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on site

art architecture urbanism landscape


Joshua Craze : the garbage future of Juba ChloĂŠ Roubert : the pigeons of St-Hubert Joseph Heathcott : Dustbowl WPA camps Kenneth Hayes : Be Not Afraid of Greatness WAI Think Tank : the aesthetics of Dirt Ksenia Kagner : desertification of the Aral Sea

$14 display until may 2012



Dust Storm, Pearce Airport, Lethbridge. April 1942. Glenbow Museum Archives NA-2496-1



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adobe | p e ru by gerald forseth


the adobe pyramid at Huaca Pucllana

re in fo rc e me n t laye r s platfo r ms mas s s implic ity

Huaca Pucllana, not far from Lima, is an extensive adobe complex. Its pyramid rises 22m in seven platforms, and is surrounded by a variety of courtyards with 3m high walls. This large ceremonial and administrative site was constructed around 200 AD by the Lima culture and was occupied by another pre-Incan culture, the Huari, around 600 AD. The Lima had readily available soil, straw, water and hot sun in this coastal region made lush by the Rimac River flowing towards the ocean from the high Andes. The river valley offered the perfect environment for settling and building, for domesticating animals, for developing superior grain-growing practices, for fishing in a most prolific part of the Pacific Ocean and for producing a sophisticated ceramic and weaving culture. The rulers of Huaca Pucllana grew powerful through expansion in trade and government, in religious ritual and ceremony, and in competitive games. Unusual for adobe construction, the pyramid and courtyard walls were constructed with courses of adobe units laid vertically, then topped with a thick horizontal layer of clay before adding the next vertical course. The finished pyramid was a solid mass of reinforced mud capable of being carved into; there are three known funerary sanctums for rulers and priests at Huaca Pucllana. After burial, entrances were sealed and concealed using the same material and construction method as the pyramid. The horizontal topping between vertical courses reinforces the structure. It holds the dead weight of the seven platforms, and keeps it all intact during the frequent earthquakes of the region. And of course the topping provided workers with a flat and safe construction site for laying the next courses. When archaeologists and anthropologists examined formerly untouched portions of the horizontal topping, they found signs of modelling activity in the form of imprints of workers’ hands and feet. n

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Ge ra l d F o r s e th

ON SI TE 2 6 : DI RT Dirt. It is more than the neutral tray upon which we do our projects and live our lives. Dirt, as it emerges in this issue of On Site, has its own integrity, its own history, its own power. ‘Dirt is matter out of place’, that famous phrase of Mary Douglas, echoes through this issue. But often dirt is exactly ‘in place’. Ancient architecture is characterised by a deep relationship with the elements: earth, air, water and fire. Geothermal heat recovery from the earth, and its dark twin, geophysical extraction of oil from the earth – both remain in our future. Construction sites, those semi-permanent installations, places of great danger, are the ground plane of the cit; they question all sorts of notions of cleanliness and architectural propriety. And earth itself, made up of dirt: we walk it, we measure it, we move it around. It is our plasticine, rarely accorded much respect, more seen as an exploitable resource. Matter out of place? Weeds, say, or vigorous hybrids: the case for micro-zoning, or no zoning at all. Things that don’t fit an urban paradigm based on zoning are seen as transgressive, weed-like and as such are vulnerable to a good sanitising scrub. Often to our loss.

CONTE NTS the eroticism of sun and dirt the aesthetics of dirt: a manifesto dirty salt, dirty world the art of Katy Bentall at DOM, in Dobre, Poland a career of moving dirt around

waste, garbage and landfill Joshua Craze Ina Kwon Maya Pryzbylski Chloé Roubert Michael Blois

22 26 30 52 54

drowning in garbage in Juba, South Sudan World Cup Park, the landfill parks of South Korea the value of landfills as necessary open space the pigeons of St-Hubert, Montréal collecting air-born scraps

urban difficulties Liam Brown Tanya Southcott Matthew Neville John Szot

62 70 73 76

dispersing ashes in secular urban environments the lost houses of Yaletown the morphology of collective housing on the urban edge first dereliction, then occupation

dirt and health Greg Barton Joshua Craze Joseph Heathcott Arthur Allen

34 37 40 46

interview with Kate Forde, curator of Dirt, the filthy reality of everyday life a visit to Dirt, at the Wellcome Collection, London WPA migrant camps: modernity against environmental disaster tuberculosis sanitoriums in the dust bowl

geological landscapes Stephanie White Ksenia Kegner Gerald Forseth Infranet Lab Kenneth Hayes M Alexandrescu

45 48 58 60 66 69

the Whitemud Formation that fills our kitchens the Aral Sea finding 5000 year old ash layers beneath our feet soil horizons, a project at les Jardins de Métis, 2005 Sudbury: be not afraid of greatness earth and sky

landscapes Lisa Hirmer Kenneth Hayes Don Gill

18 64 78

dirt piles the Weeping Garden, Sudbury Comrades, be happy in your work

working environments Gerald Forseth Michael Leeb Stephen Reither and Jayda Karsten

3 44 56

the pyramids of Huaca Pucllana the Medalta pottery factory, sinking back to the earth DIRTT, doing it right this time.

other matters calls for articles masthead

79 80

on site 27: rural urbanism, on site 28: sound who we all are


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4 6 10 12 15


the aesthetics of dirt Reza Aliabadi and Lailee Soleimani WAI Think Tank Enrique Enriquez Meaghan Thurston Barbara Cuerden

this page: Jame Mosque, Na’ein, Iran. Winter 2002 above: basement, winter praying room middle: opening through the minaret’s staircase below: dome’s calligraphy in the main praying hall opposite page: above: Timche Amin-o-Doleh, Kashan’s Bazar, Iran. Winter 2002 below: Jame Mosque, Ardestan, Iran. Winter 2004

sun | iran by reza aliabadi lailee soleimani


LIF E ITS E L F The dust under every fool’s foot, Is a darling’s upturned hand and a sweetheart’s cheek; Every brick that tops an arch, Is the finger of a king or a royal head. — Omar Khayyam

When dirt becomes a building it becomes a body, one that develops complex needs. The monolithic architecture of ancient Iran does not survive without making love to the sun everyday. When dirt becomes a body it becomes a mysterious woman, one that ages, with a body of beauties yet imperfections. The sun marries her with a love so passionate that it never ends. He embraces her everyday, they never stop, never grow apart. When dirt becomes a woman it becomes a lover, one that waits every night for another lovemaking in the morning. The sun gently climbs her body and explores her every curve. When she is warm inside; he enters her deeply and dances inside of her.

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When dirt becomes a lover it becomes a pregnant woman, one that gives birth to shadows; they grow tall, shape a character, live for a day and return to the womb. The child is perfect, pure and precise for he is the result of a passionate intercourse. When dirt becomes pregnant it falls in love, one that never ends. The sun sleeps at nights, and she waits for another day when another child is born. n

R e za Aliabadi © a te l i e r r z l b d



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R e z a A l i a b a d i © a te l i e r r z l b d

Capital of Ego, Collage No. 1 Wall Stalker

a rt + d i rt | f i l m + da n c e b y wa i a r c h i t e c t u r e t h i n k ta n k | n ata l i e f r a n kow s k i + c ru z g a r c í a

WH AT A BOU T TH E AEST HE TICS OF D IRT? a manifesto for contemporary urban design

As a dim light gradually brightens the pitch-black scenery, the silhouette of nineteen dancers is slowly revealed through a thick haze. Henryk Gorecki’s melancholic Symphony No. 3 (The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) moves heavily in the thin air; leaden movements of performers cross a velvetcushioned stage that seems to sink deeper with each step.  Spectators are soon absorbed by the metaphoric maze of this urban epic. Chinese choreographer Wang Yuanyuan’s dance piece was heavily influenced by a city striving under the effects of air pollution – it appeared as if the small particles of dust and sand that so commonly float through Beijing’s air had penetrated the acoustic walls of the Performing Arts Centre. The scene reveals a sharp vision of blurred environments. Haze is a contemporary dance performance about a contaminated environment. Haze is a subversive performance about Dirt.

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WAI Ar c h it e c t ur e Thi nk Ta nk

h aze tar kovs ky po llu tio n s talke r n ar r ative

The Last Glimpse, Collage No. 4 Wall Stalker

WA I A r c hi te c tur e Thi nk Ta nk

Art as deus ex machina Unfolding in three parts, Haze displays the bodies of the dancers in a continuous struggle with the pollution of the contemporary city. In the performance the urban tale is narrated with a strong visual mise en scène that reflects our own behaviour within a hostile environment – the dancers embrace a series of attitudes that include mirroring, judging and persecuting each other. Portrayed through a blurred atmosphere, Haze is a perfect illustration of the potential of dirt to inspire art, and the potential of art to address an unpolished version of reality.  When art is inspired by the neglected features of our surroundings, a new dialectic relationship can be established with our urban context.

Why, if dirt is usually in the city, it appears as if doesn’t belong to it? Why, if art can address the problems of the urban environment, has urbanism distanced itself from them? Why is dirt never diagrammed, mentioned, analysed? Why do renderings always show clear blue skies and immaculate streets? What about the potential of the aesthetics of dirt?



Following a similar strategy, Andrei Tarkovski’s 1979 film Stalker exploits a smudged environment and makes it into the visual catalyst of the whole plot. In Stalker, dirt acquires a transcendental role as the plot reveals the journey of three characters that are in search of a mystical zone, and will go from a grimy village to a contaminated landscape of abandoned buildings and polluted ruins of old factories. While the bodies of the personages are constantly dipped into stagnant water, sunk into mud, buried into the soil where syringes, bottles and every kind of dirt lie, the real pollution is converted alchemically into strikingly beautiful imagery.

Has art managed to address a topic so long ignored by the discipline responsible for thinking, understanding and designing cities? Can urbanism learn from other forms of art and deal with the issues it usually ignores? What if, for once, dirt and other neglected, inherent areas of our urban domain stopped being a matter of repulsion and instead were transformed into the source of our inspiration? What if we were able to reconsider the aesthetics of the urban imperfections?

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Les Portes du désert, Collage No. 5 Wall Stalker

The modernist case Ever since modernism (although justified) became infatuated by hyperhygienic urbanism, dirt has turned into a topic of taboo in the urban sphere. The modernists got rid of dirt from their diagrams, but dirt didn’t disappear from the city.  Why then, if the city has proved to be more than the four Le Corbusian values of urbanism (habiter, travailler, circuler et cultiver le corps et l’esprit), has dirt remained an elusive topic? Why have the only brushes with the topic of dirt come in very sporadic proposals, such as the diagram by the Team 10 in the fifties (Bidonville Grid, 1953), or the project by Koolhaas in the seventies (Exodus or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, 1972)? Why is it easier to flirt with floating cities, and gravity-less architecture, than to face dirt? Has our cleanliness become a Potemkinesque illusion of an unfathomable obsession?

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WAI Ar c h it e c t u r e Thi nk Ta nk

WA I A r c hi te c tur e Thi nk Ta nk

The Meeting II, Collage No. 9 Wall Stalker

A call for narratives As a strategy to address neglected topics on urbanism, we have been working on a series of architectural narratives. The creation of these urban episodes allows us to discuss topics that are usually left out of any discussion. The first of the narrative series titled Wall Stalker uses Andrei Tarkovski’s film as inspiration and as a theoretical framework; the main protagonists and the film’s inherently grimy environment become part of our reflection on urbanism. The images of Wall Stalker show the journey of a three-man exodus out of a failed city in search of a mystical wall where they hope to find the essence of architecture. The animation contrasts the visually puzzling effect of urban abandonment with that of the ultimate form of hygienic architecture: a colourless, featureless wall. This monumentally silent element enhances the presence of all the neglected parts of the city from where the three characters came from.


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We call for a manifesto of Dirt.



Like Haze, and Stalker, Wall Stalker activates urbanism’s inner convictions, making dirt a part of the aesthetic canon of the discipline responsible for thinking of our urban environment. To achieve this, images of desolation, neglect, dust and haze have to become part of our visual repertoire, both as provocations and as rhetorical pieces of intellectual dialogue. We must not strive to glorify or work to achieve dirt, but we should include it as a potential tour-de-force. Dirt must be part of urbanism’s lexicon; it must be discussed, analysed and represented. As with Wall Stalker, we propose a subversion of dirt and all that it represents. To achieve change, to make urbanism relevant again, we propose to make it part of our representations and the aim of our efforts.

An o u k Su gar

m at e r i a l c u lt u r e | resources by enrique enriquez

I M PE RFECT You are the salt of the earth. —Jesus to his disciples (Matthew 5:13)

With materials we create products and they, in turn, are producers of things. Some materials better represent human history than others, or at least have a better spotlight: coal, wood, water and – of course – the U2 of all materials, oil. What about the small rock that is salt? My interest in this tiny material dates from living in Canada. Years ago, I was visiting the Musée des Civilizations in Quebec City when I was surprised to learn that Canadians are one of the highest salt consumers, however a large percentage of that salt is only used on roads to melt the snow. Anyone who lives in a winter urbanscape knows the David versus Goliath cleaning battle against salt brought into the house on your boots. Since then, every time I put salt in my salsas I see it differently. Salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history. 1

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Last year, designing a garden proposal with my colleagues, Urban B’s, for the International Festival Jardins de Métis/Redford Gardens and wanting to emulate the image of the winter garden during summer with a white natural material, salt came to mind. I started to investigate and discovered a whole not-so-small world. Towns, cities, empires, wars and even countries have been built around salt, a cultural engine of great power.. In my mother’s kitchen we had uniform odourless all-white salt. Today in my own kitchen I have six different kinds of salt with distinctive shapes, sizes, colours, scents and flavours: table or common salt, rosemary Canadian rock salt, aromatic sea salt with fresh organic herbs, black salt from Hawaii, salt for grilling meat bought in Portugal and Williams-Sonoma chilli-lime rub with sea salt. Definitely my world of salt has changed. The value of salt is a question of supply, demand and labour, but also of culture, history and fashion. A 1919 advertisement

f as h io n impu r itie s pe rfe c tio n n atu re c h an ge

reads ‘and Morton’s Salt pours for the same reason, it’s all salt, perfect cube crystals’. This sentence cannot better express the (already in agony) modernist ideology. The achievement of a supposed ‘perfection’ by standardisation, reaching for universal properties was Le Corbusier’s mantra: ‘all men have the same functions and the same needs’. It is not by chance that Corbu chose the colour white as his signature. After thousands of years of struggle to make salt white and even grain, affluent people will now pay more for salts that are odd shapes and colors. Gray salts, black salts, salts with any visible impurities are sought out and marked for their colors, even though the tint usually means the presence of dirt. Many consumers distrust modern factory salt. They would rather have a little mud that iodine, magnesium carbonate, calcium silicate, or other additives, some of which are merely imagined. But modern people have seen too many chemicals and are ready to go back to eating dirt. Then, too, many people do not like Morton’s idea of making all salt the same. Uniformity was a remarkable innovation in its day, but it was so successful that today consumers seem to be excited by any salt that is different..2 We are seeking more and more the organic characteristics of irregularity, unpredictability, messiness, variation, or what I like to call imperfections. I love imperfections; they have distinctive, beautiful qualities that help us to better notice the real. I am not an optimist about trends, but I truly desire this time that the new perfection is the imperfect. The problem with Fordism is that we erased those characteristics that distinguished us as being human. The acceptance of an imperfect world would perhaps lead to a better one, or at least a different approach; and dear God we are desperate for such a change. Salt, a material that has shaped the world; a small reflection of our present times; and maybe, if we look closely, a diminutive crystal ball that will predict our future: dirtier? messier? Perhaps; but for sure, less white. n

Thi l o F o l ke r ts

Urban B’s. Fleur de Sel. Les Jardins Metis / Redford Garden International competition choice. 2011 opposite: Preparative collage for Fleur de Sel, the salt garden this page: Fleur de Sel after a very rainy season and two big storms. Environmental conditions made it less designed, less pretty– stronger, more mature. The form had taken its own charm. It is… dirtier, with soil, branches and leaves; a lot of traces. The ones that love it most are the small children. They believe it is the neige and play with the salt as if it is snow, trying to make a snow ball. Adults didn’t liked it for exactly the same reasons. I heard one woman say: Oh my god the snow! I can not stand it! A friend once told me: for you Enrique, snow and the cold weather are exotic, but for me, having been here for 35 years, it is just enough! Je ne suis pas capable!

M a r c o A s c i utti

I always ask myself why, here in contemporary Canada, we built not with the weather but for the weather. Now I understand.



Kurlansky, Mark. Salt, a world History. Vintage Canada, 2002 p 445 1, 2

Enr i que Enr i que z

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Urban B’s: Marco Asciutti, Farzaneh Bahrami, Enrique Enriquez and Matteo Muggianu.

Me a g ha n Thur s to n

m at e r i a l c u lt u r e dobre, poland b y m e ag h a n t h u r s to n

DOM the place-based interventions of Katy Bentall

s u bje c tivity me mo r y powe r o f plac e ide n tity e x pe r ie n c e

The first photograph I take of the house is of my reflection in the window. I am on the outside looking in. The window pane is absolutely filthy; spider webs smear the glass. I arrived in the small Polish village of Dobre in June of 2010 with the artist Katy Bentall and her teenage daughter. We were there to visit the house DOM, Bentall’s art project in place-making. Dom in modern Slavic means home, a cognate of the Latin, domus. Pani Chopek had lived in the small house until age and illness demanded she move to the city with her children. After Bentall bought the Chopek house, which borders her own home in the village, she documented in watercolour its contents, then she began to engage in ‘interventions’ or acts of private performativity, rearranging the objects found in the house and writing on the walls. Camera in hand I unbolt the door and step inside. Boards creak and sink under foot. The smell of decay fills my nostrils. For decades a Polish woman and her husband lived in this home, cooking, washing, and bathing; writing and reading the letters left behind, meticulously winding balls of string. Cloth bundles are arranged on one of the beds. It is as though the resident has gone out for groceries and may return at any moment to be surprised by a foreigner poking about in her humble home.

