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identity

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$14 display until october 2011

architecture urbanism culture landscape art photography research


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2 5 identity the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognised or known an individual’ s comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity Identity is more than behaviour or personality: it is constructed, deliberately, and sits like a stick of rock at the centre of all we do, the decisions we make. The first line of identity, whether as an architect, an artist, a building, a city or a nation should have some passing acquaintance with an authentic self simply to be understood. Here is where branding, celebrity and spin often falter. It is complex, identity; it shouldn’t be subjected to simplification or reduction. We need deep description of who we are and how we work, where we live and how we fit. Why look at identity, architecture and urbanism at this time? This is our twenty-fifth issue of On Site, a project that started very humbly and has evolved over the past twelve years to its present form. At its core is On Site’s identity as a venue for new voices, ideas and wide interpretations of architecture and urbanism. On Site describes the complexity of what we do.

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Ned. his mark

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In On Site 6 in 2001 we had a project by David Tsai, Blood Pen, which is worth re-visiting for this issue on identity. Some projects are unforgettable.

D av id T sai

blood pen object design | need and deed b y dav i d t s a i

Integrity The blood pen is meant to be used in contracts where one’s integrity is of the highest importance. The process of withdrawing and writing in blood signifies one’s intent and committment to an agreement. It reflects on the pain, difficulty and sacrifice one must inevitably face in fulfilling one’s work.

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Responsibility The ideal use of the blood pen is for a peace treaty, or in instances when a country’s leader has made decisions and statements directly resulting in bloodshed. Signing a peace treaty with the blood pen, the signature signifies both the end of the conflict and that this is the final blood shed. Identity Blood contains your genetic code. It contains you. Your signature then not only represents you, it is you. g


on site

25 identity

contents David Tsai Joanne Lam smsteele Department of Unusual Certainties Andrea Wong + Cody Spencer Michael Panacci Lejla Odobasic Thomas-Bernard Kenniff Lisa Dietrich Victoria Stanton Deborah Wang Amery Calvelli Reza Aliabadi Aisling O’Carroll Wes Wilson Frédéric Brisson Farzaneh Bahrami Corey Schnobrich Peter Osborne Shannon Werle Alexander d’Hooge + Neeraj Bhatia Aaron Levine Miriam Ho Joshua Craze Giovana Beltrao Kira Varvanina Tim Sharp Catherine Hamel Nicole Dextras Suzanne Ernst DoUC

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subscriptions calls for articles masthead

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Blood Pen Going Home: Hong Kong Who Are You? World and Home Branding Victoria Illusion of Choice Migration and Identity Barking Town Square Home Towns Roadside Atractions Stop-motion migration Forget not the street Urban Cardiogram Stolpersteine Spitalfields Incognitae Post-industrial Barcelona Tehran A Sea of Symbols in the UAE Identity in Collaboration You need sound in order to be heard Public Form at the Periphery Shifting City Disappearing Gwangju Animal Cities Embedded Identity A Room In-between: Soviet Kommunalkas First Contract Tearing Air by Drawing Displacement in Space Weedrobes Starting the Day Urban Design Identity

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I do a 360, straining to identify traces that match the vague images in my head. I have been here before, many times in fact. Feeling dizzy, I try to steady myself at an extremely busy intersection in Hong Kong. I have to admit defeat. I am lost at home. Yet, I am right at home. Having been a Canadian immigrant grown accustomed to suburban houses and shopping malls for over two decades, I go back home, my first home, my original home. Nervous and excited, I make my way into the city. The place is an immediate plurality of adjectives: strange, dense, new, fast and overwhelming. However, amongst the seemingly organised chaos, the shape of Hong Kong is familiar, albeit taller and glitzier. The constant reinvention between the mountains and the harbour can only be appreciated from the tops of buildings these days. The macro-view is spectacular, offering an understanding of a city in terms of large infrastructural transformations. More land is being reclaimed from the Victoria Harbour. Underpasses are being shaped by an extraordinary amount of steel. Plans for an activated waterfront promenade are announced in multiple renderings. Alongside simultaneous infrastructural projects are skyscrapers ready to remake the skyline. I am in awe of the action. Up in the sky in Hong Kong, I imagine transplanting some of this activity to my other home, Toronto. A sense of impasse immediately washes over me. Often bogged down by bureaucratic wranglings, even one of these projects would take years of debate in the council chambers. My Toronto seems stuck.

Other than the harbour, space for oneself is in short supply, even within one’s own apartment. Not only do today’s Hong Kongers work, eat and shop in hyper-efficient mode, it is all conducted in impossibly small spaces. Naturally, real estate is an obsession and everyone knows square footage prices by heart. Not even the condos that have sprung up in Toronto in recent years have prepared me for the typical Hong Kong apartment. Having lived in suburban houses that are minimum 2000 square feet, I find myself trying to understand a family living in a threebedroom apartment of 600 square feet. Granted it is efficiently laid out and every possibility for built-in storage is maximised. I stand in the miniscule kitchen, imagining and projecting my life if I had stayed. No doubt I would have adapted, just like everyone else, however I cannot imagine the effect it would have had on my psyche. It is no wonder that the streets are full. They are in effect everyone’s living room and backyard and everything in between. The built environment has supported and reinforced pressure cooker compact living at every level from the skyline to the apartment, leaving very little room for one to stop and think. A part of me understands and is envious of this lifestyle – after all, isn’t this density and activity the holy grail of all our mixed-use plans? At the same time, I am not sure I truly want to be a part of this.

urbanism | m e m o ry b y j oa n n e l a m

going home where is it?

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Coming down from the dense skyline to the street level gives a different vantage point. Hong Kong streets are just as intense as I remember, except they remain so 24/7. Everyone needs to get somewhere in a hurry, above and below ground. Without the high-tech efficient public transportation system, the city would surely come to a standstill. The crowds are not only on the main streets but on side streets as well. I easily blend in, but have trouble keeping up with the average walking speed. The whole city is hopping, a true metropolis, every planner’s dream except it is not master planned by planners. Driven by scarce land and high development pressures, Hong Kong has willed itself into being. No one is untouched by the energy pulsing through the city – a far cry from the vast sprawling malls in the Toronto suburbs that pretend to reproduce this madness. On a closer look, the buildings that are so shiny from high up take on a duller sheen from street level. In the older areas, ground floors have been renovated for stores that rival those on Fifth Avenue, but the apartments from the second floor up are covered in a thick layer of gray dust, betraying years of pollution. Although I do not feel claustrophobic, the streets definitely feel saturated. I long for a breather, a break from the relentless movement. I instinctively head for the water. Many hours sitting by Canadian lakes have shown me the best place to find peace and quiet.

J o a nne L a m

As I doubt my commitment to today’s Hong Kong, I question my loyalty to Toronto. Frankly, neither the hyper-compact environment nor the sprawling suburbs seems like home. Perhaps it is both a curse and blessing to immigrants; destined to continuously question the basic idea of home, I am also freed from its physical and cultural trappings. My home does not lie in one city or the other or both, but rather in-between. It shifts. It occupies a space in time, allowing one to be both insider and outsider simultaneously. I stop pretending and start to navigate Hong Kong with a tourist map. It is a blatant case of the city telling me that I do not belong. However, every now and then, I stumble upon a staircase, or a bridge, or an intersection from a particular corner that I remember so well, and I know. I am home. g


sm st e e le

the poet sneaks behind Sgt Major’s back, disobeys his orders, uses the cooks’ blue rocket & washes her hair with contraband hot water! – notebook #4 smsteele

who are you |

l a n g uag e p o e t ry by smsteele

who are you

‘sta maslak chishay da? (what are you?)’ the ANA asked me. looked towards the translator, a weedy man with broken, rotting teeth. I carried no pistol, wore body armour. arrived in a tornado of Chinook dust with only a small pack. wore tan but no cammo. ‘poet’ I replied. my little moleskine tucked between my frag vest, my chest. ready. my black pen wedged between pages. the courtyard of the schoolhouse quiet in the way of all mid-day courtyards where the sun dictates. ‘sha’ir’ the translator told the skinny ranks clustered in a crescent around me. ‘sha’ir. sha’ir’ the Afghan soldiers nodded. smiled. turned and left. a table of engineers playing cards looked up. resumed play.

this work is so damned undone.

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poet. of course. poet. why wouldn’t these Canadians have a poet drop in on them?

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i d e n t i t y f o r m at i o n | housing b y d e pa rt m e n t o f u n u s ua l c e rta i n t i e s

world and home A comparison of Canada’s post-WWII global identity and major CMHC events World and Home is an exercise in understanding relationships. We can continue to extend this chart, adding on new bits of information. What if we overlaid immigration numbers? Existing housing stocks? Or even the history of the Canadian deficit? Relationships such as identity reveal themselves through both time and experience.

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In 1946 CMHC (Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation) was formed to do two important things – to house returning soldiers from the second world war and to lead the nation’s housing strategy. A bold task for a bold nation; this is what Canada was. We were world leaders not because of what we said but because of what we did, this was Canada’s global identity — action. This identity permeated Canada and in particular the policies and actions of the CMHC. World at Home is more than a comparison between Canada’s post war identity and the CMHC, it is also a reminder of what Canada was and what it could be again. A look into our recent past reveals not a nation of hockey-loving Tim Horton’s coffee drinkers who dwell on a vast plain of sprawling suburbs and are passive by nature, but a people who acted on their values. It reveals a country who initiated the UN peacekeeping force, came out strongly against the Vietnam War (then took in over 69 000 refugees from Indo-China) and housed over 30 000 war veterans and their families after WWII. It is a country that experimented with housing and density (Habitat at Expo67) and shared its housing knowledge with the world (CMHC was awarded a UN peace medal in 1982 for sharing its practices on housing, building and planning with the Economic Commission for Europe). This was a country built on action. Identity Now Canada is not what it was. It no longer leads the world and in most cases, does not even follow. The housing situation in the country is embarrassing. The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is in shambles and is being threatened with privatisation, and in Vancouver, housing prices have soared to beyond the ridiculous (a postwar bungalow sells for $889 000). On the world stage we are constantly being condemned for our lack of action on climate change and for the first time since the UN was established, Canada has gone more than a decade without a seat on the security council. The Canada of the future will have to take inspiration from its past. The Diefenbakers and Pearsons of this country have long since passed. The world leader that was Canada has rested for so long on its laurels that it is not even a shadow of its former self. We have political dithering, uninspired urbanism and a country intent on thinking about meaningless economies while productive ones disappear.

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g de p ar t m e n t o f u n u su al c e r t ain t ie s

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Action(s) Planners and architects can no longer sit on the sidelines, we must get our hands dirty in the everyday. Housing solutions in this country can no longer wait for nonexistent government procurements or high priced clients. We must start creating new typologies unsolicited, which deal with liveable densities, associated economic models and a multicultural ideology. We must rethink the economy beyond consumerism, creating new design solutions for both the goods and services we consume. We must plan for and design the spaces where this production will occur and we must maintain and protect our cities’ productive lands from speculation.


Ta l i a Es te

negotiating regional identity through strange and irrelevant symbols urbanism | landscape b y a n d r e a wo n g a n d c o dy s p e n c e r

branding victoria

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With its warm dry summers and wet mild winters, the city of Victoria has a Mediterranean climate and a long growing season. A wide variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs flourish in the City of Gardens, including rhododendrons, ornamental cherries, daffodils and native species such as camas and Garry Oak. Pacific Madrone and Hairy Manzanita, two native species that range south to California and Mexico, link Victoria botanically to more renowned climates. However, rather than capitalising on such associations, Victoria has chosen to promote its desirably mild climate through the cultivation of a decidedly foreign variety of plant – palms. In 2003, the City of Victoria planted palms along Douglas Street, a major entry route into the downtown core. Palm trees have also been placed in prominent locations around Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Bordered by the city’s major hotels and numerous popular tourist destinations, the Inner Harbour is a locus of activity for tourists; as a setting for parades, festivals and holiday events, it is also a gathering place for Victoria residents. In this location, palm trees are highly visible and easily photographed.

Residents have also incorporated palm trees into their own private gardens. They are especially prevalent in Oak Bay where they appear among Tudor-style houses, Arts and Crafts bungalows, tea rooms and tennis courts. Since 2004, the annual Oak Bay palm sale has made the trees widely available. According to a citizenled count, the number of palms in Oak Bay increased from 500 in 2003 to 2,669 in 2006, prompting some Victorians to proclaim the area ‘palm tree capital of Canada’. One palm species in particular has taken root in Victoria’s landscape: Trachycarpus fortunei, also known as the Windmill Palm. Indigenous to mountainous regions of central and eastern China, it is one of the few palm species that has difficulty growing in the tropics but thrives in temperate climates. As palm trees in general endure as globally recognisable symbols of warmth, relaxation and island holidays, Victorians can use this cool-weather palm to brand their climate as tropical, relative to the rest of Canada. In privately owned gardens, they read as playful expressions of pride in Victoria’s unique climate; shared with neighbours and passers-by, these trees become currency in local negotiations of regional identity. While the rest of the country lies leafless under a blanket of snow, Victoria’s gardens display green lawns and windmill palms. Those who seek tourist dollars stand to financially gain from the broadcasting of such comparisons, for palms are valuable signifiers in the national and international tourist markets. There is an irony in Victoria’s appropriation of the palm to engage with and to promote a defining aspect of its regional identity. Victoria’s climate actually becomes less remarkable when represented by a globalised, polysemous symbol that calls to mind any number of warm-weather locales. By employing a symbol that reminds us of so many other places, Victoria risks erasing what actually does make it unique. g

Cleverley, B  ‘City cultivates a tropical image for visitors’  Times Colonist, pB1. Sept 5, 2003 Hatherly, J  ‘Counting on palms: Tropical plants find a haven in Oak Bay and Victoria’  Times Colonist, pB9. April 8, 2007 Jones, D Palms throughout the world. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995 Riffle, R L and P Craft. An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2003 Oak Bay Tourism. ‘The palm tree capital of Canada’ Retrieved from: http://www.oakbaytourism.com/attractions/palm_tree_capital.htm (2010)


the illusion of choice building the new society architecture | branding b y m i c h a e l pa n ac c i

M i c ha e l Pa na c c i

‘Here is urban renewal with a sinister twist, an architecture of deception which, in its happy-face familiarity, constantly distances itself from the most fundamental realities. The architecture of this city is almost purely semiotic, playing the game of grafted signification, theme-park building. Whether it represents generic historicity or generic modernity, such design is based in the same calculus as advertising, the idea of pure imageability, oblivious to the real needs and traditions of those who inhabit it.’ – Michael Sorkin, Variations on a theme park: the new American city and the end of public space 1

For years the streets of Toronto have been used as a cheap stand-in for many North American cities – Manhattan, Chicago, Baltimore and Boston among others, in major films. A recent urban design proposal for a new residential neighbourhood around the Pinewood film studios on the waterfront would push this phenomenon even further. The proposal calls for residential streets and buildings to mimic neighbourhoods of London, New York and Chicago and to act as living movie sets. People could buy a house in Toronto designed to look like SoHo in New York or the Loop in Chicago. 2

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Image > Reality In Toronto’s saturated condominium market, real estate developers have had to search for any edge, any distinction that will set their condo development apart, although many of a condo’s built qualities vary little from one development to the next. Aesthetic appearance, square footage, unit cost, amenities offered, location, finishes, security, parking, storage: all of these are products of the market and as such, remain consistent within the market. The reality of condos is that, for the most part, they are more similar than not. This is exacerbated by the nature of condo development that requires that most units in the building be sold before construction begins.

i d e nt it y

While this may be the first occurrence of Toronto developers actively aping other cities’ architectural identities, it is the continuation of a trend in the marketing of Toronto’s new condominiums. Perhaps it is the absence of a self-perceived civic identity that compels a developer to borrow one, because condominiums throughout the Greater Toronto Area have long projected the imagery and themes of distant international cities as a means to market themselves.

Disconnected from either project or city, exotic locales are cynically bandied about with little reference to the actual location. Condominiums in North York, Mississauga and Etobicoke are named Malibu, French Quarters, Chicago, South Beach – even Emerald City, the fictional city of Oz, is manipulated for its exotic connotations. The glamour of a seductive lifestyle promised by these names depends on a dissolution of place, evaporated in a miasma of exotic and unreal locales.


Pre-construction sales are used to secure financing for the construction; the longer this takes, the more money a developer loses in interest. In this pre-built environment, image becomes more valuable than the eventual built reality. Marketing trumps design. This creates a sharp division between image and reality. Illusion, fantasy and themes are all deployed in a marketing onslaught that sells consumers an image first and a home second. In the absence of any built product or design, marketers are free to target consumers in a variety of different ways. Entering the Capsular Civilisation The end-game of this consumer-marketing escalation is that it hastens our collective descent into what the Belgian philospher Lieven De Cauter terms capsular civilisation, an expansion of the ideas of capsule architecture first suggested by the Japanese Metabolist Kisho Kurokawa in his 1969 essay ‘Capsule Declaration’. De Cauter’s definition of capsule is ‘a tool or an extension of the body which, having become an artificial environment, shuts out the outer, hostile environment. It is a medium that has become an envelope’.3 His fears about rising capsular civilisation centre on the disintegration of society through barricading, segregation and isolation. In today’s condo culture this is promoted through the rise of the consumer individual, the fostering of an insider/ outsider mentality and an active retreat from the public realm that encourages a growing separation and polarisation of individuals. The Rise of the Individual De Cauter introduces hyperindividualisation as the ‘massive disinterest in the concept of society in terms of sociability and solidarity’. 4 A ‘free society is centred on the individual, freedom and mobility’ with the paradox being that such a society is rooted in ‘separation, enclosure and confinement’. The capsule is ‘mutually independent individual spaces, determined by the free will of

individuals…Each space should be a highly independent shelter where the inhabitant can fully develop his individuality’. 5 The rise of the individual is even more in evidence now, ten years after De Cauter wrote his essay, in the proliferation of laptops, blackberries and smart phones. These devices are made not for a family, group or company but for each individual. The ipod, imac, ipad, iphone…the one-bedroom condominium unit is the housing equivalent of this phenomena, the ihome. If the individual condo unit is the capsule, it relies on a series of heavily controlled networks (circulation, mechanical, electrical). In condominiums, these controls take the form of secured entrance lobbies, sterile hallways and collective spaces kept forever neutral so as not to diminish re-sale prices, everything kept in a perpetual state of ‘new’. These controls foster an active separation from the public realm of the streets and an insider/outsider mentality amongst condo-owners. Separation from the city is also conveyed in condo marketing. Websites are quick to advertise views, the city is always shown from a picturesque bird’s-eye angle, sections of the website labelled ‘neighbourhood’ are edited to include the fashionable and trendy options located within walking range. In all aspects, a very large component of the city is denied and edited out, fostering a subconscious retreat from the urban realm. This is the paradox of the apparent freedom of the capsular unit: as it promotes individuality and diversity, it also creates thresholds of separation: ‘If anything, it seems that as we move physically closer together, psychologically we’re moving farther apart… the condominium model is a physical manifestation of our changing attitudes toward home, family, and community. It is the housing model of the individual – designed to be unique, self-contained, and fully customisable to your lifestyle needs.’ 6

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M i c ha e l Pa na c c i


M i c ha e l Pa na c c i

New Opportunities Toronto is now the North American market with the most new condominiums and as such has a tremendous opportunity to test new territories in collective urban dwelling. Rather than promoting and encouraging the individual capsule through marketing there is an opportunity to discuss and think about the new collective spaces and forms of collective ownership that we are creating. Whether this is through the hybridisation of programming which encourages a diversity of user-types and opens the collective spaces of the building up to new publics, or through the creation of interior vertical urban networks which take advantage of the new forms that high-rise condominiums are taking, or by optimising site

adjacencies and creating new interior networks – by re-imagining collective dwelling, perhaps the illusion created by marketing can be erased in favour of truly original living options. g 1 Sorkin, Michael. Variations on a Theme Park: the new American city and the end of public space. New York: Hill And Wang, 1992. pp xiv-xv 2 For more information see Wong, Tony. ‘Toronto streets to be living movie set’ Toronto Star, 14 November 2010. 3 Cauter, de Lieven. The Capsular Civilization: on the city in the age of fear. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004. p 77 4 ibid. p 81 5 ibid. p 66 6 Maich, Steve, and Lianne George. The Ego Boom: why the world really does revolve around you. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2009. p 121

