands/Danforth intersection from the historic Greek Orthodox Church, began as small architectural interventions in an existing building. The mosque has become the nexus of the Muslim community and its store fronts, securing their engagement with the festival and their migration west along Danforth beyond Donlands. What can architecture, renovations and store fronts teach us the about the past and present relations between these two groups that terminology can not? Greektown no longer seems to describe the complex organization of this c civic landscape, perhaps it never did.
architecture and land
top: Madina Masjid mosque bottom: Metamorfosis Tou Sotiros Greek Orthodox church
top and bottom: simultaneously Danforth
Tom Strickland practiced architecture for 8 years in Toronto and Calgary. He is currently a graduate student at the School of Architecture, McGill University, where he is pursuing an M.Arch II degree in the Domestic Environments option. His research focuses on relations between contemporary hospital architecture, the body and social definitions. He received his BEDS and MArch from Dalhousie School of Architecture.
architecture and land
Chimalhuacán is a city on the east end of the metropolitan area of Mexico City that has been under demographic pressure due to a high immigration rate. The mechanisms of informal urbanization are fully at play making clearly visible the stages from consolidation closer to the hill to initial settlements at the limit of the open sewage canal. Chimalhuacán is now and undifferentiated territory in continuous reformulation where scarcity of services, economic activity, public spaces and green open areas, render a dormitory city that, according to projections, will still grow 80% by the year 2020. The project here offers strategies that recognize the mechanisms of informal urbanisation and use them to operate effectively within the preexisting conditions aforementioned. The interventions are never thought of as finite. The implants adapt to the existing structures and a symbiosis gets established between the possibility of housing growth and the need for more services. These points of departure have an influence on the ensuing development of the city, but they do not impose it. The decisions are more local than global. There is no visualization of a final state other than an urbanism more catalytic and less regulatory.
architecture and land
Informal Implants | el cielo armando hashimoto · surella segú project realized with the sponsorship of FONCA
urban strategy: densification
Vertical densification would make the relationships between housing, transport and services more efficient. The array of activities possible within the pedestrian and bicycle range become more varied. It is the intention of the project to change the direction of growth from horizontal to vertical.
vertical and horizontal mixed use
The proposal introduces a series of programmed â€˜multi-purpose implantsâ€™ on the third floor level. The implants provide services, public green areas and recreation facilities that are so much in need, achieving an overlap of social, economic and private activities that help build a sense of community. At the same time, densification is stimulated and its direction and rate of growth can be influenced.
size and number of implants are given by the number of people within the range of impact of each program.
three variables were taken in account to determine the initial seeding points: distance between programs, distance from the streets considering their range of importance, and program compatibility.
architecture and land
the multipurpose implant the attributes
The implants have the following attributes: public space generator, services provider, independent entrance for upper floors, infrastructural node for upper levels, green open space provider.
The untouchables are the areas within the existing block that will be left open so that sun exposure is still possible for the lower floors. Nothing can be built on top of these selected open spaces.
The multipurpose implants position themselves locally surrounding an untouchable. This will assure them to have direct sunlight for an adequate fulfillment of activities. The position also coincides with a possible entrance from street level.
The structure is a dual system. The primary structure takes advantage of the present condition by constructing a web of possibilities based on the existing structure of the houses. Only the portionthat is necessary for the specific position of the implant gets actually built. While it gets served by the existing, the primary structure also contributes by making the whole system more stable. The secondary structure is the ‘flexible’ adaptation device system that allows the implant to accommodate the variable ‘topographical’ situations on the block.
The provision of green space has two modalities: one makes the green part of the urban landscape by using the secondary structure as a trellis for climber species and the other generates green public space in close proximity to other service programs within the block.
architecture and land
The dual structure system allows the implant to grow in any direction and increment.
The implants are thought as starting points. They may transform, grow and/or mutate in the future according to pressures given by densification.
Armando Hashimoto, B.Arch from Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM), M.S. in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University; Surella SegĂş, B.Arch (ITESM) and M.S. in Architecture and Urban Design at Columbia University. Both are adjunct professors at Universidad Iberoamericana and Centro in design, film and television. Armando also teaches at Universidad Anahuac. They founded el cielo, an architecture, design and urban design practice in 2004, and are recipients of various fellowships such as Fulbright (NY) and the National Endowment for the Arts (Mexico).
architecture and land
The pursuit of pleasure by the most efficient available means | the urbanism of Benidorm, Spain Rafael Gomez-Moriana
enidorm is a city in southeastern Spain with an urban morphology that is highly unusual for Europe: it is a city of point towers. From a distance, it resembles an American downtown or a new Asian city, with hundreds of tall, slender buildings wedged between arid, semidesert hills and sparkling sea. From the A-7 highway, which runs the entire length of the highly built-up Mediterranean coast of Spain from the French border to the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula, the apparition of Benidorm manages to produce surprise and confusion even after passing through much larger cities such as Barcelona and Valencia. Benidorm began to develop its urbanism of point towers in the 1960s, when it was transformed from a small fishing village into a major holiday destination for northern Europeans, and, significantly, when
architecture and land
the modernist high-rise apartment ‘slab’ was still de rigueur worldwide among architects, planners and mayors. Seen in this historical context, Benidorm prognosticates the demise of the modernist slab and the current growth of the point tower as the preferred form of high-rise residential construction. In the North American city—the very birthplace of the skyscraper—towers have generally contained office space; high-rise residential buildings more typically assume the form of slabs. It is only relatively recently that the residential point tower has become a commonplace in cities such as Toronto or Vancouver. But the emergence of point-tower housing has been even slower in Europe, where high-rise construction is culturally abhorred and where towers have historically been privileged, singular urban landmarks such as church steeples, defensive
ramparts or noble families’ symbols of wealth and power—an idea to which an entire city of towers is an antithesis. So why, then, did Benidorm develop in the way that it did? In the context of the twentieth century, the slab and the tower can be seen to form dialectical opposites. The slab, ideally sited in a park, is representative of European academic modernism and CIAM urbanism—Le Corbusier, in short—while the tower is associated with ‘vulgar’ commercial real-estate development–the stuff of Manhattan or Hong Kong. The slab speaks of welfare-state housing and utopian planning; the point tower of private-sector pragmatism. Interestingly, a lack of architectural pretension and a fascination for America are probably the reason for Benidorm’s aberrant urban form.
Spain—especially agrarian, small-town provincial Spain—was culturally isolated from the rest of the world during almost four decades of military dictatorship that lasted from 1939 to 1975. Could it be that Benidorm’s architects were perhaps more inspired by popular postcard images of American cities than by the teachings of the architectural modern movement? The construction of modern Benidorm was, for one thing, never a state-sponsored social housing project but rather a private-sector speculative venture. The point-tower became an established building type in Benidorm due to its high commercial viability and the views that this building type permits, even in a normative situation. Views matter especially in a tourism destination, and a city of slender towers permits more glimpses through the city and toward the surrounding
architecture and land
landscape than a city of wall-like slabs. The modernist slab may exploit land efficiently, but not landscape—unless of course the slab is a relatively isolated occurrence in the manner of Le Corbusier’s standalone unités. Architecture is, of course, premised from the very outset on exceptionality. Its values are resistant to the massification of ideas. As every architecture student learns, one must always ‘go against the grain’ and never design the very grain itself. As a mark of cultural distinction, architecture privileges the unique, isolated object; figure over ground. In Benidorm, there is no architecture: there is “the tallest building in Spain” which is also “the tallest hotel in Europe” (the Hotel Bali), but there are no buildings that stand out architecturally. Architectural guidebooks to Spain do not list any of its buildings, making Benidorm an exceptional city without exceptional buildings.
architecture and land
This generic quality permeates Benidorm’s urban fabric with perfect consistency. The point towers contain mostly hotel rooms and vacation apartments inhabited by middle-class Britons, Germans, Scandinavians and Spaniards, such that the city effectively comprises a sort of modern Euro-space. In fact, Benidorm can be seen as a representation in built form of one of the core values underpinning modern Europe: the right of every citizen to free time and leisure (Europeans are entitled by law to an average of six weeks per year of paid vacation time). Leisure is democratised and made affordable by the efficiency of the point tower type. It is no coincidence that Benidorm’s occupancy rates consistently outperform other holiday destinations in Spain whose tourist sector faces growing competition from cheaper eastern European destinations served by discount airlines. Benidorm’s beach is the main public space, principal organising device and raison d’être of the city. Streets are laid out in a quasi-gridiron
pattern of small, compact urban blocks, providing walkable access to the beach as well as ground-level services, mainly in the form of small, family-owned shops, bars and restaurants. The point towers punctuate the air space above this densely built up, contiguous service groundplane. Like most homes in Spain, Benidorm’s vacation apartments are relatively small, with bedrooms just barely large enough for a bed, side table and wardrobe. Spanish life is lived mostly outside the home in cafés, on streets and in plazas, and the Euro-space of Benidorm is no exception. In fact, the ‘Spanish’ and ‘urban’ lifestyle of Benidorm has been found to be one of its most important attractions, notwithstanding the prevalence of Irish pubs and lunch menus featuring steak and kidney pie. The evening paseo is an institution in Benidorm as much as it is in more traditional Spanish towns. In fact, with the exception of the point tower building type, the transformation of Benidorm from fishing village to tourist metropolis parallels Spanish tourism development in general, which has con-
sistently taken on the form of relatively compact urban extensions to historical towns or villages. The isolated, protected and all-inclusive resort complex is rare in Spain, which has always promoted its culture and lifestyle as part of the beach-tourism experience with slogans such as “Spain is different”. This blending of tourism with local culture has made tourism construction relatively indistinguishable from normal urbanisation. It is in fact often difficult to distinguish hotels from apartment buildings in Spain, were it not for signage. In the final analysis, and despite its unusual overall appearance, Benidorm is really not so different, then. Its density, the fine-grain of its ground plane, its public spaces and its walkability make it as much of a Mediterranean city as the traditional, more ‘charming’ fishing villages of postcards. Perhaps too much is made of high-rise versus low-rise development; of urban form as a determinant of urban life. If anything, Benidorm is more of a testament to the perseverance of g culture in spite of the forms in which it is placed.