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I was investigating the concept of home, following the lead of artists such as Gordon Matta-Clarke, Catherine Bertola, Rachael Whiteread and Louise Bourgeois. However, I felt disconnected from the very subject of my research. How was I to write of the contemporary artistic (re)imaginings of home and its emotive associations, from the library? Katy Bentall is interested in experience, with the self in space and with the space of the woman artist. My thesis supervisor was interested in ‘the capture of the experience.’ So it was that I arrived at DOM pulled in these different directions which, however, converged on this dirty, dusty old house.  It was the meeting place. I make a frame with the lens around a tin wash-basin, scarred with rust spots. A bar of soap, etched by fingernails, is in its holder to the side of the basin. Three empty tubes of artists’ paints lie in the basin. They are out-of-place. In an adjacent room, discarded clothing, furniture and papers hang about. From the ceiling a ‘meadow’ of old straw falls loosely to the floor.



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M e a g ha n Thur s to n

There is a disturbing strangeness about an unfamiliar place. In order to comfortably inhabit a place which is saturated with the aura of other persons, a visitor may attempt to create a sense of place by rearranging things. ‘It is striking that when we arrive in a new place to stay for even a short visit’, writes place-scholar Edward Casey, ‘we tend without any premeditation to establish a group of fledgling habits such as putting the drip grind coffee in a particular spot, our laundry in another [...] These are habituating actions: they help us to get, and stay, oriented’. 1 One of my first questions to Katy Bentall was about the dirtiness of the place. ‘How can you work in DOM? It is filthy, and the air is mouldy.’ For Bentall, dirt and stain are pivotal to her art making: ‘This is a statement on femininity. Accepting the unacceptable – accepting the feminine – my art is an acceptance of the stain – it’s in me’. Does the detritus of our life hold a truth? ‘My interventions are very light’ she explained. ‘It’s easy to wipe me away as an artist. I’m not blowing things up. I’m like a spider, weaving a web.’ Bentall is engaged in a practice with little precedent in the commercial art world. Hers are not interventions arranged by the curator or the museum and she does not exhibit her work in a gallery. To experience Bentall’s work at DOM, or anywhere else, one needs to be explicitly invited to do so. Attuned to the specificities of the place in which she is working, her place-based art practice happens within the frame of the site. There is a large armchair in DOM of stained and faded blue fabric. Behind it bright sunlight streams through a window. A spider web floats in the air between a bed board and the windowsill; a small pile of sawdust has accumulated around the chair’s legs, the work of the termites (something which at the time I took this photograph I did not notice). This chair waits, arms open, to embrace the sitter after a long day of work. My role as the photographer of DOM, the place and DOM, the art project made me think about the ways that art can communicate the fragile, idealised bond that human beings have to place. The photographic image causes the viewer pause by igniting a memory, or by providing a window into a past with which we have no direct experience; however, when we take a photograph, transforming lived place into an image, what becomes of the experiential value of place? Yi-Fu Tuan’s metaphor, ‘place is a pause in movement’ may provide an answer. ‘The pause makes it possible for a locality to become the centre of felt value’.2 The camera shutter is a pause in movement too, and Bentall’s work reveals that the location of meaning and memory is not static, but is enlivened by the accidental stains and traces of the bodies it has enfolded. How DOM appeared when I left has already been altered, remade, re-imagined or forgotten, as it is in all places that never stop changing. n


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1 Casey, Edward. Remembering: A Phenomenological Study. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987. p151 2 Tuan, Yi-Fu, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. p138 Me agh an T h u r st o n

Involvement with the ‘higher’ levels of culture is comparatively optional – but no one can escape the conditions of creaturality, of eating and drinking and domestic life… — Norman Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked The creaturality garden project wonders about the muffled histories and stories passed over and lying underfoot, beneath and between the paved-over landscapes of public spaces. ‘We have always been here’, says an Anishinabeg woman as she introduced a song at a drumming circle. Traces of the people shows another history of indwelling 9-15,000 years before we newcomers arrived to start telling quite a different tale. I am using my recently completed Master’s thesis, Art, Nature and the Virtual Environment, as pulp material for compost in a garden/installation project in the backyard of the Gardener House Studios at Britannia Bay beach in Ottawa. I have an itinerant residency there this summer and am blogging about it at In a raised bed planter built out of discarded books and filled with dirt, I am growing a Haudenosaunee or Iroquois three sisters companion planting: corn, beans and squash, to decolonise the site by bringing back traditional food growing to a typically landscaped beachside park, beside a river previously navigated by a mostly exterminated aboriginal culture.

collections p l a n t s , b o o k s a n d d i rt by barbara cuerden


plac e s tr ac e s use valu e garde n s

the creaturality garden project

B ar bara Cu e r de n

Besides my thesis I wonder what else might be buried at the bottom of the garden? Some online digging reveals to me that ‘the history of the Ottawa River watershed is inseparable from the history of the Algonquin Nation’ – except that in fact it has been separated from it. Chasing words and the empty spaces between them, (and remembering the Britannia of Rule Britannia) I find out that the history of the anishinabeg and other local indigenous peoples is not the kind of knowledge made available for surface consultation by a visiting public. The archives box at Britannia Bay reads as point form history beginning with ‘Capt. John Lebreton (vet. of the War of 1812) acquired landgrant’ [sic]. What is left out between the lines of historical text are the extant land claims and treaty agreements collectively ‘overlooked’ by government officers and paper mill barons such as Philemon Wright. These waterways were colonised in the service of pulp and paper industries.


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In multiple ways the ‘base’ material of aboriginal indwelling was disappeared. Like so many other species of things, it has been written out, but perhaps leaving traces behind for newer ‘tracts’.


Outside the closed narratives and beyond the frame of the books used to build the planter, I read with Norman Bryson in Looking at the Overlooked – a book I frequently open to pages about ‘rhopography’, which he distinguishes from ‘megalography’: Megalography is the depiction of those things in the world which are great – the legends of the gods, the battles of heroes, the crises of history. Rhopography (from rhopos, trivial objects, small wares, trifles) is the depiction of those things which lack importance, the unassuming material base of life that ‘importance’ overlooks … The concept of importance can arise only by separating itself from what it declares as trivial and insignificant; ‘importance’ generates ‘waste’, what is sometimes preterite, that which is excluded or passed over. 1 As I try to write this piece while most of the household is out of the house, I break to mop the floors of dirt tracked in by kids and dogs, noticing the traces and the ability of dirt to be imprinted on, in and through.

Dirt Bank, 1990. Dirt samples collected by travelling friends and acquaintances, with their stories about the dirt transcribed (some are below) and hung in file folders from the medicine cabinet towel bar.

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B ar ba ra C ue r d e n

The creaturality project tracks my ongoing 20-year accumulation of debris and ideas related to domestic concerns about dirt, my dirt collection stories-about-dirt, food procuration from dirt, cooking, serving and eating, and the kinds of attention that circulate through these processes. Much is discarded after being used up in other ways. What is surplus? What is loss? What is waste? Can what is leftover still be used as compost for the future? On the backs of shopping lists and other scraps torn up from re-cycled computer paper imprinted on the face side with proposals for under-funded art projects, I draw up itineraries and to-do lists that might recompose my domestic world into art. I keep scraps of ideas travelling in the linted pockets of my housecoat. Dirt spills over, floats around and sometimes settles, creating conditions for another kind of pedogenesis. n

1 Bryson, Norman. Looking at the Overlooked: Four essays on still life painting. London: Reaktion Books, 1990. p61 Apron catches the overlooked, 2010

B ar bara Cu e r de n



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Lisa H i r me r

landscape | d i s p l ac e m e n t by lisa hirmer

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D I RT PIL ES collected thoughts on the landscape of construction

gro u n d ea r th -movin g plan ts in s tability s u r plu s

For some time now I have been photographing dirt piles – the sizable mounds of earth, stone, torn apart trees, old and new vegetation, lost bricks and bits of asphalt that are informally piled up next to almost every construction site over a certain size. Once I began to look for them, it became apparent that large dirt piles are a rather common presence in the contemporary landscape. Any time I drive through a suburban, or semi-urban area, which is to say any place where the built is claiming new land, dirt piles appear in abundance.

English usage with the Dutch landscape painting tradition, again an indication that it is not just the terrain of the world but rather that terrain as well as the frame placed around it. The photograph, like the landscape, walks the line between matter and idea. It is both document and creation – it records the material realm and transcends it simultaneously. With a photograph the messy intricacy and banality of the dirt piles can be documented and layered against the creative faculty of an image. Photographing the dirt piles is, then, a way to study them.

It is easy to predict where big, spectacular dirt piles will show up. They are the result of site grading – a process of adjusting topography to suit new plans. As earth is reshaped, extra material is piled up and left somewhere out of the way until a use for it is found or it is moved somewhere else, perhaps dissipating from consciousness but not from physical presence. This means they are almost certain around any project that requires substantial site grading to ensure even, opportune sites with good water drainage – big box stores, industrial parks and new subdivisions are prime habitats for a good dirt pile.

Dirt piles are often large, sometimes looming. Some are shortlived, only present during part of the construction process; others seem to be more enduring, lingering in fields behind completed projects, seemingly temporary even after years of being there as though awaiting an inevitable expansion of the built worlds they sit beside. The dirt piles are both relics of the landscape that used to be and measures of the forces of technology, industry and economy that make the large-scale reshaping of terrain possible. The dirt pile points both to what once was and the act that changed it. They are littered with evidence of former landscapes, fragments that suggest what might have happened on the site at earlier times, occasionally even hinting at possible narratives. Across them run tire tracks imprinted with fresh additions and backhoe gouges where material has been reclaimed – traces of recent but unseen human activity, suggesting other, more contemporary stories.

I photograph the dirt piles because they, like most landscapes, are complicated. The etymology of the word landscape comes from the concept of a defined administrative unit of land, indicating that landscape is a combination of physical matter and how we understand that matter. The word was introduced into modern



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L i s a H i r me r

L i s a H i r me r

The dirt pile can be understood as a reciprocal form of what we build, a strange inverted reflection. It is a visible sign of a construction strategy that sculpts sites to easily accept generic buildings and their sprawling parking lots. The dirt pile makes these possible. Dirt piles are informal monuments to consumer demands that make such places profitable to build.

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There is a fickleness to the surface of the earth. It is something that is infinitely malleable, something that can be opened up, turned inside out, piled up. In a traditional landscape, one can imagine that dirt lies beneath the occupiable surfaces of the world, that it is the beginning of a terra firma – a solid earth. But here, in the contemporary world, the ground plane is not a stable reference point. We cannot assume that it is firm or permanent. Most places can be modified to accommodate any kind of building and any conception of what the landscape could be. When this happens, dirt piles are what is left over – matter that has been moved out of place and left to sit, silently alluding to that which is unneeded and not particularly valued. The dirt pile is a de-formed landscaped, a landscape that has been taken apart and reassembled into a heap. A sense of disorientation, even an ungroundedness, surrounds it.

And yet, a dirt pile roots itself rather quickly. As soon as the dirt is left, nature takes advantage of the open soil and things begin to grow. The torn-up landscape stitches itself back together, turning into something newly, if strangely, whole. And as it grows, the distinction between the worlds of humanity and nature dissolve. The natural, as a temporal measure of what came before human activity, is dislodged. Here the natural and artificial have been torn up and piled on top of each other, sometime repeatedly, till one is no longer sure where one ends and the other begins. They become the same thing. Many dirt piles start to become quiet little wildernesses growing generally unnoticed – certainly not charming or epic wildernesses, but messy, weedy complexities, perhaps even ugly. But, then again, growing dirt piles can also look beautiful, especially when they interrupt big box parking lots and monotonous industrial parks. They are massive undulating shapes and tangled complicated textures of old and new, natural and unnatural, constructed, artificial and undeterminable. n

L i s a H i r me r

urbanism | s o u t h s u da n b y j o s h ua c r a z e

r ubbi sh rec y c l i ng lan d a ppro pr i a t i o n di sl o c a t i on i ndust r i a l wa st e

B U RNI NG TH E F U T U R E the disposing of waste that cannot be disposed

1 The fires start at dusk. From the edges of dirt roads a hazy smoke rises up and hangs over the town, suspended in the dusty air. Leaves, batteries and plastics bags combine in the smouldering fires that cover Juba – Africa’s newest capital – with smoke every evening. By morning the fires have subsided, and, walking through the streets, you can find hardened fragments of cauterised plastic beneath the ashes; ruins of the future. In The Road to San Giovanni, the Italian writer Italo Calvino imagines a series of cities – mirror images of Italy’s own proud industrial centres – that generate rubbish cities, doppelgangers of their own excess. The more productive the cities become, the more they threaten to drown under the growing piles of rubbish that surround them. ‘This’, he writes of Leonia, his fantasy city, ‘is the result: the more Leonia expels goods, the more it accumulates them; the scales of its past are soldered into a cuirass that cannot be removed. As the city is renewed each day, it preserves all of itself in its only definitive form: yesterday’s sweepings piled up on the sweepings of the day before yesterday and all of its days and years and decades’. Calvino paints a picture of a society that welcomes each day as if it were the first, and yet is choked by its own unacknowledged history. In Juba, it is not the past that is suffocating us, but the future. The endless burning plastic that fills Juba’s streets, unknown six years ago, is an anticipation of Juba tomorrow.

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G iu lio Pe t r o c c o

2 Finding Juba’s Public Health Office is a challenge. After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, ending twenty years of civil war, Juba was made the administrative capital of South Sudan, and the new government needed a home. It displaced the state government and moved into its buildings, creating a domino effect as homeless bureaucrats occupied the offices of others lower down the scale. The Public Health Office for Juba ended up in a small room at the back of the local police force compound. The police station is packed with indolent figures, slumped against walls. Hundreds of soldiers live outside in impromptu tents and makeshift shelters – they are here to ensure the referendum for independence passes without incident. A glorious ficus, its tangled trunk a mess of separate coils, has been transformed into a Christmas tree; hanging from its branches are gifts: the clothes, smoked fish and mosquito nets of the army that won independence from the north. At the back of the compound, Kallsto Tombe Jubek, the beleaguered head of Public Health for Juba, is sitting in a sparse office. There are no files in the room, but along the front of his desk, arranged like a small Hadrian’s Wall, is a set of cans and bottles: instant coffee and beans, guarded by a miniature Sudanese flag. During the civil war, Juba was a small merchant trading town. Encircled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the town was held by the northern government. It was difficult to get supplies, and residents still talk darkly of those difficult days spent searching for food. There was no problem with rubbish during the war, Jubek explains. People burnt their rubbish. In villages up and down Sudan, I have seen the same practice. Old food, clay and animals hides are taken out to the edge of a village and burned; the ashes can later be used to fertilise fields. Fire in the village can be productive; in central Sudan, back in March, the evening sky was aglow, as villagers set the land aflame to revitalise the soil. After 2005, everything changed. Juba was rapidly filled with NGOs, hotels and the UN. With them came thousands of expatriate workers, plastic bags, promises of development and a quantity of rubbish Juba had never had to deal with before. Whereas the rubbish in the village is generally organic, in Juba today it is plastic and chemical: burning it does not renew the soil, it destroys the land. In 2006, with USAID money, the local administration finally established a rubbish dump. The going has not been smooth. It initially offered contracts to rubbish collection companies, but, Jubek told me, many of the companies just went around Juba, promising waste disposal services and collecting money from hotels and businesses, before promptly vanishing. Now there are three companies working in Juba, but they cannot cope with the demand. A company called South Sudan express services central Juba. Just taking the rubbish from one of the larger hotels, Jubek tells me, can occupy one of their vehicles for the entire day. South Sudan Express only has eight vehicles.

3 We are heading out of Juba on a bumpy road, and David, the Kenyan driver I have hired for the day, is complaining. ‘The rubbish here is terrible. In Kenya, we recycle. You should go to Kenya, Joshua, and see how we deal with this problem.’ Scopas Lukudu, the Public Health Inspector for Juba Payam, is offended and I find myself temporarily the unwilling adjudicator in a competition between Kenya and Sudan. Thankfully, the argument soon stops, as Lukudu, heavy and saturnine in the back seat, concedes, ‘one day we will have recycling. We have heard how you can make money from this thing’. We drive pass a market, with piles of okra on display next to plastic bottles full of oil. In reality, recycling is already happening in Juba. Young boys, thin and playful, wander the streets collecting empty water bottles; twenty-four such bottles can be sold at the market for one Sudanese Pound (30 cents), and will be used to store cooking oil. This is clearly not the sort of recycling Lukudu was referring to, as he continues telling me about his ambitious plans for the future: three more rubbish dumps, a sewage treatment plant… it is just a question of getting the money. Scopas Lukudu was Juba’s health inspector in the 1970s. When the war broke out, he joined the World Health Organisation, then after 2005, slotted seamlessly back into his old job. Thirty years of working for NGOs had marked Lukudu, and, like many in South Sudan’s nascent government, he spoke in the strange language of bureaucratese endemic among aid workers. I thought as we left Juba town that this language of technocratic intervention, the lingua franca of government in so many parts of Africa, will be the NGOs’ most enduring contribution to the continent. As we drive further along the road to Yei, we pass under the shadow of Jebel, the mountain that marks the boundary of Juba. Buildings are less and less frequent, and soon the squatter settlements begin. In 2009, 30,000 people were evicted from Juba town. Two years later, much of the land the squatters were forced from remains fenced off and empty, sold to investors uncertain about South Sudan’s long term political stability but greedy enough to buy up the land in case there is a future profit to be made. Many squatters simply moved slightly further out of Juba, to the sides of the Yei road. We pass their ad hoc assemblages of UNHCR canvas and cardboard boxes which, in their austerity, have the look of Potemkin villages: recently built for the visitors’ benefit. According to the 2008 Land Act, it is the communities of South Sudan who own the land. What this means in practice is obscure. The ministry that gives out land permits in Juba has refused new applications for a year now. Still, amid rumours of speculation and corrupt community elders taking payments from large companies, houses continue to be built in Juba. Many of the squatter settlements outside of Juba are populated by members of the very community that should own the Juba area. Squatters’ huts are arranged on one side of the road. On the other side, a long line of garbage fires greets us like a crowd before a procession. ‘Companies are always cutting corners’, Lukudu complains, gesturing at the rubbish; rather than taking it all the way to the dump, they drop it off at the side of the road, just before the checkpoint at which licensed companies have to pay 5 Sudanese pounds to use the dump; unlicensed companies pay 15.