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simultaneous cities

migration and identity

urbanism | m i g r at i o n by lejla odobasic

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Toronto’s skyline has gone through a vast visible transformation over the past fifteen years spurred by high-rise condominium buildings that started first in the former industrial lands along the lakeshore and eventually spread into vacant pockets of available land all over the downtown. Although the quality of space, design, unit sizes, material choices and their general effect on the streetscape is often debated among the design community, condominium towers offer very appealing real estate prices that ensure their continuous sales. Of course it is not merely the square footage that is marketed here; perhaps even more importantly these places come with a promise of a certain lifestyle: The Cosmopolitan, King’s Landing, Cityplace and South Hampton – one is buying into a life of luxury and opulence depicted in polished renderings and a list of amenities. The majority of units are designed as one-bedroom with a den, geared towards young professionals and people moving into the city in pursuit of a career and the excitement of city living. In certain cases groupings of condo towers are revitalising entire neighbourhoods, for better or for worse, and we get Liberty Village, once abandoned industrial land just southwest of the downtown, now becoming the new ‘it’ place. L e j l a Od o b a s i c


L e j l a Od o b a s i c

with poverty, crime, drugs, homelessness and large numbers of people living with mental illness. In a vicious cycle this reputation drew the real estate prices even farther down allowing the apartment buildings lining Jameson Avenue to become an affordable option for the many new immigrants to the city. Today, walking down Jameson Avenue there is a strange tension, an oscillation between its dangerous reputation and the undeniable comfort of the street’s proportions. Unlike the condo typology, here the ratio of street width to building height is just right. The apartment buildings embody an ephemeral feeling of frozen time; brick buildings stand proudly with their dancing balcony patterns, all demarcated with distinctly 50s signage with names such as The Manor, The Royal Court, Sunset Tower and Concord. Many of these buildings have fallen into a bit of disrepair but one can’t help but wonder if, like the condos, they too bring a sense of promise to the people who inhabit them? Do they too sell more than just rental square footage? Are they part of the dream of a transition into a new life? g References: Slater, Tom. ‘Toronto’s South Parkdale Neighbourhood: A Brief History of Development, Disinvestment, and Gentrification’. Research Bulletin 28. Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, May 2005. Whitzman, Carolyn. Suburb, slum, urban village : transformations in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, 1875-2002. Vancouver, UBC Press. 2009

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Crucial questions about condo living still remain. How will the building type accommodate family growth? How might this affect the city itself– are we going to have an exodus of entire neighbourhoods back to the suburbs once the kids arrive? Are these then just ‘transitional’ buildings? Just a few blocks west of Liberty Village along King Street West is another kind of transitional building typology, also with a promise of a new start. Jameson Avenue is a north/south street that runs just a bit over a kilometre from Lakeshore Boulevard to Queen Street West, in a neighborhood known as Parkdale Village. Jameson Avenue is flanked with mid-rise multi-storey apartment buildings mostly dating from the 1950’s. The majority of residents in these apartment buildings are new immigrants to Canada. Jameson Avenue is where their Canadian life begins. Jameson Avenue dates from 1810 when Parkdale was quite a wealthy residential suburb of Victorian mansions overlooking Lake Ontario. In the mid-1950s Toronto built the Gardiner Expressway creating a grave barrier between the city and its waterfront. In Parkdale this greatly devalued the once prime lake view real estate, reorganising the area’s streets with the demolition of over fifty houses at the foot of Jameson Avenue. This in turn gave rise to the multi-storey mid-rise apartment buildings that line the street today, changing it from single-family dwellings to the multistorey mid-rise apartment buildings. During the 1970s, Parkdale went through a large demographic change. The provincial government, in the hopes of integrating many long-term mental illness patients from the two adjacent psychiatric hospitals, decided to convert many old Victorian mansions into boarding houses. Many illegal small units were also created further driving the down property values. Soon Parkdale developed a reputation as a neighbourhood endemic


In the fall of 2010, the third and final phase of the Barking Town Square was completed. The Town Square is a mixed-use development by developer Redrow with buildings designed by AHMM Architects and a major new public space by MUF Architecture/Art. The project is situated in the east London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and has been celebrated by officials as the centre piece to a vast project of urban regeneration in the struggling post-industrial suburb. But this is, of course, not the whole story. Going back ten years, the story of the Town Square is one that raises critical issues about the very notion of identity. In March 2000, the team led by developers Urban Catalyst and Avery Architects was declared winner of the Barking Town Square competition. Both local media and the UK architectural press were effusive. The Barking and Dagenham Post reported on a ‘new heart for Barking’, transforming it’s ‘bleak town square’ with ‘Barbican style’ buildings. The Architect’s Journal clamoured that Avery had ‘triumphed’ and ‘struck gold’ in Barking, describing the

project’s new public space as a ‘community focus’. The moment not only celebrated architectural vision, but the culmination of local regeneration efforts dating back to the mid 1980s. However, this effusive display slowly unravelled in the years to follow. At the end of 2005 the site facing Barking’s Town Hall remained untouched and the entire original team had left the project and been replaced. Yet in spite of these drawbacks, the project narrowly escaped the scrap heap and construction finally began in 2006. For the last year and a half I have been studying the Town Square project in its context. During that time I interviewed participants involved in the project and local residents and also stayed in one of the development’s new residential blocks. What emerges from this research is that given the ten years it took for the project to come to fruition, three significant aspect of identity come into crisis: first is the authorship of the designers, second the architecture itself, and last the conception of ‘the public’ associated with the project.

barking town square

urbanism | ow n e r s h i p by thomas-bernard kenniff

shifting identities in east London

Authorship Although the original competition winning scheme and the built project differ substantially, elements of the design can be traced through the decade of ‘projecting’ the Town Square. Whether through the original project brief or the pass over from the changing architects (Avery to AHMM) some elements are seen to have carried through. This raises the issue that in the end, the project cannot be essentially attributed to a single author. We should also see a firm like AHMM not as a singular entity but as an assemblage of relations with other participants in the project. That is, most design decisions taken during their involvement in the project should be situated in their context; AHMM designing in 2003 is not AHMM designing in 2008. In other words, it is impossible to conceive of their identity outside of the relations that link them to others in the project, developers, public realm consultants and council representatives.

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The Barking and Dagenham Post front page, March 15, 2000. Winning scheme by developer Urban Catalyst and Avery Architects. T h o m as- B e r n ar d Ke n n if f


View from the Town Hall looking north across the stage to the wooded area of the Square during the opening ceremony for phase II, September 2009.

View across the main open space looking east with Town Hall on the right and library building on the left with residential above.

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Tho ma s - Be r na r d Ke nni f f


View of Barking town centre from the south with the Town Square project in the centre.

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Architectural identity The identity of the architecture itself similarly shifts over time. The winning scheme of 2000 presents a more compact and homogeneous development than the final built project. Its formal identity struck, at that time, a chord with some of the resident population who recalled Barking’s glorious fishing past. The Barking Recorder claimed that the ‘Town Square will be all ship-shape’ and the council leader at the time projected it would be known as ‘the Barking boat’. The built project is more fragmented, colourful, orthogonal in form and significantly taller than the original, and apart from having buildings nicknamed after defunct local industries, does not have overt aesthetic links to local iconography. In many ways the resulting scheme expresses the aesthetics of urban regeneration linked to the politics and economics of the last five years: the tail end of the Blair government and a push for public-private partnerships. In January 2000 the finalists’ schemes were exhibited and the public were invited to vote on the one they preferred. But the transformation of the architecture over ten years means that those who lived in Barking in 2000 wonder why the finished scheme has so little to do with the one they voted on or saw represented in the media. On the other hand, residents recently moved to Barking wonder why they were never asked for their opinion.

Tho ma s - Be r na r d Ke nni f f

Barking’s publics During the last decade, Barking experienced some of the highest immigration rates in the country. This influx was concentrated in the town centre, where the Town Square is located and which traditionally has been the area with the highest turn-over in the borough. As one local resident told me, the town centre is where people with little money move in to the borough only to move out as soon as they can afford it. This trend continues to this day firstly because most of the regeneration efforts in the borough are concentrated on the town centre, and secondly because the majority of the new apartments has been bought up by buyto-let agencies in a sense ‘re-generating’ a highly transient and heterogeneous community. Given these changes it is not surprising to find out how little the ‘public’ of 2000 has to do with the ‘public’ of 2010. If we then wonder today whether the public has been consulted or involved in the development of the Town Square we should bear in mind this significant transformation. Which ‘public’ are we speaking of? One crucial question in this case is whether it matters if the public was consulted in 2000 for a scheme completed a decade later. It does, but only if the overall project makes a point of addressing these changes. The critical idea might just be the reconciliation of shifting identities with the notion of architecture as a process. For if we understand architecture not only as a ‘thing in itself’ but also as a socio-economic, cultural, and political process then the identity of designers, architectural objects and publics should be conceived of similarly. g


Lisa Di e tr i c h

home towns

Toronto and Hamburg

urbanism | mapping texture by lisa dietrich

Identity is subjective; the identity of a city is no exception. Its character presents itself to everyone in a different way. The way in which we get to know a place shapes our vision of it. I believe that our first understanding of a city comes with our movement through it, by foot, bike, streetcar, bus, subway or car, maybe even by boat or by air. This movement can be mandatory, as in the act of getting from one place to another, or voluntary, in the form of exploring and wandering; for reasons of getting somewhere we need to be or just because we like to explore. Our paths of travel are defined by whichever modes of transportation are available as well as the layout of the streets and transit system. I moved to Toronto after growing up in Germany and living in Hamburg for almost seven years. Although both cities are formally comparable in many ways, their character always struck me as quite different. Both cities are relatively flat. Both are determined by their large bodies of water, although Hamburg more so than Toronto. Both cities have subways and street level transit. They are provincial but not federal capitals and come with large universities, famed TV and radio towers. However, a significant difference is that Toronto grew along a pre-determined street grid while Hamburg grew within and around a walled town. This growth is reflected in their respective street and transit patterns. 19 i d e nt it y

My first image of a new city is always a simplified graphic representation of the place – a map. My first face-to-face experience is the view out of the window of a bus, streetcar of train. In Hamburg long stretches of the subway are elevated above street level. A passenger can enjoy fantastic views of the river Elbe or the Alster lake. As opposed to the streetcars in Toronto, these elevated subway routes do not necessarily follow the streets and may also take you along the rear of apartment blocks and elegant turn of the century mansions, even cutting diagonally through blocks, loudly rumbling past bedroom windows only a couple of metres away.

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above, Hamburg: Looking towards the new Opera House from Landungsbrücken station, 2 storeys above street level

below, Toronto: Little Italy as seen from the 506 Carlton streetcar

Lisa D ie t r ic h

Lisa D ie t r ic h

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In other parts, such as around the Altona train station, you may find yourself in the midst of a vast old railway yard, passing water towers, derelict storage buildings and crumbling garages as well as long distance trains waiting for departure – a view inaccessible to a cyclist, pedestrian or driver. In Toronto, many of my travels happened by streetcar, always following the street grid, rarely changing directions. Just by looking out of the window I quickly became acquainted with long stretches of those streets which bear streetcar tracks. I loved exploring new areas in this easy, comfortable manner: automated urban window shopping. After being shepherded past a display of interesting shops, cafés and parks, I would get off and backtrack to whatever

had caught my eye. My walk was more or less an extension of what I had already experienced from my window seat. When I had just moved to Hamburg, I had no understanding of my route at street level when I left a train station. This was the case even if I had only travelled above ground. My pedestrian knowledge spread more or less centrically around the station as a starting point. It took weeks or even months until two of these areas overlapped. Suddenly relationships I had previously known only theoretically were manifested in reality and filled with images and realtime connections. My mental map of Hamburg grew into an agglomeration of places, each with their distinguished character, but blended into one another, forming a complex


above, Hamburg: The S3 train on its way to the Hauptbahnhof

Tr ip lo m

below, Toronto: The 504 King streetcar at Metro Hall

Ch r ist o p h Lan ge

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network of the most colourful associations. One network I could physically explore on my own by foot, and another superimposed layer that I could only ever pass through as a voyeur, looking out of a train’s window. I left Hamburg for Toronto three years ago and have felt at home here ever since. I am growing quite familiar with this city and am treating my neighbourhood as an extended living room. But although frequently referred to as a city of neighbourhoods, to me Toronto is much less a city of adjacent and overlapping areas as implied in the term ‘neighbourhood’ than a city of long streets and large intersections. The presence of urban centres is not anticipated in the street layout. Streets basically never lead up

to an important structure or square, even City Hall and Nathan Philips Square are neatly integrated into the orthogonal system. The omnipresence of the grid is further repeatedly brought to mind when giving directions by listing the number of intersections and a cardinal direction rather than going by landmarks as is common in Germany. Hamburg is considered a beautiful city even by European standards, and I agree. While it is currently undergoing a giant urban development, the new HafenCity does not really feel like a part of the city proper, despite being immediately adjacent to the downtown area. To me, Hamburg is largely defined by its old buildings, parks, lakes and waterways. All these have been around for a long time and will be there whenever I decide to visit. The city has a lot to offer and I don’t even know half of it. New landmarks are created, but are integrated into the existing complex fabric in such a way that changes appear to happen slowly. Maybe it’s only because I am so far removed, but Hamburg seems settled and complete. Toronto is still new. It is stretching, cracking and new things emerge unexpectedly from out of nowhere. Though based on a strict layout, the way places are arranged within the grid seem almost random, the connections between them accepted as given fact, no brain power is needed to tie them together. On the one hand this will never fully let me transcend my abstract image of Toronto as a system of perpendicular lines, while on the other hand, it means that new things can pop up here and there as nothing really grows consistently in a predictable pattern. Its identity is constantly shifting and Toronto will continue to be a subject of exploration. g


V ic t o r ia St an t o n , st ill f r o m an HD vi d e o s ho t i n S a s k a to o n

performance | a r r i va l s b y v i c to r i a s ta n to n

roadside attractions For the last two years, in several cities and towns across Canada and abroad, I have been exploring a travelling performance/ process called Roadside Attractions. I became interested in visually mapping my strategies for arriving, trying to literally embody transitional space in order to find meaningful connections to the landscape around me. Investing what I think of as a ‘performative consciousness’ into multiple sites, I track movement between places by means of small-scale public intervention. This has had a significant impact not only on how I perceive my surroundings but also on my understanding of the elusive process of acclimatisation. Who am I when I’m not at home?

Is this how I get there?

Anxious. I’m not a good traveller. A good traveller gets there in one piece. It takes me days to arrive. First my nose, feet, and eyes. Next my hands and skin. Then my head, though still cluttered with cobwebs and clouds. Then my stomach, bundled in knots, brimming with fizz. My shoulders – up around my ears. And finally my heart: wondrous…alert…porous…timid…morose… hungry. Sore. Alone. Before I know it, three days have passed…

I enter the street. Extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territories. Expanding into the horizon. One corner at a time. One space after another. A succession of in-betweens caught unawares, the places you don’t usually see in the picture. Feeling grass on my hands, cement on my face. Folding into a wall, onto the ground. A handrail, a tree trunk, a metal fence, a rock.

How do I find a sense of home when I am away?

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I unpack my bag. I put some of my clothes on hangers. Others, folded, stay in the suitcase. I get groceries. I put them on a shelf in the kitchen. I buy flowers and scour the cupboards for a suitable receptacle. A dirty Mason jar will do. I separate the stems into two small bouquets. This way it fills up more of the room. I plan a bedtime routine: bring the toothbrush, already smeared with paste – along with a towel, soap and moisturizer – to the bathroom down the hall. The first night is clumsy; I splash water all over my feet. The next morning it’s a little bit better. The following night, I have it down pat. I figure out just how much force to use to rinse my face without flooding the floor and how low to put the heat on the hot plate so as not to burn the rice. I place a few drops of lavender oil on the lamp next to my bed, just before going to sleep. Now, it smells like home. Creating familiar spaces and comfort zones in otherwise unfamiliar settings. Attempting a sense of stability through a measured combination of intensely managed micro-routines and unconventional public actions. Familiarity Through Repetition. Repetition with slight changes. Attempting a sense of stability through a measured combination of intensely managed micro-routines and indiscreet meandering.

Actions form a visual map and become the concrete associations that trigger memory cues: how to get from my (temporary) home to the grocery store, from the grocery store to the gallery, and back again. It becomes a personal lexicon of sites, allowing non-places to become… extraordinary. Attempting a sense of stability through measured repetition, creating familiar spaces in now familiar settings. Meandering. Recognising the texture of that building. The sunlight at four o’clock. Brushing my teeth. A fence. A rock. Equilibrium is gradually achieved as the world becomes navigable; the trajectory, processed and ordered, now resembles my bedtime routine. The micro and the macro gently collide. Extending beyond the art context, the deliberate, perforated space between performance and travel creates familiar places; comfort zones for an identity confirmed through repetition. Making so many in-betweens into a whole. Is this how I get there? This is how I arrive.


C hr i s ti a n R i c he r

from the exhibition Roadside Attractions: From A to B and Back Again

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Ch r ist ian R ic h e r an d V ic t o r ia St an t o n


Stop-Motion Migration is a series of almostmaps and almost-tours. It performs a different kind of psychogeography, one that doesn’t actualise an experience of mobility through walking, but offers a mobile experience that is apprehended from a static position. If, as sociologist Vincent Kaufmann claims, ‘psychogeography is fundamentally an experience of mobility, applied to space as much as to time’2, then a projected tour of space and through time is possible. Stop-Motion Migration produces a peripatetic experience that more closely approximates artist Richard Long’s description of a walk as living in the imagination of anyone,3 which is another space too.

Stop-Motion Migration No.1 (1985), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper

stop-motion migration urbanism | p ro j e c t s f o r t h e c i t y b y d e b o r a h wa n g

To intervene on a territory is not merely an act of planning but an act of creation, an attempt to assemble contradictions and transform them into poetic relationships: ultimately one is more attentive to modifying how space is perceived than the way space itself exists.

— Stalker, Manifesto1

Stop-Motion Migration finds and maps gallery movements as a way to locate ghosts or trace absences in the city. This project focuses on the idea of ghosting, or the accumulation of absences in specific places, rather than a walking tour of the city. It reveals in an abstract way where and when certain galleries appeared, migrated or disappeared, using the ads and listings in Canadian Art magazine as a barometer for this. Its primary intention is not to enter a discussion on the effects of gentrification so commonly (and importantly) associated with the migration of cultural sites, but rather to focus on movement and motion, an ever-changing constellation of appearances or presences in the city.

1 Stalker, Manifesto. 5 March 2010 <http:// digilander.libero.it/stalkerlab/tarkowsky/manifesto/ manifesting.htm> 2 Vincent Kaufmann, Guy Debord: Revolution in the Service of Poetry, trans. Robert Bononno. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. p111 3 in R.H. Fuchs. Richard Long. London: Thames and Hudson and New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1986. p 236

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Stop-Motion Migration No.2 (1990), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper


Stop-Motion Migration No.3 (1995), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper

In Stop-Motion Migration, movement in the city is mapped by systematically sampling an incomplete archive of what happened, where and when. These phenomena are translated and represented through a set of lists and diagrams. The list of names and addresses forms a text, while the diagram creates a series of visual relationships and pure movements unburdened by names and annotations. Collapsed on the same plane as the diagram, the list is simultaneously a terrain and a directory. It is a way to partially interpret and understand the diagram and, by extension, the city. Similar to the pairing of map and tour, where a tour functions as a participatory three-dimensional realisation of the two-dimensional notation of the map, this project pairs diagram with list. While each list and diagram is static, the series of composite images (each representing a year from 1985 to the present) are active and unfold in time and space from drawing to drawing. Like the delicate increments of individual response that needed to be reinscribed on that certain cataclysmic night for Hickey,4 I propose the idea of rethinking space as something incremental. The relatively small peripatetic experience in the gallery is a tiny analogue for a larger movement that took place in a past time and in a past city that is different yet similar to this one now. The slow movement of galleries from space to space, across and through the city, is suspended in each frame, by each diagram that forms a distinct constellation. Every dot represents a moment of permanence, a period of time, while every vector signals the migration of a gallery from one space to another. The diagram optimises each move by taking the shortest distance possible across the city without regard to the physical things or temporal occurrences – traffic jams or meandering walks – that may have stood in its way. Together, the diagram and list collapse the three-dimensionality of space onto a two-dimensional surface to make a single record of what happened before.