Rafael Gómez-Moriana is the coordinating instructor of Carleton University’s Barcelona Studio, a thesis tutor in the UPC’s Metropolis Master’s Program, and a studio instructor with the Barcelona Architecture Center. He lives, together with his partner and daughter, in an eighteenth-century flat on a dark, narrow street in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter.
architecture and land
architecture and land
Berlin Holocaust Memorial Markku Rainer Peltonen
n May this year, almost exactly sixty years since the end of both the Second World War and the murderous Nazi regime, Berlin’s new Holocaust memorial was unveiled. It was attended by the German political elite and by guests from all over the world who gathered in the centre of the capital near to where Hitler committed suicide. During the event, many touching speeches were made on the great importance of the memorial, both for Germany and for Europe. Discussion of the Holocaust memorial has lasted for seventeen years. Lea Rosh, the main initiator of the project, says that this memorial to the six million murdered Jews in Europe is from the people in whose country the Holocaust was conceived. The memorial is a private project (i.e. not state driven) that remembers the incomprehensible tragedy and crime in the history of mankind which took place in most parts of twentieth century Europe. As this crime was organised in Berlin, it was regarded as appropriate that the memorial should be placed there, even though there had been a fierce debate within the German Parliament about this memorial, and the mayor of Berlin Diepgen was against it.
In 1994 the first open competition for the memorial was advertised. But after a public discussion and opposition from the then chancellor Helmut Kohl (despite his initial support) regarding the project’s monumentality, the competition was advertised a second time, this time for invited artists and architects only. The sculptor Richard Serra and the architect Peter Eisenman won first place. Soon after, Serra withdrew from the project, leaving Eisenman to continue with its realisation on his own. The memorial area — 19,000 square metres in all — is covered by 2,711 mutually combined stelae of different heights. Some trees have also been planted. As one can walk through this field of concrete stelae from all directions, it is left to each visitor to find their own way in and out of this vast complex. At first glance this reminds one of an old Jewish cemetery, and with its labyrinthine layout one could easily get lost. Under the stelae area is an information centre where, for example, one can learn about the particular fates of fifteen families of the Shoa.
After the inauguration ceremony the memorial was opened to the public, turning into a new tourist attraction in the centre of Berlin. It seems that many visitors were not worried about how to behave appropriately when looking at the field of stelae, including children playing and jumping from one pillar to the next. For Peter Eisenman this is no cause for concern, since, he says, the memorial has not been degined as a cemetery. The Holocaust memorial in Berlin manifests an important point in the discussion of the German past and it can be important in the fight against present day antisemitism in Germany and in Europe. The memorial does not mean an end of the discussion of this period of German history. It is Peter Eisenman’s firm conviction that this memorial to the missing Jews of Europe represents a new approach to memorials in that it should produce more questions about why and how the Shoah was g able to happen.
Rainer Markku Peltonen was born in Finland and has a Dipl.-Ing (architecture) from the Technical University of Berlin and an M.A. (americanistic) Free University of Berlin. He has worked in architectural planning offices in Peru, Germany, Finland, Greece, United Kingdom, as well as pursuing his own architectural planning activities. He lives in Berlin
architecture and land
Current practices at the World Trade Centre site – official and informal – deploy conflicting conceptions of public memory and grieving. The destruction and reconstruction of the WTC is a topic that has been the subject of a wide array of oftencontradictory perspectives in the popular, architectural and critical press, while the proposals for the site have stirred heated controversy over what and how architectural and artistic memorial practices should commemorate. Recent ad hoc memorial activity and material culture suggest a critique of that which is officially sanctioned at the contested palimpsest of ground zero.
Palimpsest: The World Trade Centre and Informal Memorial Practice Cynthia Hammond
n 10 September 2002, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey opened a viewing wall, around the site of the former World Trade Centre, for visitors to watch the reconstruction process. This fence replaced a much smaller viewing platform on Fulton Street, opened in December 2001. That simple wood construction incorporated a ramp and plywood wall, on which visitors could write or leave notes, which they did in profusion. The Fulton Street platform was an inadequate, but empathetic buttress for the outpouring of response that otherwise had not had a home at the WTC since the days immediately following the event. Candlelight vigils, flowers, miniature shrines, twenty-four-hour sit-ins and thousands of photographs created an unprecedented atmosphere described by Peter Lucas as “social intimacy”. Just ten days after this collective and cumulative process began, authorities removed all the memorial materials at the WTC, purportedly because of heavy rains. With that divestment, clearance became the engine that has driven official activity at the site since.
For Diana Balmori, one of the design collaborators for the new viewing wall, actually a fence, visibility is part of New York’s construction traditions — a means by which the transformation of a site can claim democratic values through its viewability. Here, and crucially, the fence substitutes a scopophilia for democracy, and what is supplanted is the inevitably messy and fraught nature of grieving and self-examination.
architecture and land
Two kinds of signage are fixed to the fence. Large text and image panels, set well above eye level, engage the rhetoric of freedom, martyrdom and resurrection to shape an ‘appropriate’ visitor response. Small didactic panels every few feet remind tourists and mourners not to write messages, climb, leave notes, objects, flowers, and so forth, on or near the fence. “Please understand all articles left behind must be removed”, says one, showing a generic human figure littering. “Trespassers will be prosecuted”, states another. Given the symbolic, political and international import of this location, and the remarkable flowering of informal memorial practices in the months following the fall of the towers, the number and banality of both types of panel underscore what visitors are actually being asked to rehearse onsite: compliant, patriotic citizenry. While it looks like a chain link fence, the Port Authority is correct in their naming: it is indeed a wall. Despite the prohibitions, visitors continue to act upon the site in ways that offer a different calibre of memory than that presented by official practice. On a trip to New York in May of this year, I walked around the perimeter of the new wall, noticing a palapable absence — not of the Twin Towers, but of the emotionally and politically rich detritus of photographs, flowers, wreaths, signs, and mementos that one might expect in such a location. I was struck by the sterility of presentation in the official panels and the constant exhortation to tourists and mourners to behave themselves. One might take a picture, but not leave one.
c yn t hi a h a m m o nd
Detail from the same memorial, incorporating keychains, stickers with slogans, Manhattan skyline postcards and plastic flowers in plexiglass bubbles. Nearby, poems were written on a black-painted hoarding wall, despite promises that they would be removed. The overwhelming theme was self-examination and a search for meaning. One was signed â€˜by a New York Policemanâ€™.
architecture and land
Informal memorial incorporating an architectural drawing of the former World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, at the intersection of hoarding wall and a pedestrian overpass at Liberty and West Streets, May 2005.
These actions and objects can be understood as a small interruption in the marshalling of triumphal sentiments at ground zero, suggesting that the site – despite concerted efforts to the contrary – is a palimpsest, and the land it occupies is contested. The richness, contradiction and polyvalency of informal memorial practices at the WTC site reflect the emotional reason that ordinary people have exercised in this place since September 11, 2001. Could these practices have been a constitutive element in the conception and design process of both the new Freedom Tower and Reflecting Absence, the official memorial? These final designs lack both the compassionate invitation of the plywood at the Fulton Street platform and the longing, collectivity and spontaneity of the walls of memory that errupted onto and nearby the site immediately after the disaster.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s “viewing wall” (designed in collaboration with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and a pro bono consultation group called New York New Visions), is made of chain link, is 1800 feet long and borders Church and Liberty Streets. It replaced the Fulton Street viewing platform, designed by by Diller + Scofido, Kevin Kennon, and the Rockwell Group. cynt hi a ha mmond
The informality of the location, and the arguably clichéd nature of the sentiments expressed (“amplify love, dissipate hate”) might explain what appears to be official response to such expressions: to excise and dispose of them. But for me, this corner was the only respository within the whole site that even began to express the complexity of 9/11 and its impact. A most telling detail: tucked almost out of sight between the plywood and the metal tubing of the scaffold, was a bottle of spray cleaner: someone maintains this very vulnerable collecting point of shared, but not homogeneous, memory.
cynt hi a ha mmond
But, the desire to mark the space, to communicate by leaving a subjective trace upon it, cannot be entirely contained. There is a threshold where the WTC site meets the World Financial Centre, where a small corner of hoarding wall is visible and accessible to visitors making their way around the chain link. Despite its insignificant size, this corner, when I saw it, was replete with memorabilia. An architectural drawing of the Twin Towers was at the centre of this informal memorial corner. Passersby stopped to study the image, using it to discuss the structure, where people had worked, where the planes had made contact — the image served heuristically, as a means of helping people make sense of this place in relation to themselves, and to history.
The ‘official’ public has been given a frustratingly foreshortened role in the reconceptualization of the World Trade Centre site. But the other public, in attendance at and contributing to the site, has not. If the players involved in future memorial projects were to take Herbert Muschamp’s plea in 2001 that WTC site planners “not overlook the meaning of events as they unfold”, then they could do no better than to visit those informal sites of mourning and remembrance, and learn from the unfolding of complexity, contradiction and nuance that they offer. c Peter Lucas, ‘The Missing Person Photos’, in Public Sentiments: The Scholar and Feminist Online 2, 1 (2003) The Barnard Centre for Research on Women <http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/ps/printplu.htm>. Accessed June 12, 2005. Lower Manhattan Info, ‘New Viewing Wall Opens at WTC Site’ 10 Sept. 2002. <http://www.lowermanhattan.info/news/new_viewing_wall_opens_25086.asp>. Accessed July 10, 2005. Herbert Muschamp uses this term in ‘The Commemorative Beauty of Tragic Wreckage’. New York Times 11 November 2001: AR37.
architecture and land
Cynthia Hammond holds a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Architecture, McGill University. In addition to teaching art and architectural history, she maintains a visual art practice, through which she engages with questions of the built environment and public inclusivity.