Just past the squatter settlements are the first signs of the new United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) complex – indications of a new, more permanent status for the mission. For the first six years of peace, UNMIS rented a large site near the airport, but now the owners want their land back. Here in the shadow of Jebel Mountain, a lone Rwandan soldier stands guard over an empty valley. ‘That’, Lukudu tells me, ‘was the old rubbish dump’. We slow as we approach the military checkpoint just before the dump. I see trucks being checked, and anticipate a long wait. Thankfully, Lukudu is waved through and we drive on past the huts and the squatter settlements, into the bush. It is the height of the dry season, and the ground is cracked, dotted with sparse bushes struggling under a strong sun that crushes colour into the valley floor. In the rainy season when the dust and the rubbish turn into a toxic slick that renders the roads impassable, the grass here, says Lukudu, is taller than a man is high. The only adornment on the arid landscape are large signs, every fifty metres or so, demarcating plots. This place, I realise, is going to be the site of frenetic development. In 2005, the South Sudanese government took over the offices of the state government. Now they are moving on. All the signs indicate land acquired for the future buildings of different ministries. One sign is for the Land Commission: the printed words loom large, standing over an empty landscape. Just as the signs finish, the rubbish begins. Rather than the small piles of burning garbage I saw earlier, now there are huge mounds of smoking rubbish, burning slowly in the noonday heat. All this momentarily confuses me: I understand the need to burn rubbish in the town, but why burn it here, in the arid emptiness of this landscape? I find my answer amid the smouldering trash – neatly arranged piles of scrap metal, delicate constructions as intricate as Jenga towers. They burn the rubbish, Lukudu tells me, interrupting my thoughts, to retrieve the metal, which they sell to Ugandan merchants who take it to Kampala to be recycled.



Gi ul i o Pe tr o c c o

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Gi ul i o Pe tr o c c o

After another twenty kilometres, we arrive at the turn for the rubbish dump. Stretched out across the road, barring our path, is a thin strip of paper, knotted together with plastic. It is, like the thousands of roadblocks that adorn the dirt tracks of Sudan, less an actual physical barrier (scissors, freedom), than it is an indication of the real barrier: the people who put the barrier in place. Lukudu looks visibly surprised. Suddenly showing more energy that I previously thought him capable of, he announces that he is going to investigate, and hops out of the car, ducks nimbly under the barrier and saunters off down the road, gesturing at me to remain in the car. I wait for five minutes before becoming suspicious. In Juba, I heard stories of hundreds of people living at the dump; villagers displaced by land speculation, living off the scraps and detritus of the city. Perhaps the barrier is a sham, I think, paranoid by now, and Lukudu is using this time to ensure the dump is empty. Just behind the car, there is a group of people arrayed around the tree that marks the turn off to the dump. I walk over to talk to them. They come here everyday, they tell me, to sift through the refuse, and pick out food, bits of machinery and scrap metal. Yesterday, however, soldiers came and put up the barrier. Apparently a brigadier has claimed that he owns the site, and has forbidden rubbish dumping. The villagers I spoke to sat almost totally still: first the dump took their fields away, and then the dump itself, their livelihood, was declared off-limits.

It begins to seem strange that the proposed ministry buildings were so close to the rubbish dump; occupying the rubbish dump, I thought, would be a good piece of realty speculation by a canny brigadier. After talking to the group I set off for the dump. I want to find Lukudu and ask him about what I had just been told. It is hard to see through the dust and smoke, and the flies descend, congregating for an important conference on my mouth, coating my eyes; my skin feels alive. After walking for ten minutes, I give up trying to brush the flies off my face, and light a cigarette, the dull blue wisps of smoke standing out in the noonday heat against the diffuse grey of the smouldering plastic. After a few more minutes, Lukudu appears around a bend, walking towards me. The barrier, he tells me, was built by the local community, who are angry about all the rubbish being dumped on their land. And it is the government, Lukudu sighed, who is going to have to pay for all of this. In the heat and stench of the dump, I think about how different Lukudu’s explanation was to that given by the rubbish-pickers by the tree. It is only on the morrow that I come to wonder how Lukudu could have found this out, when he also told me he had not met anyone on his walk. Brigadier is a strange synonym for community. Together, we walk on to the dump. There are burning slag heaps lining the road, and the burnished metal edges of tin cans protrude from the carbonised remnants of a hotel’s daily effluence. The trees are twisted, flecked with ash.

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Gi ul i o Pe tr o c c o

You can read the modern history of Juba in the rubbish; a future spied, not in tea leaves, but in whiskey bottles, in piles of horns and hides that did not find their way to the factory, and in USAID rice sacks that we trample underfoot, ripped and discarded. There are shacks lining the side of the road. Not quite dwellings; bare skeletons of sticks, wreathed in simple skins of tattered blue plastic. In this barren landscape, we finally meet someone. A man walks towards us, wearing a tattered blue shirt. He carries a machete, and accompanies us to the dump. His village, he tells us, is but three kilometres from here. During the war he was displaced to a camp and then worked in Khartoum. After 2005, he returned home only to find that it had become a rubbish dump. Rather than return to farming sorghum, he farms the rubbish, planting seeds of fire and harvesting the scrap metal. When we finally arrive at the dump, it is little more than a continuation of the road – a shallow pit, barely two metres deep and largely indistinguishable from the area surrounding it. It doesn’t smell like the rubbish dumps I have visited elsewhere in Africa. There is nothing rotting, nothing foetid: here, everything burns. It smells like an industrial plant and is the uniform grey of Soviet architecture in Warsaw. I find a scrap of colour: some Japanese toothpaste, crushed into the earth, staining the ash red. ‘These companies’, Lukudu complains, referring to the waste disposal trucks, ‘have no training, no instruction, they don’t know what a rubbish dump is’. We walk back to the car; he tells me that if there wasn’t a barrier up on the road and the dump was functioning, there would be 500 people here, going through the new rubbish. Back at the car, I see a rubbish truck roar past us. Now the dump is closed where will they dump their rubbish? ‘Oh’, Lukudu replies, ‘just further up the Yei road’. ‘And what’, I ask, ‘will happen when the rubbish reaches Yei?’ Lukudu looks concerned, as if he suspects I might be slightly soft in the head. ‘Don’t worry’, he tells me, ‘Yei is very far away’. 4 After I got back to Juba, I phoned the Kenyan man who had rented me one of his cars. We chatted amiably about the difficulty of doing business in Sudan, and the great opportunities to be found here. Finally, he asked me where I had been. ‘Oh’, I replied, ‘I went to the rubbish dump’. ‘Which one?’ he asked me. ‘Which one? The dump on the Yei road.’ ‘Yes’, he said, ‘of course, but which one?’ I hesitated. ‘The dump next to the UN compound’, I said, in a tone that sat somewhere between statement and question. This made him confused. ‘Why’, he asked, ‘didn’t you visit the big dump? You are writer; you should see these things. If you talk to the Ministry of Public Health in Juba, I am sure you can arrange a visit.’

5 The office of South Sudan Express is a hive of activity. Two of their eight vehicles are being repaired, and workers in orange jump suits are preparing for their morning rounds. Reception is a narrow cubicle on the side of the road, and I talk to Cheng, a Dinka from Bor, who is running the front desk. ‘We have a lot of problems’, he tells me. ‘So many complaints: people tell us that we don’t pick up their rubbish in time, or we don’t pick up enough of it.’ He smiles as he is passed two pieces of grubby handwritten paper – ‘You see? More complaints’. Giulio Petrocco, the Italian photographer whose images you see around these words, and I ride with the South Sudan Express workers in their truck. We sit in the back, on top of the rubbish, as we wind our way slowly through the streets. Some markets have collectively organised their rubbish collection and pile it on the side of the road for the workers to collect, without gloves or removal equipment save a plastic tarpaulin and a rake. Shop owners, angry that their rubbish sits and festers by the side of the road, berate the company as we go through Juba. The workers, who are all Sudanese, direct complaints to their overseer, a snappily dressed Dinka man who wrote a Masters thesis on hospital waste management. He listens studiously, noting everything down. Others, unable to pay the high prices of South Sudan Express, are unconcerned and pile up their rubbish in old oil drums to be burned come sunset. Finally, after what seems like hours, we head up the Yei road. The truck is rented from an Eritrean company, and our driver is also Eritrean; part of a vast force of East Africans who provide most of the labour in Africa’s newest state. We pass the government dump, which two weeks after I visited it is still closed, and head another forty kilometres up the road. This dump we finally arrive at is not new – a broken South Sudan Express truck testifies to its long use. Like the other government dump, there were the same smouldering fires, the same smell of an industrial plant. The only difference was the people: hundreds of them, waiting for the arrival of the truck, and then, as it gradually tipped up, scattering the waste on the ground, they poured over it, finding aubergines, needles, pineapples; searching bottles for water and alcohol; taking note of the position of scrap metal. As I walk through the dump the people mill around me. One man, a high school graduate, asks me: ‘Give me something, anything, it is not right that I have to live here’. He had returned from an internally displaced people’s camp to find his village transformed; a harbinger of the city that Juba is becoming. ‘Please’, he said, ‘give me something’. And I gave him a cigarette. n



On Site Site review review 26 26 On

wa s t e m a n ag e m e n t s o u t h ko r e a b y i n a k wo n

WO R L D CU P PA RK waste, re-natured

A one hour trip by car through the city, Saturday with heavy traffic on the street. I didn’t know what to expect of the former garbage dump I’d seen a picture of when it was still in use, about 30 years ago. In a few short decades South Korea has transformed itself from an agricultural to an industrialised country, from dictatorship to democracy. Visual traces of the country’s recent past and its struggles are difficult to find. Unlike a building, the garbage dump in north-west Seoul could not be torn down and removed; instead it was isolated, covered and transformed into an elaborately designed park: the World Cup Park. When I arrived nothing let me realise the hill’s origins – not because I couldn’t tell, but because it is not of importance anymore. Wooden stairs lead the way up to the artificial landscape with a fully developed infrastructure: a bus service, wide paths, waste separation, resting areas, information booth and speakers with music spread all over the top platform. It seems to be a popular spot on weekends, crowded with families and couples. Most attractive were the lookout points from which the city could be seen. The constriction of the city was gone, for a while. n

‘The Landfill Recovery Project is extremely meaningful as our first effort to create a new history of Seoul. The project consisted of treatment of landfill gas and polluted water discharged from waste and the stabilisation process of reclaimed land. Starting with a master plan in 1994, we completed facilities for extraction and disposal of gas and contaminated water and covered up the unstable slant through August 2001.’ 2

‘But nowhere was the cheering more apparent than in Korea. As the games progressed the Korean team kept advancing, and the television audience viewing these games worldwide saw something very special, beyond the games themselves. The stadiums were filled with cheering crowds of Korean men and women, young and old, all dressed in red, cheering frenetically not only for their own Korean team, but making sure that some in the stands were cheering for the opposite teams, especially if the opposite team represented a country which had sent troops to Korea during the Korean War.’ 3

‘Prior to 1978, the year the island was changed into a landfill, Nanjido was a peaceful island where various flowers, cabbage, radish and peanuts were widely cultivated. In particular, the size of the spotted cantaloupe grown on Nanjido was so big that an adult could not wrap their arms fully around their diameter. As well, Nanjido’s peanut crops were considerable enough to occupy 30 percent of the nation’s total peanut production. Nanjido was converted into a landfill in the middle of the rapid urbanisation of Seoul in 1978. From that time to 1993, 92 million tons of garbage including household, construction and industrial waste were dumped on the island, resulting in two massive mountains of garbage measuring over 90 metres high.’ 1

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1 Story of Nanjido. Creating Nanjido’s New History of Co-existence Between Humans and Nature, Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2002. http://, retrieved on: 28. 3. 2011 2 Story of Landfill Recovery Project, Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2002. html, retrieved on: 28. 3. 2011 3 T. Youn-ja Shim, Min-Sun Kim, Judith N. Martin, Changing Korea. Understanding culture and communication. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. p107

p u blic s pac e o ptimis m re -u s e lan dfill re c o n c iliatio n



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i na k wo n

in a kw o n

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4 Boyd Gibbons. ‘The South Koreans’ National Geographic, Vol. 174, No. 2, August 1988. p251f

‘Grabbers travel light: running shoes, colourcoordinated windbreakers and helmets, and openfingered gloves for grabbing, with a coarse padding over the knuckles so punches won’t slip. They are experts in tae kwon do, the Korean martial art – and they seem to enjoy using it. Grabbers gang up on individuals, fracturing wrists, cracking ribs. For years this has been happening to opposition politicians, labour organisers, ministers, anyone who opposed the government—but especially students. The lucky ones are beaten up and driven out of the city to a remote garbage dump—not exactly a short stroll home in Seoul, a city of nearly ten million people. The leaders are usually imprisoned and tortured.’ 4

i na k wo n



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In Southeast Michigan, the open space network is defined as being composed of four primary types: wetlands, cultural parks, grasslands and active agricultural land. While wetlands and cultural parks have a safe-guarded status, grasslands and active agricultural fields are in a more vulnerable position. The region’s current development plan releases grasslands and active agricultural land from any protected status. With this removal, the open space network experiences a significant reduction in its continuity. At the moment of their conception, landfills are located at a point of equilibrium where their distance from developed regions minimises operational impacts while maintaining an economic proximity to sources of waste. When we examine the outward growth of urban centres such as Detroit, this rationale fails to hold. Ironically, four of the six active landfills within Wayne County are now surrounded by development that emerged after the landfills were opened. Thus, the existence of a landfill does not preclude development around it. Just as active agriculture once reserved open space, why not now deploy another open-space industry that preserves land use to regain some of that lost connectivity? Why not use the landfill as part of a land reservation system? Landfills inadvertantly preserve open space since they cannot be built upon. What is not inherent in the execution of a landfill is its capacity to structure, organise and connect. Land Reservations presents a call to extend the agency of landfills to organise open space networks. n wa s t e e c o n o m i e s d e t ro i t b y m aya p r z y b y l s k i

L AN D RESERVATION S landfill as connector If dirt is understood as matter out of place, onsite 26 presents us the opportunity to examine our relationship with dirt’s immediate parallel –waste. Traditionally understood as unusable or unwanted material, is it possible to reframe our relationship with waste, specifically its management through landfilling, in order to load it with agency and to reactivate and organise its potential?

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Maya Pr zy by lski

in du s tr y reor gan is atio n lan d-u s e c o n tinu ity n e two r ks

Port City to Urban Region: Detroit’s growth paired with landfill locations and opening dates: once exurban sites become engulfed by development.

Ford-Allen Park 1952-2004

Woodland Meadows 1974-2025

above: Wayne County in Southeast Michigan is home to six municipal solid waste landfills. With opening dates ranging from 1952 to 1993, each landfill is now surrounded by varying levels of development.

Riverview Landfill 1964-2020+

Carleton Farm 1993-2030+

below: Threatened open space network top: existing open space network (shown in black). bottom: the same network with unprotected spaces removed

— United States Geological Survey, NAPP Collection



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M a ya P r z y by l s k i

Landfill as Connector: Landfill sites serve to knit islands of open space (shown in black) into a continuous fabric.

Landfill Morphology: Conventional landfill sites optimise capacity, limited primarily by the angle of repose of the waste materials they hold.

But a variety of alternative construction strategies emerge when post-landfilling programs are anticipated.

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Maya Przybylski

Traditional Landfi l l To pography

Prop os ed Landfi l l To pography

Breaking Out of the Box above top: Traditional landfills are rectangular in plan – this arrangement minimises perimeter while maximising the landfill’s filling capacity. above below: With post-landfilling programs in mind, the expected monolithic mound is pushed and pulled to build an articulated and programmable landscape.

Maya Przybylski would like to acknowledge the following: Neeraj Bhatia, Lola Sheppard and Mason White, InfraNet Lab Co-Directors Project Design Team: Neeraj Bhatia and Matthew Spremulli



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M a ya P r z y by l s k i

Medical facilities available at a modern health centre contrasted with ill health in old-fashioned housing. Colour lithograph after A Games, 1942 cou r tes f of t he Wel l com e L i brar y, Lo n do n UK

i n t e rv i e w | k at e f o r d e , c u r ato r b y g r e g b a rto n

D I RT the filthy reality of everyday life

hea l t h env i ronment hy g i ene represent a t i on moder ni t y

Greg Barton: What was the impetus behind Dirt? Why now? ‘Dirt’, defined as dust, excrement, rubbish, bacteria and soil, forms the subject of a recent exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London. The exhibition investigates the complexities of humans’ historical and cultural relationship to dirt, oscillating between the visceral and the ambivalent, using six case studies: ‘The Home’ (Delft, 1683), ‘The Street’ (London, 1854), ‘The Hospital’ (Glasgow, 1867), ‘The Museum’ (Dresden, 1930), ‘The Community’ (New Delhi and Kolkata, 2011) and ‘The Land’ (Staten Island, 2030). The works on display encompass numerous media such as etchings and scientific paraphernalia, visualising and confronting multiple facets of dirt while negotiating a range of scales from the microbial to landscape-urban. Prescient examples include British physician John Snow’s cartographic plotting of cholera-related deaths in 1855, linking the disease to unsanitary water, and Indian NGO Sulabh International’s compost toilets and biogas processing plants, conveyed through architectural models and diagrams. Formally the world’s largest municipal landfill, Fresh Kills is primarily represented by the work of Mierele Laderman Ukeles, an unsalaried artist-in-residence of the New York City Department of Sanitation since 1977, adding poeticism to a site popularly fetishised via computer renderings. Lastly, the exhibition boasts an impressive public programming series of screenings, talks and even an archaeological dig, effectively increasing the porosity of the institution. Kate Forde is the curator of Dirt. We spoke about the exhibition in August, 2011.