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Stop-Motion Migration No.4 (2000), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper

4 Dave Hickey. ‘The Delicacy of Rock-and-Roll’ Air Guitar. Los Angeles: Art issues Press, 1997. p98


Stop-Motion Migration No.5 (2005), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper

In Robert Smithson’s A Provisional Theory of Non-Sites, he differentiates between a diagram or notational picture and a natural or realistic one — By drawing a diagram, a ground plan of a house, a street plan to the location of a site, or a topographic map one draws a ‘logical two dimensional picture’. A logical picture differs from a natural or realistic picture in that it rarely looks like the thing it stands for. It is a two-dimensional analogy or metaphor – A is Z.5 So the space between the actual site and Smithson’s non-site (the logical picture) is a space of ‘metaphorical significance’6 that invokes the imaginary. A tour of the non-site, or the diagrams of Stop-Motion Migration is a projected tour through an imagined or invented space. The maps of Stop-Motion Migration sacrifice their cartographic legibility and notational function in order to become a different type of project for the city. In contrast to tours that propose the city as both gallery and artwork, this project presents the city as a (partially recognisable) image of itself. Situated within the gallery, or here on the page, it also proposes that in rethinking space we don’t necessarily need to go out in the city. From a fixed location, we are each able to recalibrate our own understanding of the city and engage it by thinking about movement and the absences that movement leaves behind. g

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Stop-Motion Migration No.6 (2009), 2010. 22 x 17” digital print on paper

5/6 Robert Smithson in Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, Ed. Jack Flam. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996. p364


I made the pilgrimage to Bilbao for the Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum. My first trip to Paris was due to a fascination with Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Ackerman and Serge Gainsbourg – I wanted to experience the city as Jean Seberg had. I get why cities define distinctiveness. I respect the incredibly arduous and thorough process of branding. So why do I have difficulty reconciling a city brand with a city experience? In his film Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989), Wim Wenders questions the premise of identity, noting a disconnect between being defined by a place and, alternatively, participating in the self-definition of the site itself. ‘We are creating an image of ourselves’, Wenders narrates in the film’s opening. ‘We are attempting to resemble this image...Is that what we call identity? The accord between the image we have created of ourselves and ourselves?...We live in the cities. The cities live in us.’ 1

forget not the street

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urbanism colour b y a m e ry c a lv e l l i

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Buenos Aires lives in me. The sweet smell of caramelised milk, resampled tango purchased from a CD store that introduced me to the most compassionate classical music...ever, and the white headscarves painted on the sidewalk to remember the mothers of the disappeared. Mustard yellow, pastel pink, ox brown, smiling children, graphic pattern on pattern, curvaceous cast iron railings. Modern, contemporary and very old all in one. Confident grace. This is the Buenos Aires I took with me as I returned home.

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a me r y c a l ve l l i


Tokyo

I experienced Tokyo as if I was knitting threads of grey into a masterpiece fabric of non-imposition. Tennis-ball-sized ice cubes, hand-carved, in a cocktail glass. A salon named Helvetica Hair. Poetry performed at Super Deluxe. A schooling pad. Not too shy or childish on a wall in a pachinko room, noodle-slurping, a melody as the doors on the Yamanote line open and a different tune as passengers load the train. The future is bright on a skateboard. Bicycles parked with the kickstand, no chain or lock in sight. Pink, blue, chartreuse, more pink, variations of grey. White knee socks and navy shoes on schoolchildren, a Murakami floral transit bus. Acoustic music from Spiral Records, manga shops, and a by-thehour dog hotel named Smile Point. Tokyo lives in me.

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I now live in Calgary and it too lives in me. Bread delivered by bicycle, from a biomedical-engineer-turned-baker. Tear-shaped brass-framed windows of a chocolaterie. A cocktail menu printed on grade one readers. Meeting a stranger from the Hague whose grandmother lived in the Dutch part of town. Where is this section, I wonder? The prairie remixed by curators of the High Performance Rodeo, and a nine-foot Nuova Twist sculpture resembling a barb that redefines my notion of fencing-in livestock. Shades of brown, a knitted car cozy, chalk sidewalk signs to get out the vote that made a difference.

Calgary

a me r y c a l ve l l i

If the viewer makes the picture, applying Duchamp’s truism, then the inhabitant makes the place. People fill spaces with meaning and memories. An encounter with a stranger becomes a memory over time. Destinations wax nostalgia as we pass a closed door, like the jukebox playing our song when we were in that love.

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Wenders refers to this two-way street between the identity of place and the identity of the individual as a dialogue, ‘[A]rchitecture, cities and places in general are in dialogue with us all the time’. If people enliven cities by living in them, and if inhabitants are in dialogue with their cities, the identity of place is enshrouded in a context of time and space. ‘Space, with respect to place, would be what a word becomes once it is spoken’. In this sense, the identity is spoken-word and results from the way in which the city is inhabited and lived in. Lest we forget the street. g

1 Stefano Casciani,“The feeling of the place on the map of virgin lands”, Domus, January 2011 2 Michel de Certeau, L’invention du quotidien. I Arts de faire. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1990 [as quoted from: Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, The [un]common place, Trans(ient) City, BOM Publishers, 2007]


Haridvar, India Agra, India Herat, Afghanistan

urban cardiogram taking the pulse

Cairo, Egypt

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

urbanism | measurement by reza aliabadi

1 Imagine you are getting ready to share the rest of your life with someone who will be your lifetime other half. You have been offered the freedom to choose any one you like in the whole world (including all the celebrities, political figures, and the like), except you have to follow just one simple rule: you can only pick your partner based on his or her silhouette, the only information you will be able to see. What would be your reaction? To a) simply disregard the whole idea as a ridiculous way to choose a partner or b) take the challenge and make your choice through this formal judgment?

… A city can be experienced all of a piece. That is why city views, whether of Paris spread out below the heights of Sacre-Coeur or of lower Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry or of the crowded island of Hong Kong from Kowloon, are so moving. Such views are also a potent reminder that cities represent great human achievements. —Witold Rybczynski. City Life

Population for a long time was used as a factor in evaluating the tempo of a city – for example Aristotle believed that the ideal city contained not more than 5000 citizens. Later factors such as size, culture, ritual and tradition, religion, politics, wealth, industrial power and the degree of citizens’ accomplishments have all been used as tools to measure urbanity. Therefore it sounds very naive to study a city, such a complicated creature, only by its skyline, its linear profile, but I am going to propose this as a way to compare cities with each other and to shape some ideas about them. The sharp contour or silhouette, clearly visible at dawn and dusk, defines a boundary between the city and the sky. This silhouette can be either a simple horizontal edge, as we find in many suburbs, or a jagged edge, found in most urban downtowns. This skyline has a capacity to reveal, if not all, part of the urban characteristic of any city. Morphologically cities have been usually studied and categorised by their plans’ archetype: the cosmic city, the practical city and the organic city were three classic patterns proposed by Kevin Lynch. However, the city’s section, revealed by its urban cardiogram may open new possibilities to catalogue or examine urban structures. A cardiogram is a tool that records the electrical activities of the heart and which represents graphically some physical or functional features of heart action. It also may be considered as an index which represents the struggle of life against death. With an urban cardiogram, I can imagine each city’s skyline as a manifestation of its struggle with gravity. If a medical cardiogram depicts the liveliness of a human heart, the urban cardiogram portrays the very existence of a city. If one’s health, fears, pressures, tensions, excitement or any other factors affect a person’s heartbeat, then density, diversity, zoning or social class can also affect an urban cardiogram.

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Athens, Greece

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Florence, Italy Venice, Italy

2 In the past rituals, local materials and religions formed the skylines of cities. Currently it is global markets, politics, the tourism industry and even individual or institutional egos that fashion urban cardiograms. What still has not changed is a desire to be recognisable. In Cairo the old skyline of Giza has been the dominant visual impression of the urbanscape for several millennia, while in Dubai one experiences the changing city almost on an hourly basis. It is easy for me to interpret that Dubai is experiencing a sort of heart attack because of its frenetic urban cardiogram. On the other hand some of other these profiles have been shaped over centuries â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Florence, for instance. Other profiles, like Dubai, have happened in less than a decade. In some cities it does not matter if you read their cardiogram from left to right, vice versa, or even upside-down. There are cities that have iconic skylines, and there are cities that are indistinguishable from each other by their profile. But maybe, most powerfully these diagrams represent the race for height and the uniqueness of cities in an age of competitive urbanism. I wonder if there is any kind of mutual interrelation between a cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s urban cardiogram and the same city dwellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cardiogram!

New York, USA

London, England

Paris, France

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* All urban cardiograms (skylines) were sketched during a 49-day backpacking trip around the world in early summer of 2008.


Formal place, communal identity and public memory are mutually constitutive, autonomous, characterising elements in the formation of a social community that are intrinsically linked in the public sphere.1 Identity is connected to the historical events which that community chooses to remember and makes manifest in the urban fabric through sites of public memory. Memory, an incredibly strong and dynamic aspect of a social population, is also the most difficult aspect to define. Maurice Halbwachs articulates different types of memory: autobiographical, historical and collective.2 Autobiographical memory is the memory of events we have experienced first-hand. The other two memory types relate more directly to the discussion of public memorials. For Halbwachs, history is the preserved past to which we no longer hold an ‘organic’ relationship. Historical memory, however, can be either organic or dead (reaching us only through historical records). History and historical memory tend to be imagined by the present population, rather than organically remembered. Collective memory is an active past that we can relate to and which defines our communal identities.3 It is woven into the fabric of communities and evolves with them. French historian Pierre Nora distinguishes between lieux de mémoire, or sites of memory, and milieux de mémoire, real environments of memory.4 Memorials and commemorative sites tend to be sites of memory – traditionally authorised by a governing body, and supporting a particular narrative intended for the community. As a result, memorials are often very political projects and as a consequence they can become a compromise between community factions.

urbanism | memorials b y a i s l i n g o ’ c a r ro l l

Stolpersteine a landscape of memory

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Aislin g O ’Car r o ll

For Nora, democratisation and mass culture on a global scale has caused a fundamental collapse in memory.5 However, contrary to his suggestion that there are no longer milieux de mémoire, there do exist memorial projects that cultivate real environments of memory. Stolpersteine, a project by German artist Gunter Demnig, functions as such throughout Germany and neighbouring countries and fosters a true memory community. Stolpersteine, or stumbling blocks, are stones laid in the public pavement to commemorate those who were deported and killed by the Nazi regime. Each stone names a single individual; a 4inch cube of concrete, plated in brass, is inscribed with the name, date of birth and ultimate fate of each person – the date and location of deportation and death. The stones are laid in the paving in front of that person’s last residence. Since the project began in 1993 there have been over 20,000 stones laid in over 500 locations – most in Germany, with a smaller number in Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands. These stones form a complex decentralised memorial, mapping a landscape of memory created by those victims of the Holocaust. As a result, the monument operates on multiple scales – first, at the smallest scale, each stone commemorates a single individual; at a larger scale, the collective memorial commemorates the larger body of victims and the enormous magnitude of the tragedy. In this way the stolpersteine take an original approach to one inherent challenge of public memorials; how does one preserve and convey the gravity and magnitude of such an event within a single site or object? This broadly recognised dilemma is perhaps most acute in memorials to the victims of the Nazi regime.

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‘Pained and extended discussions have transpired in Europe, in Japan, and in the United States over potential and actual memorials and monuments commemorating World War II, the Holocaust, and the atomic bomb. Should such memorials be literal or abstract? Should they honour the dead or disturb the very possibility of honour in atrocity? Should they be monumental, or instead disavow the monumental image, itself so associated with Nazism?’ — Martha Minow Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

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Demnig’s project resolves this dilemma simply by focussing on the individual and creating a memorial that is immediately comprehensible and phenomenologically accessible. The remembrance creates a public narrative of home and family. 7 The strength of the collective memorial is not dependent on there being stones laid for every single victim of the Nazi regime, instead the memorial acknowledges the ‘scalelessness’ of the tragedy and builds this quality into its own expression. It is impossible to comprehend exactly the collective memorial – one cannot know in a single moment every single stone that has been laid as part of the memorial. The scale and entirety of Stolpersteine is understood in the way that one comprehends historical memory.


This memorial challenges the social perception of what is significant enough for public memory, and how that memory should be expressed within the urban fabric. Individuals who would otherwise be forgotten in the public memory, insignificant in their own personhood and only commemorated as a mass, are, through the Stolpersteine, given a vocal role in the public memory of the communities involved. The memorial returns a sense of individuality to these people who were forcefully reduced to numbers, building the layers of public memory. As Demnig himself says, ‘A person is only forgotten when his name is forgotten’. The stolpersteine occupy a potent position in the public landscape of lieux de mémoire and milieux de mémoire. While the stones are literally historical references and form local sites of memory in the urban landscape, the experience created by the stones would be more accurately described as a ‘real environment of memory’ than an inserted historical site. While many public memorials are represented through sculptures, plaques, mounted on raised pedestals, separated from the public by a barrier, the stolpersteine are completely accessible. The presentation of the stones fundamentally and literally ties them into the surrounding landscape. The stones are small, simple, making clear reference to traditional markers such as grave stones, and are quite easily overlooked. However, inserted into the public paving, and referring to a building or urban space beyond themselves, the stones form a tangible link between the memory of the individual and the present-day urban fabric. The memorial extends beyond the 10x10cm brass plate; the sidewalk, buildings and urban block are all part of the memorial – true environments of memory that project a much larger landscape of memory across communities, cities and countries.

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The stolpersteine are also logistically accessible to the public. It is Demnig’s private project; he advertises the stones, each €95, on his website, which chronicles the Stolpersteine project. Anyone may sponsor a stone, but in order for the project to be carried through, extensive research must be completed and evidence provided for each person’s history in the Holocaust and residence before deportation. This process creates another, different, community actively involved in the memorial, engaged in even more historical research. The stolpersteine have hit some of their own stumbling blocks along the way. They have been criticised by some groups for placing the names of victims in a vulnerable position in the public field, to the point that the stones were initially banned in Munich. There have been occasions where the stones have been forcibly removed, or vandalised, but the project has persisted and continues to spread and intensify across the European landscape.


The Stolpersteine blur the boundaries of Halbwachs’ historical and collective memory. Although the stones serve as historical records of past citizens, they create an environment that is actively experienced present citizens, contributing to the present identity of various social communities. The stones contribute to communal identity, influencing each individual observer’s understanding of the public landscape in which they are located. Through very subtle techniques, Stolpersteine forms a memorial that references the incomprehensible scale of the Holocaust tragedy, while simultaneously recreating clear memories of historical individuals. It forms a landscape of memory through which one may observe the present condition. g

1 Cucu, Alina-Sandra and Florin Faje. ‘Remembering Death, Remembering Life: Two Social Memory Sites in Budapest’ Sociologia. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, January 2009 2 Olick, Jeffrey K. And Joyce Robbins. ‘Social Memory Studies: From “Collective Memory” to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices’ Annual Review of Sociology, 1998. p111 3 Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Translator and editor: Lewis A Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992 4 Nora, Pierre. ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’ Representations 26. The Regents of the University of California, Spring 1989. p7 5 ibid 6 Minow, Martha. Between Vengeance and Forgiveness. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. p141 7 Cucu. p135

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Spitalfields incognitae urbanism | r e c o n s t ru c t i o n s by wes wilson

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The man who wrote that word on that wall was erased from the midst of several centuries ago, the word in its turn has been erased from the wall of the church, and soon perhaps the church itself will be erased from the earth .â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Victor Hugo. Notre Dame de Paris

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the complexity of establishing identity in layered sites

A l l a n We s W i l s o n


Although Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris was originally published over one hundred and fifty years ago, the book contains within its proem one of the most tragic and beautifully prophetic accounts of a major city evolving in and through time. Within those opening paragraphs, as we witness the pathos with which Hugo recounts the removal of a single word – fatality – once etched into the spires of the old Cathedral, it becomes apparent that even the smallest act of erasure from the urban fabric can be emblematic of a volatility or flux at a much larger scale (the book itself predates Baron Georges Haussmann’s razing of the medieval city by only a few decades). Perhaps to consider that etching as something more than simply a cipher lost to the will of some unknown agent, affords the questioning of where an architectural identity resides, not just in immediate contextual relationships, but also in a more abstracted and temporal field of accumulated meanings.

Allan We s W ils o n

id t i tityy i den e nt

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Additionally, we might entertain the possibility that Hugo’s prose underscores a very critical paradox of architecture, where ‘identity’ becomes both a concretising yet extremely fragile term. For example, though cities are large physical entities which contain tangible and qualitative properties, they are undoubtedly an accretion of materials, of matter which is susceptible to processes of change. In a very literal sense we may assume that architecture remains in a state of instability and that what we have assumed to be the absolute definition of a place (or a work of architecture) is actually much more complicated.

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Petticoat Lane Market, an adjacent daily market in Spitalfields, abandoned after hours

‘flux is a key part of identity ’

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— Mark Wigley. Local Knowledge

Several years ago a similar message to that found in Hugo’s story could be found scratched into the almost permanently slickened patchwork of asphalt in the entrance of the Old Spitalfields Market, in the east end of London, UK (one of the few remaining Victorian market halls in the city). Looking like a piece of late night vandalism, the six words this will all be fields again still resonate with a sense of urgency, as a promise that under the surface of the neighbourhood lay something more than just dirt. Perhaps something supra-natural is the latent identity of the city. What is more, like the message found in Notre Dame de Paris, this one has also been removed as a consequence of urban regeneration, paved over during recent renovations. As with Paris, the city of London has its own propensity for flux. It is a theme running quite consistently through literature and art even as far back as into the Victorian city (from the writing of Dickens to the more recent psychogeographical exploits of writers such as Iain Sinclair). Located within its massive expanse, in what has recently been labelled in both feasibility studies and master plans alike as the ‘inner city fringe’, the two hundred and fifty acre neighbourhood of Spitalfields sits as a particularly ambiguous threshold between a very affluent city centre and a traditionally neglected east end. There has always been an underlying alterity to the neighbourhood. For hundreds of years, it was one of the seven points along the ancient city wall selectively breeched as a gateway between the capital and the rest of the empire, however, in a modernised London, that limit seems to have been translated into the thick division between very disparate contexts.


Old Spitalfields Market after hours

Unlit existing urban fabric in the glow of new developments that have migrated into the east end

A l l a n We s W i l s o n

‘the context cannot be captured in a single truth; it is the rest of the world, that which is provisionally ignored but in fact has a bearing on the subject under discussion. There is always a context. It is unthinkable that our cultural artifacts could exist without it. In the absence of a sense of contextuality, there can be no sense of either reality or viable possibility.’ — Ole Bouman & Roemer Van Toorn. The Invisible in architecture

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Immediately west of the Old Spitalfields Market is the corporation of the City of London, a borough which continues to see a dramatic migration of large-scale corporate development projects eastward. Once referred to as ‘trickle down’ schemes, many of the urban plans are remnant of policy changes introduced by the Thatcher government in the 1980s as a regenerative response to both a slumping economy as well as a rapidly degrading quality of life in the city’s peripheral boroughs. The actual long-term effect of the policy however has been the shift from the city as a democratic social state – a failing and financially stagnant post-war utopian idea based on social unity and public sector institutions – towards a neo-liberal utopia in which private development and capital accumulation become the key generators of social prosperity and a renewed communal identity. Almost concurrently, the last part of the twentieth century has seen an aggressive resurgence in conservationism east of the market. Beginning in the late 1970s, a collaborative of architects, architectural historians and artists working under the moniker The Spitalfields Building Heritage Trust, sought to protect the few remaining Victorian and Georgian brick houses in the neighbourhood from development because of their latent importance in the solidification of a more idyllic and pre-industrial image of Spitalfields – essentially a Spitalfields that also ignores the history and politics of exploitation surrounding the east end for two hundred years. This is a major a criticism of conservation, that it petrifies time as a solely retroactive practice. The paradox remains that the more insistently these buildings are preserved, the less authentic they become. It seems then insufficient to necessarily extract an absolute definition of Spitalfields’ identity from anywhere surrounding the market, or to generalise the tension between two literal extremes into a single notion of ‘context’. Rather it must be something composite drawn from a broader field of information, or else remain as something elusive.