Massey Harris Park | Brown+Storey Architects
an urban park with rural and industrial roots Paul Whelan
assey Harris Park occupies former industrial land in a fast-growing downtown residential neighbourhood. The relatively small site is on the land previously occupied by the Massey Harris Company, once the worldâ€™s largest maker of farm equipment. Massey Harrisâ€™ factories were the manufacturing centre of Toronto and created the farm machinery that changed the shape of rural Canada. In a deft twist of Canadaâ€™s rural and urban history, the new park simultaneously references the distant rural landscapes shaped by Massey Harris and the immediate post-industrial ruins left by the closure of the manufacturing plants in Toronto.
The park is defined by a series of parallel undulating strips of terrain running in an east-west direction across the width of the site to emphasise length over width. The irregular spaces between these strips are reserved for trees and other planting: a nod to the rural landscape created by mechanized farming where between the easily-ploughed fields were left-over spaces, not accessible to machinery, that became colonised by trees and shrubs. The strips provide a wide range of surfaces and spaces for the park including grass, paved, wood boardwalk and limestone screening.
At the west end of the park a large steel trellis floats over the strips and establishes a more sheltered space for activities. It will support climbing plants and lighting devices for night time events. The trellis, developed in collaboration with artist James McLeod, has been conceived as an industrial urban ruin acknowledging the vast steel-framed industrial structures that once occupied the site. Overlaying the strips are curved pathways that meet tangentially to provide access between the strips and to encourage meandering routes through the space. To reinforce the path as route as well as spatial opportuarchitecture and land
nity, some of the paths are dead-ends that terminate in a variety of spaces and surfaces intended to become localised moments in the park. These spaces hold much promise for establishing a mix of inviting places. The richness of the park will ultimately depend on the interaction of the structuring elements with the planting strategy. The park contains all the traditional elements that define park: trees, trellis, flowers, grass paths and fountains but is not heavily programmed: the variety of spaces and surfaces will support a range of activities developed by and reflecting the disparate needs and lifestyles of the neighbourhood. The south-west corner looks especially promising where an inventive water play area for children is intersected and overlooked by a variety of mini-landscapes. Designing parks is a form of inverted history making. Much of the design intent is necessarily projected many years into the future when the parkâ€™s planting and social operations gel. Park design is a huge act of faith as these forces, natural and social, are beyond the designersâ€™ control. While the memory of the former use of this site is relatively fresh and relevant, it will be interesting to see if that memory resonates 15 or 30 years from now.
architecture and land
At the most basic level, a pretty and wellplanted space with mature trees and seating will always be appreciated and perhaps even loved in a dense downtown neighbourhood. However, new parks carry an expectation to nurture a much broader range of activities and expectations â€” unfortunately real-estate costs and expedient site selection often compress parks into sites that are too small to support the burden of competing demands. This is my greatest fear for this small park. Brown and Storey have layered much density and meaning onto a small piece of land. If I have any reservations about the park it is a concern that the load is too heavy. Although the park is currently under construction, the overlay of curved paths seems to obscure the underlying structure. Perhaps the paths are simply too wide and uniform relative to the strips of landscape. However, unlike architecture, parks need time before a clearer understanding of the relationships between their parts unfolds.
Exposing Toronto’s Landscapes At Massey Harris Park there are many indicators that point to success. At a pragmatic level, the park is bounded by residential buildings on three sides and by a busy street on the fourth. This is a ‘Jane Jacobean’ prescription for a safe and well-watched space. Even during construction people were using the park and finding their own transverse routes using a variety of the differing path options available. The success of the park will depend on the effectiveness of these paths and the options they present. I look forward to seeing this park grow with its neighbourhood. g
Brown Storey Architects have been an active voice in land-use trends in the City of Toronto. Their work is typified by a close and frank examination of given urban conditions, including history, ecology and infrastructure. Their consistent goal is to expand Toronto’s landscape vocabulary, which is painfully constrained to the typical rectangle of grass and trees overlaid with a “union jack” asphalt path system. There is so much that can be done better. In the late eighties the firm did much to focus attention on Toronto’s buried ravines, particularly Garrison Creek. Many of these ravines became sewers and were ultimately backfilled and levelled. These backfilled ravines were difficult to develop and were ultimately used for schools and parks, whose open spaces inadvertently provide clues of the hidden watercourses below. BSA created a new archaeo-botanic paradigm for Toronto to re-examine its buried ravines and re-invigorate the bordering neighbourhoods.
architecture and land
Since that earlier work, BSA has focussed on improving the quality of Toronto’s environment. In the St George Street Revitalization, a joint venture with van Nostrand diCastri Architects, BSA redesigned a busy urban street through the heart of the University of Toronto. BSA started by identifying ‘strings’ that linked and bound a progression from street, through grass verge, trees, walls and lawns to the original houses. Collectively the strings created a public understanding for the street. By the late 1990’s, the formal power of these strings was lost on a street where the original houses had been transformed or demolished to accommodate of a growing university. The subsequent widening of the street to accommodate four lanes of traffic further eroded the original spatial grammar. The redesign of St George Street was based on a new set of grammatical rules that reflected both the street’s new building scale and a new relationship between the buildings and students. The landscape had to change from being a demarcation of private property to an invitation to participate in public space. To do this, the vehicular street was narrowed and three new rows of trees were planted in generous new grass verges and boulevards. The sides of the street were treated differently to respond to the varying forecourts and connections to the original campus to the east and the post-sixties campus to the west. BSA’s level of interest is broad. In a recent project at Trinity Bellwoods Park, BSA’s extremely pragmatic evaluation of pedestrian and cyclist activity was used to create an entwined parallel path system with different types of surfaces – asphalt for cyclists and limestone screening for pedestrians. These paths provide different experiences for the two user groups in terms of speed, sound and texture. Perhaps BSA’s most well-known project is the recently completed Dundas Square at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas - the heart of downtown Toronto. The park occupies a one acre roof above a 270 car underground parking garage. BSA deliberately avoided creating a traditional, which could never have survived in this location. Instead the park is a hard-surfaced space with a careful disposition of significant events including fountains, areas for chairs and tables, performance space for special events and a shade structure.
architecture and land
In all their work, BSA has consistently investigated the underlying spatial grammar to understand what once was and seek ways to create a newer and more relevant grammar. Their research is underpinned by a fervent belief that parks and public spaces can do better for the city. While most ecological aware people understand the environmental dangers of a monoculture forest, the same awareness is rarely deployed in the creation of urban spaces. BSA insist that urban parks need a broader vocabulary of design ideas and materials coupled with a deeper investigation of the forces that create our urban environments. The end result is a careful weave of c pragmatism and real place-making.
Paul Whelan is a graduate of University of Waterloo School of Architecture and currently lives in Toronto where he is responsible for a small assortment of buildings and interiors.
Big Boots and a Raincoat: A Bio-Regional Education
he University of British Columbia Malcolm Knapp Research Forest has a history of change in settlement, industry and social values. Traditionally, the Katzie First Nation used the area on the western slopes of the forest as summer hunting grounds where groups would make temporary camps in the hills to hunt deer. The forest was typical of the area, mainly old growth Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and Douglas Fir. Although the climate of the forest is quite wet, large fires are the main natural disturbance of the area, naturally re-occurring approximately every 200 years. There is still evidence of a major fire that swept through the western half of the forest in 1868, during an unusually dry spring and summer.
cour t es y of t he Ma ple R idge Mu se u m
As settlement grew in the early part of the 20th century, so did demand for the natural resources of the area, primarily timber. Between 1920 and 1931, a large logging operation, run by the Abernathy and Lougheed Logging Company, cut a large amount of old growth timber in the eastern half of the forest. Logging methods common at the time used two men hand-sawing while standing on springboards that were inserted into the base of the tree. The logs were then transported by steam donkeys and a steam powered rail system established in the forest. An estimated 2800 hectares of high volume, old growth stands were harvested (within the current boundaries of the research forest) in this eleven-year period.
c o u rte s y o f th e M a ple R idg e M u se u m
In the summer of 1931 a fire, supposedly started by the wood-fired steam engines and fuelled by large amounts of dry timber throughout the forest, blazed through this area, including the western half of what has now been established as the research forest, bringing a halt to logging there. Large charred and notched stumps along with small pieces of equipment and steel cables stand today as evidence from this period.
To increase awareness of the immediate physical world that surrounds us, this project proposes to expand the regional knowledge of Vancouver urbanites and suburbanites living between the mountains and the ocean: a trail becomes a classroom at the scale of the landscape as it winds through a west coast temperate rain forest. With conditions ripe for experiential learning, the educational journey proposed by both this 22km trail system and various interventions within the Malcolm Knapp UBC Research Forest promotes awareness of the Georgia Basin bioregion.
architecture and land
The Proposal: trail & classroom In 1949, UBC took over management of the forest, given to the university by the province for the purposes as an outdoor teaching campus for the forestry programme. Since then, the forest has been used for education and research by various groups. It is also home to a small scale logging operation that provides income. To truly gain knowledge of oneâ€™s bio-regionalism through experiential learning, one must become fully immersed in the natural surroundings. Here, the proposed 22km system of trails and interventions within the Malcolm Knapp UBC research forest takes one deep int the Georgia Basin bio-region, with the moodiness of the temperate rainforest and the various phenomena of the woods on the western slopes of the Coastal mountain range.