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Kate Forde: The Dirt exhibition is taking place in an unmistakably filthy era. We felt it would be particularly relevant to consider this subject today, at a time when our economies are generating more waste than ever before, when over 50% of the world’s population live in cities (conventionally regarded as some of the dirtiest of places) and when there is great pressure on the planet’s resources and a need to consider how we might use, re-use and re-cycle dirt in more creative ways. Finally, we were struck by the fact that while access to basic sanitation remains a luxury for 2.6 billion people in impoverished rural and urban environments, some scientists in the West have discovered a curious appreciation for dirt. Proponents of the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ suggest that children growing up in hyperclean environments are not exposed to the kinds of infectious agents necessary to help their immune systems develop, pointing to rising rates of disorders such as asthma and other allergic diseases.

Aerial photograph showing the Hygiene Museum and pavilions at the International Hygiene Exposition in 1931 c o u r t e sy o f t h e D e u t sc h e s H y gie n e - Mu se u m , D r e sde n

Greg Barton: How do you approach the role of didacticism in an exhibition such as Dirt?


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Kate Forde: In the exhibition we explore the relationship between modernism and ‘dirt’ through a close examination of the Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden. In 1930 the Museum was set up in its permanent home designed by the architect Wilhelm Kreiss. With its shining white walls, flat roof, huge windows and integration of light and fresh air the building was an architectural monument to rationality and transparency in modern medical science. Inside visitors could learn about issues relating to health-care and human anatomy and the way that new technologies (such as x-rays and microscopes) were radically altering the way in which the human body could be viewed and understood. The preoccupation with cleanliness and hygiene that is evident in this building is characteristic of modern architecture of this period in Europe and North America and must be understood in the context of new advancements in germ theory as well as the aftermath of World

War One – which was characterised by the dirt and disease of the trenches. The project to transform Fresh Kills suggests that even a land considered irretrievably damaged by the impact of human activity and consumption can be renewed. The anthropologist Robin Nagle has written eloquently about this subject, suggesting that the dump can be understood as a modern incarnation of a public commons – shared land set aside for the benefit of all.


Kate Forde: The aim of our exhibition programme at Wellcome Collection is to explore the connections between life, medicine and art. The way in which we do this is to develop interdisciplinary shows that don’t present purely didactic narratives about the subjects we explore but instead ask questions, offer up interpretations, and ultimately propose that meaning is created as much by the visitors who come to see them as by our methods of display. One of the underlying principles behind these exhibitions is an acknowledgement that human experiences do not take place in isolation, but are enriched by experiences and memories from many different aspects of our lives. We believe therefore that it is valuable to examine the relationships between apparently disparate disciplines –science and art for example (which are traditionally presented as inhabiting separate spheres). One of the challenges of working with scientific material is that science is often communicated with a kind of confident assertiveness which means that people often assume it represents objective truth. In contrast to this we aim to show how scientific practice is as culturally dependent as all forms of activities within society, and to expand people’s awareness of what science is or might be.

Greg Barton: Spanning generations in addition to geographies, viewers are led through many of the architectural implications and urban consequences of dirt; how do you see the development of modernism in relation to hygienic advancements? Looking forward, is Fresh Kills positioned as a redemptive opportunity?

cou r tes y of t he C i t y of New Yo r k

J am e s Co r n e r Fie ld O p e rat io n s / Co u r t e sy o f t h e Cit y o f New Yo r k

above: Last barge of garbage to Fresh Kills Landfill, New York, March 22nd 2001 above right: aerial view of Fresh Kills Park

Greg Barton: What sort of recent shifts have you witnessed in our cultural reconciliation with dirt?

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Kate Forde: The one thing I can safely say is that it’s difficult to generalise about expressions of cleanliness on a personal or societal level. Attitudes and behaviours towards dirt seem to vary a great deal across cultures and have changed radically over the centuries. To take just one example, cleanliness has not always been associated with godliness (in John Wesley’s phrase) and in early Christian traditions being too clean was sometimes considered a sign of vanity or sexual licence so the early saints mortified the flesh and dressed in dirty rags. Today, being labelled as ‘dirty’ in sexual jargon can actually be a kind of compliment, although one doesn’t want to be considered really dirty. I wonder if some artists’ fascination with dirt is in part disaffection with modernism’s hygienic ideologies. Dirt is certainly a recurring theme - from the surrealist roots of abject art to Gilbert and George’s Naked Shit pictures. Dirt, as well as being disturbing or shocking, can also be beautiful.

Greg Barton: Could you describe the act of weaving contemporary artists throughout the sequenced narrative? Do you conceive of commissions as supplemental research? Kate Forde: In this exhibition we have interspersed a number of key art works which challenge our understanding of what dirt is and disrupt a kind of ‘narrative of cleanliness’. These include James Croak’s cast-dirt window made from ‘the most neutral and most loaded of materials’, Santiago Sierra’s Anthropometric Modules Made from Human Faeces by the People of Sulabh International, and an exquisitely fragile dust ‘carpet’ by the Croatian artist Igor Eskinja. Although these works raise a number of profound – sometimes abstract – questions they are not purely metaphysical works. In each case it is their material form which is striking – particularly in the context of a modern pristine gallery. The art works are absolutely integral to the show and the one new commission that was made specifically for Dirt was developed over a period of months and in close collaboration with the curators.

This is a fascinating work entitled Laid To Rest by the artist Serena Korda – who was inspired by the history of London’s great dust heaps (which Dickens vividly describes in Our Mutual Friend). Korda was intrigued by the commodification of waste in Victorian London, and the way in which dust from the heaps was recycled by local craftsmen who mixed it with clay to produce fine quality bricks. The work she has produced is a palette of bricks containing dust either donated or collected by the artist from 500 individuals and institutions as well as a series of spectacular performances celebrating and commemorating this hidden history. One of the things I really like about this work is that it extends some of the issues considered in the show beyond the conventional parameters of the gallery. At the end of the show the bricks will be taken by horse and cart to a public park where they will be buried in a hole and ‘laid to rest’, becoming a kind of antimonument to dust. n

The idea of an exhibition about dirt created by a trust dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge made me distinctly suspicious. Though it is hard to talk about dirt in a way that doesn’t carry some sense of disapproval, the moralism implied by the exhibition’s title, the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, did nothing to allay my fears. This would be the opposite of the exhibition I wanted to see: rather than being a display of our hysterical modern relationship to dirt, it would be a paean to our triumph over filth on the road to spotless white kitchens and frequent showers. Such triumphalism is misplaced. Dirt isn’t something; it’s a position. You can’t get rid of dirt. Sitting in the Wellcome Collection’s very clean café at the entrance to the exhibition, I read through my press pack, which quotes the anthropologist Mary Douglas approvingly: ‘dirt is matter out of place’. That quote, so often used in discussions of rubbish, dirt, and detritus in the city, is itself a form of dirt, so often is it taken out of place, and out of context. In Purity and Danger, whence the quote emerges, Mary Douglas analyses the conventions and categories that provide the scaffolding of our lives. Things, as much as people, have places: dirt is the emergence of something in a place it should not be. Mud in the field is fine, on the kitchen counter, a horror. If you are going to follow this observation and construct an exhibition around it, as the Wellcome Collection claims it has done, then it should not be a history of the conquest of mud and bacteria, those enemies of mankind, but an inquiry into the conventions that create situations in which things come to be classified as dirt, and a display of the myriad ways humans and dirt find themselves bound up together.

exhibitions | d i rt , t h e f i lt h y r e a l i t y o f e v e ry day l i f e b y j o s h ua c r a z e

For if dirt is a result of things moved from their proper places, often by human hand, people also spend a great deal of time inveighing against dirt, and ensuring that other people spend not inconsiderable amounts of time preventing its appearance. If people move dirt, dirt moves people. The need to be clean maintains the borders of the very categories through which dirt moves; the possibility of dirt creates the need for a constant watchfulness, and thus distributes roles and tasks to people. It is not so much kitchen surfaces that were scrubbed in American suburban houses in the 1950s, as it was a dream of security and comfort that was polished. Such logic is on magnificent display in the first room of the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, which explores home-life in seventeenth century Delft. Upon entering, I immediately felt elated, and unclean – the exhibition is going to inquire into the categories that create dirt, it is going to uncover that history of the moral imperative to be clean, and here was I doubting the exhibition, merely because it is organised by the public relations arm of a pharmaceutical giant. In that first room, we are in the age of Calvinism, and purity is next to Godliness. On display are brooms and bibles, instruments for cleaning the house and the heart. Long before twentieth century anthropologists talked of purity and danger, the Calvinists understood that spirit rests in things, and that there is a correspondence between the purity of the house and the purity of the soul; dirt is an index of morality.

r e ligio n h y gie n e disap p r oval v ir t u e m o ralit y

M O R AL CO NQ U EST visiting the Wellcome Collection



Bruce Nauman, video installation. Raw Material Washing Hands, Normal (A of A/B) Raw Material Washing Hands, Normal (B of A/B),1996

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ART I ST RO O MS. Ac q u ir e d jo in t ly w it h t he Na ti o na l Ga l l e r i e s o f Sc o t lan d t h r o u gh T h e d’O f fay D o n at io n wi th a s s i s ta nc e f r o m the N at io n al H e r it age Me m o r ial Fu n d an d the A r t F und , 2 0 0 8

The saintly women shown in the pictures on display, fervently scrubbing the stone floors of merchants’ houses, are taking part in a moral economy in which religiosity, hygiene, and morality are bound up together at every turn. I wondered whether the women of Dutch painting are scrubbing those floors to remove dirt, or whether the dirt appears to keep them scrubbing. Probably both; dirt maintains proper places – the woman in the house, keeping busy – as much as it transgresses them. Tips and tricks for the dutiful housewife are contained in manuals of oeconomia, which are on prominent display in the exhibition. The term goes back to ancient Greece, when oeconomia referred to the management of the home. For Aristotle, oceconomia cannot be a science. It is instead stories of ethical examples and small sets of rules suited to particular contexts: a sort of Practical Housekeeping magazine with overtly moral overtones. There is a fantastic demonstration of the convergence of the moral and the practical in a devotional illustration from 1600 by the Flemish engraver Anthonie Wierix: four cherubim angels are intently scrubbing the believer’s heart with mops, while Christ is cleaning out the demons.

This is not to say morality is scrubbed out. Dirt, as a transgression, always creates outrage. But as cleanliness becomes divorced from moral codes, and is instead justified by the apparent obviousness of scientific truth, the moral economy of dirt becomes as hidden as Anthony van Leewenhoek’s ‘little animals’ – the microbes and bacteria that first became visible under the Dutchman’s seventeenth century microscope. The American kitchen, which surely deserved a room at the exhibition, is a picture postcard of suppressed moralism. Today, as mops are replaced by disposable floor-cleaners, not only is the dirt made to disappear, but even the device that removes the dirt is discarded. From the compulsive teeth cleaning of American adolescents, to plastic surgery and the soul-saving appeal of detergent commercials, everything conspires to promise you a world in which dirt and blemishes are forever banished from your soul. I think I prefer the dour Dutch Calvinists, with whom at least one could argue about the relationship between the moral and the sanitary: an argument that today in America is swept away by claims of scientific truth.


As I left the exhibition’s first room, full of thoughts about economies, moral and otherwise, I had high hopes for the rest of the exhibition; I imagined rooms of toothbrushes, the advertising of cleaning products through the ages, and photographs of the actual cleaners at the Wellcome Collection, paid a pittance to remove the dust from around antique seventeenth century Dutch brooms. It was not to be. The second room contains the well-known story of the triumph over cholera in Victorian London, and the defeat of miasmatic notions of disease transmission. In the exhibition’s display of John Snow’s beautiful ghost map of cholera, the moral economy vanishes, to be replaced by the triumphant march of medicine and hygiene, arm in arm, winning battle after battle in our forever war against death. The visitor then comes to a room describing the reconstruction of Victorian London, and, perhaps, the exhibition’s greatest claim to contemporary relevance. In the press release, it is written that, ‘We live in unmistakably filthy times. For the

Economics and morality gradually appear to part company over the next four hundred years. The former is transformed from the study of the management of the home to the study of resource allocation. The economy is no longer a moral one. For even if the most fervent capitalists see a free market as the best way for humans to realise happiness on earth, each individual act – buying a car, trading on the futures market – no longer holds the same explicit promise of a moral balm that was offered to the housewives of Delft, who scrubbed stone floors as if their hearts depended on it. Necessity replaced morality as a justification in economics. Something similar happened to the way we deal with dirt. Over the last three hundred years, an injunction replaced the explicitly moral imperative to be clean. As dirt became linked with disease, cleanliness became about medical necessity, established as objective scientific fact.



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Charts showing the temperature and mortality of London for every week of 11 years (1840 - 1850). Report on the mortality of cholera in England. Great Britain: General Register Office, 1852 We llc o m e Librar y, Lo n do n   L0 0 4 9 7 4 3

first time in human history over half the world’s inhabitants live in urban environments and exposure to dirt is the corollary of overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and the industrial shaping of metropolitan life’. All of the recent hand wringing and anxiety about the growth of slums in the world seems to stem from a certain memory of European urban planning, in which European slums were destroyed, as part of a grandiose top-down urban planning movement. When we think of slums as a problem, and implicitly or explicitly think about how to get rid of them, we are repeating the thoughts of the nineteenth century. What will become increasingly clear, I suspect, as the twenty-first century runs on, is that the contemporary slum, like dirt, is here to stay, whatever our fantasies. The rest of the exhibition wanders without direction. The visitor will encounter New York’s Fresh Kills, an enormous landfill site that grew exponentially, like a distorted mirror image of our consumerist dreams. It is now being turned into a park. Just before that, one is presented with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, which, during the Third Reich, linked the scientific discourse of hygiene to racial purity. Just as in modern life, the way dirt is dealt with in the exhibition moves uneasily between treating it as a moral disorder and as an object of medical and technological intervention. Just as in the American suburban home, the moral economy behind our treatment of dirt is never addressed.

4 Dirt is not a particular object. Anything can be dirt. The category of dirt is instead a stage in the life of every object (and person): as things decay and die, they become dirt, impure and contaminated. Dirt is a moment in the life of an object. And what is the end of dirt’s life? In Purity and Danger Mary Douglas writes: ‘Dirt was created by the differentiating activity of the mind, it was a by-product of the creation of order. So it started from a state of non-differentiation; all through the process of differentiation its role was to threaten the distinctions made; finally it returns to its true indiscriminable character’. At the end, for Douglas, it is ashes to ashes, and dirt to dirt.

If only it were so. While if one takes a cosmic view, perhaps, dirt is truly dirt – the undistinguished mass of everything that is not categorized; dirt also endures. Perhaps this is why it is considered so powerful; as dirt passes from one domain to another, it carries with it the mark of its past life; a transgression that can make it holy. Before the Hindi festival of Durga Puja, the statues of the Goddess Durga are made from dirt and straw from the banks of the Ganges. The most important addition to the statues, however, is a small amount of dirt from just outside a brothel: the holy and the unclean, joined together, barred from the everyday world. Dirt endures. We need it. One of the joyful things about watching Tarun Paul’s film Durga Goddess, on display in the exhibition, was that one is reminded of a world in which dirt is not ignored, and the interplay of the categories of dirty and clean, and the transgressions between them, are celebrated. Perhaps the worst thing to do with dirt is pretend we can get rid of it. Think of the two categories that have stalked this review: morality, and the type of thought that claims that practices of hygiene and cleanliness are based on absolutely objective facts. Upon the latter view no mark of morality can appear, the better not to taint its appeal to the absolute authority of science. And yet, as is made explicit in our endless commercials for detergent, the modern obsession with hygiene is a view as moralistic and normative as the most devoted Calvinist manual of oeconomia. Except that, for us moderns, unlike the Calvinists, in the modern view, morality plays no part in cleanliness; it is kept hidden, like a bad stain that cannot be scrubbed out. As I left the grand building of the Wellcome Collection, I thought about the exhibition I had wanted to see. I wanted to see American bathrooms and clean kitchen tops. I wanted to see the triumph of a demoralised regime of hygiene. That, I realised, is exactly what I got: except that wasn’t what was on display in the exhibition, rather, it was displayed in the structure of the exhibition itself. Science’s stain. n


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We llc o m e Librar y, Lo n do n V0 0 4 6 1 5 5


Durga Puja: a procession carrying an idol of Durga to honour her victory over evil. India, 19th century gouache on mica.

Camp at Robstown, Texas. Arthur Rothstein, 1942. The orderly, clean aspect of the FSA camps belied the chaos and dislocation experienced by Dust Bowl migrants.

all p h o t o grap h s c o u r t e sy o f t h e Librar y o f Co n gr e ss , Wash in gt o n

a r c h i t e c t u r e + m i g r at i o n w pa m i g r a n t c a m p s b y j o s e p h h e at h c ot t

D U STBOWL D ESIGN S Federal migrant camps of the Great Depression

In 1932, the topsoil of the American plains took to the wind and scattered eastward across the country. Decades of sodbusting, mono-cropping and deep furrow plantation had so exhausted the fragile soil structure, that it began to dry out in1931; by 1934 the United States was in the worst drought in its history. Fierce winds carried tremendous plumes of dust over millions of square miles. A billion tons of earth moved on, devastating farms, wrecking communities and setting in motion a great westward migration of families seeking other work. In response to this ecological catastrophe, the Roosevelt administration reorganised the rural relief effort. The Farm Security Administration (FSA)was to coordinate a range of housing, credit, health and education programs for farm families, migrants and itinerant workers. As part of an expansive New Deal state, the ultimate goal of the FSA was to democratise land ownership by eradicating rural tenancy. The immediate challenge, however, was to organise temporary shelter for millions of people in motion – the displaced and the dispossessed.

mo de r n ity mitigatio n c o n tro l c l i m ate c h an ge c o mmu n ality

In 1937, the FSA launched a government camp project to provide shelter and services to migrant workers in 15 states, mostly in the West, but also in farm and fishing communities in the Northeast and the South. For many migrants, shelter per se was not the foremost challenge – many families took refuge in their vehicles or in makeshift squatter camps. The main problem was that a lack of stable housing forced them to spend large portions of their income on fuel in order to keep moving. Thus, the FSA not only supplied shelter, but sited camps strategically to maximise transportation efficiencies. Government trucks transported workers to agricultural jobs near the camps, enabling migrants to spend less on fuel and to retain a larger share of their earnings for essentials.