Photograph of the market floor before the recent renovations

A l l a n We s W i l s o n

‘In an act of constructing that presents itself as contingent, as something unnecessary yet at the same time desired, the contemporary architect, in his or her solitude, individually confronts history…When analyzing a particular place, the architect will encounter a simulacrum in personal memory– through strictly autobiographical episodic suggestions– of a trace bias of which he or she can establish the differences that avoid repetition.’ —Ignasi de Sola Morales. Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture

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As a spatial metaphor, the field is the realm of multiplicity and potential, it is the ground on which something effable and common can eventually materialise from conditions that are otherwise ineffable. The nature of the relationship [between objects and the spaces between them] is, as suggested by the architectural theorist Dalibor Vesely, ‘a world which is always present as a latent world waiting for articulation’. Likewise there is an aspect to the field that remains infinite, that operates not on the level of physical and tangible relationships but rather experience and instinct. As a temporal metaphor, it is into the field that we go to actively search for these connections, where we go to look for answers. The ‘field’ is participatory and indeterministic. So although that message that this neighbourhood will all be fields again initially indicates an urban condition that has been lost, it also necessarily facilitates the active interrogation of the site across a gambit of temporalities, past present and future. As each new architectural action responds to this particular field, it becomes another variable in the search for something immaterial. But it makes you wonder that if the physical environment is so susceptible to change, perhaps identity might well just be that one thing which we may never know. g


A typical morning on La Rambla del Poblenou: the main shopping street in the Barcelona’s newest urban renewal project, three kilometres northeast of the old city, is almost empty. A handful of people loiter on the sidewalk. Two blocks away, the silver and lime green walls of the Media TIC building, an experimental project that uses an inflating porous skin to control light and heat, tower over neglected warehouses and factories, witness to a time when Poblenou was known as the Catalan Manchester. The contrast portrays a neighbourhood in transition, and not everyone is happy. Graffiti covers the closed shop doors and mailboxes: RIOT and NO 22@. The district of Poblenou used to be known for its textile, metallurgy, food, wine industries and large working-class population. It was a major economic player in the city until the 1950s, when activity shifted to the new port zone in southwest Barcelona and Poblenou was left to decay. Now city planners are trying to revitalise this area. The postindustrial project 22@ Barcelona attempts to move the old district from primary and secondary industry to tertiary, where jobs are based on the knowledge-economy. 22@ is one more effort in a continual struggle to stay relevant.

postindustrial barcelona 22@: urban reinvention, again urbanism | a r c h i t e c t u r e o f e c o n o m i c i m p e r at i v e by frédéric brisson

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F rédér i c B r i s s on


In ‘Generic City’, published a few years before the 22@ project took off, Rem Koolhaas described Barcelona as being ‘an oversimplification of itself’, becoming more a ‘logo’ than an authentic city.1 That’s what he saw in 1994 but Barcelona has reinvented itself many times in the last 150 years. With the Eixample urban grid, approved by the city authorities in 1859, Barcelona expanded beyond its medieval wall and became a modern, Cartesian and functional city. Not only did the new square blocks provide housing for Barcelona’s increasing population, but also the straight, logical approach facilitated a new system of transportation based on the mechanical engine – first railways and then cars. Later, city planners and architects used major events to assert their identity. The 1888 International Exposition became a catalyst for the definition of a regional cultural identity named the ‘new Catalan school’. Artists and architects became proud to use traditional Catalan construction techniques such as vaults created from very thin layers of brick. The second International Exposition in 1929 continued in that same vein, but the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco in 1939 suppressed further expressions of Catalan identity, refocusing Spanish strength on Madrid. Franco’s death in 1975 created a strong political and cultural revival of Catalan identity, which translated urbanistically into an important revitalisation of the city. In this sense, the 1992 Olympic Games played an important role in the transformation of the cityscape and road network. Today, 22@ Barcelona might be the next in line. Authorities hope to make the city more than the nostalgic image tourists seek, more than the modern manufacturing hub, and to push it into the global market of a knowledge-based economy. 22@ Barcelona was envisioned as a compact and rational district.2 City officials wanted to create a synergic hub of production, education, and living where ideas can spread and develop rapidly. Development started in 2000. By 2010, they had developed 68 percent of the available land, an area the size of 115 Eixample blocks. Already, the number of companies increased by 105% to 7,064 including Yahoo R+D and Barcelona TV, and along with 56,200 additional workers.3 City officials have also been using 22@ as an urban laboratory to try out new ideas. Pneumatic garbage collection was introduced. Planners improved public transportation and walking/ bike paths in the area hoping that 70% of the workers will avoid using their cars. Trying to create a city within a city, the neighbourhood is becoming more heterogeneous, mixing industry, commercial and residential spaces. Community members used to the old Poblenou complain about the high-cost of social housing projects, which have increased by 25%. Graffiti and posters littering the street express the frustration of those forgotten in the city’s public consultation process. It remains to be seen whether city officials can help these residents experience the benefits of 22@ as well.

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The Catalans have struggled for centuries to maintain their own identity in a centrist Spanish state. Some of this spirit may play out in the 22@ project, as city officials try to reinvent Barcelona again. Koolhaas described Barcelona as stuck, like many cities, ‘dependant of its history, economy and resources’ for survival. It needs to grow beyond that. So far 22@ has taken up this challenge and is demonstrating significant success. But the true measure of its success won’t be taken for many years. g

Development of the Eixample starting in 1859

1888 International Exposition

1929 International Exposition

1992 Olympic Games Sites

22@Barcelona Redevelopment starting in 2000

F r é d é r i c Br i s s o n


Cloud 9. Media TIC Building

Mateo Arquitecto. Barcelona International Convention Centre

Poblenou graffiti

Decent housing for everyone: the constitutional right to appropriate housing

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1 Koolhaas, Rem. ‘The Generic City’. S,M,L,XL. NY: Monacelli Press,1994. p1250 2 Ajuntament de Barcelona. ‘22@Barcelona. State of execution’ December 2008. p 4 www.22barcelona.com/content/blogcategory/49/280/lang,en/ 3 Ajuntament de Barcelona. ‘22@Barcelona: 10 years of economic growth’ www.22barcelona.com/content/view/887/90/lang,en

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Busquets, Joan. Barcelona, the Urban Evolution of a Compact City. Rovereto, Italy: Nicolodi Editore. 2005 Marshall, Tim, editor. Transforming Barcelona. London: Routledge, 2004


For Henri Lefebvre, space is a social product consisting of three elements: • representations of space – material manifestations of the built environment, urban space as well as symbolic representations of power • symbolic values produced by inhabitants • spatial practice – the way in which spaces are used in a quotidian basis. 1 Lefebvre explains that these elements are not independent, and it is the interaction between them that results in the production of space. urbanism | p u b l i c s q ua r e s b y fa r z a n e h b a h r a m i

tehran

Tehran is not a generous city; public squares are traffic islands rather than stages for public life. Strolling around is a challenge in a city with immense snaking highways, overpasses and streets choked with four million vehicles. The unwelcoming physical space on one hand and the restrictive rules of appearance and behaviour imposed by the state on the other have discouraged the public life of the city. During 1980s public space was transformed into places that commemorated the revolution, religious authorities and the ongoing war. Repression shifted from the political domain to moral control of everyday life. People learned to organise their lives in the closed spaces of their homes far from missiles of war and revolutionary guards.2 This decade was the period of invisibility, homogeneity and the disappearance of difference, the essence of public space. After the end of the war, Tehran had a return to public life and people gradually started to re-appropriate the space that they had renounced. In every city the state and the citizens contend with one another for urban

below: everyday life on the edges of the road. opposite top: a picnic on the highway verges of Tehran. It is a Persian tradition to spend the 13th day of spring in nature. bottom: silent protest, Azadi Square, Tehran, June 2009

portrait of public space It goes without saying that spatial identity of a city is formed by the character of its built environment. This identity however is shaped by other parallel processes; this comes to evidence in case of the cities like Tehran that have gone through radical changes in relatively short time.

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M a nue l L l i ná s


public space.3 Political power tries to intervene, to dominate space with its own monuments; the monuments, squares and palaces exert a powerful presence. Citizens live their everyday and business rhythms in this struggle for appropriation of public space. By using urban public space as the place of encounters, of discussions and negotiations, of intrigue and spectacle, citizens appropriate it quite spontaneously. This tug of war between a totalitarian government and the everyday life of the citizens in Tehran is visible similar to the way that ‘while the Islamist authorities impose the hijab on women, many respond by turning it into a symbol of fashion’.4 Most recently the tussle has gone beyond this and has turned into an uprising for the everyday rights of the citizens to the city and their aspiration for freedom.

Fa rz a neh B a hrami

a nonym ous ci tize n jo u r n alist

In February 2011 when for almost two weeks, Cairo’s Tahrir Square had been flooded with Egyptians demanding an end to the government, TIME magazine made a list of plazas and public squares in the world that hosted tremendous scenes of political upheaval. Tehran’s Azadi (freedom) square was ranked fourth. 5 g

1 Goonewardena, K et al. Space, Difference, Everyday Life, Reading Henri Lefebvre. Routledge, 2008. p 269 2  Amir-Ebrahimi, M. ‘Conquering enclosed public spaces’ Cities, 23(6), 2006. pp 455-461 3 Light, A, Smith, M J. Philosophy & Geography: the production of public space. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1998. 4 Bayat, A. ‘Tehran: paradox city, Metropolitan disorders’ New Left Review 66, 2010. pp 199-122 5 http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2047066,00.html


During the design of the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest tower, Dubai municipal officials asked the architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to justify the building’s form based on its context. SOM returned with an image of a Hymenocallis, a desert plant whose structure and flower roughly related to the floor plan of the existing design. Despite its whimsically contrived nature, officials accepted this explanation. SOM’s successful post-rationalisation raises some questions. Why did the clients accept this abstract visual symbol, barely specific to the region and largely invisible in built form? Why did the architects draw inspiration from nature instead of from the built environment? Dubai is certainly familiar with this referential posturing: the sail of the Burj Al-Arab, designed by the British firm Atkins and the Jumeirah Palm Island, developed by the Emirati firm Nahkeel, evoke their symbolic origins in unmistakable, blown-up forms. Given the shallowness of these cultural references, perhaps the most relevant question is: why do Emirati developers even ask for them? To answer this question, it helps to know a little history of the area now called the United Arab Emirates. Centuries before the discovery of oil in the mid-1900s, this land was occupied by nomadic Bedouin. After contact with British and Portuguese traders, they increasingly formed sea-side settlements based on

fishing and pearling. These villages, however, remained small and undeveloped by Western standards. When Abu Dhabi first granted oil concessions in 1953, the city had no paved roads or distributed plumbing and electrical systems. As oil revenue came in during the 1960s, city leaders embarked on a series of public works projects accompanied by residential development. As Abu Dhabi and Dubai began their rapid growth, the built environment took on a complex regional/global identity. Dubai’s first major master plan, designed by the British architect John Harris in 1960, envisioned zoned growth within a new gridded street system. Clearly at odds with existing dense, clustered and organic growth, this plan nonetheless preserved historic districts (though what counts as historic is certainly debatable). Also, much of the new growth was built in what the Mideast scholar Yasser Elsheshtawy calls the Arab-Eclectic or Gulf-Arab style. Many designers saw their work as part of an Arabic-Islamic tradition stretching back over a millennium and represented by cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Cairo. A case in point is Abu Dhabi’s old central market or souq. Built predominantly of concrete in the 1970s on the city’s new orthogonal grid, the district nonetheless drew upon traditional elements such as small stalls, narrow lanes and covered passages. The market was demolished in 2005 to make way for its modern replacement, a Foster + Partners design that the architects say will itself be ‘a reinterpretation of the traditional marketplace’.

architecture | references by corey schnobrich

a sea of symbols global and Arab identity in the United Arab Emirates Burj Khalifa

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Rober t Per r y

Palm trees and a wind tower of the 2003 Madinat Jumeirah development frame the ‘sail’ of the 1999 Burj Al-Arab


The rise of neo-traditionalism faces its own backlash. Arab and Western critics alike criticise the superficial gestures of the Arab-Eclectic, arguing instead for a return to the formal traditions of the Arab-Islamic city. However, some Arab scholars criticise the simple notion of an Arab-Islamic tradition, noting the varied composition and development of the region’s cities. In his book Cities and Caliphs, Mideast scholar Nezar AlSayyad argues that ‘to label everything ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ assumes a poverty of cultural response’. This debate begs another question: why should this tradition influence cities in the UAE, whose history is relatively brief and whose population is less than twenty percent native? Why is it a problem if the built environment reflects Abu Dhabi’s and Dubai’s global population and ambitions? Not surprisingly, the UAE’s newest buildings mirror its confused and volatile identities. Designers working in this context pick and choose among a whole host of cultural references while completely ignoring others. Some choose to use merely abstract symbols, like the flower of the Burj Khalifa and the sail of the Burj Al-Arab. Others borrow built symbols, such as the onion domes and Islamic arches of Dubai’s Palm Sales Centre, designed by the American firm HHCP Architects (which has also done themed work for Disney). Still others draw upon formal traditions, such as Foster + Partner’s scheme for Abu Dhabi’s central market mentioned above.

The Grand City Mall of Al Quoz. The mall is located in an industrial area and its food vendors, retail stores, travel agency, pharmacy and driving school serve many labourers

Despite their wide divergence in tact and outcome, nearly all designers add some cultural reference, if nothing else to avoid being labelled as culturally insensitive. What counts as culture and insensitivity in this context however, is unclear. The critics and scholars that deride the UAE’s globalisation and call for a return to traditional principles seem to agree on only one thing: our idea of the Arab-Islamic city is based upon a historical process, not a product. This process was, and in some cases still is, slow, organic, additive, ad hoc and sensitive to Islamic law. In contrast, today’s growth is rapid, holistic, planned (and then quickly re-planned), and sensitive to multi-faith communities. Speaking of an identity in such a context is foolish. The UAE contains multiple identities from the Westerners that design and work in its corporate buildings to the Emiratis that own them to the migrant labourers that construct them. It is no surprise that the buildings themselves reflect this diversity in a sea of symbols. g

The arches and onion-dome relief of the Mall of the Emirates with Ski Dubai’s enclosed ramp in the background

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J im D o bie , c o ur te s y S ta nte c A r c hi te c tur e L td

identity in collaboration the mutable role of the architect

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architecture | t e a m wo r k by peter osborne

The story of Frank Lloyd Wright designing the Kaufmann Residence, or Fallingwater, is said to have gone something like this… ‘With a design deadline approaching and eager apprentices inquiring, Wright apparently does not work on the project. He waits until 2 hours before E.J.’s arrival at Taliesin to sit at the drafting table. With his stunned entourage watching, Wright calmly but swiftly drafts the complete design for the house in plans and sections on blank sheets in one sitting, barely finishing in time for Kaufmann’s arrival. Wright designs a masterpiece of twentieth century architecture in a bravura performance of drafting.’1 1 http://www.fallingwater.org


As an architecture student you inevitably hear or read this story of Wright’s genius. It is the type of story that permeates the architecture profession; it is a basic building block of our identity. It is an analogy for the way the architecture profession perceives itself. Its nuances reflect the way we teach, learn and inevitably practice architecture. Yet, it is so fanciful that it could almost start with ‘once upon a time’. But, is it still possible to work the way Wright did, waiting until the last minute and only allowing his staff to sharpen his pencils as he single-handedly drafts a house? Wright first visited E.J. Kaufmann’s property in Bear Run outside Pittsburgh in November 1934 and during that first visit he requested a survey of the area around the waterfall. Wright received the results of the survey in March 1935 and it was nine months later when he feverishly drew his first and last design for the house. For Wright, the design was his and his alone, so much so that he didn’t need to sketch anything or talk to anyone before he revealed his work as a fete de complete at his first client meeting.2 Whether the story is true or not does not matter. What the story does is support Wright’s status as the singular genius behind his great works of architecture. It helps to reinforce his brand. It is this idea that architecture is produced by a single person that shaped the identity of the architectural profession. This thrust toward the individual can be at the expense of the client, staff, consultants, contractors and even the project itself. For every project there is a large team of people making important decisions at their own level. These decisions will have a direct and lasting impact on the final outcome of the design. The current architectural milieu has seen a slow shift in its identity away from the individual. This comes from a place of necessity as buildings have become more complex with technological, environmental and legal requirements. There is simply too much work for one person to do a few hours before a meeting. The growing trend towards integrated project delivery models is also starting to dissolve the myth of the individual. Here everyone is at the table from day one with ideas and limitations that shape the design. In this world, the architect is the conductor of the symphony not the soloist. How well the architect conducts the team will determine the quality of the architecture.

The Terminal is also a complex project with various building systems that demand specialised consultants, for building envelope, day lighting, sustainability, acoustical, and baggage handling – all were engaged and used within the design process. Their work and knowledge impacted the design. Floor-to-floor heights were adjusted to ensure the baggage handling system worked effectively and sustainable strategies were explored to help the project become LEED Silver certified. This complexity alone meant more than one person was the author of this project and the more outside input incorporated into the design the better it became. An airport terminal is vastly different than a house but with today’s demands for sustainability even houses have integrated mechanical and electrical systems that need collaborative work done early in the design process to ensure their success. In Wright’s day most, if not all, architectural firms were sole practitioners or partnerships where the owners’ names were on the door. This meant that as an architect in order to sell your firm you were essentially selling yourself. Consequently, stories like the one of Wright designing Falling Water were critical to ensure that clients understood they were getting the best person for the job. In today’s market, there are increasing numbers of multigeneration firms where original partners have been bought out and only their initials remain, or larger corporate practices, like Stantec, which function with less emphasis on name recognition of individuals. On occasion you get to know someone from a large firm, such as David Childs of SOM, but generally the idea of a collaborative team is what is being sold to clients. The recent name change of Cohos Evamy to Dialog is a sign of the shift away from an identifiable individual and towards a collaborative brand. Many architects might feel a tinge of nostalgia for Wright’s story and long for a time when architects bestowed their designs on their clients. There are many factors that are changing the focus away from the individual but in the end collaboration is a good thing. The focus on the individual and the perpetuation of a star system is outdated. The focus on the individual takes away from the good things architecture should be doing for our cities and the people that live in them. The truly interesting part of architecture is when a diverse group of people come together to make something positive in the world. g

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At Stantec Architecture, I recently had the role of project designer for the expansion of the Terminal at the Edmonton International Airport. But unlike Wright, the role of designer here meant working in a client-driven collaborative environment that in the end was critical to the success of the building. Edmonton Airport had an aggressive schedule which focused the team’s attention towards finding different ways to complete the design. To meet the schedule, the team entered into a design-assist arrangement which allowed our construction manager, PCL, to engage a steel fabricator early in the design process. In fact, we tendered the steel superstructure with 50% design development drawings. This meant much of the detailed design work was still to come. This design progression was not conceived in isolation in the architect’s mind and then breathed into the world at a meeting.

The details were hammered out around a table with the client, contractor, project manager, consultants and architect present. You needed to be able to communicate in a group and work with other people’s ideas in order to be successful. This process was not always easy and our client reminded us to work as a team but there is no doubt this way of working is changing the architectural profession’s identity.