View from space: Location of the site.
The site, 60km east of Vancouver, is readily accessible to a large local population. Located at the north-western edge of the Fraser Valley where low-lying farmlands abut the western edge of the Coastal Mountain range, the site is protected from encroaching development, but is not artificially preserved from research and industry as are provincial parks. This proposal brings a large cross-section of lower mainland society into this forest, from school and community groups to first-time hikers wanting to learn more about the outdoors. Acknowledging the conditions within the forest, from the natural phenomena to the ongoing forestry, the trail system intensifies the experience of the users. The trail becomes a classroom as it brings to life the contrast in scale of its species from seedlings to gigantic old growth trees, and composition from coniferous to deciduous trees; the shift in light and darkness that occurs over the course of the day, the cool mists rising from the forest floor. It highlights the contrast between the rush of water from
architecture and land
above: Intervention 4: exploded axonometric of fire lookout tower. below: skunk cabbage, typical of swampy areas in this region.
mountain creeks and the quiet dark of a moss covered forest floor. It responds to incessant rain and dramatic shifts in topography from the wind scoured tops of mountains to the dark valley bases. It draws attention to points of human contact with the natural world â€“ newly logged areas, evidence of logging from 75 years past, and the remains of fires
left: Site Plan showing the entire trail system above: Intervention 1 Old growth walkway. below left: Intervention 2 Overnight shelter below right: Intervention 3 Riverside access point.
marking the forestâ€™s history. In an era of a shrinking world, where we live at a global scale, this proposal celebrates the ability of natural phenomena immediately surrounding us to teach us to live and learn from our surroundings; to appreciate the resources so g close to home.
A lover of forests and mountains, Greg Piccini is a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and is currently working as an intern architect for Lynch + Comisso Architects in Toronto.
architecture and land
Within the generic landscape lies a language of component specificity. Often lost amongst the overwhelming larger context of landscape, the specific can be rediscovered through architecture. The Killbear Visitor Centre controls the devices of abstraction â€” formal, experiential, and isolating, to decode, reinterpret and re-present its landscape. Shifts, slots, cants, twists and slopes describe an interchangeable landscape and building. Exploration directed through architectural interpretation enables us to discover the language of landscape and to engage in our own dialogue with this precious commodity.
interpretive building | interpreting landscapes Killbear Provincial Park Francesco Martire
Overlapping volumes and bands of material in the interpretive centre extend the layers of cascading rock plates.
architecture and land
he generic landscape of Killbear Provincial Park, just north of Parry Sound consists of the pink and grey granite of the Canadian Shield, a mixture of coniferous and deciduous vegetation, Georgian Bay and a plethora of wildlife. The project here is an interpretive centre telling the story of the park’s rich history and showing its extensive natural treasures. In search of landscape specificity, architecture, the interpretive plan and the exhibitions operate in a layered narration of the park’s story through three domains: the snake, the human and the bird. These three cultural plates are the foundation upon which the visitor gains a foothold in the landscape through built form and its capacity for abstraction. Formal abstraction begins with the interpretation of the particulars of geology, climate and vegetation and represents them in built form. Twisting volumes characterize the overall massing shaped and sculpted by forces found within the landscape. For instance, a large vertical shift occurring within the building telescopes shifts found within the site’s geomorphology. The building’s east and west elevations lean away from the water’s edge as if pushed by the Georgian Bay winds. Perched on a rock ledge, the building stretches itself out parallel to a series of rock folds — biotite gneiss rock plates that cascade towards the water’s edge. Idiosyncratic volumes each overlapping the other with their own particular trajectory combine with a series of material bands of concrete, glass and zinc. Much like the landscape below it, the elevation evokes a sense of movement: the delineation of the lower sloped floors cross underneath an elongated sloped pathway, which sweeps up to the upper floor where a third volume shifts overtop to give us daylight illumination. These geomorphologic attributes reinvented through built form exist not simply to create metaphors but rather to discover and interpret the language of this particular landscape.
above: the east wall leans as if sculpted by winds from Georgian Bay. below: the building perches on a rock ledge, itself parallel to a cascading series of rock plates.
architecture and land
Experiential abstractions within the Centre are continued throughout the curatorial route, defined by a series of sloped floors of varying widths. Compressed pathways between walls of concrete block, a set of switchbacks, manoeuvering around a vertical shift in the floor plates, and a set of landings defining key viewing points along the route, heighten the experience of movement by creating a sense of exploration. The gentle hike over the interior terrain physically takes the visitor through a series of contiguous spaces while experiencing the three plates of the interpretive plan and culminates in an elevated view through the tree canopies out to Georgian Bay. Navigating the terrain of the building encourages the visitor to revisit and re-examine their experiences within the landscape. Isolation creates opportunities to extract an array of details within the structure of landscapes. Isolating moments within landscape establishes an environment of specificity, moving from passive viewing into engaging study. An almost continuous line of glazing around the entirety of the building makes a synthetic horizon line and allows a continuous view of the surroundings. Amongst the opportunities for passive viewing and more careful study of the environment are carefully choreographed moments between landscape and glazing where location, size and proportion of glass focus specifically on rock surface, tree trunks, tree canopies and sky. A low window forces the visitorâ€™s view downward to Precambrian rock and the lichens on its surface. A small elevated window simply frames the sky. A clerestory window frames the bird habitat of a conifer shaped by powerg ful bay winds.
The continuous curatorial route is defined by a series of sloped floors of varying widths Killbear Visitor Centre. Nobel, Ontario Client: Ontario Parks and Ministry of Natural Resources Architects: Urbana Architects Corp Structural: Blackwell Bowick Partnership Ltd Mechanical: Smith and Andersen Consulting Engineering Electrical: Mulvey & Banani International Inc. Civil: J.L. Richards & Associates Ltd. Landscape Architect: Schollen & Company Inc. Exhibit Designer: Terry Heard Designers Interpretive Planner: Verburg and Associates Inc. / Apropos Planning Contractor: M.J. Dixon Construction Ltd
Francesco Martire holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, and a Master of Architecture both from the University of Toronto. He is currently working as an Intern Architect and a Landscape Architect at Urbana Architects (an HOK affiliate) in Toronto.
architecture and land
I’d like to extend the definition of Parasites to include strips of land such as this particular stretch of highway east of the Rockies that is currently used by people in vehicles. Conceivably, in a few generations, this highway could become underutilized as the region is depleted of natural resources. What then? This ribbon connecting destinations could be re-defined as a destination itself. The photo is of a spectacular valley that this highway intersects. This segment is located approximately 30 kilometres south of Grande Prairie, Alberta. In addition to this valley’s natural beauty, the river that winds through it contains a wealth of dinosaur fragments. Almost anywhere else, this place might be a protected park. I will speculate what this road might become, once we have arrived at the “end of oil’, as described by Paul Roberts. —— Myron Nebozuk
On Site wishes to use the book Parasite Paradise* to indentify sites in Canadian cities that could be thought of in terms of light urbanism and light architecture. Parasites are ‘small scale exercises in art, architecture and urbanism’ in response to over-regulated real estate practices, over-proscribed zoning laws, too-tight master plans. Land, anywhere, is owned and zoned, sites are defined by land use plans, procedures and permits. However, are there bits of land that resist strong definition by planning culture that are underutilized, colonized only by, say, parked cars, or grass, or storage? And can these sites be developed temporarily as a free (from bureaucratic intervention) city within our cities? In an increasingly intolerant world where suspicion is rife (one need only attend a neighbourhood redevelopment meeting to be truly shocked), can we begin to open areas of absolute tolerance and personal responsibility in our cities? The Parasite thesis proposes that rather than increasing standards, rules and laws, society needs to put up with, circumvent and adapt imperfect standards so there will be social and architectural mobility rather than rigidity. Our quest here is for spaces and sites that can be made cheap and flexible — rare in suburban areas which seem incapable of innovation. We are looking for wild card sites, overlooked corners, ambiguous buildings to slip beneath the radar of planning departments and private commercial development. This will be a website project, so do join us at
*Parasite Paradise, a manifesto for temporary architecture and flexible urbanism. Liesbeth Melis. editor and compiler. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2003 Calgary, 42nd Avenue and 11th Street SE: industrial area with wide grassed boulevards, awaiting a possible expansion of 11th Street as a connector to Deerfoot Trail. It is unlikely that this road expansion will now ahead, given new shopping centre development further south. But maybe it will. In the interim, it has sat empty for a dozen years: a dozen years that could have seen a temporary occupation of these boulevards by self-sufficient studios, houses, shops: much like Rocky’s Hamburgers across the street: an original parasite.
architecture and land
1: Site preparation for Yellowknife’s newest housing development. The pre-manufactured homes, designed in, and brought up from the South, require level sites. Pre-Cambrian Shield is not like flat prairie grasslands and level sites need to be created when these houses are used.
rubble culture | Yellowknife and land integrity Aleta Fowler
hen you see something really ugly in the built environment, a desecration of the land, you have to wonder how it happened – and what to do (photo 1). Yellowknife is typical of those Northern communities whose economy is not based upon traditional rhythms of hunting, trapping, fishing, but instead grows in spurts linked to opportunities like gold, diamonds, gas. Each spurt brings more buildings – a process few have time to pay attention to because, during growth spurts, everyone’s working too hard! Although explosives have been available in Yellowknife as long as Yellowknife has been in existence, in the early days it was easier to place housing around the contours of the land, especially when you were in a hurry. The early log houses were discretely tucked in the shelter of hollows, where the rocky land allowed access. Later, the mine housing wiggled roads through the rocks & separately drew utilidor lines across the rocks to houses placed in the relative flats of the landscape (photo 2). Later housing required even more ingenuity to work with the land – pads and wedges, screwjacks and piles to name a few. Almost as a mounting skill test, houses were now wanted with piped water and sewer and a way to pull your car up to your door and get the fire truck in if needed. So the places were scoped out where the familiarity of Edmonton and Winnipeg could be mimicked for the arriving population, until one day, people looked up and saw – rubble (photo 3).
architecture and land
2: Giant Mine housing was adjacent to the mine. Roads followed natural contours. Water and sewer were brought in separately from the roads via utilidor; electrical lines were overhead.