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40 Arkansas. Ben Shahn, 1935. The unemployed squatted on marginal land across the country from the very beginning of the Depression, their makeshift houses in stark contrast to the ratonalised shelter of the FSA camps. Muskogee, Oklahoma. Russell Lee, 1939. Millions of dislocated people on the roads heading west to California alarmed the Roosevelt administration, leading to FSA migrant camps whose communal nature unfolded in tension with the rugged individualism of migrants, embodied in the family car.

Although shelter was just one part of the larger array of challenges migrants faced, the FSA viewed its provision as a top priority. The Roosevelt administration, Congress and FSA leadership regarded the unhinged population with alarm, worried that lack of stability could lead to radicalisation. For government planners and architects, self-built squatter camps cropping up across the country presented an ungovernable landscape full of moral and physical danger, magnifying the already dire conditions of the Depression. Only the rational delivery of modern shelter units in sufficient numbers could draw people out of these makeshift interstitial communities. To build the camps, the FSA liaised with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and other federal relief agencies. With primary responsibility to construct dams, bridges, hospitals, post offices, and other government buildings, a great deal of architectural and engineering talent was concentrated in the WPA. The CCC maintained an inhouse staff of land surveyors, planners and road builders because of its work in constructing state parks, fire roads, retreat camps and other rural facilities. By the end of the decade, the FSA had built up its own stable of architects, engineers, planners and surveyors, managed by a vertical system of national directors, regional administrators, and local camp officials. The FSA deployed a range of measures to ramp up design and construction of migrant camps. Rather than hire one architect or firm for every project, the FSA retained a pool of architects to develop standardised plans around a limited and uniform program of building. While the FSA contracted with private construction companies to build the camps, it retained control of the supply chain of materials in order to reduce costs and speed production. Civil engineers moved from site to site in order to oversee surveillance, grading, utility installation and other site preparations. Many camp services were delivered through mobile rather than stationary means, including dental and health clinics installed in manufactured structures and mounted on trailers.

Yamhill Migratory Labor Camp, Dayton, Oregon. Photographer unknown, 1939. FSA camps varied by region as well as by the approaches of the architects, engineers and construction firms involved. But all camps bore the powerful signature of modern new town planning and rigorous design control popular with the New Deal state.

Tulare County, California. Russell Lee, 1939. Overhead view of an FSA cooperative warehouse supply yard. The FSA controlled its own supply chain, stockpiling precut, prefabricated and modular components for use in camp construction.


all p h o t o grap h s c o u r t e sy o f t h e Libra r y o f C o ng r e s s , Wa s hi ng to n

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Caldwell, Texas. Russell Lee, 1939. At FSA Camp Caldwell, architects designed a beautiful multiuse facililty out of precut structural materials, corrugated metal roof and plywood floors and walls. The building served as an auditorium, community center, meeting hall and movie house.


Calipatria, California. Dorothea Lange, 1939. FSA Camp Calipatra housed 155 migrant families who moved more frequently for seasonal harvests. Residents lived in wood framed tents wrapped in sturdy burlap canvas. Mobile amenities, such as the dental clinic in the trailer at right, moved between a group of camps in the region to deliver services. The trailer on the left housed the camp manager.

In general, the FSA favored modular, functionalist design, reflected in the work of some of its most well-known staff, such as landscape architect Garret Eckbo, architect Vernon de Mars and civil engineer Nicholas Cirino. FSA camps attracted notice from modern architecture circles, including the influential architectural journal Pencil Points, which devoted an entire issue in 1942 to the camps. Most camp buildings were wood frame clad either in canvas, wood or metal. In some regions, architects made attempts at vernacular design adaptations. Camp Osceola in Florida, for example, featured small porches and low-angle gables on stilt-raised residential buildings not unlike local houses, while community facility buildings in Texas and California were often open to the air; camps in Arizona used adobe for wall construction. But most camps rose up according to a set of centralised codes and specifications meant to accelerate the process of construction and multiply the number of sites in the pipeline. This centralisation of design led to such follies as tin roofs in Texas and metal cladding in Florida, forcing residents out of their units in the long summers. As federal architects and civil engineers sited, planned and constructed the camps, the Head of the FSA Information Division, Roy Stryker, dispatched twentytwo photographers throughout the country to document the effort. He employed many of the top photographers in the United States, including Dorthea Lang, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee and Marjory Collins. He supplied his photographers with ‘scripts’ describing the range of subjects and treatments deemed appropriate to the purpose. These photographers left a detailed visual record of the camps, with tens of thousands of unique images.

Sinton, Texas. Arthur Rothstein, 1942. In the early 1940s, with more concentrated design talent and less oversight from Washington, FSA officials grew bolder in their deployment of High Modern architecture. The residential structure at FSA Camp Sinton pictured above could have come from the drawing board of the Bauhaus.

Harlingen, Texas. Arthur Rothstein, 1942. Most camps had one or more facilities related to children, including day care centres, playgrounds, story readings and kindergartens. Rothstein’s photograph emphasises the rational application of simple, modern, unadorned mass construction techniques.

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42 Westley, California. Dorothea Lange, 1939. One of the early and largest of the FSA caps, Westley housed up to 200 families and as many individual travellers at a time. It functioned as a small town, with its own water tower, plumbing and electric grids. Architects made a nod toward the California vernacular with the overhanging porch. al l p h ot og ra phs cour t es y of th e Librar y o f Co n gre ss , Wash in gto n

Westley, California. Dorothea Lange, 1939. The elegant pole and rafter outbuilding, open to the warm Texas air, houses the communal laundry facility beneath a corrugated metal roof. Arrayed in the background is a regiment of prefabricated modular houses for families.

FSA photographs depict rural families adapting to life far from their Kansas and Oklahoma farms. Planners organised each camp on some variant of an orthogonal grid surrounding a public square, a landscape condition largely alien to the residents’ experience of rural agricultural life in the Midwest and Great Plains. People shared water sources and bathing facilities, recreation spaces and dining halls. In many of the camps, the FSA operated co-operative stores, day care centres, adult education classes, libraries, health clinics and kitchens. Architects invariably sited camp manager offices next to the gates in order to enhance surveillance. And yet, these images of the architecturally uniform and rigourous camps belie the fragility and transience of their condition. With the 1940 elections, the political winds in Congress shifted against bold federal experiments such as the migrant camps. The entry of the United States into World War II in 1941 absorbed millions of migrants into the military and defence production force. In 1943, Congress shifted all migrant relief programs into the more conservative and narrowly conceived War Food Administration in the Labor Department. By the conclusion of the war, the federal camp program was shuttered. In the end, the camps presented highly ambivalent landscapes. They were less communities than collections of strangers, coming and going at intervals, forming rapid but tenuous connections amid dire circumstances. The architecture itself expressed this ambivalence. On the one hand, camp planning and organisation spoke of a tentative optimism in the provision of the public good. On the other, it expressed the aims of government through modular and temporary construction suited to the immediate provision of shelter, but less suited to the broader goal of the New Deal to remake American democracy. The camps had sprung up amid volatile political and economic forces – by the time the government had constructed a sizable network of camps, federal priorities had shifted to the war effort. Migrants disappeared into factories and defence housing springing up in cities; construction materials flowed out of FSA warehouses and into war production. In hindsight, the permanent state of the camps had always been impermanence; they were momentary and ephemeral, much like the dust that drove people westward in the first place. n

Marysville Camp, California. Dorothea Lange, 1935. Some migrant camps, such as Marysville in California and Rupert in Idaho, were built earlier by the Civilian Conservation Corps. State officials appropriated this Marysville tourist camp for use by migrant workers two years in advance of the FSA program. With its giant legacy trees, log gate and frame cottages, the camp was designed with permanence in mind.

Arlington, Virginia. Marjory Collins, 1942. When the United States entered World War II, FSA officials shifted new camp design to the provision of manufactured mobile units. These units were generally more costly to produce, but lasted longer, and had the advantage of high mobility. This camp near Arlington housed migrants who flocked to the Southeast to work in food production, military services and defence industries.



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all p h o t o grap h s c o u r t e sy o f t h e Libra r y o f C o ng r e s s , Wa s hi ng to n

wo r k i n g e n v i ro n m e n t s m e d i c i n e h at a l b e rta by michael leeb



industrial archaeology

These photographs were made in October 2007 and are images of both the exterior and interior spaces of the 1912 factory building and the kilns, both constructed of local brick. The machinery and equipment was used to make a wide variety of

br i c k c l ay phot og r a phy museums

ceramic products. Although some replica stoneware is still made at the site, the factory building and kilns now form part of the Medalta Potteries Museum. Cameras used: Hasselblad 500 C/M with a 80mm lens and a Holga (orange flter). n

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M i c ha e l L e e b

Medicine Hat started its industrial life as Divisional Headquarters for the Canadian Pacific Railway, located halfway between Winnipeg and Vancouver, so well-serviced by transportation that it attracted manufacturing and distribution industries. It sits on enormous reserves of natural gas which gave, and still do give, Medicine Hat very inexpensive heat, light and power. As incentives, the city added free water, building sites and tax concessions and by 1900 was a substantial industrial centre. Firing clay into useable products relies on a consistent and high-temperature heat source in the kilns – that was provided by natural gas. Clay was also abundant and was transformed into brick, tile, sewer pipe and industrial ceramics by large companies and small family-run factories.1 All the clay used in manufacturing in Medicine Hat comes from the Upper Cretaceous Whitemud Formation in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. The upper part of the Whitemud Formation, the Eastend Formation contains non-marine sands, silts and clays formed by fast mechanical weathering of new volcanic mountains. Whitemud sediments come from slow chemical weathering and leaching after the volcanic mountains have been worn down.2 This is where kaolin is found, the ingredient that produces a hard white ceramic. Whitemud Formation clay was found at East End, Saskatchewan. Other Whitemud clays with a lower kaolin content, from Wood Mountain, from Claybank and from the Cypress Hills was, and is, used for brick. 3

WH I T E M U D CL AY ru r a l u r b a n i s m | p ot t e r i e s by stephanie white

g eo l og y mi ner a l s reso urc es set t l ement t r a nspor t a t i o n

There is a lovely conjunction between the placenames of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta and the names of the various clay deposits. Medalta had clay holdings at Chocolate Drop Hill in East End, specifically chocolate clay, a dark, plastic clay which when fired was paler than stoneware. Saskachewan Ball Clay from Willow, Saskatchewan was a white-burning clay, clearly full of kaolin, while stoneware clays came from Ravenscrag. I-XL Brick, formed in 1886, mined and fired the clay found on site at Redcliff, Alberta. This clay produced a bright red brick, the first red brick in western Canada and found on all southern prairie brick buildings built during the building boom of the 1900s.4 Utility brick, even today, tends to be yellow. The potteries that operated in Medicine Hat between 1900 and the second world war, produced a wide range of products. Stoneware crocks were ubiquitous across the homesteading prairies: every basement had a collection for putting down sauerkraut, making beer, storing eggs and dill pickles. From Medalta’s white clay deposits at Willow came a vast production of hotel, restaurant and household china. The CPR and CNR trains and hotels, the Hudson’s Bay and Eaton’s all obliged in using and distributing Medalta ware across the west, and by 1921 to the much larger markets of eastern Canada. 5

fi re pot t er y t r a nsfo r matio n s

S te p ha ni e W hi te

Medicine Hat Potteries pudding basins, circa 1950. Steamed Christmas puddings, suet puddings, cranberry duff, figgy duff: these were often Canada’s desserts up until the end of WWII, and every house had a stack of white bowls produced in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

The line drawn from the eruptions of volcanos throwing new minerals and metals from the heart of the earth up to the surface, and the surface eroding into silts that become clay, that clay being discovered, mined and made into products in a series of small communities, connected by the Canadian Pacific Railway and facilitated by natural gas reserves – this is a deep narrative line that was responsible for how prairie towns looked, how buildings were built, how Canadian kitchens were equipped, how food was stored. It is a line that includes the production of firebrick, a product essential during both world wars to tanks, ships and train engines and dependent on both near-free energy and special CPR concession rates. We so often concentrate on our recent history, that of settlement and industry, without acknowledging that it all depends on what happened millions of years ago. n



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1 Mason, Ron. ‘Historic Clay District History’. 2 Byers, P N. ‘Mineralogy and origin of the upper Eastend and Whitemud Formations of south-central and southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 1969. 6:(2) 317334, 10.1139/e69-027 3 Hamilton, WN, Olson, RA. ‘Mineral Resources of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin’. Alberta Geological Survey. publications/wcsb_atlas/a_ch34/ch_34.html#kaolin 4 Antonelli, Marylu and Jack Forbes. Pottery in Alberta. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1978. 5 Holt, Faye Reineberg. Alberta, a history in photographs. Victoria: Heritage House Publishing, 2009

A r thur A l l e n

Weyburn Mental Hospital, closed in 2004 and demolished in 2009

h o s p i ta l s | tuberculosis b y a rt h u r a l l e n


black dirt, white plague: notes on air-borne particulates

Mental hospitals on the prairies were sandblasted by dust storms in the 1930s, the dirty thirties of drought and the Great Depression. The Weyburn asylum was severely hit; in the dust bowl of southern Saskatchewan the building was vulnerable to infiltration of ‘blow dirt’, rich black topsoil that lifted with the wind and found every crevice in the walls of the hospital. Once inside, the airborne dust created a medical disaster.

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The civil service Public Service Monthly, May 1920, announced the construction of a new mental hospital near the town of Weyburn –  the design is so attractive and the building so well proportioned that it is difficult to realize its size and capacity until one traverses the long corridors and spacious, sunny apartments...the building is most attractive, sunny and cheerful, while admirably adapted for its purpose as a hospital for the mentally ill.   Contrary to official euphemism, the hospital became a cheerless place, a catch-all shelter for people with mental illness, alcoholism, epilepsy and developmental and physical disabilities. Tubercular patients were included, and were not well isolated from the general population. Staff noted the difficulties of multi-function operations in the institution, located in a region of soaring population where immigrants often brought sickness or disability with them. A building on open farmland, ventilated by opening windows, was an unfortunate design for the control of air quality.   The Weyburn asylum was three- and four-storeys high, 800 feet long. On the ploughed and treeless farmland it took the full force of the wind during storms that lasted for days. Fourteen hundred loosely fitted, sliding sash wooden windows allowed blow dirt into the wards.  

s an ato r ia ve n tilatio n c o n tagio n prox imity in fe c tio n

Nurse Norah Hamill wrote in hospital memoirs– If I live to be a hundred I’ll never forget those dust storms. The floors, the bed sheets, our uniforms, everything would be covered with black silt.  We tried to block the windows with wet towels but nothing helped. It was pure misery for the staff and patients. 1   Confinement of people with tuberculosis, the White Plague, was difficult at any time and place. Sanatoriums were in operation in Saskatchewan after 1917, but under non-segregated and crowded conditions, mental hospitals experienced a ten-fold increase in the disease compared to its public incidence. In 1924 there were 85 active cases in the Weyburn hospital, in a total population of 728. The consumption of unpasteurised milk aggravated the problem until the hospital treated its own supply after 1930. A dozen airing verandahs were closed in, vented and heated. Used as wards for tubercular patients, capacity was thereby increased by 150 beds, but infected patients were still not well separated from the main population.   TB, from Tubercle Bacillus, is a primarily airborne disease. Pulmonary tuberculosis causes patients to cough, sneeze and spit, releasing bacteria-laden saliva which attaches to everything within reach. Inside the building during a wind storm, dust loaded with bacteria was unstoppable. It floated through the dayrooms and corridors, was breathed in by everyone, and travelled everywhere on hands and feet. Tuberculosis patients were eventually moved to a separate 150-bed annex built in 1937, but the disease was hard to beat. Restricting traffic to and from the annex helped but it was not until 1953, with antibiotic drugs and new X-ray equipment that the tide was turned. In 1963 the hospital was declared free of active cases of the White Plague.