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urbanism | sound by shannon werle

you need a sound in order to be heard ‘Lagos without verbal maps could sound like some other place in the world’1

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What if the ambient sounds of each city were channeled on a sequence of radio stations? Casually rotating the dial, would the similarities between cities mirror that of the static in between broadcasts? Emeka Ogboh, a sound artist who has been recording Lagos since 2008, claims verbal maps – the system by which bus drivers shout out destinations and routes in lieu of digital displays – would set it apart. But with a population expected to peak at 12.43 million in 2015 and where inhabitants have averaged three hours per day in traffic jams, audible cartography quickly becomes cacophony.2 3 The Lagosian soundscape, an orchestra of blaring radios, roadside hawkers and revving engines, has just enough ‘demented touch to give it a lasting tenderness and poignancy’.4 Yet many of its defining elements, for better or for worse, are growing extinct. The city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program unveiled in 2008 intends to swap out the canary-yellow fleet of ‘danfos’—infamously rickety Volkswagen 12-seater buses—on all major routes, in effect silencing verbal maps, and transportation renovations will considerably eliminate accessibility for roadside hawkers. Stripped of these now familiar voices, will Lagos begin to sound like any other city? Perhaps it could be mistaken for Hong Kong. Sound artist Edwin Lo began recording sounds here in 2007, a year marked by persistent demonstrations against the government’s closure of the popular Queen’s Pier in favor of a land reclamation initiative and continued following its demolition in 2008. In 2010, he released a 46-minute-long track entitled Rabbit Travelogue: Central Region. Perusing his online archive of source material—which includes anti-demolition protests, construction noise drowning out exotic birdcalls at the zoo and traffic drones blanketing the chimes of Taoist rituals during an annual Ghost Festival – it becomes clear Hong Kong is saturated in a new sound. On the sounds of his childhood spent in the Wong Chuk Hang area of Hong Kong, Lo remarks, ‘These sounds have ceased to exist… What is left is a big open space, awaiting the arrival of a large real estate development’. 5


Na c o k i C he ung

economist Jacques Attali famously stated, ‘Change is inscribed in noise faster than it transforms society’.12 In order to perceive the changes, however, we need to adopt an acute sense of hearing and perhaps take cues from Lo, Ogboh and Kubisch. ‘Listening to the internal structure, specific occasions and different sound phenomenon occurring in the city or even listening to events such as political demonstrations, we can already perceive and generate different meanings for the city’, explains Lo in an email. In order to spur this dialogue, Ogboh often broadcasts his tracks internationally and has even invited other artists, some of whom have never stepped foot in his city, to remix his field recordings. Today it seems quite possible, after all, that a sound artist on the other side of the globe could predict the future sound of Lagos. g

Edwin Lo: www.rabbit-travelogue.com/fragments/ Christina Kubisch: www.christinakubisch.de Emekah Ogboh: www.14thmay.com

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1 Ogboh, Emeka, Email to author, 13 July 2010. 2 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. World Urbanization Prospects: The 30 Largest Urban Agglomerations Ranked by Population Size at Each Point in Time, 1950-2025. New York, 2009. 3 Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. London and New York: Verso, 2006. p133 4 Nwagboga, Aza, Curatorial Statement for This is Lagos: Sound Installations by Emeka Ogboh and Paintings by Bob Aiwerioba. 12 February 2009. 5 Lo, Edwin. ‘History of Scenes #1: Fragments, Sound, Memory’, in Around, ed. Yeung Yang. Hong Kong: Soundpocket, 2010. p33 6 ‘Create Culture Interview from Nigeria: Emeka and the Soundscapes of Lagos’, last modified August 11, 2010, http://www.createculture.org/profiles/ blogs/cc-interview-from-nigeria. 7 Chui, Timothy. ‘Loud and clear lesson on earphone dangers’. The Standard, March 3, 2008. 8 Oduemev, Stella. ‘Fighting Against Pollution in Lagos’. Daily Independent, January 10, 2010. 9 ‘Invisible Cities: An Interview with Christina Kubisch by Christoph Cox’. Cabinet Magazine 21 (Spring 2006): 93-96. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 12 Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

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Ogboh similarly credits BRT for an ‘extinction’ of the present soundscape.6 Yet the possibility of framing select portions of the audible spectrum and protecting it as if it were a historic building sets forth an impossible task. And an overdose of any sound, regardless of its one-of-a-kind nature, is noise – something both Hong Kong and Lagos already have too much of. A recent study in Hong Kong revealed that 14% of schoolchildren are unable to hear below 25 decibels (the sound of wind blowing through a tree) as a result of drowning out everyday noise with headphones amplifying tunes up to 100 decibels.7 In Lagos, over 60% of public school students have a noise-induced hearing impairment.8 Everyday sounds are simply unable to be collected, recycled or exported in a manner used for most waste products. But is it the mere multiplication of sound or furthermore the increasing sameness that poses a threat? German artist Christina Kubisch picked up on the latter phenomenon – ‘a globalization of sound’ – while organising Electrical Walks across Europe, Asia and both North and South America.9 This ongoing project initiated in 2003 invites locals to don headphones that use electromagnetic induction to amplify the charges of cash machines, lighting systems, transformers, security and surveillance systems, computers, etc. Each system emits a characteristic sound – WLAN, Bluetooth and GPS systems are ‘nervous, crispy, irregular’ and heavily trafficked areas such as a train stations are ‘full, heavy, and dusty with sound’.10 But as a result of widespread distribution of identical technologies, recurring rhythms can be traced across the globe: ‘You could just mark them with little dots. They even have the same sound systems all over the world… So this is something that I think would be very interesting: to see a network of little dots showing where things are and where they are spreading’.11 The morphology of urban sound is certainly an inevitable process, and in some cases for the best, but the potentially brief lifespan of soundscapes doesn’t negate their potential as a valuable research tool. Perhaps sound is a better mirror of today’s urban conditions than the slower pace of physical construction—French


‘Los Angeles is fine in many respects, but it lacks legibility – that factor which ultimately involves identity and the whole business of the city as an extension of oneself, and the necessity for comprehension of this extension’ - Alison and Peter Smithson 1

peripheral urbanism | developing a centre by alexander d’hooghe a n d n e e r a j b h at i a

public form and the periphery the case for a ‘plinthesis’

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Exploded axonometric reveals the clarified districts and road networks to support a legible identity.


Existing ‘almost’ districts have neither individual nor overall coherence or legibility

Fragmented and redundant road network breaks from Toronto’s supergrid to service the incoherent sprawl.

Proposed plan retaining several existing buildings and clarifying the edges of each district

At the time of their assessment, the Smithsons viewed sprawl and its lack of legibility as a threat to the civic consciousness of Los Angeles. Legibility was considered integral to the identity of both the individual and collective, and of critical importance in configuring the pluralist city. At the same time, in the late 1960s, identity politics were evolving and group identities began to fragment at an accelerated rate into various niche audiences, complicated by struggles between determinacy and indeterminacy, and the difficulty of identifying a public with competing and often irreconcilable values. Providing legibility to such a public was a dilemma. Isaiah Berlin located the emergence of this dilemma in the Romantic period, when romantic nationalism proved both the irreconcilability and the validity of differing desires and identities.2 Pluralism was the conflict between divergent beliefs; accordingly, Berlin’s proposed pluralism would not allow for synthesis of such competing identities but rather leave them in an uneasy coexistence. Berlin quotes Schumpeter’s call for the civilised man to differentiate himself from a barbarian through the understanding of the relativity of one’s convictions (in the light of the equal value of other opposing positions) and to stand for them unflinchingly 3 – in other words, to have a clear sense of one’s identity and stance. It is only through such a clear stance that pluralism and democracy can ultimately function. How does one organise form, create legibility and provide identity in such a state of ‘agonised pluralism’? This is most pertinent in the peripheries of North American cities that resemble midtwentieth century Los Angeles – vast territories of homogeneous and unplanned sprawl without formal limits and without formal legibility or identity. One such territory is Scarborough, on the eastern periphery of Toronto. It contains a ‘failed’ project for a modernist civic core (Scarborough Town Centre), which was meant to, but does not, provide identity to the periphery as well as connect it to the rest of Toronto. A reconfiguration of this core could yield the template for Berlin’s concept of agonised plurality.

below: Legibility within generally undifferentiated suburban sprawl

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Kr ist in R o ss


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Districts of Difference The development of Scarborough’s core emerged from generic suburban planning, resulting in a group of various unfinished developments with no boundaries or limits. Nevertheless, the centre has the potential to be a major civic node for eastern Toronto, tied to regional infrastructure lines – the highway, rapid transit and major arterial streets. Looking closer at the site, ‘almost-districts’ emerge, based on formal zoning identities: commercial, institutional, industrial, mixed-use, greenery. While each of these districts contains a clear building type and associated demographic user, the district as an entire project was never completed. This has resulted in a site with seemingly no logic and an equally confused network of redundant roads to support it. What if these districts of various identities could be clarified and made into legible entities?

Diversification of the mall atrium While conventional ‘good’ urbanism – as proposed by the Congress for the New Urbanism – involves continual attempts to animate the street, this approach is not tenable in Scarborough. The only public space that functions on the site is the existing mall – a romanticised, weather-controlled version of the street. If the mall atrium is made the template for connection in the suburban context, liberated from commercial interests it could be used as an internalised connective network. Five distinct atria could connect the various districts internally as well as to the transfer station and its associated infrastructure. These climatically controlled spaces, liberated to be unconditionally open to all, would reconfigure the mall into a micro-city, the compacted public realm of Scarborough connected with the world at large through the plinthesis.

A Void of Possibilities Separation and fragmentation have allowed these distinct islands to have coherent yet competing identities, all of which frame an infrastructural node with a rapid transit stop, bus drop-off and automobile routes at the centre. This has the potential to be the connective device between the various districts: claimed by no one, it therefore belongs to everyone and could define the public sphere in Scarborough. Present surface parking and uses of the site can be reconfigured to link the districts and their diverse users: flow infrastructures could define a transfer station, superimposing soft programmes (markets, theatres, bingo halls, recreational activities) onto its parking platforms, taking advantage of the space during moments of commuter-inactivity and reaffirming the public spirit of the building. People and infrastructure could come together on a democratic platform of plurality, the plinthesis.

Forming Identities for a Pluralistic Public Framing and containing the confluence of flows, the plinthesis is continually invigorated by the mixed demographics within the site and the city. Its neutral form creates a legible figure of connectivity and links atria and infrastructure to local and regional transportation. Public life is foregrounded and contained; architecture sets the backdrop of public life. Each clarified district is identified through its legibility. These grouped islands, each containing their own irreconcilable utopia, stand with unflinching conviction against the ubiquitous sprawl around them. Creating the outlines of a political space by clarifying its edges, we can understand difference and thus form an identity. Without such edges, legibility and identity, we are no more than a mass of popular opinion swimming in the grey goo of suburbia. g

This project was produced as part of the Cities Centre Workshop: Build Toronto, carried out at the University of Toronto, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

1 Alison and Peter Smithson, Ordinariness and Light: Urban Theories, 19521960 and Their Application in a Building Project, 1963-1970. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970. p182 2 Berlin, Isaiah. ‘The Lasting Effects’ in The Roots of Romanticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. pp 146-147 3 Berlin, Isaiah. Two Concepts of Liberty. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.

Team Directors: Alexander D’Hooghe, Neeraj Bhatia, Shelagh McCartney and Francesco Martire Design Team Phase 1: Nathaniel Addison, Justin Cheung, Song Deng, Gaston Fernandez, Robert E Fiorino, Andria Ya-Yu Fong, Zachariah Elan Glennon, Meagan Donkin Gumbinger, Darius Gumushdjian, Martin Hogue, Man Yee Stanton Hung, Negar Jazbi, Ada-Nkem Juwah, Zeena Hashim Kammoona and Mandy Allison Wong Design Team Phase 2: Nathan Bortolin, Dave Freedman, Han Liu, Salome Nikuradze, Mahtab Oskuee, Sanford Riley, Kristin Ross, Steven Socha and Celina Yee

0pposite: options for soft programming take advantage of off-period times, the shelter of parking and regional infrastructural connections. Neutral platforms allows for the greatest flexibility and diversity of activities. below: the collective container at the intersection of flows and legible islands

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While walking through downtown San Francisco, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easy to get lost in a variety of building types, both old and new. On the same block, you may pass a recently built high-rise hotel, an aging two-storey auto workshop, a lavish Victorian apartment building and a gutted gallery space; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an interesting milieu spanning more than 160 years since the Gold Rush days of the 1840s and 50s. As artefacts, these structures exist within a patchwork of historical and cultural narratives, encompassing a vast array of formal and tectonic variations â&#x20AC;&#x201C; wood and iron from the nineteenth century, glass and steel from the early twentieth century, concrete and metal from the post-1950s.

urbanism | san francisco a a ro n l e v i n e

New buildings bring with them new readings and interpretations of the urban situation, where the buildings themselves are defined by much more than their individual character and materiality. Expansive renovations and additions, along with a handful of new structures every year has been the norm in San Francisco for decades, but nowhere is this felt more clearly than in the SoMa [South of Market] district, where a mutable realm of architectural style is commonplace. In this area are building types that stand out, blend in or do both, but not by traditional or ubiquitous standards. Due to the inevitable growth, decay and reimagining of all cities, how we view the built forms around us is always a transitory and evolving phenomenon. For this reason it seems imperative that we continually elucidate these complex relationships, whatever they may be at a given time or place.

shif ting city urban plasticity: three urban conditions in San Francisco How one walks through the world, the endless small adjustments of balance, is affected by the shifting weights of beautiful things.1

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1 Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton University Press, 1999. p15 A a r o n L evi ne


Condition 1: What once blended in now stands out When an ordinary building becomes exceptional Normative vs the non-normative Before commercial high-rises and housing blocks were the norm for urban housing, the simple one- or twostorey house was what most of the United States lived in. These solid, modest, timber-constructed houses were no less the norm in San Francisco. As the city grew and suburbs were formed, few remnants of these building types remained in the downtown area. Most of SoMa district, just as in all major cities in the world, has given way to large- and mid-scale development which now dwarfs the buildings surrounding them. However, this phenomenon of overtaking the skyline has ended up leaving the smaller, older buildings as novel outliers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the last man standing, if you will. If for nothing other than their contrast, these buildings, which once blended in with their surroundings, now stand out as artefacts of a different time. The higher and larger surrounding buildings get, the more these small outliers stand out â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ironic, given the massive amounts of funding behind the larger developments, all hoping to be noticed. Simply by persevering amidst the tide of change, these outlier buildings have become exceptional, in many cases stealing the precious spotlight.

15 Guy Place

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A a r o n L evi ne


South Park Ave, east of Jack London Alley

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Condition 2: What once stood out now blends in When a novel building loses its uniqueness Homogeneity overwhelms the exceptional

Condition 3: What once blended in becomes hybridised When a new building grows out of an old one Re-inhabitation vs revitalisation

The South Park area of the SoMa district has recently seen a wave of renovations and new construction including quite a few individually provocative apartment and mixeduse buildings. However, the experience of these buildings is not one of individuality at all. Often situated closely by other provocative designs, the experience is one of a block-like, congregative unit like a horizontal urban totem pole, indicating a contemporary design shift for the area. A provocative and admirable work of architecture can no longer remain a singular work of art in an otherwise uninteresting landscape, at least not in an urban setting, for as the Bilbao effect has made clear, unique buildings when situated amongst non-similar structures become agents of revitalisation in their environments. The Web 2.0 phenomenon is centred on South Park Street, S0Ma. Many new Internet start-ups dot this section of San Francisco, along with new shops and restaurants throughout. With this phenomenon came new money and new works of architecture which set a trend and resulted in similar structures popping up around it. If left uninhibited, this process would potentially create occurrences of condition 1 (above) through the homogenisation of the city block. Condition 2 highlights the transformation of a building into something larger than itself – a block or community of buildings, interdependent on each other for identity.

It may be that in light of conditions 1 and 2, architecture in the SoMa district sometimes tries to run an adjacent path down the middle, between the two conditions of something that stands out and something that blends in. By renovating older buildings by preserving the shell, or ‘existing landmark façade’ to use the common nomenclature, a good deal of the SoMa is being gutted. Space in this area is being actively reprogrammed from commercial warehouses to lofts, offices and studios, with new housing complexes physically sprouting out of a previously programmed warehouse. The façade of the old building remains merely as effect or pretence, which could possibly be seen as poetic, if was not at the same time grotesque. The existing building, for whatever purpose – structural damage, decay, real estate pressures – is fundamentally changed into something else, something that reduces its history and place in the urban narrative to its façade alone. This presents us with a question: Are buildings merely differentiated only by their shells? Over time, if these kinds of projects continue, would we only be able to read our past structures like layers of an onion, going further back in time as you move outward, devoid of any architectural value except as mere shading for our contemporary use? In an absurdist sense, akin to the work of Superstudio or Archigram, this new city typology could become a graveyard of shells, dense with existing landmark façade systems.


A a r o n L evi ne

These three conditions, all of them existing within approximately three blocks of each other in the SoMa, lay out the framework for what appear to be important relationships of space and structure likely endemic to many dense, urban areas of the world. Understanding these relationships may allow for the kind of design that encompasses larger sites than that of a singular building permit, inclusive of the entire urban block, if not the district and the broader city itself, all existing together in a greater ecological and temporal conglomeration. g

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650 Delancey Street


Miriam Ho

m at e r i a l c u lt u r e v i l l ag e r e m n a n t s by miriam ho

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disappearing Gwangju living in the debris of South Korea’s industrialisation

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Nine halmoni (the polite form of address for elderly women in Korean) sit cross-legged on the linoleum, a shallow dish of kimchi and some rice between them. As the food dwindles, their chatter undying, one rises, slides open the screen door and unhooks her barbers’ shears from a peg on the courtyard wall. Amid eager gestures from the other women, a second halmoni seats herself before the mirror and lets the hairdresser pin a robe under her chin.  Geum-soon has lived and worked in the neighbourhood behind Yangdong Market in Gwangju, South Korea for thirty years, running an unlicensed hair salon out of her home. Her customers are her long-time neighbours. In these colonies of low-rise houses dating from the 1960s, an aging population supports itself on simple skills. Fortune tellers’ poles pierce the air, flapping canvasses delineate makeshift restaurants and parked outside a few gates are metal wheelbarrows, used to collect scrap materials and garbage from around the city.  These neighbourhoods are a vestige of industrialising Korea. During president Park Chunghee’s 1961-1979 dictatorial rule, rapid economic expansion brought an influx of rural workers into cities like Gwangju. At the same time, traditional and ubiquitous chogajibs (thatched-roof homes) were standardised with widely available industrial materials under a political initiative for social development, the Saemaul (New Community) Movement. Using the new slabijib (slab-roof home) prototype, housing for migrant workers could be built quickly, economically and en masse. Concrete block replaced vernacular wall assemblies of straw-bale and rice paper, and concrete or corrugated metal replaced the thatched roofs that had to be rebuilt every summer in a chogajib. The efficiency of slab construction superseded classical building methods. In these settlements, where the urban lower and middle class live today, Saemaul’s motto ‘Diligence, Self-Reliance and Cooperation’ is still evident. Tenants grow enough food for their own use on rooftop gardens and in communal vegetable plots, sharing their harvests. Geum-soon, who serves a complimentary meal with her 8,000-won haircuts, has minimal expenses: “I don’t have to pay [a separate] rent for the shop, or taxes. The food I grow outside, some my neighbours give me”.


Miriam Ho

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Several halmoni sit out on the courtyard porch, laughing and passing snacks back and forth while Geum-soon perms her friend’s hair. A slabijib follows certain essential principles of Korean house design: the main house and several outbuildings are positioned around a central courtyard, which is an open-air living room. In the city, this is often a narrow, unbuilt gap. Geum-soon’s neighbours socialise in her covered courtyard, but it also doubles as a utilitarian space, crowded by wash basins, cookie tins and soda bottles, extra furniture and old appliances. A modern washroom, a charcoal briquette furnace and two storerooms open off it.  Geum-soon’s small home is modernised and well-maintained. She has lacquered furniture, a TV and her 29-year-old daughter who lives with her has a desktop computer with internet. The interiors are dim, with only small windows facing the courtyard, to keep the house cool in the summer and to minimise heat loss in the winter. Geum-soon has upgraded her windows to durable double-glazed units. In a vast contrast, less prosperous homes in the same neighbourhood rely on styrofoam, plastic bags, and other found materials to seal cracks against wind and rain. Some staple green garden netting over the translucent rice paper window screens, traditionally designed to mediate light and humidity, for reinforcement.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that almost one in every two elderly households in South Korea live in poverty, making South Korea’s elderly poverty rate the highest amongst OECD nations.1 This is largely attributed to a paradigm shift away from traditional family structures. Where aging parents once depended upon their grown children to support them, this is less common today. The national pension, instigated in the mid1990s, does not service a previously retired or self-employed population.   Slabijibs are a low-rent accommodation choice in the city centre, in the vicinity of transportation networks and employment opportunities. Occasionally, a young family moves in to save money, but the predominantly elderly population has lived here for decades. Despite a prevailing cultural desire for the old to live with their sons, some choose to remain in these communities where they are independent, self-sustaining and have familiar old friends.