3: A slightly older large development of premanufactured homes in Yellowknife.
4: Two years ago, this was a gently sloping pink outcropping of Pre-Cambrian Shield providing a foreground to Stanton Region Hospital set on Frame Lake. Stanton services all of NWT and, at that time, also had one of the prettiest hospital settings in the country.
5: This multi-story apartment in Yellowknife works with the landscape, leaving trees and rock intact.
6: While you may not be able to park at your door in these townhomes, the aesthetics appear to outweigh the hike with your groceries.
7: the “street side” of photo 3. This neighbourhood provides pull-in driveways for each home and complies with the requirements of NWT codes and bylaws.
8: This older pre-manufactured home development in Yellowknife also complies with codes and bylaws. People park at their doorsteps. Houses ‘work’ around the terrain. Neighbours banded together to create this community park within the neighbourhood. 9: A lot of rock was moved for these houses which almost seem to have been dropped into the ‘slots’ created.
The easy-to-build places were gone, and yet, it seemed everyone still wanted piped services and easy car access, and building practices now required set-backs and drainage slopes and turn-around radii, and it all had to be done in a hurry! Some of the prettiest stone in town was blasted to make way for apartments (photo 4, 5 and 6) – only one person protested. A whole neighbourhood of manufactured homes was trucked in and was set on rubble (photo 7 and 8). High end houses, themselves sitting on sites, more discretely blasted from the rock (photo 9), found themselves to their dismay, neighbours to yet another rubble neighbourhood (photo 10). Yet, the most coveted houses were those from years before, tucked into the rocks, blanketed from the street by trees (photo 11). So how do citizens beat a retreat from development of rubble fields to those coveted homes shrouded in greenery with would-be workers arriving daily needing a place to live for a few years (photos 12 and 13)?
10: The other end of the development in Photo 9 where the site needed to be leveled to bring in homes.
architecture and land
11: This older home is so tucked into the trees and rock as to be invisible from the road.
There has to be a North-specific approach. There are examples of newer housing merging with the landscape, often using some blasting, some not, but neither obliterating the natural landscape lines in the process (photos 14, 15, 16 and 17). These might not include an attached two-car garage. And these may not necessarily include piped water and sewer. Lifestyle choices have aesthetic impacts (photo 18). There have been technical advances in infrastructure, and municipalities elsewhere have re-evaluated their development requirements. Options exist. In NWT, work is underway in Distributed Energy, and a growing number of communities are undertaking Community Energy Plans to explore their infrastructure options. Creating developments, which are more sensitive to the existing landscape, could be informal and voluntary, or mandated. Codes can be amended; and exemptions can be granted for bylaws. Municipalities need guidance from the present population to plan for the arriving population. Builders and developers need to be made aware of options and what the population wants. As Land Claims progress, these groups still have time to make changes, to decide how their traditional lands will look in the future. Regarding blasting in particular, it is not necessarily cheaper than other site preparation approaches. It just happened to be the most expedient approach at hand, and not enough people cared to work to effect change.
architecture and land
12: An older Yellowknife street where houses were fitted into the landscape.
13: A newer subdivision where sites were cleared, and sometimes blasted for development. Setbacks, street widths, sidewalk development and provision of utilities follow NWT guidelines.
14: These houses use the steep rock face as design features.
15: This house perches upon, and recedes into the rock face. A second floor rear door allows access onto the top of the rock slope.
16: Renowned NWT Architect Gino Pinâ€™s classic house makes full use of the rock elevation. He has designed many houses, each of which preserves and highlights the natural features of their sites.
17: A climb up is worth the secluded yard out back and the view out front.
Compared with the newer neighbourhoods shown in photos 13 and 17, most people would prefer the neighbourhood shown in photo 12 and this street, with Gino Pinâ€™s house and other houses which merge into, rather than dominate, the landscape.
Aleta Fowler was trained in both architecture and planning and works in green community infrastructure as a policy advisor for the Department of Indian and Northern Development.
architecture and land
Living in a landscape
thoughts on the recent failure of the State Capitol Building competition | Juneau, Alaska Thane Magelky
ecently an event took place in Alaska that broadened my perception of how northerners view their land and architecture. The event, a competition for a new Alaska State Capitol Building, sparked an unusual public discussion about design and architecture. A great deal of criticism focused on the submitted designs’ modernism, but little comment discussed their relationship to the site and dominating landscape of the capitol city Juneau. Below the surface of the comments, is it possible that the principle design criticism is the lack of relationship to site and landscape? Do we, as northerners, have an intuitive sense of landscape but not the language to express it? Are Alaskans more inclined to accept designs that relate to the landscape? If so, how is that relationship defined? We, as Alaskans and northerners, have a unique relationship with the land. We are astutely aware of place. The climate, remote location, and sparse population keep us constantly aware of the environment. Nature here permeates our very existence — forty below zero temperatures have a bone-chilling way of reminding us where we are. Ask a northerner— we know what the solstice is and when it occurs, and what an equinox is. The summer solstice brings one of our largest celebrations of the year. The equinoxes, the tipping point between the slumber of winter and the exuberance of summer, signal a comprehensive change in lifestyle. Northerners are intimate with the environment; quite literally our lives depend on it.
architecture and land
People come to this northern land for various reasons, all of which are linked inextricably to the land. We are here to mine gold. We are here to mine knowledge. We are here to mine solitude... or recreation... or timber. We depend upon the land, either directly or by association, for our livelihood. Tragically, this pride and sense of place has not translated into our Alaskan architecture, most of which falls well short of recognising its place, instead seeking inspiration from English gardens, French chateaux and Mediterranean villas. Ironically, ‘sought-after’ hillside sites are flattened to make way for flood-plain floor plans while trees are levelled to make way for people moving to the forest from the city centre. In our practice, when discussing site-building relationships, we commonly distinguish between what we call landmark and background designs, each equally important. Background designs form the bulk of the built environment. They are the fabric formed by buildings and landscape, whether urban or rural. Poor designs result in a low quality of fabric, and are detrimental to a community. Landmark designs, by contrast, are those buildings that supersede their surroundings. Like a brooch or piece of jewellery, they compliment and expand the experience of the fabric. Too much jewellery and the pieces lose clarity and coherence. Not enough, and the fabric can become dull and drab. The wrong combination detracts from both fabric and jewellery.
Two extremes of Alaskan architecture demonstrate the range of our built environment. Success: architecture incorporated into landscape. Failure: architecture imposed on landscape. Here, a historic building serves as an exemplary example of architecture transcending itself due to its relationship to the land and site. A new building is equally exemplary, ignoring landscape and imposing architecture upon it. 1. The Kennecott Copper Mine, located in the Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, is by itself, a background building notable primarily for its historicity. However, in conjunction with its site, it transcends its own architecture to have landmark stature. It is an outstanding example of the blending of building and site that northerners intuitively seek. The site is an expansive but enclosed valley surrounded by the rocky slopes of the Wrangell-St. Elias mountain range. In the bottom of the valley, below the buildings, are the Kennecott River and Kennecott Glacier. Under any condition, the site is exceptional and beautiful. The mine buildings do not detract from this setting. Quite the opposite. The buildings give scale and proportion to a natural setting where before there is no human element of comparison. They actually accentuate the size and natural splendor of the site. The relationship is symbiotic— the mountain accentuates the building’s scale. What would be a pleasant but otherwise unassuming structure on any other site actually assumes the monumental setting of the mountain.
Kennecott Copper Mine in the Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, Alaska 2. In the entrance area of Denali National Park, colloquially known to locals as Glitter Gulch, another example demonstrates abject failure. Here is the brutal and heavy handed approach to site design that northerners instinctively reject. The site is very similar to the Kennecott site, however the design response to the rocky, steeply sloped site was to level it. A floor plan and elevation better suited to flood plains in Chicago or Dallas, or Miami was constructed with no flavour of place or response to site — a blemish in an otherwise beautiful landscape. The Capitol Building site in Juneau is equally striking. The scale of the site is such that no building can dominate it. The Capitol design, to achieve the scale desired, could have collaborated with the landscape to expand the scale to that of a landmark project, a truly Alaskan Capitol Building. Instead, the designs failed to capture the Alaskan imagination. The design entry chosen by the competition jury was met with public and political backlash strong enough to effectively kill the entire project. While I personally remain in
Glitter Gulch, at the entrance to Denali National Park, Alaska
support of a new Capitol Building in Juneau, I’m relieved that none of these designs which so arrogantly dismiss our northern land and life will be built. There is a glimmer of hope in the failed competition: it is a sign of a more sustainable and better-designed future. Northerners are ready to incorporate their relationship with land and place into their architecture. They clearly have the intuitive sense of the land, but not yet the language to express it. As northern designers, we must find that language, and educate our clients and the public. Each success and failure will influence how people experience space and design in the future. By being active and visible in our communities, through writing and public events, we will help our fellow northerners learn to verbalise their experience. We will not only make the terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘building-site integration’ common to the public’s vocabulary, but will add meaning to g them as well.