A r thur A l l e n

Weyburn Mental Hospital 1920 - 2004, Saskatchewan

The Weyburn asylum in a dust storm echoed the days of crowded hospitals and non-segregated patients in the centuries before the discovery of both sanitation and the bacterial origins of disease. Some hospitals were so filthy and dangerous that they were best described as places to lie down and pray.  Tuberculosis, or consumption, was not known to be contagious and was fashionable among poets: infected people were not isolated.   Medical understanding of the 17th to 19th centuries held that miasma, foul air from decomposing organic matter, was the cause of disease. Hospital ventilation was of great concern – the pavilion hospital became popular because the separated pavilions had window ventilation on all sides of each building. Breezes removed exhaust air from the lee of buildings and minimised the transfer of air between wards in the pavilions. The Weyburn plan was similar, with cross ventilation of its long wings.   In the early 1900s, mechanical ventilating systems began to appear in hospitals and asylums. 2 It was mechanical air delivery that ended the era of pavilion hospitals. The use of ducts in place of windows for ventilation had been debated for some time between the medical and architectural professions. In 1904 British architect A Saxon Snell wrote – Architects have a great moral responsibility – to advise their clients to keep to natural methods rather than artificial. They should be at one with the physician in trying to persuade their clients to have their houses built in such a way that they could live healthily, instead of merely comfortably. 3  

The Weyburn hospital was originally planned for 1040 patients; by 1946 it sheltered 2485 sick people; crowding was resolved only after the arrival of psychotropic drugs in the 1950s. Antibiotics temporarily defeated tuberculosis in developed nations in the 1950s and 60s, only to have it reappear as a drugresistant organism in the 1980s. In November 2010, World Health Organisation statistics stated that a third of the world’s population was infected with tuberculosis, mainly in Africa and South-East Asia. 4 We need to remember that as long as air carries dirt, everyone living in a crowded habitation is at risk. Large asylums were once part of the problem; prisons (once known for ‘gaol fever’) are now breeding grounds for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, syphilis and hepatitis. ° When we confine people in such dangerous places, we add to their burdens and our own.  We have surrendered to fear, anger and revenge, imposing slow and terrible punishments without sanction of civilised justice.  Buildings and landscapes, without crowding, can do so much for healthy living. We have a choice; why wait for our own name to appear on a list of endangered species? n



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1  Robillard, Anne, editor. Under the Dome. The Life and Times of the Saskatchewan Hospital, Weyburn. Weyburn: Souris Valley History Committee, 1986. p31  2  Markus, Thomas A. Buildings and Power. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. p114  3 Taylor, Jeremy. The Architect and the Pavilion Hospital. London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1997. p205  4  World Health Organisation, Fact Sheet 104, November 2010

The exposed seabed of the Aral Sea

a n t h ro p o g e n i c l a n d s c a p e s shrinking sea in central asia b y k s e n i a k ag n e r

AR A L SE A sea of sand: (un)planned desertification

Aral Sea timeline

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J o h an R e h n

post - i ndust r i a l lan ds c ape s ar idity wa t er she d dive r s io n wa t er she d dive r s io n tox ic ity

In the heart of Central Asia, the town of Moynaq sits surrounded by the windswept sands of Uzbekistan’s Aralkum desert. Once a prosperous fishing port on the shore of the Aral Sea, the town is now largely abandoned, its geographic and hydrographic infrastructure of islands, bays and straits having given way to the world’s youngest desert.1 At one point considered the fourth largest lake in the world, more than 90% of the Aral Sea’s liquid ground cover has disappeared, manifesting its vast seabed and a new, toxic landscape. (As a comparison, this would be equivalent to fully draining two of Canada’s Great Lakes– Lake Erie and Lake Ontario –currently the tenth and twelfth largest lakes in the world.) The causes of this dramatic depletion are entirely manmade and have been executed in a mere 50 years. The question that remains is: what are the consequences of these myopic actions? The Aral Sea region provides a glimpse into the complex set of ecological effects that have been set in motion and their global impact. Meanwhile, the town of Moynaq and its inhabitants may give us insight into the temporal and socio-economic impacts caused by large scale anthropogenic climate change. The Aral Sea was fed by two watersheds, Syr Darya and Amu Darya. In the 1960s these rivers were diverted by a regional network of water canals to support massive irrigation projects for agricultural and cotton production. In the early stages of the project, cotton production grew quickly, making the USSR the world’s largest cotton exporter. This economic success came at a cost. Growing the thirsty cotton plant in the arid climate of southern Kazakhstan and northern Uzbekistan required massive quantities of water. The intake from the rivers was increased in

direct proportion to the expansion of cotton fields, doubling the water volume by the year 2000. Compounding the problem, the canals were inefficient, losing up to 80% of intake to leakage and evaporation. As a direct result of these activities, the Aral Sea was drained within 50 years. Its depletion produced an unprecedented degradation of the regional eco-system and lake-economy while contributing to global climate change. The ever-expanding desert exposed the residue of years of industrial pollution and secret weapon testing by the USSR. Adding to an already toxic concoction of countless chemical compounds were fertilizers and pesticide runoff from adjacent irrigated areas. The dormant toxic seabed, once exposed, set in motion a series ripple effects on the global environment. Salinity increased from 35g/L to levels in excess of 100 g/L, destroying the regional ecosystem of the Aral Sea and its two river deltas. Vast areas of soil-retaining black saxaul woods, tugay forests and reeds disappeared.2 The consequences to biodiversity are also grim as 164 species of animal life have disappeared. The wetlands of the Amu Darya delta were one of the most important palaearctic flyways in western Asia.3 As they dried up, a midmigration stopping point for millions of birds was destroyed. As the lake shrank, UV rays were no longer absorbed by water and atmospheric humidity dropped significantly, causing the region to experience hotter summers and colder winters which, in turn, contributes to global climate change. Stronger winds developed as rain clouds disappeared, spreading toxic dust throughout the region, across Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan and beyond, ultimately reaching as far as the South Pole.



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Global reach of toxic dust from the Aral Sea bed

What was once a prosperous agricultural region with a healthy fishing economy is now a no man’s land. The town of Moynaq visibly encapsulates this tragedy. Formerly, one of the sea’s two major fishing ports, it now stands some 100km from the shoreline, mostly abandoned. Before the 1960s, Moynaq housed the region’s harbour and finishing industries, providing more than 60,000 jobs. Today, not a single fish can survive in the sea. What remains of Moynaq’s redundant fishing fleet are semi-submerged ship carcasses rusting in toxic sand, beside a ghost-town of deserted factories, stagnant corrosive pools and decaying concrete shells of Soviet style pre-fab construction. The town’s population, now less than 2,000, suffers the full impact of the environmental disaster. As the more frequent windstorms spread a layer of toxic dust over everything, health problems have taken hold of the town’s residents: tuberculosis, rare forms of cancers and respiratory illnesses rage through the town. Two-thirds of the population suffers from chronic illnesses, child mortality rates are at 7.5%, comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, there is little access to fresh water due to high surface and groundwater pollution. Water distribution systems have deteriorated as well. Barrels of potable water are now delivered on donkeys, while broken down cars are scattered in the streets.

Man-made policies in Central Asia transformed the fourth largest lake in the world into a lifeless ‘sea’ of salinised sand, virtually incapable of supporting life. With the rise of interest in climate change, sustainability and green infrastructure, the narrowly prescribed roles of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design no longer apply. At home in Canada and the USA, similar environmental havoc threatens the Great Lakes region. According to the Lake Erie Management Plan, Lake Erie will lose 15% of its surface area by 2050. As the consequences are yet to be determined, let us take heed of the dramatic sight of ship cemeteries and ghost towns that dot the toxic landscape of the Aral Sea region. Let this serve as a call upon designers for a new level of responsibility through social practice and involvement in policy and strategic planning. In the meantime, the town of Moynaq will remain a tragic monument to the modern condition of environmental degradation by the myopic pursuit of economic wealth. n

1 Zonn, I S , Glantz, M, Kosarev, A N, Kostianoy, A G. The Aral Sea Encyclopedia, Springer, 2009. p2 2 By comparison, the salinity of average seawater is 35g/L, and the Dead Sea’s salinity is 300 g/L 3 Water Related Vision For The Aral Sea Basin. Division of Water Sciences , UNESCO, 2000

Toxic duststorm in Moynaq

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J o ha n R e hn

above: exposed seabed of the Aral Sea

below: anthropogenic desertification



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J o ha n R e hn

C hl o é R o ub e r t

urban wildlife | montreal b y c h l o é ro u b e rt


In the early 1980s, covering the sidewalks of small commercial arteries was seen as an urban solution that countered the threat of malls whose spaces, sheltered from urban chaos and unpleasant weather, took away their clientele. Accordingly in 1984, parallel to the creation of its underground city – a very large downtown mall – Montreal put 20M$ into the construction of a glass canopy over rue Saint Hubert’s sidewalks between Bellechasse and Jean-Talon. If today this iconic structure’s aesthetic hasn’t aged quite as timelessly as urban projects hope to, in the past few years the residents have noticed another by-product that goes beyond outdated looks: the presence of the Columba livia, Latin for leadcoloured dove, formerly known as rock pigeon but today officially listed as rock dove, and commonly called pigeon. As fate would have it, the very construction meant to replicate the human-controlled environment of shopping centres has become a pigeon’s ideal habitat: the glass covering protects from bad weather, the metal beams substitute for its original

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c an o pie s malls pa t t er ns of co n s u mptio n pige o n s c o smo l og i e s o f dis gu s t

Himalayan cliffs and ledges and the netted structure of store signage makes for perfect nesting sites. And indeed today walking on rue Saint Hubert one can feel the birds’ gazes, hear their cooing, see their nests’ twigs tweaking out of signs and on the sidewalks, sometimes near faeces, like residues of an ongoing semi-overt war, the remains of torn-down nests and broken shells. Locals have condemned their presence as a ‘disgusting’ invasion, scaring clients and ruining the neighbourhood’s façades and sidewalks. They claim the situation has become so unbearable that it is in dire need of a radical solution. But in their attempt to exterminate these birds they exemplify Mary Douglas’s dictum that dirt is matter out of place. Indeed to the residents’ great dismay, in the Province of Québec the Columba livia is considered a small prey that requires – like the adorable arctic hare or the notorious red fox – an official hunting permit to be killed, an activity which, even with a permit, remains illegal in cities.

C hl o é R o ub e r t

There are many theories as to why things are considered filthy or disgusting. Valerie Curtis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease believes that disgust is an instinctual reaction in humans to avoid objects or situations that could potentially be harmful to health or threats to survival.1 From this angle urban pigeons are disgusting in their potential as a vehicle for disease – faeces cement their nests, they live off food from grimy streets and their flocks can be overbearing. And yet while their droppings can potentially cause disease, pigeons are no serious health threat to most people.2 From a hygienic perspective they are as threatening as doves which, with similar habits, embody one of the most impeccable of human ideologies, peace. So why are doves so pristine in contemporary Western thought while their cousins remain so filthy? The mother of cleanliness and pollution studies, anthropologist Mary Douglas argued that for a society to function it has to have an agreed cosmology – a set of organising principles that provide purpose and rationale, such as religion or ideology. Exceptions to these principles are anomalies that threaten the system, and therefore are cast as dirty or impure. 3 Accordingly,

urban pigeons are dirty in our value system because they are in between cultural categories – between the civilised and the wild, the self-sustaining and the dependant. Québec’s legal system, an institution representing its society’s norms, is having difficulty reconciling these categories. The limbo status of pigeons makes them unclassifiable. Semi-hidden behind signs and embedded within our urban structure, the urban pigeon is like a riddle with many answers – most of which are questions. Questions about nature versus nurture, but also class, consumption, space and urban development. Rue Saint Hubert’s glass canopy was a way to compete against the increasing presence of new models of consumption: malls as gigantic semi-private spaces accessible by car and unreachable to those deemed impure. But since its covering in the 1980s, Saint Hubert remains a public space with a glass canopy and an ambiguous identity. Today it is neither a local store artery nor a clean palace of material acquisition. Rue Saint Hubert, in a way, is like the urban pigeon: it stands dirty, in limbo between the various categories of early twentyfirst century urban development. And perhaps the resentment residents have towards pigeons is more about their own situation reflected in the pigeons, than an issue with dirt or hygiene. n



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1 Curtis, Valerie. ‘Dirt, Disgust and Disease: a Natural History of Hygiene’ in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Vol. 18 Num.10, 2007: 660-664 2 Three human diseases are known to be associated with pigeon droppings: histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis, all of which are very rare and mostly contracted by individuals with low immune systems or after having been in contact with infected pet birds. html/doh/html/epi/epi-pigeon.shtml 3 Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: an Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Ark Paperbacks, 1988.

Interior environments often seem numb to the dynamics of the city. When we enter a building we rarely think of the effect that materials, construction and configuration play in the detachment of the interior from the exterior; it takes extreme conditions to make us think about the role the building envelope plays.

One layer of the ice screen: 12- gauge welded wire mesh. As a preliminary test the wire mesh was left outside during the winter and misted with water. Mic h ae l B lo is

architecture | phenomena by michael blois

THE BUILDING ENVELOPE separation | mediation

filte r s we ath e r s e as o n s patte r n e x po s u re

We understand space in a haptic way – our judgement of depth, distance and time as we move from one place to another is drawn from surrounding materials and visual clues. Technology and advances in construction allow a strict control of interior environments so that they feel completely independent, detaching us from daily cycles, varying conditions, moments of intensity and calm in favour of a consistent neutrality. Traditionally, the building envelope mediates between fluctuating exterior conditions and a steady and protected interior. Recently, this mediation has become a separation between two distinct conditions. Inside/outside relationships are not so romantic that we should abandon current practices and return to vernacular building systems, instead this proposal experiments with contemporary materials and spatial configurations to re-establish connections between the body and the greater environment.

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a strategy of intensities Consider the Parkdale Library on Queen Street West, that sits in a dynamic mix of businesses, local shops families and individuals of all socio-economic groups. In contrast to this outside activity, the interior quiet of a library makes one aware of noise – the sound of steps on different surfaces, how a voice travels through the building. As a way to extend this already heightened awareness, this project proposes that the building itself could become more transparent to other elements: outside temperature, wind, dirt and dust, sound and seasons. Consider a reading space and an open area for community events where the building envelope is a series of permeable layers that create a thermal and experiential gradient condition. Aside from the extremes of winter and summer, the building is filled with breezes and the sounds of the city.

The façade as a series of layers that take the traditional separator and expand it to operate as a gradient. This gradient condition offers the possibility for an increased sensory engagement since the interior environment is transformed from a tightly controlled and protected space, to one that resembles the fluctuating condition of the exterior.

above: The wall assembly in late summer when it is covered with leaves and other debris.

a change of season The layers of the wall are a series of screens that successively filter debris and protect the interior. The filtering process shows on the outside of the building as debris collects on the screen and create temporary patterns that reflect subtle daily changes and more drastic seasonal changes.These mediating layers are located on the north and east façades. South and west are solid walls –radiant surfaces that condition the space in combination with a ventilation system not unlike how the body itself operates. Radiant transfer is shifted from the air to the interior surfaces. The layered screen walls contain nozzles that envelop the wall in a fine mist which freezes on the screens in the winter and works as an evaporative cooling system during the summer, much like perspiration on a human body. Each of the perfomative strategies deployed in the building are visually reinforced: fallen leaves in October collect on the building as they do on surfaces in the park; ice builds up on the walls the way it does on bare tree branches; the building sweats in a heat wave. Rather than thinking of buildings as defence against the environment, they can be participants in it, strengthening the relationship between our bodies and our environment. n

The outermost layers of the façade are a series of mesh screens that gradually filter out dirt, leaves and garbage and begin to mediate the thermal environment. These layers are rendered with ice or a fine mist depending on the season—a strategy that provides the small addition with a connection to the seasons and to the senses.  The project sees ‘dirt’ and weather as building materials versus something that needs to be edited out.

right: Wall section showing the outer layers of the façade. Expanded metal panels are mounted at varying angles to allow ice and debris to collect in an uneven fashion. Mic ha e l Bl o i s

below: Visitors enter and leave the library in between the screen and glazing layers.



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wo r k i n g e n v i ro n m e n t s m a n u fac t u r i n g by stephen riether

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doing it right, this time

On a jobsite five or six years ago I noticed some unusual aesthetics and Ikea-like modularity in the wall system being installed during an office renovation. The system was by a new company called DIRTT Environmental Solutions, created by Mogens Smed who had left the office wall systems industry after the original SMED company was sold. The interesting name and its mantra: doing it right this time, suggested that there was something that Mogens Smed wanted to improve upon from his previous venture. Most offices still seem to prefer drywall fixed walls. Often I show up to verify measurements, and am greeted by a war zone of smashed walls being broken down into pieces small enough to fit into garbage bins and then shipped one elevator ride at a time to a large dumpster, then driven to the landfill. Soon after a brand new drywall office system, very much like the previous floorplan layout, is installed. This is the status quo of corporate move-ins — erase everything and create a new identity with all the costs associated with that process, both financial and environmental. These are the acceptable overhead costs of doing business. I asked what it is that sets DIRTT apart from other wall systems players and how does one ‘do it right’. I’d heard that DIRTT’s research and development department was attempting to sequester CO2 in the very materials that they used, a bit of eco-alchemy, if you will. Mogens Smed said that it had proved undoable; a valiant and innovative goal but laws of entropy and science may be against such a concept. DIRTT’s focus instead should be sustainability and a general consciousness-raising of environmental stewardship.

o ffic e s y s te ms pro du c tio n e f fic ie n c ie s te c h n o lo gy s u s tain ability

Mogens Smed, Barrie Loberg (technology) and Geoff Gosling (product design and engineering) have created, in DIRTT, a company that changes the conventional way the office wall systems business is done through a combination of green environmental awareness with cutting edge technology to create a new kind of business model. DIRTT’s copyrighted software base, ICE, allows a designer to simultaneously draw walls, see a three-dimensional image of the finished product and a cost estimate. Production-ready, the file goes directly to the manufacturing process; soon after the product is ready for delivery. It is a design process that minimises both paper consumption and waste. ICE also manages the manufacturing process to minimise the waste of raw materials as well – the MDF, extruded aluminum and glass components. Human error is eliminated further reducing costly mistakes. Two large extraction machines on the exterior of the manufacturing plant eliminate dust and debris in the shop, promoting a healthy workplace. Paint coatings are water-based, reducing VOCs and eliminating off-gassing commonly associated with new offices. The conventional ‘new office smell’, much like the ‘new car smell’, is very unhealthy and is almost non-existent in DIRTT wall systems. The wall system consists of small panels that make up a whole, interchangeable and reusable, much like LEGO, using similar combinations of permutations and adaptations that give DIRTT wall systems considerable versatility. So far, several DIRTT clients have relocated offices and taken their walls with them. They dismantle the original configuration, redesign using the previous components with addition of some new and reassemble their offices in a new location with no messy or dirty demolition or bulk burdens for the landfills.

J a y d a K a r s te n

above, from left to right: the office environment of DIRTT, aluminum recycling bin, aluminum extrusions below: the DIRTT wind turbine


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1 Terms used by urban planner Andrés Duany to describe the four reasons why people join the green movement; ‘greenbacks’ meaning economic benefits, ‘cool green’ being the cool factor, ‘ethical green’ when one is morally compelled and ‘survivalist’, a reactive resilience to environmental change. June 17, 2011 public lecture, ‘Agricultural Retention’, Glenbow Museum, Calgary.