Mir iam H o

Generally viewed as bland, outdated structures, as well as a painful reminder of a period of political oppression, these tenements have nevertheless acquired their own character through decades of inhabitation. Renewals and repairs have transformed the standard building envelope, and even as they are abandoned, the structures take on the beautiful texture of decay. Without maintenance, they deteriorate rapidly: built to embrace the environment, wild grasses and vines easily take root in cement crevices, rapidly turning a house into a site of ecological succession.  From the courtyard, a concrete staircase reaches the roof. The slab roof gives each tenant access to his or her own roof terrace, useful for household chores. On Geum-soon’s terrace, hot peppers are spread out on a mat between utility pipes; laundry and fish dry on the same line. Moreover, neighbours can see one another as they go about their daily chores on the roof, holding conversations over the barrier of their cement walls. The roof makes a lively second tier of community space.  The Saemaul colony – bright painted walls, crowded terraces, all the texture of life and decay – sparkle in the afternoon light. Between the houses, maze-like corridors switch back and forth, informally reinforcing the mountainous Korean landscape. Though a product of industrialisation, in their use, disuse and gradual disintegration, these settlements have a strange kinship with nature.  g

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1 “The relative poverty ratio among the elderly people over the age of 65 in Korea was 45 percent in 2006, indicating almost one in every two elderly households live in poverty.” The Korea Times, November 8, 2008. Relative poverty means that one’s income is less than half the average household income of the nation, which was 3.5 million won (est. $300o CAD) per month in 2008. (Korea National Statistics Office, http:// www.korea.net/News/News/NewsView. asp?serial_no=20091120008)


You probably saw the story. It was in the section of the BBC website called Also in the news, keeping aloof company with an article entitled ‘Trappist Monk escapes Belgian beer fire’. The title of the story was ‘Southern Sudan unveils plan for animal-shaped cities’. The Government of Southern Sudan had apparently announced a ‘$10bn plan to rebuild the region’s cities in the shapes of animals and fruit’. There was little other context, and I can easily predict the reaction of the listeners: they have gone bananas in Southern Sudan; I imagine my mother being indignant – in a country of grinding poverty they are going to spend all that money making towns into pineapples. Many have smugly predicted that Sudan is the first ‘failed state’ to fail before it has even been formally announced as a state; fruit cities seem par for the course. Juba, soon to be the world’s newest capital city, will be transformed into a rhinoceros; the Presidential Office, the eye. As new clashes break out between the army and rebel forces in the north-east of the country, and at a time when government control of some parts of its territory is strictly nominal, the plan to make animal cities might also seem like a fantasy of power; a zoomorphic panopticon. The truth is a good deal more interesting.

animal cities In January, the people of Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly to secede from the north, and become Africa’s newest state. It was a single moment of clarity for an uncertain nation.

| city form b u i l d i n g a c o u n t ry b y j o s h ua c r a z e

Juba - A woman transports her belonging on her head, heading towards the Juba Temporary Port and crossing a cemetery now used as dumping ground and open-air latrine from the inhabitants of the nearby informal settlement.

Gui l i o Pe tr o c c o

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Southern Sudan has never been nation. Across its enormous expanse there are hundreds of languages and tribes. Turkish and British colonial rule was lightly administered, and made little attempt to radically transform traditional forms of order. Before the first civil war broke out just over fifty years ago, Sudan did not have a shared language. Today in urban spaces Arabic holds sway as a language of commerce and exchange, while amongst the ruling elite – the oldest educated in missionary schools, the youngest in American universities – English is the language of government. There are few roads in the country, and even these tend to become impassable during the rainy season when whole villages shrink back from the rest of the country, closed into their own worlds. Conflicts that the media avidly call ‘steps to war’ are more often than not clashes between pastoralist peoples, fighting for grazing territory that is growing scarce as large scale agricultural projects, oil installations and environmental degradation squeeze them into smaller and smaller spaces. Loyalty is to tribe and family, not to the state. If there is a continuity among all the groups in Southern Sudan, it is a shared history of oppression by regimes located on the Central Nile. Sudan has been independent for fifty-five years, and for only fifteen of them has the south had a tenuous peace with the north. It is this history of struggle that might form the basis of a new Southern Sudanese nation. Not a soul is untouched by war, not a soul doesn’t feel Southern Sudanese. What that means, for now, is an anti-nationalism – not wanting to be part of the North. In Juba, the soon-to-be capital of Southern Sudan, the search for a new national identity has begun. Jok Madut Jok, the Assistant Minister for Culture, spoke to me enthusiastically about museums of national identity consecrated to the plurality of cultures you find in Southern Sudan, and of making a new language for the country, just as Indonesia created a new language for itself. Creating new urban forms is part of this challenge. Just as constant feuding between tribes was a feature of the hundred years before independence, so was inter-marriage and trade. The great Dinka spearmasters and Nuer prophets, spiritual figures capable of bringing together communities, had their particular places – people still speak of Ngungdeng’s mound, and of the tree under which Deng Majok used to sit and give counsel. But these forms of co-existence are not urban forms. In predominately rural Southern Sudan, the risk is that the government, sitting in Juba, takes on a form unrecognisable to its people; a form as unrecognisable as Juba urbanism is to most Southern Sudanese.

Throughout the conflict, Juba was in a state of suspended animation: the government controlled the town, but the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, seasoned guerillas who will form the government of Southern Sudan, had encircled it. A sleepy colonial trading town before independence, during the last part of the war, supplies were at a premium. Residents who remember that period speak darkly of searching for food in the rubbish. The core of the city is still the old town. Brick houses that are today an embattled stockade in the middle of the city, owned by Northern merchants fearing for their future. In 2005, a peace agreement ended the second civil war. Since then, a new form of urbanism has emerged. Tent cities are being erected along the banks of the Nile, catering to the UN workers and aid agencies that have flooded into the city since the peace agreement. $150 a night will get you a tent with air conditioning and electricity. Then there are the single-storey concrete bungalows built by soldiers and politicians who have come to the capital from all over the country, eager for their rewards after long years of fighting. Just outside town, endless squatter camps are going up – those displaced by war are returning home, and others are looking for opportunities in the capital. Nothing comes together. It is as if three worlds had been made to co-habitate in the same space, and, sullenly, they refuse to talk to each other. Their uncertain co-existence makes for an uneasy peace. Politicians, soldiers, East African immigrant workers, aid workers, and squatters. We all live next to each other in this city which is not quite urban, not quite a city and not yet a capital. The urban population in Juba is increasing dramatically, and poses the question of an emergent nationalism in terms of city planning. The question of how we make a nation out of disparate communities becomes one of how we make urban forms that people can recognise as part of themselves; forms that simultaneously build urban forms and, precisely, a sense of the people. Looking around Juba, I am not hopeful. From the aid agencies’ Land Cruisers cutting cartographies through the dusty roads, to the Kenyan and Ugandan immigrants doing all the work in the city, everything seems to promise an urbanism designed by others, occupied by those from elsewhere. Southern Sudanese speak angrily of East Africans taking all the money out of the country and look around with incomprehension at the aid agencies’ inefficiency and waste. If the the capital is the mirror of the country, then Juba belongs in a fairground.

Juba – youth chill in a church near the Konyo Konyo market. In the background is the Konyo Konyo Mosque

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G ui l i o Pe tr o c c o


G u ilio Pe tr o c c o

Konyo Konyo market, mainly run by east african migrants from Uganda and Kenya

Which brings us to those animal cities. Each of the states that constitutes Southern Sudan has a fruit or an animal as its symbol. Equally, many of the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) units were nicknamed after fruits and animals. The struggle against the North, the sole basis for unity as a nation in Southern Sudan, was formed into the image of the objects that the South hopes will transform their cities. It is a struggle for identity and a struggle which the government hopes might translate into an urban form. In Le Totemisme Aujourdhui, Levi-Strauss outlines a world in which humans depend on analogy to understand the physical world. Through classifying sensuous experience into categories that are themselves of the physical world, we grow to understand our place in it. So the heraldic totems of North America outlined the areas of the world one should care for, and the tones and colours of existence. The fox totem indicates a place in the world, sets of duties and cares, and a set of relations to be upheld with others in the world. As in the physical world, so in the social. It is an old story in architecture. I recall the wonderful plans of Alexandre de Maître in the 17th century. He wrote a text called La Métropolitée, which sets out a model of the ideal country. In his plan, there is an almost perfect correlation between political hierarchy and architectural form. The capital is the third estate,

composed of the sovereign and his associates, while the artisans are in the small towns, and the peasants, the foundations of the whole edifice, are in the countryside. It is a wonderful and horrific dream in which there would not need to be any unexpected encounters or unwanted mixing: a monarchic anticipation of Fordism realised in space instead of time. De Maître’s plan was never built. Such plans rarely are. Daniel Wani’s bold plan for the animal cities will also, I suspect, go unfinished. Both, however, articulate a way of bringing together people and space into a form in which people recognise each other. In the lingo of the United States, its called nation-building. One can be sceptical that South Sudanese animal cities will work. I certainly am. Juba’s new urban forms will emerge outside of government control, in the impromptu settlements at the edge of town. It is there, where different tribes cluster together uprooted from the structures of tribal and clan support, that a new nation will be born, if one is to be born, and it will grow as a new architectural form grows with it. That I am sceptical of the animal cities, however, does not mean that I do not realise their importance, for they answer, for the government, the question of how we live in the world together and recognise each other. g

Workers clean the Konyo Konyo market’s shops after the business day is over

G u ilio Pe tr o c c o

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The identity of a community is a combination of its spaces and its people. A conscious sense of that identity and the ability to express it is a critical starting point for selfdriven community improvement. Through an experimental exercise using visual and cognitive methods, women in a de-graded Brazilian favela experienced an awakening to the identity of their community and their place in it, gaining the confidence and tools - the empowerment to realise they could lead change in their own environment.

embedded identity

a walk through the community: a visual path

urbanism | fav e l a e m p ow e r m e n t b y g i ova n a b e lt r ao

A favela within a favela within a favela. Rei do Gado, a small informal settlement of 0.3 hectares and 600 people in the heart of Recife – a fast-growing metropolis of 3.5 million on Brazil’s northeast coast, was the result of a failed urbanisation process. Desperate for living space in the urban core, families finally occupied a swamp that earlier land invaders had considered uninhabitable. Out of sight and out of mind of city authorities already stretched by limited resources, the residents survived eviction from their narrow, muddy alleys and ramshackle, unserviced shelters. Subsistence life in Rei do Gado continued for decades without thought of change, or at least without awareness that change was possible.

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For ten years I was one of Recife’s urban planners working in the city’s favelas to bring about community improvements. I saw formal government intervention fail and realised one of the major causes of failure was a communication disconnect between official ‘experts’ and the favela residents, the real experts. Planners imposed their professional perception of what was needed; residents lacked the tools to communicate their real priorities. A tool was needed to bridge that gap. I worked for six months with the women of Rei do Gado, the segment of the population most involved in the daily life of the community, to see if we could develop that tool.

The women of Rei do Gado live life in tight, narrow, degraded, crowded pathways without being consciously aware of their environment, or their potential power to leverage their lives and community out of the many impacts of poverty. The starting point had to be building a conscious awareness of their environment. They had to learn how to ‘see’ and thereby define and express an identity, their priorities and their aspirations. I had the technical knowledge to manage processes of urban intervention but I knew nothing about the community nor the women who lived there. The women knew their environment, but could not communicate this understanding. Neither were they aware that by doing so they could initiate change. The means of communicating values from both sides were not in line. Planners tend to think of standards, functionality and beauty first. Favela dwellers are focused on creating their own survival cocoon by whatever means possible. The rusting top of a non-functioning septic tank is an eyesore, source of pollution and indication of an unhealthy failed community to the planner. For the women, it was their most important and favoured gathering point. For Maria, with a smile, ‘my falling apart roof allows me to see the stars’. We were on different levels of identification with that space.


unself-conscious and self-conscious views of the neighbourhood

With the help of recognised community leaders, we identified a group of eleven volunteer women keen to be involved. Many were illiterate; reading and writing not a common part of their lives. I focused on visual methods, cognitive processes and conversation through which the women were invited to observe, photograph, map, draw and talk about their community. Interestingly, those with no literacy skills were the best communicators. Together we pushed towards a common level of communication to identify what was of value. The tool-design process took us through an evolutionary series of steps never before experienced by the women, developing a real awareness, a new vocabulary and a true sense of empowerment.

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The first step was to establish a baseline perception of their community through their eyes and to share it. We started with a ‘visual path’ exercise, submerging ourselves in the community seeking its identity. We walked the alleys for weeks interacting with the residents gaining their trust and permission to be intrusive. We engaged. I gained access to corners that said so much about women’s lives, but it was their stories that unveiled the meaning of the spaces – their identity.

I handed out disposable cameras, a first for most of the women, and told them to photograph anything they wanted, then photograph good and bad things around them. It was an unselfconscious, untrained look at the community. The first roll of film was all family photos; the second was their house, the muddy alley, the meeting point on the septic tank, maybe a favourite potted plant. By focussing the camera on something and making selective decisions, the women were forced to think about where they were and what was around them. Through the lenses the women framed and objectified their environment (space and behaviours) to identify elements of their lives never consciously ‘seen’ before. We talked about the photos. Through the photographing exercise, women came to understand that their cocoons had both common and divergent elements. Their identity was being defined and a common vocabulary was emerging.


above: ‘Now I know where I live and where I would prefer to live. This is how I envision my community; happy, clean and colourful’ right: Cognitive perceptions of the women’s living environments before and after training

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WeI then went through a cognitive mapping exercise of where they lived and what was important to them. For many it had been years since they had held a coloured pencil to a piece of paper. We had fun. ‘Draw a map of where you live and where you go to buy bread, get water or meet your friends. Draw pictures of your community, of what you like and what you don’t like.’ The drawings were creative, naïve, wonderful and enlightening. They were open and free expressions of the women’s worlds which were small and simple but full of reality. I then used a comparative concepts technique introducing, through a series of photographs of better-off communities from all over the world, an expanded vocabulary of simple, easy to understand community themes – clean, dirty, safe, healthy, peaceful, green, public, open, social – to further stimulate thinking and discussion. We talked about change and betterment, concepts that undoubtedly lay in everyone’s mind but were not consciously linked to their own abilities. I gave them more cameras and asked them to photograph these themes in their own community. Their eyes and minds were expanding to a conscious awareness of their living environment, what was important, what should be preserved, improved, removed, changed. A mutually understood language was developing. After going through these steps of slowly expanding an awareness of where they lived, their identity within it, and developing a new vocabulary, we returned to another round of cognitive mapping. The new images were astounding. A new consciousness of place had developed. Their world had not necessarily expanded, but their awareness and perception of it certainly had. The beaming faces, pride in their work as a group, and new found confidence told it all. They were ready to communicate and take action. Not long after the exercise, women took the first steps of change into their own hands and I found new potted plants and freshly painted houses. The tool design was an inspiring process of creating awareness of community and individuals’ identity, while empowering and preparing favela residents to effectively participate and contribute to the upgrading process. Being conscious of who you are and how you live increases the chances of understanding who you could be and how you could live. The women from Rei do Gado may not have all the means but they now well know their way. g

above: women and planner interacting in identifying, building consensus and communicating potential changes

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right top: Community identity points – an objectified look. below: the Tool Preparation Steps that guided the process

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Edwa r d Lin

p o l i t i c a l c u lt u r e communal living b y k i r a va rva n i n a

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a room inbetween the soviet kommunalka

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The fact that the English word private is not easily translated into Russian can be explained by the word’s ambiguity. On one hand, it implies any entity that is not run by the government, which explains its derogative meaning during the Soviet regime. On the other, the term carries individual and confidential connotations and is simply substituted in Russian with personal. As a result, in Soviet terms, private space is not owned by an individual but is considered national. In many ways this explains the bizarre fusion of private and public worlds in everyday Soviet lives. In this essay I attempt to look at the influences of communal living arrangements on the tightly intertwined realms of national and individual identities during the USSR era. Throughout the first years of the Soviet regime, much of the working class was relocated to urban centers and colonised in cramped kingdoms of kommunalkas– large flats that once belonged to the Tsarist nineteenth century bourgeoisie. They were later redistributed among the working class, often leaving as many as fifty people co-existing in ten living rooms, one large kitchen, two water closets and a bathroom. Even though these apartments were similar to dormitories where sharing of public space was part of everyday life, kommunalkas were permanent places where inhabitants could have lived their entire lives. While the name kommunalka is a vernacular short form for a communal apartment, the long mazes had little in common with the Western flat. Firstly, the residents were placed there by the state, which resulted in a diverse and forced social structure of these quarters. Secondly, there was a clear division between what ‘belonged’ to an individual and what ‘belonged’ to nobody (in other words, public). Living and sharing the ‘national territory’ of kommunalka resulted in constant clashes between neighbours and often developed into comical settings. For example, because there were only two water closets shared by numerous inhabitants, it was common to own and carry around one’s personal toilet seat. This seat would have its own hanging place in the safety of a family room. The original grand rooms of nineteenth century bourgeoisie apartments and smaller cramped family corners in kommunalka had very little, if anything, in common. Divided numerously into smaller spaces often inhabited by entire families, many rooms were narrow. High ceilings, chandelier cords hanging unpretentiously in the corner and disproportionately large windows were the only traces of the building’s former use and grandeur. The lack of space made every corner of the room valuable for potential functionality. A window often served as storage for food and the ceiling would house a clothes line. Consequently, the quality of Soviet life was often measured in cubic metres – which generally defined individual desires and needs.


Ed wa r d L i n

Curiously enough, even within one’s personal space, one could not necessarily count on privacy. Proximity of neighbors and lack of personal space made kommunalka’s environment transparent to the views of cohabitants and altered the sense of personal confidentiality. The communal spaces, however, were true manifestations of the individual within the realm of national and social. Accompanied by rules, public settings carried a sense of the impersonal and ownerlessness. Here the theatre of life, so often despised for its lack of humanity, was played out by common Soviet people. Although each family owned part of a stove, a table and a cabinet, the kitchen was often in a state of war for territory. This was not a space for a peaceful dinner or other functions associated with a home, but a place where one would line up to wash the dishes, argue about the electricity bills or discuss communal matters. The bathroom had its own schedule as well. Imagine numerous washing machines and drying clothes illuminated by a steamy, stifling incandescent lamp. Inhabiting shared environments tested the extent of human compassion and defined one’s consciousness within the society. Living with strangers was not an easy task, considering that it could potentially last a lifetime. Especially in the first years of USSR, individual idiosyncrasies, those that distinguished persons from each other, were not only judged and discouraged within the public atmosphere, but most significantly, scrutinised within one’s home. During this time the meaning of the word ‘private’ gained a negative connotation. Being exposed to the eyes of the state and neighbours resulted in a lost sense of personal identity within the greater Soviet population. The living conditions during these years depicted a simple truth – what was humane and personal was replaced in favour of the national. Perhaps the picture described above will seem gloomy to most, but that is not my intention. This sketch is an attempt to show the distinction and, most importantly, the coexistence of a national consciousness and conditions of individual identity within the structure of communal living. Of course, the aspects of collective life were not limited to negative insights, where war and argument constantly preoccupied tenants. On the contrary, the kommunalka was, and still remains, a diverse and fascinating environment, where endless personal stories are intertwined with the stories of old and new generations and both the past and present histories of Russia. g

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Plaza of Nations, Vancouver (looking east) 49° 16’ 30’’ N 123° 06’ 31’’ W

i d e n t i f i c at i o n measurement by tim sharp

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first contract landed immigrants ‘First Contract’ is a series of 9 photographs concerned with the complex ramifications of the Western insistence on quantifying land, which transforms land from being primarily a place to live into an object of trade and speculation. The photos also reflect on the colonial dispossession of the original inhabitants of the North American continent, especially the First Nation peoples of Canada. Flagging – plastic ribbons normally used to mark property borders – mark the lines, triangles and Euclidian geometries of the surveyor in rituals of appropriation and possession. All of the photos were taken in the proximity of the 49th parallel – 49°N, the border between Canada and the USA which also runs through a few kilometres of Waldviertel, Austria, where it crosses the 15°E meridian, turning place into time.

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Yaletown, Vancouver (looking south) 49° 16’ 22’’ N 123° 07’ 11’’ W

To talk about land is also to talk about place and one’s relationship to it. I like to think of this series of photographs as having its origins in a drive northwards along an island road lined with trees and pleasantly exotic-looking but unattractively scented skunk cabbage. Every now and then I caught sight of a plastic ribbon tied to a shrub, a low branch or even, at times, closer to towns, to a white post driven into the earth. Sometimes these ribbons fluttered in the breeze, mostly they lay inert on the ground, forming loopy hieroglyphs on the land, shouting their presence in fluorescent shades of red, green and yellow. It turned out that the process of putting them there was called flagging and, although they were frequently used as trail markers, they were more often indicative of territorial boundaries – the edges of individual plots of land, the border between one timber licence areas and another but also smaller work zone markers: cut this area, leave this area alone. Flagging language is somewhat limited, misunderstandings occur, and sometimes the wrong trees fall. Deeper into the forest, away from the surfaced road and well-trodden paths, they seem even more artificial – gnomic interrogation marks in the surrounding landscape, minimal sculptures of possession deriving their validity from a purely abstract, intellectual system imposed on, but not of, the land. Defining the territory Since the island we were driving across was Vancouver Island, there is one sense in which the ground here is not as solid as it looks. As in the rest of the northern part of the continent, it was, and often still is, contested territory, land taken away from its original inhabitants in a concerted, often aggressive and sometimes genocidal campaign of colonial appropriation. The issues that are alive and volatile here encapsulate the exploitative essence of the colonial system which ‘legally’ transferred all the land to the Crown which in turn made it available for redistribution amongst European settlers.