Thane Magelky has lived and practiced in Fairbanks, Alaska for 8 years. He is interested in the continued progression of a sustainable northern architecture for Alaska and Canada that takes its cues and inspiration from the rich culture, climate, and geography of these regions.
architecture and land
Cape Dorset sculpture studio :: a proposal Tammy Allison
North of the Hudson Bay, at 64 degrees latitude, a community of 1,200 people live on a small island off the southern coast of Baffin Island. There is no road access to Cape Dorset, it is reached only by boat or plane. Provisions for the community are sent via sea-lift once or twice during the short summer thaw, anything else must be flown in at a higher cost. Today Cape Dorset is the home of some of the worldâ€™s greatest Inuit artists. There are approximately 70-90 carvers in Cape Dorset, 5-10 of which are female. Generally the carvers of Cape Dorset work from their homes year round, removing most of the stone outside and detailing and finishing the piece inside the house. The built environment consists mainly of wooden and metal boxes, arranged along gravel roads, in the midst of a vast and barren Arctic land. The beauty of the surrounding landscape, the harsh environment or the culture of the people are rarely expressed in the architecture.
architecture and land
he process of carving begins with the selection of the stone. The stone is selected, with a carving in mind, or the shape of the stone inspires the carving. A clear idea of the final sculpture must be in view before cutting the stone. Roughing out consists of cutting away and filing large amounts of stone to reveal the shape of the piece at work. This is an outdoor task, because of the dust created from removing the stone. The rough image is hacked out using saws, axes, hammers, chisels and electrical grinders. Once the initial roughing out stage is completed, the detailing is done with chisels, small files, rasps, penknives or nails and grinding bits attached to electrical drills. To smooth the carving, sandpaper is used, commencing with a rough grade and working down to a fine grade. The stone is dipped into water in the latter sanding stages for wet-sanding, where the rich deep colour and the high polish of the finished sculpture is revealed. The techniques of every artist vary, just as do their backgrounds: men and women, old and young. They all live in the same environment and are told similar stories, but their work depicts their own expressions of their northern world and are observed in galleries and personal collections throughout the world. I this project, the movement of working around a stone was studied to tell the story of how carving is physically done. The minimal form that is created from these studies illustrates the space that is required for carving at the scale of a person. Heat was used to explore carving with thermal qualities â€” a flame was placed in snow to illustrate how a space can be carved from heat. The movement and heat studies were combined, using the carving as the heat source. The movement and thermal studies can be applied to architecture as the program of the building inhabits the form. With the act of carving as the focal point of the studies, the architecture can be developed to embody qualities of space, intensity of heat (and therefore change in form) from duration, density and interaction.
architecture and land
architecture and land
At the scale of the Community From the main gravel road of the community, the studio will glow with the life of the carvers during the extended winter nights of the Arctic. It hovers perched above the frozen ground, the shell of the building reaching down to interact with the sensitive ground layer, careful not to disrupt the permafrost and lifting in locations allowing the persistent blowing snow to pass under the building. The floor plate of the building extends to provide a sheltered exterior carving space. The symmetry of the building is broken up at the main entrance, with the protective shell pulling around to block the predominate north-west wind, creating an entry free of drifting snow. During the short summer of extended daylight the studio will be seen from the water, as the people of Cape Dorset return from their long and laborious trip to the quarry to obtain stone for the year. They are greeted with the jetty stretching out from the landscape, and the main entrance of the opaque studio faces the water, like that of the traditional built forms. Carvers spill out from the exterior carving areas, onto the tundra.
At the scale of the Carver The building designed is for carving. It is a studio for the people of the community to visit, watch, learn, and carve. The building thresholds are informed by the process of carving. The carver will progress through the building as they work on the different stages of the carving; selecting a stone from the exterior storage area, roughing out in the sheltered exterior spaces, detailing in an individual studio space, sanding at the wet stations, and selling the finished piece. The program consists of individual and communal carving spaces. The individual studios are in clusters of male and female. These clusters link to the exterior by way of exterior carving spaces and come together, swelling in form, to create the teaching area. c
At the scale of the community the carving studio tells the story of the harsh elements in which it is trying to survive; lifting off the frozen ground, orientating itself to the water as tradition and pulling around to break the predominate Arctic wind and blowing snow. The studio tells of winter and summer, excessive dark and light, the transformation of a glowing to an opaque object. At the scale of the carver, the program tells of the process of carving, the studio acting as a stage for learning. The carving studio is a visual representation of Cape Dorset, g the process of carving, and the carver.
Tammy Allison first experienced Canadaâ€™s north while working with PSAV Architects in Yellowknife for 2 years. She has since returned to the Maritimes, where she currently resides, to complete her masters at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Her thesis benefited greatly from the help of Goota Ashoona and Bob Kussy in sharing their craft.
architecture and land
Architecture of the Land: entering the garden works of Ron Benner Miriam Jordan and Julian Haladyn
he first thing that caught our attention when we encountered Ron Benner’s garden installations was the smell of vitality emanating from the work which uses live, growing, indigenous plant life. Most contemporary agricultural products are bred strictly with profit in mind, maximizing the lifespan of perishable goods at the expense of smell and taste and focussing on the plant as commodity, eliding the people and communities that foster such growth. Benner, in his work, is actively refuting such schisms between land, food and people; his work both physically and conceptually links its viewers to the very structure and value of the land. With elaborately beautiful garden installations Benner draws attention to this invisible architecture that surrounds and sustains the cultivation of agricultural production, as well as pointing out the dangers of ignoring or even dismantling such age-old structures. The agriculture practices that Benner is working with are grounded in the traditions of indigenous peoples all over the world; it is one that views plant life as an integrated component in the welfare of social structure, a structure that he visually represents in architectural terms using the stature of the plants he chooses. Benner’s practice of installing his garden installations in public spaces — such as All That Has Value (1993) which was installed at Harbourfront in Toronto for a number of years — makes his work accessible to the public, forging a relationship between his artworks and people who interact with them. One of our first experiences with Benner’s practice was through his garden Trans/mission: Corn Vectors (1996-7) on the campus of the University of Western Ontario: four wall-like billboards with black and white photographs Benner took while studying indigenous agricultural practices throughout the world. These billboards are framed by various plants native to the Americas, the most visually prominent being the large stalks of corn that tower over the images. The use of corn plants, specifically Purple Peruvian and Gaspé Flint maize, is what gives the gardens their most architectural quality, especially in relation to the inferred architecture of the billboards and the literal architecture of the surrounding buildings. Later that fall Benner held a gathering in which people were invited to share in the corn that was harvested from the work and cooked on location; it is in these types of community interactions that Bennerís work can be most fully appreciated.
architecture and land
As Benner himself states, these billboard or garden installations “have provided me with an immediate response from viewers. I find this very gratifying, even when the responses are negative. This activity encourages dialogue versus didacticism” (129). The dialogue that Benner creates is often political in nature, focusing upon issues of colonialism that he addresses in and through his work. The stable architectonic manner in which the stalks of corn are used in Benner’s work makes an obvious connection between the land and the food, a connection that is then linked to the community of people who come to share the harvest. Such a communal understanding of food-bearing plant life should be viewed as purposely contrasting the typical manner in which many people in Western society experience the products they consume: stripped of any visible relationship to the land, often wrapped in plastic and displayed on a piece of Styrofoam. Benner’s installations reveal a vital network of human relations centered around the cultivation and consumption of agricultural plants — plants that are the transient architecture for human subsistence. It is a pleasant shock to the senses to be immersed in the living enclave of indigenous plant life that Benner brings together and shares with the people who enter the space of his work. With his recent installation Trans/Mission: Still Life (2004)— located at Grosvenor Lodge in London, along with his recently transplanted All That Has Value — Benner forms a more acute relationship between agricultural plants and architecture. We were physically invited into the space of this work through a corridor created by two rows of plants, each bed surrounding two lattice work billboards with photographs mounted on them; Purple Peruvian maize towered over us as we walked through the row. The smell and sense of life grew as we stood inside this architectural structure made of growing plants. These works are never static and are always in the process of becoming: they are alive. Their visceral qualities are the direct result of the connection between land, food and people into which Benner taps, a connection that he believes is vital for the continued existence of the human race. Benner’s garden installations make visible the architecture inherent in c the land. Benner, Ron. ‘An Answer to a Question’ So, to Speak. Ed. Jean-Pierre Gilbert, Sylvie Gilbert, Lesley Johnstone. Montreal: Artextes Editions, 1999. pp 129-130
Miriam Jordan and Julian Haladyn are interdisciplinary artists and writers in Peterborough Ontario pursuing MFAs in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College, Vermont. Julian is also doing an MA in Culture, Politics and Theory at Trent University.
architecture and land
Scratching the Land |
making a mark that will last until other scratches make the original illegible
cour t es y R oya l M us eum of Al b er t a
milt on olfer t
on the dry, sage filled, Medicine Lodge
he Orkney Isles lie just across the Firth of Pentland off the northern tip of Scotland, part of an archipelago filled with remnants of many different peoples stretching deep into misty history. One line of this story is Maes Howe, a chambered cairn located on Mainland. As a child I was confused by the fuss made over this ancient site, which was only a grassy mound not much more than twenty feet high, rising out of a sheep pasture. Now I am struck that a simple cairn is still significant to human beings nearly 5000 years after it was erected. The interest comes as much from the unknown as the known. Did the builders feel this same ambiguity? Is the intentional ambiguity we are prone to attempt in our modern works the same as that which we find in sites such as Maes Howe?
architecture and land
Valley floor in southwest Montana I found the faded remnants of a tipi site. A local rancher told me that during his childhood the Shoshone passed through this valley on their seasonal migrations. Local lore has it that this was their last camp in the valley. The place seemed haunted, and chills ran up my spine as I stumbled through the rough circle of stones. A few kilometres from Maes Howe stands the Ring of Brodgar, a much larger circle of much bigger stones that are also the subject of lore. In Montana I stood among stones that had served to hold the tipi to the ground. Laid by humans, they marked a short, perhaps insignificant passage in the history of those humans. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the giant valley to these ruffled, unloved rings, but it seemed improbable that they should have any power at all. Soon there will be nothing left to mark that place as the last camp.