Smed claims that MDF panels can be reused forever (or at the very least recycled). When asked if strawboard composite (a more eco-friendly product) could be used, he said it lacked long-term structural integrity and was not cost effective. I suppose the merits of a re-usable, MDF panel with many lives, avoiding conventional one-time drywall use is a better solution, but I see no reason why strawboard suppliers can’t experiment more to develop a product as good as or better than MDF in durability and price. For industry and business to actively engage in sustainable practices, they must positively reflect on the bottom line – providing greenbacks in addition to being cool green.1 DIRTT is more profitable than Smed’s previous wall system business without sacrificing product quality or the environment. The number of employees compared to the size of the company is efficient, thereby reducing building footprint, associated operating costs and CO2 emissions. Some 150 employees work from their home offices further reducing the need for more in-house, on-site offices – being tethered to an expensive facility with too much space and energy consumption is the situation that survivalist green companies are locked into. On the roof of DIRTT is the largest solar array in Calgary plus a wind turbine; electricity offsets are directed to the office grid. The plant has a white roof, another green initiative as it reflects light and heat energy away from the building reducing the need for air conditioning. There appears to be a genuine company policy to ‘walk the walk’ and lead by example in its own everyday business affairs. This is not just greenwashing but greenworking. Will this leadership role have any impact on other competitors or on clients? Will an office in 2020 comprised of 2011 DIRTT walls still be viable for reuse and still compete aesthetically against future systems? Right now, it does look positive. n

Around 5,700 BC what is now known as Mount Mazama in Oregon erupted with monstrous force and blanketed the southern portion of Canada’s western provinces with a thin layer of white ash called tephra, today found 1-1.5m below grade. The line of ash has been discovered in both rural settings and urban locations in Calgary and provides a useful timeline marker to archaeologists who are encountering linked bones and stone weapon artifacts of the ancient mammals and early humans in the layers below this line I first encountered this volcanic ash line with archaeologist Don Hanna, who had a crew excavating ancient settlements on the city boundary of rural west Calgary. There, the ash line was clear and undisturbed. Then we went to an urban site at the southwest corner of 17 Avenue and 8 Street SW in Lower Mount Royal where the removal of a 1950s gas station and several stand alone 1920s two-storey buildings had revealed spaces between them that had never been disturbed – there was the same vivid ash line. Barely ahead of the excavation for a new single building f o u n dat i o n s | d e e p h i s to ry by gerald forseth

spanning these many small sites, archaeologists and crew were rushing to reveal and gather artifacts, to record and to analyse these unusual undisturbed fingers of land in the heart of the city. The ash line in this particular location was kitty-corner to a mastadon bone find of 1979/80 containing man-made stone weapons among the bones – a most important find about human occupation in southern Alberta. This discovery had occurred during the excavation for Mount Royal Village, a mixed-use shops and office complex, however this unusual animal/man site could not be accurately dated until the ash line was found 30 years later across the avenue. What’s left of the intact stratifications of subterranean land located in the central core of Calgary (found mostly in interstitial spaces between buildings that were built more than 4.5 m apart up to 1945) permits glimpses into the lives and culture of early nomadic humans as they appeared in the protected Bow Valley where clean water, shallow fords, large poplar trees, varieties of berries and grasses and large animal herds were readily available


arc h ae o lo gy s o il fo u n datio n s e x c avatio n u rban s c ale

ash line

ash line

G e ra l d F o r s e th

Original stratification intact: isolated structures, without foundation. Cave. 10,000 BC. Lean-to. 10,000 BC. Pit. 5,000 BC. Mound. 1,000 BC. Tepee. 1,000 BC. Sod. 1,000 BC.

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Isolated structures, with log and stone foundations. Shallow log. 1500 Log house on stones. 1600 Frame barn on stones. 1800 Spread apart urban structures, with stone and concrete foundations. Houses and bungalows. 1910

for food, clothing and shelter. That these major settlement and killing sites have been mostly obliterated is the result of the ongoing and blanket excavations that create the high-density urban core in the same location. Interstitial spaces between buildings are still found in central cores of some cities in western North America. Sometimes the spaces are useless and meaningless, sometimes they are profound.  They mainly signify complete ownership in an independent building unlinked to others, surely a remnant from the days of independent holdings of western homesteaders.  Many such useless interstitial spaces are 2.4m to 3m wide.  This narrow dimension negatively contributes to the architectural streetscape, to fire spread, to noise acceleration, to junk collection and to wasted space and density.  Better and more positive spaces are 4.5m wide or more, as often found pre-1945.  This width permits four-sided buildings to have larger windows for light and air on all sides, for people to have easy access to the back, and for good city building where people-scale is more important than unbroken and long megabuildings.  Also, some original stratified land has a chance to remain intact even after deep foundations have been dug.

Subterranean and interstitial spaces survived in their natural state until recent times. Now we get urban land amalgamation that demands entire-site excavation for larger and longer buildings with very deep foundations. This intact interstitial width and layer of earth offers aesthetic, horticultural and historical importance. It contains the original topsoil with its natural nutrients, bacteria and worms. Creative gardeners incorporate these into very personal and unusual aesthetic spaces. The original stratification helps to hold the aquifer level and permits a continuation of gardening at a local urban scale similar to former agricultural production. And of course within the urban stratification one can often find some of the visual story of humankind, the tools, the food storage methods, the personal bling, the family treasures, the objects of celebration and the interpretive links of these objects to changing concepts of religion, war, health and death. In short, lessons in humankind survival and culture themselves are showcased in a near-perfect linear progression found only on this side of the Atlantic. I like the romance that interstitial parts of our urban earth remain unexcavated perhaps to add poetic pleasure to my afternoon walk, to feel that part of my urban land includes original organic matter, and to believe that man and his machines do not always dominate and control all earth and nature in the city centre. n

opposite, left: Mount Mazama ashline on west boundary of rural Calgary. opposite, right: Preserved ashline exposed in 2009 when small buildings were destroyed at a downtown site in Calgary near Mount Royal Village and 17 Ave SW. left: The recent massive excavation at the 17 Ave SW site that destroyed all layers of the original soil in a location where early humans are known to have hunted mastadons at least five centuries before the volcanic eruption. G e rald Fo r se t h

Main street tent city. 1850 Main street frontier frame. 1890 Original stratification gone: Commercial street. Side by side structures, with stone and deep concrete foundations. Main street masonry mercantile. 1910



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g ro u n d | sampling b y l at e r a l o f f i c e


qu é be c s u rf ac e de pth ge o lo gy e ar th

The garden is typically presented as an epidermis of green—flowers, plants, and grasses—forming an ornamental surface. Yet a garden or landscape is much more than its surface. There is an unseen thickness, a complex stratification of dirt and soil, which sustains all garden surface activity. Dirt and soil are typically seen as catalysts for gardens or agriculture; yet in many ways, there is as much variety below the surface as there is above. The installation presents the medium soil less as an agent for gardening and more as the garden itself.

Soil Horizons Canada, and in particular Québec, is composed of a wide variety of soil types with diverse colours, textures, densities and chemical make-up, and hence, diverse soil horizons. A soil horizon is a layer within a soil profile differentiated by chemical and physical characteristics. The definitions of taxa in the Canadian system are based mainly on the kinds, degree of development, and the sequence of soil horizons and other layers in pedons. Therefore, the clear definition and designation of soil horizons and other layers are basic to soil classification. A soil horizon is a layer of mineral or organic soil material approximately parallel to the land surface that has characteristics altered by processes of soil formation. It differs from adjacent horizons in chemical, biological, or mineralogical composition. In this project, soil samples were collected as cubes of earth, revealing the wide diversity of soil sections across the Québec region.

Soil Collection Working with soil specialists from Québec City, collection points were identified. The Jardins de Métis then engaged in discussions with land owners for permission to extract the soil samples from their land. A one metre deep trench was dug around each side of a 60 x 90cm cube of soil. Each side was shored up with sheets of plexiglas to prevent the collapse of the soil and to maintain the composition and horizons of the soil. The plexiglas box was then carefully lifted by hoist out of the ground. The soil samples were placed in a customised shipping crate, marked and transported to the Métis Festival site, making the extraction process part of the garden itself. The crates were opened upon arrival at the garden and revealed each sample section of soil, becoming part of the narrative of how the garden was collected and assembled. The unfolded crate walls displayed information about the soils including their location, type and characteristics. n

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lat e ral o f fi c e

Project Intentions The intention of the project is to expose the foundations or underpinnings of a landscape, like the foundations of a building in an archeological dig, as natural information and as land art. The garden is both museological and interactive, as visitors were able to see, touch and smell the various soil sections or horizons. Soil Horizon is part inventory, part scientific curatorship, part map and part interactive land art.



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lat e ral o f f ic e

in memorium | i n n at e n e t wo r k s b y l i a m dav i d r e n s h aw b row n

AS H ES the urban dispersal of earthly remains

‘We find that the much-abused and all pervading dust, which, when too freely produced, deteriorates our climate and brings us dirt, discomfort and even disease, is, nevertheless, under natural conditions, an essential portion of the economy of nature.’1

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Dirt and its minute constituent, dust, are amongst the most common artifacts of the city. Despite their negative connotations they are generator and proof of life respectively. By association, dirt is also indicative of waste and decay. It is the remnant of abject matter; something altogether cast-off. In these definitions, dirt embodies elements of both life and death. The ashes of human remains are that dirt or dust made sacred. The reduction of the familiar body to a waste material creates a paradox of the dual meanings of dirt. Ashes are to be dispersed, but their sacred nature creates a desire to keep them close. The creation of ashes in North America follows a consistent process. The deceased is typically memorialised at a memorial chapel or funeral home, cremated and returned to the bereaved. The ashes are then dispersed, entombed or interred, the latter options occurring at a cemetery. North American cemeteries were traditionally located on the periphery of cities. During the twentieth-century urban sprawl has approached or consumed these rural places of reflection. The result is a patchwork of park-like conditions that range in their accessibility. Some cemeteries are used for leisure in addition to memorial, but many are forgotten, gated or unapproachable. In conjunction, the institutionalisation of the health and death-care industries has created an obscuring of the presence of death in the North American city. Death and its processes are altogether marginalised. This heightens fear of death and weakens the ability to resolve grief and loss, especially in the portion of the population that is without religious affiliation.

as h e s r itu al me mo r y ac c re tio n par ks

Religion is a vessel for rationalising the existential burden of humans. As societies grow increasingly secular, the rituals of death and dying become increasingly important to investigate: ‘[The dead] came to be placed outside daily life, in the modern cemetery, much like the mad came to be placed in the modern asylum.’2 Funerary architecture has the capacity to strengthen the dialogue of mortality within the city. Currently a private and insular space of the uncanny domestic, it has the potential to reconnect the presence of death within the network of the living. This project, set hypothetically in Toronto, explores the intersections of mortality, community and mythology. ‘We do not sufficiently celebrate water and the land through which it flows. To celebrate watersheds means to celebrate life.’ 3 In Toronto, a mythology has developed around the uncovering and celebration of buried rivers such as Garrison and Taddle Creek, the Riverdale Streams and the buried Lakeshore. Groups of people walk and trace the surface routes of these rivers, others illegally explore subterranean storm water and sewer systems that buried and enclosed these natural water courses in the late 1800s. ‘There is the mythology that relates you to your nature and to the natural world, of which you’re a part. And there is the mythology that is strictly sociological, linking you to a particular society.’4 Water is a connective body, associative for all people in a city, both literally and figuratively. It is simultaneously a symbol of life and death; often referenced as a threshold or bridge between the realms of the living and the dead. The often seen, nostalgic appropriation of Toronto’s rivers in the form of bronzed placards and memory walks is rejected by architects James Brown and Kim Storey – such nostalgia does nothing to reconnect citizens to

Liam Br own


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1 Wallace, Alfred Russel, ‘The Importance of Dust: A Source of Beauty and Essential to Life’ (1898) Alfred Russel Wallace Classic Writings. Paper 7. 2010 2 Roth, Michael S. ‘Graves of the Insane, Decorated’, Library of Dust, ed. David Maisel. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008 3 Sousa, Eduardo. ‘The Water Commons: Moving from Watershed Management to Watershed Consciousness in Toronto’. Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio & Jonny Dovercourt. GreenTOpia – Towards a Sustainable Toronto. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2007 p119 4 Joseph Campbell, Bill D Moyers, Betty S Flowers. The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor Books, 1991 p28 5 Wickens, Stephen. ‘What Bubbles Beneath our Streets’ Globe and Mail. 29 Oct. 2005: M5 6 The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services states that ‘any individuals or families who wish to scatter the cremated human remains of their loved ones on Crown land and Crown land covered by water in Ontario can do so. Individuals and families are permitted to scatter on unoccupied Crown land, and those Crown lands covered by water. There is no need to obtain government consent to scatter on or in such areas, which include provincial parks and conservation reserves, and the Great Lakes. Individuals wishing to scatter on private land, or private land covered by water, should obtain the owner’s consent.’ ‘Scattering Cremated Human Remains in Ontario’: Funerals_Scattering_Remains.aspx 7 Clifton D. Bryant, editor of The Handbook of Death and Dying quotes Lloyd Warner: ‘The maintenance of the identity of the dead is necessary for the living to maintain their identity’. Warner, W. Lloyd. The Living and the Dead. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959 8 Steven Connor ‘Pulverulance’ Cabinet, Dust Issue 35. 2009


natural watersheds. Their to date unrealised proposals focus on the literal unearthing of buried rivers, returning the city’s parks and ravines to a native form of water management. 5 Combining the richness of Toronto’s buried river mythology with the dispersal of ashes is an opportunity to create meaningful, accessible spaces of memorial within the city that de-marginalise the presence of death. In this proposal, in parks where rivers once ran, ash dispersal areas centre on cedar installations that echo the original courses of the streams, embedding the memory of the individual within the collective memory of the city. The cedar weathers and as consecutive pieces are added the path of the river is re-established along a variegated mnemonic structure. Each consecultive piece of cedar can carry the name of a person whose ashes are nearby. This ash-dispersal network could integrate into the existing network of funeral homes and cemeteries and be stewarded by either a municipal memorial society or the already community-active, compassionate group of local funeral directors.6 These sites navigate the private and the public, negotiate the slippage between sacred and profane and engage a meaningful relationship between life and death. 7 In ashes, we observe the elevation of a material that despite its sacred content is still considered dust. It is, Connor states, ‘both a terminal and a mediate matter, inert, but sometimes, for that very reason, omnivalent’.8 n


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Ja ni ne Ol o ma n

A spontaneously occurring pendulous Black Locust found among the trees planted as part of Sudbury’s landscape rehabilitation project in the 1980s. It grows just a few metres from the rocky outcrop on the CPR line where ore was discovered in August, 1883. The nickel-bearing pentlandite ore (which contains iron along with nickel and copper, and so oxidises red) shows early sampling drillholes. Many trees in this area exhibit a die-back phenomenon generally described as ‘failure to thrive,’ the cause of which is not yet perfectly known.

Sudbury is the site of some of the most extensive and complete destruction of the natural landscape in the modern era. Beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, almost 40,000 hectares of previously clearcut land was degraded by forest fires and erosion, and then devastated over decades by sulfur fumes from the open-bed roasting of pentlandite nickel ore. A significant part of this area in the immediate vicinity of the Copper Cliff, Falconbridge and Coniston smelters was so utterly destroyed by acidification that biological activity entirely ceased. Stumps of trees remained intact for want of agents of decay and eventually even they were harvested to feed open-bed ore roasting. This industrial assault permanently stained thousands of hectares of Sudbury’s blue-grey granite a black colour that gives the landscape an uncanny air of permanent mourning. This project, The Weeping Garden, reflects on this history and the practices that have indelibly marked the Sudbury landscape.

memorials | e n v i ro n m e n ta l m o u r n i n g b y k e n n e t h h ay e s

t rees t oxi c i t y mo ur ni ng si l enc e dest r uc t i on

TH E WE E P I N G GARDEN a horticultural proposal for Sudbury Why do architects like sad plants? — Matthew Schulze, Sudbury 2010

Pendulous or weeping forms of trees viable in Greater Sudbury (Zone 4)


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Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ (Birch) Caragana arborescens ‘Walker’ (Caragana) Robina pseudoacacia ‘Pendula’ (Black Locust) Salix babylonica (Willow) Salix caprea ‘Pendula’ (Pussy Willow) Juiperus communis ‘Oblonga Pendula’ (Common Juniper) Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ (White Pine) Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ (White Spruce) Tsuga canadensis ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ (Canadian Hemlock) Umbrus glabra ‘Camperdownii’ (Scotch Elm) Morus alba ‘Pendula’ (White Mulberry) Carpinus Betula ‘Vienna Weeping’ (European Hornbeam) Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Amazing Grace’ (Katsura) Prunus x ‘Snow Fountain’ (Cherry) Cercis canadensis ‘Lilac Twist’ (Redbud) Cornus florida ‘Pendula’ (Flowering Dogwood) Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ (European Beech) Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ (Beech) Gleditsia triancanthos ‘Emerald Cascade’ (Honeylocust) Hamamelis vernalis ‘Lombart’s Weeping’ (Witchhazel) Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ (Larch) Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Pendula’ (Chinese Scholar Tree) Syringa pubescens var. julianaea (Her’s Lilac) Ginko biloba ‘Ross Moore’ (Maidenhair Tree) Tilia cordata ‘Pendula Nana’ (Littleleaf Linden) Thuja occidentalis ‘Pendula’ (American Arborvite) Celtis sinensis ‘Green Cascade’ (Hackberry) Taxodium distichum ‘Cascade Falls’ (Baldcypress)


The many successful efforts to ameliorate the landscape in Sudbury, undertaken since the early seventies, hold in common the assumption that the landscape can and should be restored toward something like a native or pristine condition. While the restoration efforts are necessary and commendable, they are also somewhat limited by their technical, scientific approach. This proposition responds to the historical situation somewhat differently. It proposes to establish an area roughly the size and shape of an open roasting bed and there to plant as complete an assortment as possible of locally viable trees in their pendulous, ‘weeping’ variants. A brief initial survey suggests that thirty or more pendulous variants of common trees can be cultivated in Sudbury, depending on exposure, soil depth and other aspects of the micro-situation. Further research will undoubtedly discover more of these selections. The Weeping Garden responds to the destruction of the natural environment in a new, symbolic, allegorical way. While it certainly will create a pocket of real biodiversity, it is one that is neither local nor viable in that pendulous plants rarely reproduce true to their parent forms, if at all. The proposal stresses the need for stewardship of the earth through assembling plants that have in common a genetic difference that renders them different, and to some degree, more vulnerable. The Weeping Garden revisits the sentimental or evocative landscape and cultivates plants that are associated by their form with sadness, depression and melancholy. Weeping plants were immensely popular in the late Victorian era due, in part, to the discovery of the famous Camperdown Elm. This historical moment was the same one in which the initial assault was made on Sudbury’s old growth forests by logging operations. The garden will provide an opportunity to reflect on the fact that the most refined sensitivity to nature was historically consistent with its utterly brutal treatment.