Burrard Street Bridge. Vancouver (looking north) 49° 16’ 29’’ N 123° 08’ 22’’ W

Shifting Sands James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and later first Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island was of Scottish-Caribbean descent and his wife was Métis. Fur traders were encouraged by the Hudson’s Bay Company to marry local wives as the only reliable means of establishing stable trading relationships. This on-the-ground reality of reciprocity and rough equality was, with some time and effort, replaced by an appropriate colonial fiction of European superiority. The moral dilemma had been recognised right from the beginning of North American colonisation. On one hand early colonists such as Robert Gray of Virginia felt that the land was the ‘rightful inheritance’ of the ‘savages’ who used it. On the other hand, since they were ‘savages’ they really had no interest in the land ‘because they participate rather of the nature of beasts than men’. This conflation of racism and land-ownership did not appear overnight but represents a strain of Western political and jurisprudential thought that can be traced at least as far back as the sixteenth century, to Thomas More’s Utopia. He held that unused land might be appropriated by someone with a will to cultivate it. In the seventeenth century John Locke thought that agriculturalists were justified in displacing hunters. Half a century after Locke’s death, Emmerich deVattel (The Law of Nations) was clear about the duty to cultivate: There are others, who, to avoid labour, choose to live only by hunting, and their flocks. ... Those who still pursue this idle mode of life, usurp more extensive territories than, with a reasonable share of labour, they would have occasion for, and have, therefore, no reason to complain, if other nations, more industrious and too closely confined, come to take possession of a part of those lands.

in the fact that the small indigenous plots which were cultivated were not fenced off. Although lip service was paid to the idea of involving the First Nations in farming, that would have put them in direct competition with immigrant settlers, so the land assigned to them was not of the best quality. The more ‘modest’ aim was to force them into the settler economy as labourers in farming, the timber industry and canneries. Thus they would not need as much land per head as a white settler who was expected to support his family, selling surplus crops or livestock on the free market. Edward Wakefield, an influential framer of British colonial policy, was convinced that the colonial system could be calibrated so that the colonial entrepreneur would have all the cheap labour he needed and would, in time, become a property owner. Settlers needed security of title making land surveying, as Katherine Gordon says, ‘into the oldest European profession in British Columbia’. A Real Estate Accurate surveying requires precise measurement over long distances. Starting from a position that is known, line of sight measurement of angles is made to two other points (mountain tops, mounds, specially build towers). This is repeated at the other points. One of the side of the triangle must be measured on the ground. The combination of all these measurements allows position and distance to be determined by calculation. One of the sides of the previously measured triangle is used as the baseline for the next in what becomes a tessellation of interconnected triangles, a triangulation network. 75

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The first surveyors were often soldiers. Matthew Edney, acknowledging the active agency of surveyors and mapmakers in the imperialist scheme of things underway on the other side of the planet—involving the other Indians, as it were—pointed out that ‘triangulation-based surveys are rooted, like all other cartographic practice, in cultural conceptions of space and in the politics of manipulating spatial representations’. In India the

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First Nations peoples were primarily hunters and gatherers and had no concept of land ownership per se, only a tradition of use, such as fishing rights at a particular place. For incoming settlers (who were not over-concerned with the discourse of political philosophy) this use of the land –winter villages and summer camps indicating a lack of a permanent settlement– was deemed irrational since it produced no surplus value and, incidentally, took up a lot of space. The ‘lot of space’ was deemed unused land. A further indicator of the inability to use land rationally was found

Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver (looking north) 49° 16’ 25’’ N 123° 09’ 21’’ W


Stanley Park, Vancouver (looking north) 49° 18’ 27’’ N 123° 08’ 25’’ W

issue was not about individual settlers acquiring title to plots of land, but rather about rationally defining and standardising land ownership in order to make tax assessments based on the estimated level of agricultural production, the administrative foundation for revenue extraction in its purest form. Some specifics of place In 1871 when British Columbia joined the Canadian confederation, one of the pre-conditions was that BC be connected to the rest of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company was commissioned to extend a line to the Pacific Coast. In the 1880s, on Vancouver Island, Robert Dunsmuir founded a railway company. Both the CPR and Dunsmuir’s company, the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, received land grants – as one incentive amongst others – for their efforts: 30km each side of the line. Dunsmuir’s deal also included mineral rights. In his case this meant that the company owned around 20% of the island which is about threequarters the size of Switzerland, while the CPR ‘owned’ much of Vancouver.

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The CPR land commissioner, Lauchlan Hamilton, laid out the street grid for Vancouver after its almost complete destruction by fire in 1886. One of the first pieces of business that the inaugural session of the newly-formed Vancouver City Council dealt with, was a resolution proposing to designate a large area of land for recreational purposes). They had their eye on a peninsula looking westwards to the Strait of Georgia and eastwards up Burrard Inlet. Many on the council had, or represented, interests in the remaining real estate in the neighbourhood. Should the British Crown put 950 acres of prime property on the market, their holdings and those of the CPR (Lauchlan Hamilton, was a CPR employee as well as an alderman) would have suffered. However if it was turned into a municipal park it would not only increase the value of the remaining plots and provide a space for middle class leisure occupations – sailing, cricket etc., it would increase the attractiveness of Vancouver to potential outside investors. The area was christened Stanley Park. But there was a one other problem. Some of the area was inhabited. Apart from some Coast Salish people who had been using the area, including Dead Man’s

Haro Street, Vancouver (looking north-west) 49° 17’ 34’’ N 123° 08’ 25’’ W

Island as a burial ground, since time immemorial, the ‘park’ was also home to a number of Chinese families, European immigrants married to First Nation women, fisherman with houses on stilts on the beach of Dead Man’s Island and the Kanaka Ranch, a piece of land where Hawaiian men lived with First Nation wives and their children. The newspapers were induced to start a campaign against the ‘undesirable squatters’ and ‘loose and disorderly sort of people”—terms that might justifiably be used by the Coast Salish for the interlopers instigating the campaign. In the long term they were successful, using either legal instruments, intimidation or when forced, compensatory payments. The legal cases are interesting because they involve claims by many of the occupants to title on the basis of adverse possession, or proven 20-60 years of uninterrupted occupation. In these cases courts ruled that the oral testimony of Indians was not to be relied on, a judicial way of silencing the land. Having succeeded in clearing the area the city erected totem poles representing many First Nations (but not those who had recently occupied that piece of land, they had no tradition of wood carving) from all over British Columbia.


Deadman’s Island, Vancouver (looking south) 49° 17’ 52’’ N 123° 56’ 33’’ W

Nanaimo Station 49° 09’ 50’’ N 123° 56’ 34’’ W

Coming home to roost The final picture of the series was taken not only in the proximity of the 49th parallel like the others, but was made precisely on it. The meridian that forms the border between Canada and the USA also runs through about four kilometres of Austria. This stone marker is located in a pleasant forest area near a lake. The site is approximately 30 metres from where the Iron Curtain hung across Europe until 1989, making it relatively inaccessible for almost half a century. Prior to the First World War there was no national border here at all, the area being part of the Habsburg Empire. The little monument also marks the intersection with the 15° East meridian, which makes it an abstract chronological border – one hour (UTC +1).

The post-midday July sun streams through the trees illuminating the forest floor and reflecting off the little lake just beyond the border. Birds sing, insects buzz, water bubbles over stones and a butterfly cuts its own erratic and silent pathway through the air. The Austrian woods, that in two steps would become Czech, are like a doll’s house version of British Columbia’s temperate rainforest although both preclude the breadth and depth of vision normally associated with landscape views. But the countries involved in this triangulation network have another thing in common: the instrumentalisation of difference and relative powerlessness for gain, often distilled into racism. Standing among the sunbeams I have to make an effort to conjure up the shades of those who were racially isolated, refused their civil rights, stripped of their property and, if they were among the fortunate few, managed to slip over the right border to safety. And on the other side of the world it may be right that, as George Bowering put it, people in British Columbia think in terms of geography rather than history. But it might just be that, in certain places at certain times, geography is history. g

Austro-Czech border 49° 00’ 00’’ N 15° 00’ 00’’ E

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tearing air by drawing displacement in space m i g r at i o n | c o n f ro n tat i o n b y c at h e r i n e h a m e l

Building on the question of how we seek definitions of identity in the built environment, Tearing Air by Drawing Displacement in Space studies embodied politics through the personal experience of forced displacement and subsequent adaptation. It is the story of a body plagued by the consequences of war. Forced across lines of confrontation, it is a violent and violated body negotiating borders and boundaries. The subsequent experience of forced displacement is an unresolved existence oscillating between the dangerously manipulative memories of a lost place and the difficulty of adaptation to new cultures and their accompanying space. It is a rich existence that defies the comfort of stale meaning. Life relentlessly demands to be reinterpreted from a different point of view.

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It is the violent and violated identity in particular as a source of self that seeks expression in an oscillation between performance, writing and drawing. The outcome is a cartography of the territories of experience and identity formation and fragmentation. With the complexity of post war narratives, each physical and symbolic layer alludes to another possible formulation. The body is experienced as a foolish witness forced and trained to continuously observe difficult knowledge. Particular interest lies in the traits the act of drawing share with lines of confrontation. In speaking of drawing lines of confrontation, the confrontation referred to is not one of aggressive opposition. It is the collision between modes of expression and experience that can never be perfectly matched. To confront is not always a hostile act. To confront is also an act of comparison, of consideration. The reverberation of a collision is always more interesting than the obvious explosion. but where is the humor?


C a the r i ne H a me l

The ENd

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Octavio Paz wrote not what you say, what you forget is what you say. I forgot humor. it takes lightness and humor to survive. to choose to walk with a smile despite being a deviant of the imagination how did you survive? How do you survive? mistakes, there are always mistakes to be a trespasser in a world of systems to chose to smile the twinkle in the eyes evades words for now the twinkle of the yes the lightness that contrasts the weight how do you sleep at night? Safely thank you to transform the intensity of the pain into life to distill the cruelty into drops of absurdity to distill the absurdity into drops of mischief that dissolve the reason imposed to use this absurdity as a playing field to play within the crippling armor of fear to hold on to ones arbitrary survival to look at the innocent knowing what they are capable of to play. to love. to kill how far will they go? to live with that knowledge to lay with it to play on it to cry with it to simply smile It takes lightness and humor to survive


Invasive species strive in un-tended areas such as ditches, abandoned lots and under bridges.

Ni c o l e Dextra s

weedrobes an ecological identity e n v i ro n m e n t | ac t i v i s m by nicole dextras

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In the past five years my focus as an artist has been to create environmental art and ephemeral installations based on the principles of a socially engaged art practice committed to sustainable methodologies. The Weedrobes series started in 2005 as an experiment in making garments from leaves and flowers. Garments as links between the body and the land have evolved into a series that also examines consumerism, the fashion industry and the constructed landscape. Weedrobes garments are made with a high degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail to mimic actual clothing. On closer examination it is apparent that the garment is constructed from leaves and flowers held together with thorns. The ephemeral nature of each piece parallels the vulnerability and fragility of our eco-system. In the case of Weedrobes, wearing nature emphasises the fundamental link between humans and the natural environment while focusing on the implications of throw-away consumer goods. In my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ladies-clothing store as a child I learned to discern quality garments and the importance of shopping locally. Later in my teens, I witnessed firsthand the poor working conditions in garment factories and the effects of chemicals used in treating fabrics, while working one summer in a non-union

sweatshop. After graduating from Emily Carr University of Art in 1986, I worked for ten years as a freelance costume designer for local contemporary theatre and dance companies. These experiences have culminated in Weedrobes where a garment not only acts as an identity signifier but also as a ground for environmental concerns. Each Weedrobes project has three stages. It begins as a wearable sculpture constructed from organic and renewable plant materials. It is then photographed with a model in a landscaped urban setting emphasising the impact of humans on the natural environment. The third stage consists of videoed public interventions in shopping areas where the garment wearer engages passers-by on issues of consumerism, eco-textiles and branding. The photographs and video are for exhibition, and the original garment is returned to a garden or park and left to decompose over time. Weedrobes proposes that a consumerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most effective tool for change is to demand more equitable products. It is a crossdisciplinary art project, equally at home in the gallery, on the runway and on the streets but it begins by looking at and digging in our own backyards. g


Invasive Species is a garment created from local plants, many of which are considered invasive. The Skirt is made from English Ivy (invasive), which was given to me by the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Ivy Bustersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; team in Stanley Park, where the plant is choking many large trees. The bustier is made of Wild Rose (invasive) branches, with thorns intact and various Willow (grown in my back yard) and Dogwood (native) branches. Beads that hang from the bustier are made from the hollow stems of the very invasive Japanese Knotwood plant. The necklace is made up of Camellia flower buds and leaves.

This garment was conceived with a street performance in mind, where the model/actor walks around a local shopping area, interacts with pedestrians and engages them in issues regarding the unsustainable practices of the fashion industry. Eventually the garment is returned to the garden where invasives are already reclaiming her.

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Suzanne Estelle Ernst April 6, 1977 Peterborough, Ontario Languages: English, French, Hungarian Current City: Toronto, Ontario

c u lt u r e | e v e ry day l i f e by suzanne ernst

starting the day

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I chose this picture of myself (above) because I believe that it best represents who I am. My definition of myself, my identity so to speak, like me is in constant flux and motion. I was born on April 6, 1977 in Peterborough, Ontario where I lived until the age of 19. The place that I grew up, my activities, my family, teachers and friends helped to shape my early identity. I am, however, no longer the same person that I was then. I am not even the same person that I was yesterday. When thinking about my own identity, I realise how it continues to shift and change as I discover new people, places and things. For nine years I lived, worked and travelled abroad. This time away from home, these memories and experiences are a part of my identity. I decided to focus on nine people from around the world that have played an important part in my own journey of becoming. Rather than ask them to define themselves, I decided that I would focus on one common moment in their lives and ask them all the same simple questions about their morning routines. Their responses and the pictures that they have sent to me help to demonstrate the uniqueness of each of these individuals.

Fatima Ben Amhamad June 25, 1975 Fès, Morocco Languages: Arabic - Darija, French, English Current City: Casablanca, Morocco What time do you get up to start your day? at 6:45am What do you see when you look out your window? I see the green leaves of the trees and the blue sky What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? I bathe, get dressed, and pray. Then, the agony of the toil that I am about to confront for the day sets in! What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? I don’t often eat in the morning when I wake up, unless sometimes when I am feeling good, I drink a glass of milk. If not, I wait until 10:00 to eat my meal. I prepare the food myself so that I can eat it when I get to the office. I do all of my grocery shopping myself. What do you have to drink? Milk. How do you get to work? By car or else I take the bus and then a taxi. How long does it take? 1 hour a day (22km/ day work is really far) What do you do for a living? I am an executive assistant. What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? I like to wear something classy, either a dress or a skirt, and sometimes I wear jeans but with a blouse and blazer to give a little style and class.

Anna Font Vacas August 1, 1983 Barcelona, Spain Languages: Catalan, English, Spanish Current City: Buenos Aires, Argentina What time do you get up to start your day? 8am. There is a construction site in front of my apartment and they start hammering sharp at that time. What do you see when you look out your window? The building’s courtyard garden facing north and the palacio across the street What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? Teeth, shower, coffee What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? I’m inclined to a fish, salad and fruit diet, but since I moved to Argentina meat has become the primary element of my kitchen. I eat out a lot but I like to cook simple things like vegetables, salads, pasta, rice and quick sandwiches. I get ingredients in the neighbourhood’s supermarket. What do you have to drink? Basically water, still, no ice. How do you get to work? By car but sometimes I walk. How long does it take? 15 minutes, 40 if I walk. What do you do for a living? Architecture, teaching. What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? A pair of jeans, a shirt, flat shoes.


Merete Skovgaard Vindum May 26, 1982 Århus, Denmark Languages: Danish, English, French Current City: Copenhagen, Denmark What time do you get up to start your day? I have to be at work at 9.00 am, so I wake up at 7.00 am.

Ken-ichiro Suzuki May 01/1972 Kamakura, Japan Languages: English, Japanese San Francisco, USA What time do you get up to start your day? Weekdays: Usually around 7am. When busy, around 6am Weekends: Around 9am What do you see when you look out your window? I see the sky through my top-light in my bed room. What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? Weekdays: Boil hot water to brew some tea. Weekends: Call friends on phone. What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? Breakfast: Bread, bitter marmalade and milk. I prepare by myself. Lunch: Mostly at a Vietnamese restaurant close by. Dinner: I cook at home (a lot of vegetables and seafood, occasionally meat) What do you have to drink? Green tea or coffee in the morning, Moroccan mint tea during day time, red wine after dark, Hendrick’s martini when in a good mood. How do you get to work? I walk up and down the hill.

What do you do for a living? I practice urban design.

What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? What do you have to drink? Usually Old fashioned Oatmeal with milk, banana and raisins, and I drink a glass of orange juice. When I was in school I would prepare a sandwich for lunch to bring, but at my job, they serve food, so we all eat the same thing together for a 30 minutes lunch break. How do you get to work? When I am ready to go, I take my bike and ride to work. I live a 20 minute bike ride from the office. The biking trails in Copenhagen in the morning are like highways for bicyclists, so I have to pay attention to the other 1000’s of bicyclists. It can be quite stressful, if you come from a smaller city as I do. But the drivers in the cars, are used to all the bikes, so they are used to look out for the bikes. What do you do for a living? I am a landscape architect, and work for a Danish landscape architecture firm called Kragh & Berglund Landscape architects. What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? My favorite clothes to wear for work, are the same I wear when I am not working. People at the office are quite informal, so I am well dressed, but never overdressed, and not business-like at all. Sometimes I wear flip-flops in the summer, sometimes boots with a little heel.

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What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? Black linen jackets.

What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? When my alarm clock has woken me up after ringing 2 times, I take a shower, wash my hair and get dressed. Then I eat my breakfast.

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How long does it take? About half an hour.

What do you see when you look out your window? From my bedroom I see the backyard, which has a nice landscape garden, recently renovated. That is where the children from the block play in the summer time. From my living room is the street, it is an old part of the city, so my street is a cobblestone street. People have their bikes parked at the street, just outside my door.


Vladimir Guculaks May 19, 1988 Riga, Latvia Languages: Latvian, Russian, English Current City: Amsterdam, The Netherlands What time do you get up to start your day? 8:30 What do you see when you look out your window? it’s a back garden of the house i’m living in, few mature trees,dwarf plum tree, wild grapes and bicycle shed. What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? take a shower and jump on the bicycle straight away to cycle to work for the next 30 minutes! What do you eat? When I moved to Amsterdam, I started to eat my breakfast at work. And it could be many different things each day. Various biscuits, or plate of grapes, other fruits, fresh juices, bread with jam, anything I could find at the office kitchen or in the shops nearby. And I always have few cups of very good white tea called ‘silver needles’, that helps to start a working day. Do you prepare it yourself? yes Where do you normally purchase your food? various places, small Turkish shops in my neighborhood, that offer nice selection of vegetables and fruits. also buy stuff from big chain supermarkets and take aways. In Amsterdam there is great choice of international food! Anything you want from kebabs to organic pastas and kip sate chicken... and saturday markets, especially one at Noordermarkt is amazing place, with quality stuff! I usually go there around 12 on saturdays to have breakfast and lunch there and buy some things for the week. What do you have to drink? mostly white and green Chinese tee, sometimes one espresso after lunch, sitting outside the office in the sun, looking at the canal. fresh juices and Coke! How do you get to work? by cycling along the Ij river How long does it take? 30 minutes

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What do you do for a living? currently work as landscape architecture intern at the dutch office called Strootman. And I continue my masters degree at Edinburgh College of Art. What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? anything goes here, doesn’t matter much...at the office no one also cares how you look. one day it can be really nice suit and fancy shirt, and next day I come wearing an old hoodie and sneakers... don’t even know what makes me choose my clothes each day :) it just happens...

Hwang Yun Hye Birth Date: 9 Aug 1974 Place of Birth: Seoul, Korea Languages: Korean and English Place of Residence: Singapore What time do you get up to start your day? I usually get up twice. 6:40am is to give my first daughter a light breakfast before she gets on the school bus. Then I sleep again until 8:00am. 7:008:00am is a really sweet time for me. What do you see when you look out your window? As most condominiums in Singapore have a big pool and palm trees in the front yard, I can see the wellmanicured landscape through my window, which is a bit boring for me. But, there was a small happening last year. An unnamed bird made a nest on the top of a palm tree located in front my window and laid its egg. Although they went away because of strong winds that shook the nest off the branch, it was such moments that made me love looking out my window. What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? Around 8:00 am, my baby girl comes into my room to wake me up while she speaks gibberish with a smile. It is my pleasure to start a day with a hug from her. What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? Cooking at home is one of my favorite times. Most of dishes that I prepare are Korean food. Tomorrow is Chinese New Year. I’m planning to make ‘Japchea’, Korean traditional stirred noodle, for a potluck party with my collegues’ families. There are two big supermarkets nearby my house where I normally go grocery shopping once in a week. What do you have to drink? I usually stick to sparkling water, but good food and close friends makes me drink a bit of alcohol. I am a poor drinker though. How do you get to work? I usually ride my bike. It is 2.5km from my home to school, which is an ideal distance to commute by a bicycle. It makes me feel closer to the land, rich greenery, fresh air, and so on.