From the outset, the very temporal nature of these foundations made them insignificant, and as such, they were simply left as they were on the day the tents were dismantled. Today, when a house is vacated permanently, building safety laws demand that it be demolished. There will be no legacy, no thrill, no evocation of a story. Do we romantically give significance to things that were not significant at the time of construction? Can we only hope that significance will be applied to our work at some point in the future, when we are no longer there to promote or defend it?
the beach on Hoy: traces and marks, elaborate, necessarily abandoned.
from left: Maes Howe Brumley tipi ring Ring of Brodgar Farmstead mark making in Manitoba: if this scar is left to natural processes, it will outlast the legacy of the home in which I grew up. It is too worthless to fill in, has no materials to pillage and shall likely never function as anything but a some time container of water. It is the very insignificance of the thing that will shelter it from destruction. peter ha rg r a ves
perhaps in the future some enquiring student will stumble upon these random markings and see some order and realize human involvement. The particulars of the order he finds will have nothing to do with me. They will have everything to do with his imagination and the contemporary understanding of the world of his day. In the same way, all that we see today is filtered through our collective experience and understanding. In no way is this little excavation significant, but it is its insignificance that I find valuable.
as a twelve year old, I dreamed of making a river in my parents’ garden where we lived, in Winkler, Manitoba. In retrospect, it seems this dream was born out of the desperation for ample, flowing water. The memories of this period of my childhood are full of dust storms and news reports of farmers across the prairies desperate for water. For economic reasons more than anything, I used what materials and equipment I had — dirt and a shovel. For fear of my mother’s wrath, I began the project just on the paddock side of the fence, in the tall grass, digging a trench 12 inches deep in an 8 foot diameter loop. I spent a few futile days filling my trench with water using the hosepipe. When the rains returned to the prairies and spring melt water stood beside my trench, I took up my shovel once again. This time it would be a pond, deep enough for a swim!
By the time I had finished the hole, the dry heat of August made any hope of swimming evaporate. Over the years the project has edged nearer to the house. My parents, very patient, have allowed for the construction of two circular ponds inspired by the tipi rings. Trees were planted, and a thin drainage ditch carries runoff to the municipal ditch. In autumn the ponds become a scar. During winter a blanket of snow dips and lifts softly according to the scarred earth below. Each spring, water is pumped from the basement into the first pond. This pond empties into the second, and then into the third. It is a delight to see it functional. While I might have delusions about its relevance, I do believe if left to natural processes, the scar will outlast the legacy of the house in which I grew up.
It is quite likely that from this era our most impressive, ambiguous legacy will be the scars of our existence. Skyscrapers will eventually be dismantled or destroyed, just as were those of antiquity, through war and weathering. No longer built of stone, our architectural legacy is far from assured. Records and data from this era are fragile: the information stored in databanks and libraries may suffer the same demise as the libraries of Alexander and Alfred. It will certainly be the large earthworks projects — water diversion projects around our cities, open pit mines, canals, foundations — those giant scars we make upon the earth, which will inspire, confuse, and mystify those who stumble upon them in a time beyond exact explanations. What remains will be left to g creative speculation. Peter Hargraves, MArch (Oregon) works with box architectures in Montreal. architecture and land
Gulf Island living: the Clark House, Gabriola Island, BC Abdallah Jamal
ne dreams of architect-client relationships such as this. Chris and Nancy Clark had acquired a property on Gabriola Island and wanted to live in the slow and reflective manner of BC’s Gulf Islands. They had both recently begun meditating in order to give priority to spiritual calm in their lives; they are both vegetarians who grow and store their own food, and each had a keen interest in recycling and reuse, especially of materials from the many older houses being demolished in Vancouver. Both being nurses on limited resources, the construction budget was tight. We were asked to design a modest home that was different from the norm — a quiet haven which would express their world view and where they would feel the presence of the site’s natural setting. The house was to have a west coast feel but at the same time reflect their own attraction to the earthy feel of adobe structures and the solitude of French country cottages. It had to be wheelchair-friendly for Chris’s father, and have spacious living areas with west light filtered through the tall firs and cedars on the property. The main bedroom was to be dramatic, other bedrooms flexible since they were still discussing marriage and children: Bed & Breakfast was a likely use for the rooms in the interim.
site The 1.75 acre site was heavily treed and divided in two by a west facing escarpment atop which a half-acre bench, mostly bedrock, had been cleared by the previous owner for construction. There was a view north east to Georgia Strait from the northernmost part of the bench and only one place to site the house for views and to avoid costly foundation engineering — at the edge of the escarpment and as far north as possible. This also allowed for a septic field and vegetable garden to the south where the bedrock receded beneath a cover of earth.
architecture and land
Conceptual design was guided primarily by Chris’s and Nancy’s spiritual aspirations which closely resembled our own. We took the escarpment edge as a natural line of balance between the untouched forest in the valley and the cleared part of the site — the spiritual in contrast to the material. The house itself would embody this idea of life’s duality by being itself divided into: large volume glassy exposed simple space warm reflective spectacular
small volumes solid sheltered complex space cool active humble
A heavy north-south wall divides the plan into contrasting halves. East is a simple box of rectangular bedrooms and bathrooms strung along a linear circulation spine, and west is a canted volume changing from wide and low at the entrance/kitchen to narrow and soaring at the living room, where the roof floats in the tree canopy. As yin and yang, each half has a small element of the other —on the canted side, the kitchen is a rectangle, while an angled reading lookout and meditation platform sit on the simpler east side. The dividing wall between the east and west subsides where the two sides of the plan breathe into each other across the Gallery. Almost unnoticeable, spaced steps along the Gallery drift up to the main bedroom. The wall is a harmonious connection that sometimes separates and sometimes joins the spiritual and material parts of the house. The orientation takes maximum advantage of western winter sunlight while deep overhangs shelter the interiors from too much hot summer sun. The kitchen entrance allows level access to a vegetable garden on part of the flat land and wheelchair access to the main level. Northeast water views enhance the meditative/reflective activities in the northeast part of the house.
The west half is a single, irregular post and beam space with a wood and glass wall that allows the forest to flow into the living spaces. The floor is cool clay tile and a seating alcove is plastered. The east half, has a board and batten exterior with small punched windows and is finished inside with drywall and wood floors. This is the part of the house to retreat to at the end of the day or in which to find a corner to curl up in with a book.
Over the period of construction the clients attended many demolition sales in Vancouver to acquire many of the finishing materials, wood floors and plumbing fixtures in the house. All the doors, except the kitchen and dining room, are recycled or were hand crafted on site. Accent wood finishes are hand fashioned from the arbutus trees or firs on site.
architecture and land
One of the more unusual features of the project is the roofing. Richard Mooreâ€™s patented MooRoof converts used tires into roofing tiles. The rustic look seemed very appropriate for this house and the clients, cautious at first, grew to love the heavily textured roof.
Glen Millar, the general contractor, gave the house its crafted look and feel. He carefully selected and crafted materials that aligned the design concept to the clientsâ€™ tastes, imbuing the house with the texture and g patina that we all envisioned.
owner: Chris and Nancy Clark architect: Relative Form Architecture Studio, West Vancouver. design team: Abdallah Jamal and Joys Chow structural consultant: Sotola Engineering, Nanaimo geotechnical consultant: Robert Thomas, North Vancouver general contractor: Glen Millar, Gabriola Island roofer: Moore Enviro Systems, Squamish project period: February 1995-June 1997
architecture and land
Abdallah Jamal holds degrees in both geotechnical engineering and architecture. With a particular concern for psychological, historical and cultural propriety in design, he founded RELATIVE FORM Architecture Studio, initially to design prototypical houses for Muslims in the West. Abdallah Jamal and Joys Chow currently practise out of their home office in West Vancouver.
top: St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, 1890. Cache Creek, BC below: Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1916. Camrose, Alberta Both of these wooden churches have a combination of a cupola with a spire on top reaching upward. The imagery of these spires reaching up towards heaven with no visible ground place is significant in their physical symbolism. The congregations could observe this spiritual meaning upon entering the front doors. The detailing on both the spires show a local vocabulary that is both original and influenced by the origins of European Catholic churches. The metal strapping which envelops the spire on the Catholic Church at Camrose is also symbolic of divine protection.
temporal and transcendental landscapes
mi cha el l eeb
Apotheosis is a visual arts project that explores the idea of architecture reverencing the divine within the landscape in two different but not mutually exclusive dimensions: the temporal and the transcendental.
Michael Leeb + Heather Bretz
he prairie landscape lends itself to discussion about the nature of a temporary architecture. A strong horizontal defines the ground plane: a building on this plane is a great visual contrast against the wide expanse of sky. In Alberta, there has been a tradition of building light structures that have a temporary relationship with the earth; few structures in the prairies permeate deeply into the ground. This has allowed for the practice of relocating buildings, creating a feeling of temporary architecture. Though it can be argued that all buildings located on the praires have this sense of the temporary within the landscape, here we will look at only the topology of churches, with their symbolic and physical expression of reaching towards heaven. The symbolism and significance of the architecture of these buildings was been conceived of in terms of traditional Christian theology in keeping with the designers, architects and builders of these churches.