How long does it take? It takes 15 mins. Door to door. What do you do for a living? I’m teaching landscape architectural studio for graduated students in National University of Singapore. The studio topic is “EVERYDAY CYCLING IN SINGAPORE” for this semester, so that enables me to make the connection between working and living as I am a fan of cycling. I also do research besides teaching. I presented my research paper at APR- IFLA conference in Bangkok few weeks ago. Bangkok is worth traveling! What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? Singapore outdoors is extremely hot, whereas indoors is extremely cold due to air conditioning. My big black cashmere scarf is always useful to wrap myself when indoors and easy to take off when outdoors. That is my favorite item to wear at work.


Arpád Kovács January 17, 1974 Budapest, Hungary Languages: Hungarian, English, French Current City: Budapest, Hungary What time do you get up to start your day? My phone rings at 7:15 and by 8 o’clock usually I am able to wake up. What do you see when you look out your window? I see the royal palace and trees. What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? First of all I prepare my body. After the physical stuff I sit down to my seat cushion to be with myself and to be in quiet. Then I am ready to leave. What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? Usually I don’t eat anything at home. Sometimes I buy something from the bakery on my way to the office. What do you have to drink? Tea or juice. How do you get to work? From April to November I ride my bycicle, for the rest I use public transport.

What do you do for a living? I am a landscape architect.

What do you see when you look out your window? I have a children’s play area just outside my 2 storey bedroom window and 11 storey buildings in the backdrop. (See attached the picture of the Pune City, India) I don’t have the one overlooking my window

What time do you get up to start your day? 6am

What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? Shower, morning prayer and then breakfast

What are the first things that you do as you get out of bed and prepare for the day? Sit in living room, drink a tea and watch the sun rise over Brooklyn.

What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? Indian Bread (Roti), prepared Vegetable dish and cup of milk. Its prepared by my cook. I purchase grocery and vegetable from a local market 500 meters from my house.

What do you eat? Do you prepare it yourself? Where do you normally purchase your food? I usually cook dinner. A lot of salad, pasta and baked chicken. I’m a big fan of Mac & Cheese (Recipe I’ve adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)

What do you have to drink? Milk.

What do you see when you look out your window? A 270 degree panorama of NYC

What do you have to drink? Currently a huge tea fan

How do you get to work? My car

How do you get to work? I usually drive. Recently I’ve been taking the subway because of all the snow, and my car has been plowed in.

How long does it take? 30 minutes

How long does it take? 20 minutes by car. 45 minutes by train.

What do you do for a living? Architect and teaching in a undergraduate architecture degree program.

What do you do for a living? I teach math to 12th grade students at a public high school in Brooklyn.

What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? India attire – Kurti and jeans

What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? Jeans and a sweatshirt. Teaching exhausts me and I love the opportunity to dress down.

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What are your favorite clothes to put on for a day at work? Average clothes (jeans, chemise)

What time do you get up to start your day? 6:15 am

Carolyn Rachel Feidel June 6, 1974 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Languages: English, Spanish Current City: Brooklyn, New York

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How long does it take? Around 20 minutes.

Rina Salvi July 2, 1976 Mumbai, India Languages: English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujrati Current City: Pune, India


Can adian Ar c h it e ctura l A r c hi ve s , the U n iv e r sit y o f Calga r y

Cit y o f To r o n t o Ar c h iv e s

D i g i ta l C ol l ect i on s: H o u sin g Arch ive . Blackade rL a uter m a n L i brar y o f Arch ite ctu re , McGill Un ive r sity

Harbour City – Eb Zeidler Commissioned by the Ontario provincial government, Harbour City was to build on the success of Ontario Place, by creating an adjacent waterfront neighbourhood in place of the Toronto Island Airport. With 60,000 projected residents and an elaborate system of canals and bays, the plan if realised would have created one of the country’s most unique neighbourhoods.

Project 56 – Arthur Erickson A hypothetical project in the form of a sketch, Erickson’s Project 56 envisages a skyline for Vancouver that mirrors the silhouette of the mountains in the background. Although unrealised, the sketch was highly influential in shaping high-rise development policies at the end of the century.

Fermont Plan – Desnoyers Schoenauer The plan for Fermont, a new iron ore town in Quebec, pioneered many tenets of new town planning duplicated elsewhere, including compact housing to minimise infrastructure costs and a singular monumental building that acted as a windscreen for the rest of the town against the cold climate winds.

urban design identity introducting the Canadian Archive for Urban Speculation and Enquiry archives | r e d i s c ov e r i n g t h e i m m e d i at e pa s t b y d e pa rt m e n t o f u n u s ua l c e rta i n t i e s

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As a young urban design office in Canada, we face an identity crisis inherent in our passport. What does urban design mean in a nation that has practiced so little of it? Who are our national heroes? What are the great projects that we can seek inspiration from? It would seem that other nations would have it easier – with big characters pushing through big projects that have significantly impacted city landscapes, designers have a lot of contextual layers to draw from for their own designs. The Cerda block has served countless design projects in Barcelona. The Hausmannisation of Paris has inspired a thousand counter-manifestos. The Berlage Plan Zuid has inspired generations of Dutch urbanists.

Recently a group was formed out of the World Urban Forum to try and tackle this issue of Canadian urban design identity. The Canadian Council of Urbanism as they are called, rightly state that the Canadian urban situation is varied and unique and that we need to start tackling the question of what Canadian urbanism constitutes. Unfortunately, as a group of high-powered professionals including the chief planner of the City of Vancouver, the head of urban design at the City of Toronto, and principals from several large urban planning and design firms, their efforts have been exclusive and serve more to celebrate their own professional achievements rather than fleshing out a broad concept of urban design. A review of their work so far would have us believe that the entire concept of Canadian urbanism has been one of a heroic struggle against suburbanism and modernism.

Peeling back the layers, Canada has a much richer history of urbanism that we can draw from – from town settlement plans in the prairies by the Canadian Pacific Railway, to big-scaled modernist visions of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in the 1960s; from the social housing projects of CMHC to the garden suburbs of Mount Royal and Leaside. Many of these works have been edited out of our discourse on Canadian cities and original source material is difficult to find.


U n iv e r sit y o f G u e lp h Ar c h iv e s an d Sp e c ial Co lle c t io n s

C i ty of Toront o Arch ive s

Project Toronto – Buckminster Fuller/Geometrics In 1968, Buckminster Fuller and his firm Geometrics was hired by local Toronto media outlets CFTO and the Telegram to prepare a study the looked at what Toronto could look like in the 21st century.  Among other things the report recommended establishing a waterfront university in the form of a pyramid that would help create a link between the downtown and the lake.

CAUSE Our studio, Department of Unusual Certainties, is hoping to contribute to the dialogue of Canadian urban design identity through the establishment of an online resource called the Canadian Archive for Urban Speculation and Enquiry or CAUSE. This is an online digital archive of urban design projects that speculate on the Canadian urban condition.  CAUSE will include a wide variety of projects throughout the country’s history and across its diverse landscape with the intent of displaying a rich legacy of speculative urban design in the nation.

This bias has obscured many notable projects and ideas, leaving an impression of a nation with a very limited history of urban design. CAUSE aims to work against this by searching out and displaying the widest selection possible of urban design projects, making publicly accessible a body of work that is otherwise isolated in city archives and private collections. Some of the projects that have served as influences for CAUSE include Eberhard Zeidler’s 1968 Harbour City plan for the Toronto Islands, John Andrew’s Metro Centre plan for the Canadian Pacific Railway lands in Toronto, and Wells Coates’ Iroquois Town resettlement plan. Though unrealised, these projects are significant contributions to Canada’s output of urban design oeuvre which run the risk of being forgotten.

CAUSE will take shape as a website that presents itself as a simple database of projects.  Source material will include original competition briefs, jury reports, presentation panels, photographs of models, presentation booklets all digitised and presented with document viewer application. Scanned source material, openly displayed on the site and making primary sources as publicly available as possible will allow for a rich diversity of interpretations on what constitutes Canadian urbanism. There are hundreds of projects out there that can add to our sense of what Canadian Urbanism is. DoUC needs your help in finding them and getting them online. If you have any material or suggestions for CAUSE please contact us at department.of.unusual.certainties@gmail.com You can view a beta version of CAUSE at www.cargocollective.com/cause

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CAUSE is a reaction to a historical revisionism often found in the profession, which has reduced our understanding of Canadian urbanism to a narrow set of conditions – most notably with an antimodernist and anti-suburban bias.

Don Mills Village, Toronto – Project Planning Associates, 1953. Macklin L Hancock studied planning and landscape architecture under Walter Gropius at Harvard. His first major project led to international recognition as a landscape architect and town planner: beginning in 1953, he was a member of the team that designed the new community of Don Mills. Don Mills was the first planned and fully integrated post-war community in North America and became a template for urban developments around the country.


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WHAT IS A CULTURAL MAGAZINE? Notes* on cultural magazines prepared by Stephen Osborne Some Characteristics of Cultural Magazines Cultural magazines are characterised by: 1. low circulation 2. low revenue 3. under-staffing 4. volunteer support 5. great longevity Culture and Politics ‘The common element connecting art and politics is that they both are phenomena of the public world’. The argument for cultural publishing begins with understanding that works of art, in Arendt’s words, ‘must find their place in the world’, just as the products of politics, that is: words and deeds, also need some public space where they can appear and be seen, where they can fulfill their own being in a world which is common to all – that is, the public commons. Art objects cannot attain their inherent validity in private: they must be placed in the care of the keepers of public spaces, or the publishers of cultural magazines. Generally speaking, culture indicates that the public realm, which is rendered politically secure by the words and deeds of politicians, offers its space of display to those things whose essence it is to appear and to be beautiful.

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In contradiction to this notion of culture, the arm of government known as Canadian Heritage has erased the concept of cultural publishing altogether by renaming it micro-publishing and deleting it from its list of heritage activities. Hannah Arendt. ‘The Crisis in Culture’ in Between Past and Present. New York: Viking Press, 1961 Stephen Osborne is the publisher of Geist, a cultural magazine. www.geist.com * culturalmagazines.blogspot.com waysofpublishing.com


calls for articles

As always, take the theme in whatever direction you want, and remember, this is a magazine about architecture and urbanism, design and landscape, about spatiality and construction. Push each theme into these fields.

issue 2 6 : dir t

Joshua Craze quoted the anthropologist Mary Douglas* in his article in issue 24: ‘dirt is matter out of place’. Issue 26, Fall 2011, will be about dirt. and weeds.

F a ll 2 01 1 ideas only: due 1st July 2011 specs: www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles

This is a huge topic. outsider art buildings that don’t fit in architectural pornography transgression** construction sites rammed earth, adobe and any kind of mud construction*** vigorous hybrids (often considered weeds) pollution and taboo (thank you Mary Douglas) * Mary Douglas. Purity and Danger, An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, 1966 ** Peter Stallybrass and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 1986 *** Taymore Baalba on the mud buildings of Mali, On Site 17: water, 2007

issue 2 7 : rural u rb an ism Sp r in g 2 0 1 2 ideas/proposals for articles only: due 1st January 2012 specs: www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles

The world is more urban than it is rural, migration to cities offers more employment, more opportunity and more social mobility than the small towns and villages in rural hinterlands. However, such towns and villages still hold much of the character and identity associated with national cultures. It is a paradox, but the past, often pre-urban, still contains much potent imagery. As well, usually connected with resource extraction, new towns are being designed. Some rely on traditional centred models, others on network systems, still others on new sustainable distribution of energy and resources. Do the characteristics of core-periphery relations still hold in the digital age? What is going on in our hinterlands? What could go on in our hinterlands? There is a call for submissions for an associated project: Rural Urbanism, the exhibition. see www.onsitereview.ca/rural-urbanism/

rural u rb an ism: the e x h ib it ion Sp r in g 2 0 1 2 deadline: 1 January 2012 www.onsitereview.ca/rural-urbanism

Is rural urbanism conceived of, enacted and understood in a profoundly different way from metropolitan urbanism? or is it just a smaller version. Considering that architecture and urbanism are discussed almost always in visual terms, and that rural settlements have often been characterised through literature, we wish to outline the terms of reference, the vocabulary and the syntax of a rural urbanism. The form the terms of reference takes will be visual: photographic and drawn – a visual, non-fiction essay. These photoessays will provide the working manifesto and template for an exhibition examples of rural urbanism that will parallel On Site 27: rural urbanism, Spring 2012. We will not be looking at Calgary or Regina, but rather towns the size of Prince Albert, Fort MacMurray, Timmins, Dauphin, Ladysmith, Nelson, Sydney, Whitehorse. Each small town has a history – the first map, the master plan and the reality. The built reality is what will be noted, and then mapped on the original ambitions for each settlement. If one looks at a small town through a metropolitan lens, it is inevitably found to be crude, or under-developed, or misleadingly nostalgic. The metropolitan gaze tries to recognise its own reality in small towns which developed with a completely different set of ambitions. We want to develop a rural lens, through which we can view rural settlements.

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500 words of text, either as extended captions to the images, or as a separate statement in which you define what might be particular to rural urbanism.

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Call for submissions to Rural Urbanism, the exhibition: 5-10 black and white photographs that describe the particular urban condition of a small town with which you are familiar. How small is small? Under 50,000. How rural is rural? Not attached as a suburb or bedroom community to a city.

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contributors:

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On Site review is published twice annually (Spring and Fall) by the Association for non-profit architectural fieldwork [alberta] which promotes field work in matters architectural, cultural and spatial. directors: Stephanie White Thomas Strickland Brian Dyson Gerald Forseth

On Site invites theme-based submissions — reviews, commentary, photo-documentation, project descriptions, critical essays. www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles For any and all inquiries, please contact: editor@onsitereview.ca Canada Post agreement 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 stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of Copyright Law Chapter C-30, RSC1988. cover price $14 subscriptions per year/two issues: $24 two years/four issues: $38 three years/six issues: $50 in Canada: shipping and handling included. for USA: add $12/year for International: add $24/year back issues: $7.50 subscription forms: www.onsitereview.ca/subscribe PayPal or cheque to On Site 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0Z5 editor: Stephanie White design: Black Dog Running marketing: Isaac Padron printer: Emerson Clarke Printing, Calgary, Alberta distribution: Magazines Canada 1+ 416 504 0274 Ubiquity Distributors USA 1+ 718 875 5491

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On Site gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our contributors, our volunteers and the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through their Publishing Grants to Arts and Literary Magazines. On Site also thanks the Saskatchewan Association of Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Calgary Arts Development of the City of Calgary. Extra thanks to Department of Unusual Certainties, Amery Calvelli, Shelf Life Books in Calgary and the CCA Bookstore in Montreal for their support. g

Reza Aliabadi [M.Arch 1999, M.Phil.Arch 2006] ICEO, MRAIC, OAA is the founder of atelier rzlbd. He splits his time completing architectural projects in North America & Asia and publishing rzlbd POST. www.rzlbd.com Farzaneh Bahram has studied and worked in Iran, Italy and Switzerland. Her academic background encompasses two master degrees, one in urban design and one in industrial design, from Domus Academy of Milan and University of Tehran respectively. Giovana Beltrao is a Brazilian-born architect and urban planner who started working in the favelas of Brazil 18 years ago and continues to work on human settlement projects throughout the developing world with Rob Story and HABICO. Neeraj Bhatia is a director of InfraNet Lab, founder of The Open Workshop and Wortham Teaching Fellow at Rice University. Frédéric Brisson, an architecture student at the University of Calgary, spent part of his Masters degree programme in Barcelona studying the city’s urban system. frbrisson@hotmail.com amery Calvelli is an observer and communicator of design and architecture. Her preferred method of experiencing any urban environment is by foot. www.pushplusminus.com Joshua Craze is an essayist based in Juba, Southern Sudan. With Meg Stalcup, he just finished an investigation into counterterrorism training in America, published by Washington Monthly. Department of Unusual Certainties includes Brendan Cormier and Christopher Pandolfi. DoUC investigates unusual, overlooked and speculative urban situations. Nicole Dextras is a graduate of Emily Carr University in Vancouver BC, where she is currently a sessional teacher. She has exhibited her environmental artwork in Canada, the US and Asia. www.nicoledextras.com Alexander D’Hooghe is associate professor in Architectural Urbanism at MIT, director of ORG and the Platform for a Permanent Modernity. Lisa Dietrich completed her architecture degree in Hamburg, Germany. She is currently living,working and exploring (in) Toronto. Her focus is on the context and connection of things, people, spaces. www.lisadietrich.de Catherine Hamel is an Associate Professor in Architecture.  What agitates her is not the sides people take, but the lines they draw in order to be able to take them.  She loves the sound of laughter... Miriam Ho studied architecture at the University of Waterloo.  She has worked with award winning architects throughout Europe and Asia.  Her research interests lie in issues surrounding rapid urbanisation, sustainable development and cultural identity. Thomas-Bernard Kenniff is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow in architectural history and theory at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. www.tbkenniff.com Joanne Lam is an architect and writer currently based in Toronto. She is a partner of AtelierPool and is renovating her home. www.atelierpool.ca Aaron Levine is a Masters of Architecture candidate at UC Berkeley. He is interested in adaptable design within urban environments and the ecological implications therein. Lejla Odobasic is a former Parkdale resident who does not hide her distain for condominium typology. She has a Masters degree in architecture from the University of Waterloo. Currently she is pursuing independent research overseas on cities and conflict. Aisling O’Carroll graduated with a Bachelors of Architectural Studies from the University of Waterloo, and is currently completing her Master of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, exploring the role of landscape in shifting urban environments. Peter Osborne is an architect and associate with GECArchitecture Edmonton.  He is currently the vice-chair of the Edmonton Design Committee and an executive director for the RAIC’s Alberta Chapter.  Peter can be reached at peter.osborne@gecarchitecture.com Michael Panacci, Bachelors of Architectural Studies (Waterloo) is completing his MArch at the University of Waterloo. His research addresses the political and market-driven forces that dictate Toronto’s growth and the societal ramifications on our urban environment. Corey Schnobrich is a graduate student in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously he worked for AS+GG Architects in Chicago on projects in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China, and South Korea. Tim Sharp: b. Scotland, lives and works in Vienna. Artist (photos, videos and installations) and writer. Recent projects: First Contract (photo series), Chain Reaction (object), Little Mountain ( 2 channel video) and Matters of Fact (photo series). Cody Spencer is currently studying urban and regional planning at Ryerson University, Toronto. Victoria Stanton is a performance artist, video-maker, and writer. She has presented actions, exhibitions, and videos internationally, has been published in anthologies and art/literary/ lifestyle magazines and is CEO of her own bank: www.bankofvictoria.com. smsteele, a poet with the Canadian Forces Artist Programme 2008-2009, spent 18 months observing 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry prepare for, go to and return from war. In 2009, she visited Delta Company outside the wire in Afghanistan. She recently received a scholarship to pursue a PhD at the University of Exeter. www.warpoet.ca David Tsai is a designer with a background in architecture and industrial design. Currently artist in residence at Houston Community College, he is engaged in a studio practice in Houston, Texas. www.davidtsai.net Kira Varvanina has an MArch from Carleton University and is currently an independent installation artist based in Toronto. In her work Kira explores spatial transformations by means of technology and interactivity. www.studio1to1.ca Shannon Werle researches the topic of sonic architecture as a Berlin House of Representatives Fellow. She received a degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati and regularly contributes to international design publications. Deborah Wang is an independent artist, curator and designer in Toronto, with a background in installations and architecture. She is interested in walking and mapping as tactics for investigating the urban landscape. Wes Wilson recently received an MArch from Waterloo and has since taught at the UW Rome Program in Italy. He is currently continuing independent research into architecture and synecdoche while working with Teeple Architects in Toronto. Andrea Churchill Wong currently lives in Toronto; she studied English at University of Victoria.


Ge ra l d F o r s e th

On Site 24:migration issue launch, Calgary November 2010 at DaDe Art + Design Lab

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on site 25: identity