For Apotheosis about a hundred, mostly wood, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic churches were studied and photographed. Details such as spires and cupolas or domes, spatially situated between the temporal (earth) and the transcendental (heaven), are indicative of what may be called an architecture of the great-in-between: firstly in terms of the church building itself situated within an expansive landscape forming an indisputable landmark, and secondly in terms of the spire or dome literally situated between heaven and earth and also representing a threshold between heaven and earth. The prairie landscape of rural Alberta aptly suits F. M. Simpsonâ€™s comment that â€œspires are most telling on flat or undulating country...â€?1 These spires and domes are visible from great distances and certainly the pioneer settlers that built these church structures would have been architecture and land
top: St. John the Baptist, Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1947, Lamont, Alberta bottom: St. John the Baptist, Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1939, Borschiw, Alberta
mi cha el l eeb
Both the Ukrainian Catholic St. John the Baptist churches have a traditional cupolas. The town of Lamont and the rural area of Borschiw were settled by immigrants from the area of Galicia in the Ukraine. The first wave of Ukrainian immigrants started in 1891 and continued to both regions until the late 1940’s. The Catholic Church at Borschiw has a relationship with both the sky and the ground plane. It is the second church constructed at this site, the original is now the parish hall. This ability to relocate the congregation speaks of the temporary nature often associated with prairie architecture. Both the church at Lamont and Borschiw are raised above the ground which give them the appearance of being detached from the land, closer to heaven.
fully aware of the significance of the church with its dual symbolic role — a physical structure within the landscape and its spiritual significance in their lives — especially so in a much less secularised society where the church played a dynamic and perhaps almost omnipresent role in the life of these new immigrant settlers. When one considers that these immigrants usually built these churches themselves, with local building materials that were often donated, these structures really represented a form of architecture built as a labour of love. Often, they were smaller scale replicas of churches in the immigrants’ country of origin and would have had added significance as a source of nostalgia for their home.2 Since these church structures were, and still are, visible from long distances they are silent reminders of a spiritual reality that still persists.
architecture and land
In Byzantine thought cupolas represent the ‘vaults of heaven’. They exist as a threshold between earth represented by the nave and the sky which represents heaven. It is commonly thought that the dome or cupola finds its origin in the spire — spires differ though in that they pierce the sky (or heaven) not unlike prayer, while cupolas embrace the sky and the nave as well.3 In this sense the church structures are in the world but not of the world, having both temporal and transcendental qualities and attributes. It is the architectural attributes of spires and cupolas, especially when viewed under atmospheric skies, that lend themselves so aptly to describing an architecture of the great-inbetween. Spires represent an alpha form while cupolas represent an omega form symbolically representative of Jesus Christ, the alpha and omega of Christian faith. This is especially apparent since domes and spires almost without exception are surmounted by a cross.
top: Knox United Church, 1907. Daysland, Alberta bottom: United Church, 1936. Dorothy, Alberta
m icha el l eeb
These two wooden churches are simple in their design with the bell tower located at the front left. Each tower is clad in painted wood shiplap. The Knox United Church’s spire is significantly higher than the roof line of the church, a symbolic gesture of rising up towards the heavens above the occupants of church who are confined to the earth. The United Church at Dorothy, near Drumheller, closed in 1961 when the area became a ghost town. Interestingly, the abandoned church, located in a semi-desert, barren landscape, retains its spiritual significance. Both churches show the effects of weathering on wood in an open landscape. The spire of the Knox United Church was struck by lightening on July 26, 2002, and repaired in 2003. The height of the spires in contrast to the open prairie around them, make them lightning rods in addition to heavenly beacons.
Church architecture coincides with the idea expressed in scripture that says “Know and fix in your hearts that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on the earth below ...”4 Spires and domes represent this metaphysical reality within the temporal and transcendental landscape. Whether these ideas were consciously held by the architects and builders of these churches is somewhat of an enigma, however, they did build these structures as an act of reverence and as a place of worship. These church structures therefore still remain an indelible g form of vernacular architecture in Canada. 1
The debate about whether to include towers and spires stems
from a difference within Western monasticism between the Cistercians and the Benedictines during the 13th century. For instance, St. Bernard de Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk was not in favor of abbeys with towers or spires. (see Simpson Vol. II p. 115.) The writings/drawings of Villard de Honnecourt , a mediaeval monk and architect, may also be instructive here. It is apparent that mediaeval architecture was symbolic in its application and mystical in its aim. (see von Simson, Otto. Gothic Church Architecture. Princeton University Press, 1974)
F. M. Simpson. A History of Architectural Development.
Vol. II. Mediaeval. London: Longmans and Green, 1909. p. 115. 2
There is little evidence to suggest that these churches were
copied locally from one church to another.
Deuteronomy 4:39. St. Joseph’s breviary or bible. Michael Leeb is a visual artist and member of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada (SSAC). Heather Bretz is an Intern Architect in Calgary and is also a member of SSAC.
architecture and land
Land and Environmental Art Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, editors. London: Phaidon, 1998.
and art was, is, a form of mark making that started in the 1960s as an art that stepped away from the making of objects for collectors and galleries (commodities in the international art market) and moved instead into the world at large, especially large un-ownable landscapes where a drawing might be several miles across. Most of us were introduced to land art by Rosalind Krauss’s essay ‘Sculpture in an Expanded Field’ because it came after Kenneth Frampton’s ‘Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance. Towards an Architecture of Critical Regionalism’ in Hal Foster’s 1983 book, The Anti-Aesthetic. Photocopy ‘6 Points’ and you get the provocative first page of ‘Expanded Field’. Other books followed: Lucy Lippard’s Overlay and Alan Sonfist’s Art in the Land provided a powerful antithesis to the excessive use of historicist signs in 1980s architecture. Land art illustrated systems of land registration and brought home the recognition that architecture, even more than art, renders land as landscape, politicised and marked by a colonising imperative. It is a cornerstone of Canadian identity, our historic relationship with the land, and here was an art that combined intimate detail with enormous abstraction, offering much direction to a Canadian architecture. Many projects in this issue of On Site illustrate this sensibility, from accommodating the entropic processes of weathering, to Brown+Storey’s reclamation of Toronto’s culverted streams, to the increased privileging of land forms over buildings — a matter of some urgency in the north. When land is conceptualised as cultural space, as in Toronto’s Danforth, we can look to Foucault’s 1984 statement, included in the ‘Documents’ section of Land and Environmental Art: “Space is fundamental in any form of communal life; space is fundamental in any exercise of power”, for a linkage between land, urbanism, politics and spatial engagement. The preoccupation with social meaning drummed into us through the postmodern 1980s has emerged in the early 2000s as a preoccupation with social accommodation within a fragile environment: concern that the rebuilding of New Orleans will be as a ‘white’ city thanks to the ‘cleansing’ power of the environmental disaster that was hurricane Rita, links cultural and spatial politics in a way that also owes much to Foucault, and is foreshadowed by the early 1970s American land art of Helen Mayer, Newton Harrison and Gordon Matta Clark. Land and Environmental Art is a most valuable collection of projects and texts that confirm to us that land is at once sublime and humble. The marks and inscriptions we make upon it with our work, indeed with our occupation, have graphically written our attitudes to the environment, to the culture of architecture and to technology. Land art reminds us of the speed with which these c marks can be made and the permanence of their embeddedness. Stephanie White once wrote a PhD dissertation on the relationship between land and Canadian architecture in the 1950s.
Richard Long. A Line Made by Walking. 1967 Land and Environmental Art, p 125
architecture and land
Complexe Machine, carried out by Maurice Martel at Université Laval, Québec
OPEN FORM ARCHITECTURE (OFA) Statement
fMinh ounded by four young, award-winning architecture interns, Maurice Martel, Maxime Moreau, Darrel Ronald and Tuan Khai Le, Open Form Architecture defines an architecture practice as a satellite studio wherein partners join together to work on projects, competitions and exhibitions. The team join designers working in different cities, even different countries: Montréal, Los Angeles, Paris and Rotterdam.
OFA seeks to define a new practice of contemporary architecture based on complex tools such as programming, generative algorithms, bio-mimetic software and associative design in order to arrive at a non-standard practice wherein the formal investigations are endless, open forms. OFA has collaborated since 2001 with different architecture offices. Notably, the team has participated in the Concours du Musée de la Nation Huronne Wandat (Finalist); the Il Ponticello International Charrette, Montréal (Mention); Beirut Martyr’s Square Competition, Beirut; the City Crossing International Competition, Winnipeg; the Abbaye cistercienne d’Oka; Thèâtre de Terrebonne; and the Bibliotèque de Châteauguay. www.o-f-a.net
Canada $7.50 Mexico 50MXN USA $9US Australia $9AUD UK £3.50 Europe e5
in this issue: Katherine Bourke | temporary landing | Yeoung-Ju, South Korea Tonkao Panin | rebuilding after the tsunami | Pang-Nga and Krabi, Thailand Florian Jungen | l’oeuf’s benny farm project | Montréal, Québec Tom Strickland | the problem with littletowns | Toronto, Ontario Armando Hashimoto | informal housing interventions | Mexico City Rafael Gomez-Moriana | pleasure in a point block | Benidorm, Spain Rainer Markku Peltonen | berlin holocaust memorial | Berlin Cynthia Hammond | memorials and memory at the world trade centre site | New York City Paul Whelan | brown + storey’s massey harris park | Toronto, Ontario Greg Piccini | a bio-regional education in the malcolm knapp ubc research forest | Vancouver, BC Francesco Martire | killbear provincial park interpretive centre | near Parry Sound, Ontario Aleta Fowler | rubble building | Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Thane Magelky | northern site issues | Juneau, Alaska Tammy Allison | sculpture studio | Cape Dorset, Nunavut Miriam Jordan and Julian Haladyn | the garden works of ron benner | London, Ontario Peter Hargraves | scratches in the land | the Orkneys, Montana and Winkler, Manitoba Abdallah Jamal | the clark house | Gabriola Island, BC Michael Leeb and Heather Betz | apotheosis, transcendent churches | middle Alberta
Published on Oct 20, 2005