Formally and thematically, the proposition to assemble a large collection of weeping trees inverts the normal place of weeping plants as visual ‘accents’ or picturesque contrast points in a garden. Instead of being isolated, they will form a community that shares a unique, somewhat debilitating, trait. A kind of gardenesque ‘visible minority,’ these rare plants will be, for once, in the majority. In almost all cases, such plants are propagated as cuttings on conventional rootstocks. This increases hardiness and guarantees identical results. In fact, the plants are all one genetically identical clone, one individual plant divided into many parts. Thus they will have counterparts, brethren all over North America, indeed throughout the world wherever these selections are cultivated. The Weeping Garden will have a strange, oppressed air, as if it carries an immense burden, which it does – symbolically. Like a memento mori or Via Dolorosa, the weeping garden seeks to enact a form of penance or atonement. By deliberately enlarging and endorsing the pathetic fallacy – that stubborn idea that nature is in sympathy with our ideas and emotions – it subjects this fanciful and vain idea to investigation and critique. The garden is intended to be melancholy, that is to say, visitors to the garden will be invited to discharge their emotions about Sudbury and the destruction of our environment more generally. As a space and institution, it thus appeals to the most primordial function of art, which is to offer catharsis. The garden is a living memorial to the damage done here; it may celebrate in a minor way the hardiness and resilience of the natural world, but primarily it will reminds us of our reliance on the earth, of its fragility and by implication our own mortality. Many of the plants will require special care to nurture and preserve, as they are both rare and vulnerable, and most will be living at the extreme edge of their climatic range. By taking on an exaggerated and hypertrophied aspect of mourning, the garden will be a vessel for the care and emotional work required to progress in our relations to the land. It implies that the recuperation of the land is as much an aesthetic, geomantic operation as a scientific one. n

settlement | industrial geology b y k e n n e t h h ay e s


n ic ke l de s tr u c tio n c atas tro ph e re ge n e r atio n fo re s ts

Sudbury: a cosmic accident

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D e p ar t m e n t o f Min e s an d N o r t h e r n Af fair s: R G 1 3 - 3 0 - 1 - 5 , Ar c h iv e s o f O n t ar i o

Second level of the Creighton Mine, Sudbury Ontario, ca 1905


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The time frame of this event is so immense as to be incomprehensible. When it occurred, the single earthly continent had not yet divided; the planet did not have an atmosphere as such; plants did not yet exist; Minnesota was not Minnesota. The infinitesimal movement of tectonic plates over eons squished the original circle into an ellipse, and erosion reduced the crater to a shallow basin 60 kilometres long and 27 kilometres wide. The last glaciers scoured the crater and then filled it with a shallow lake that eventually disappeared. The clayish area inside the basin, known locally as The Valley, is now mostly farmland, and around the irruptive, which is sometimes called The Rim, the mines are strung in a loop. The valley renders plainly visible the disturbance that lies far below the ground, and, as a small patch of agricultural land within the stony uniformity of the Canadian Shield, it has the almost mythic quality of those lost valleys in science-fiction tales where time stands still and a fragment of a prior world is preserved. To crest the rim of the irruptive and descend to the flat plain of the valley can produce a strange thrill, as if one were riding the infinitely slow roller coaster of prehistory. The catastrophic destruction of the natural environment is the other inescapable fact of this place, and it is the part for which we are responsible. Until the beginning of a remarkably successful program of landscape remediation in the early 1970s, the city of Sudbury was surrounded by a zone at least twenty kilometres in diameter that was denuded of vegetation, badly eroded and stained black by the sulphuric acid released by the smelting of nickel ore.4 Biological processes broke down so completely that there were no insects or fungi to help rot the few remaining tree stumps. At the centre of this forbidding zone, there was, and still is, an extensive and growing heap of slag and large ponds of fine tailings. This eerie landscape had the aspect of a biblical tel olam– a desert or damned place. In the early seventies, the trip into the city entailed passing through a weird landscape of black rock interspersed with alluvial plains of tailings stained bright red with nickel waste and traversed by brilliant cupric-blue streams lined with banks of yellow sulphur crystals. It was like commuting on some other planet. Much of the environmental damage was done by open-bed roasting, a practice that seems almost unbelievable now that it is obsolete.5 The pentlandite or iron-nickel sulphide ores found in Sudbury contain as much as 25 percent sulphur, and this level must be reduced as the first step in smelting. From the beginning of smelting in 1888 until new practices were adopted in 1929, at least eleven roast yards with a total of up to sixty-five beds were used in the initial processing of the ore. The primitive procedure consisted essentially of building a wood pyre the size of a city block and up to a couple of metres tall. Pulverised ore was piled on top and the whole mass ignited. The roasting lasted from thirty-five to forty days for an 800-1,000-ton heap, and could run well beyond a hundred days for a heap of 2,500 tons. The wood was simply tinder to ignite the ore itself. The success of the procedure relied on the fact that the ore found in Sudbury is chemically ‘hot’ and can ignite at a relatively low temperature. This process, however, had the effect of releasing sulphur dioxide directly into the air, where it combined with atmospheric water to make sulphuric acid. The four decades from 1890 to 1930 saw an estimated 11.2 million tons of sulphur released into the immediate environment at ground level. Although the enclosed smelting process that was later implemented was less dramatic, it released even more sulphur into the air until the fumes began to be regulated in the early 1960s.


Sudbury is not ugly, as the old ‘moonscape’ slur has it, nor is it beautiful, as its boosters claim, pointing to the city’s many lakes. At once awesome and terrible, harsh and majestic, Sudbury lies beyond the register of ugly and beautiful. The place can only be described as sublime, for Sudbury is a phenomenon as much as it is a city. This is revealed by the fundamental confusion about its name, which never makes clear what is nominated: the city itself, the larger region, the Sudbury Basin on which the city is perched, the fact of the mines, or even the reputation of the place. Without proper limits, one signifier encompasses all of these identities. Sudbury is, in the final analysis, the slow unfolding of a cosmic accident. The nickel ore that fuelled the city’s development was deposited in a vast cataclysm, the impact of a meteorite that would have destroyed all life on earth – had there been any. But this occurred so long ago that life did not yet exist on earth.1 The shock was so great that seismologists can still detect its faint reverberation – planet Earth literally quivers with the pangs of Sudbury’s birth. The impact also resonates metaphorically in uncanny returns that recall the traumatic genesis of the place. The most obvious example is the way the mining of Sudbury’s extraterrestrial gift denuded a vast area of land. The ring of blasted and blackened rock seems to reiterate the original collision’s destructive effects. Likewise, the open-pit mines, once used where the ore breached the surface but now long obsolete, seem to parody the original crater. And for decades, people stopped their cars along the highway for the nightly spectacle of molten slag pouring down a growing heap, as if watching a son et lumière show explaining how we got here. The city and its fortunes, fair and foul, can be properly understood only by the measure of the awesome, the terrible and the undeniably grand. Sudbury, however, did not achieve greatness; it had greatness thrust upon it immemorially, and now struggles with the fear of it. When the city formally changed its name in 2001 to the awkward (and widely unpopular) City of Greater Sudbury/La Ville du Grand Sudbury, it was to officially acknowledge the amalgamation of the regional municipality, but symbolically, it declares something known to all who live here and immediately apparent to those who visit: Sudbury is no ordinary town. An account of Sudbury is almost obliged to begin with its ancient origins, and some remarkable facts and figures. Geologists now generally agree that the Sudbury Basin was formed 1.85 billion years ago by the impact of a meteorite ten to sixteen kilometres in diameter. The original crater was circular and about 240 kilometres wide. Material ejected by the collision spread in what must have been a global firestorm; in 2007, a large patch of Sudbury detritus 7.6 metres thick was discovered in Minnesota, at a distance of some 1,100 kilometres.2,3 The force of the collision is incalculable. It left circular fractures called shatter cones that can still be seen in the rock and caused changes even at the molecular level, forming microdiamonds and trapping rare elements in the rock. The Precambrian Shield was punctured so deeply– to a depth of at least fifteen kilometres –that no one yet knows whether the nickel found in Sudbury was present in the meteorite or whether it was splashed up from the molten bowels of the earth. In either case, the impact formed bodies of ore in a ring that resembles the milk-drop coronet photographed by Harold Edgerton, but at a vast scale and embedded in solid rock. This geological structure is called the Nickel Irruptive, and is the world’s largest deposit of nickel sulphide ore.

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Exactly how much heavy-metal particulate was released is still debated, and it could yet prove to be a significant long-term health threat. The Superstack, completed in 1972, was the last major effort to ameliorate emissions by the traditional expedient of dispersing them. Today, almost all of the sulphur removed from the ore is sequestered, rendered into a solid form and used to backfill the underground excavations. Huge areas of the damaged landscape have been dramatically restored through the relatively simple method of spreading limestone on the soil to neutralise the acid and planting wild grasses and trees. Sudburians are justifiably proud of their efforts to reverse the environmental damage, but the city remains the site of one of the most extensive and extreme episodes of environmental pollution in the modern era.6 This legacy is literally etched into the rock in Sudbury, which is not naturally black but, rather, mostly a pale blue-grey colour. Mining could be said in general to encourage the tendency to view all of nature as a standing reserve, and despite the Herculean effort required to extract minerals, they trigger the fantasy of unearned wealth. This greed has a brutalising effect on society, and generates a culture quite distinct from the dignity of (traditional) agriculture or the inherent civility of manufacturing. For much of its past, and particularly in the 1970s, Sudbury was dominated by a haywire sensibility that comprised audacious improvisation, utter disregard for appearances, sheer expedience and untrammelled force.7 Profoundly anti-urban, this callous attitude was a unique local development of the pioneer/survivalist impulse that runs throughout the North, and it both fed off of and perpetuated a debilitating sense of impermanence. Work in the mines was hard but lucrative, and Sudbury was regarded by strong and uneducated young men as a place to make a quick start in life. It was understood to be a way station, not a terminus, sometimes even by those who spent their whole lives here. Until the 1960s, pack-sack miners, so named for their mobility and minimal possessions, still lived in bunkhouses and ate at Crawley McCracken’s industrial canteen. New immigrants, if they were big men and worked hard, could labour without speaking English. The material rewards of mining made Sudbury’s working class the most affluent in Canada, but the life also required a good measure of fatalism, given the staggering rate of industrial accidents. The story of the discovery of nickel in Sudbury need not be recounted here, but it is worth noting that the city actually originated not as a mine site but as the junction point of two railroads, and it began as a logging camp. The early extraction of nickel in Sudbury occurred alongside developments in metallurgy that rendered nickel useful and valuable. When German miners in the early eighteenth century found copper ore mixed with an unknown whitish metal, they called it kupfernickel, or Old Nick’s copper, because it was devilishly difficult to smelt. Nickel was identified as an element in 1751 by the Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, but the metal’s capacity to render steel resistant to corrosion was only developed late in the nineteenth century and not perfected until World War I. Along with chrome, the addition of nickel transforms steel from a material that practically bleeds with oxidisation into stainless steel, a cool, impervious substance that is emblematic of the modern era. Stainless steel is steel’s alter ego: tough, aloof, glamorous and faintly menacing. Because stainless steel is not a coating, it is not perceived as superficial, and thus stands as the antithesis of chrome plating.8 In this improved amalgam, steel takes a high polish and has a glint that suggests an almost theoretical material, one comparable only to gold in its resistance to tarnishing but infinitely more useful. Stainless steel responds to

the human interest in eternity and immutability, and it advances the aim of resisting environmental conditions and the inevitability of entropy. Hard, masculine and futuristic, almost fascistic in its appeal, it is the stuff of machines and weapons and robots. It is the Clint Eastwood of materials, unfuckwithable. Sudburians might object to this admittedly extreme description of nickel’s aura, but they naturally have some awareness of nickel’s strategic role in the modern world. Most know that nickel is used to harden steel for armour and munitions, not least because Sudbury has tended to flourish conspicuously in times of war. This prosperity is not without its psychic consequences. In the paranoid context of the Cold War, Sudbury was commonly assumed to be a priority target for Soviet nuclear weapons, an assumption that was widely reinforced by the discovery of significant uranium deposits in nearby Elliot Lake. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had an uneasy resonance in Sudbury, where the landscape already appeared to have suffered a mega-catastrophe. When the North American populace began to express its postwar anxieties, in popular culture and films, about nuclear annihilation, the nuclear threat fused with the idea of Earth’s collision with an asteroid and Sudbury somehow condensed all of these dystopian imaginings into one barren and inhospitable place. 9 n

1 This proposition was first advanced by Robert S Dietz, in ‘Sudbury Structure as an Astrobleme’, The Journal of Geology 72 (1964): 412–34 2 This structure is called the Rove Formation. There is another major patch of Sudbury detritus in upstate Michigan. 3 Wooil M Moon and L X Jiao, ‘Sudbury Meteorite-Impact Structure Modeling with LITHOPROBE High-Resolution Seismic Refraction Results’, Geosciences Journal 2, No. 1 (1998): 26–36 4 Estimates of this area vary, and it is by no means exactly circular. Keith Winterhalder gives the figure of 10,000 hectares of barren land and 36,000 more of stunted woodland in ‘Environmental Degradation and Rehabilitation of the Landscape around Sudbury, a Major Mining and Smelting Area’, Environmental Review 4 (1996): 185–224 5 See the chapter, ‘Metallurgical Practices in Sudbury before 1930’, in the Ontario Ministry of the Environment article at sudbury/early_roasting/index.htm 6 For a community-based account of this history, see Healing the Landscape: Celebrating Sudbury’s Reclamation Story. Sudbury: City of Sudbury, 2001 7 This culture is described at greater length and in other terms by Charles Angus in the book of Louie Palu’s photographs, Cage Call. Portland Oregon: Photolucida, 2007 8 It should be noted, however, that chromium is also an important element in making stainless steel. It is the conception of the material, not its precise metallurgical properties, that is being discussed here. 9 One of the best accounts of this history is by Frances Ferguson, ‘The Nuclear Sublime’, Diacritics 14, No. 2 (Summer 1984): 4–10

M Alex an dr e sc u

architecture | temporality by m alexandrescu

E ARTH + SKY digging


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It wasn’t the worms I encountered, but rather the sky, for only when we are in the ground can we see the sky best; in an airplane can we see the ground best. And the strongest link between earth and sky is the body. The relationship between the earth and the sky, with humans as the link between, is an old idea – architects have even been given a special role in it: ‘[architecture is] putting cosmic order on earth’ – Superstudio.


‘I’m sick of your landscapes! Tell me about the worms’ F. quoted Beckett to me last summer. She spoke of the worms, the decaying, the ugly while I spoke of the sky, the clouds, the landscape. We thought it would be a good idea to spend a day and a night in the forest, me in a hole ‘with the worms’ and she in a tree, in the sky. Later, on the other side of the earth, I remembered our proposal and dug a hole in a forest and sat in it for a while.

dare s fe ar c o s mo s gro u n d bo dy

1243 Hamilton Street, 1904 1251 Hamilton Street, 1904 These houses form a pair of similarly designed homes built at the same time by one owner. Not currently listed on the VHR, they are threatened by demolition if no suitable retention strategy is found on alternate sites.

cities | va n c o u v e r b c b y ta n ya s o u t h c ot t

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On the north shore of False Creek in Vancouver’s downtown, the historic area of Yaletown is most commonly known for its streetscapes of former industrial warehouse buildings dating back to the turn of the century, mixed with modern glass high-rise residential development towers. When the Canadian Pacific Railway extended its line, moving its western terminus from Yale – the centre of the Fraser Canyon Gold rush in the late 1800s – to what is now Vancouver, many of Yale’s residential and rail worker population followed, settling around the new rail yard and repair facilities. This modest housing stock, made up of typically Edwardian two and a half storey wood-frame single-family houses, was both economical and convenient because of its proximity to nearby expanding heavy-industrial land. The area thrived in the following decades as warehouses, truck and transfer firms and small manufacturers moved in close to the rail line and shipping docks, but it was short lived. By mid-twentieth century industry had shifted towards major highway and truck-trailer transport routes and low-rent suburban land, and again the residential population followed. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Yaletown was the site of a significant urban regeneration project. Industrial land on the north side of False Creek was rezoned to permit comprehensive redevelopment into residential neighbourhoods. Modern highrise residential towers replaced old derelict industrial yardscum-parking lots seemingly overnight. Although several former industrial and warehouse buildings survived the transition by being converted to loft-style apartments and offices and absorbed into larger developments, little of the housing stock remains. Those that are left find value in their longevity as rare survivors of early twentieth century residential development. In a neighbourhood of commercial structures and high-rise residential development, at odds with both time and space, they struggle to find a place of permanence in a continually evolving urban landscape.

the fate of single-family homes in Vancouver’s Yaletown community

de ve lo pme n t hi st o r ic dis tr ic ts re moval de mo litio n c h ar ac te r

1991 City Council amended Downtown Vancouver’s Official Development Plan for the area of Downtown South, a 51ha area to the west of Yaletown that includes the remaining single-family homes. The plan endorses the development of new housing capacity for Vancouver in the form of a new high density, liveable, safe and environmentally conscious community. The Plan allows an overall general zoning provision for 5 FSR and a maximum tower height of 300ft. 1996 The City of Vancouver developed a new Historic Area District Schedule for Yaletown to define policy that protects the heritage character of the area by encouraging conversion and renovation of existing warehouse buildings and the construction of compatible new buildings. According to this Schedule, special character is defined by the collection of buildings constructed of heavy timber, brick and concrete. No reference is made to the remaining single-family homes. 2007 City Heritage staff reviewed 16 properties as part of a Council approved study to identify and assess the value of the remaining pre-war houses in the Downtown South area, including possible retention strategies. Since this time, eleven of these have been added to the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR), ten of which have received designation. n

815 Drake Street, 1906 Not listed on the VHR, this house is still considered a rare survivor of typical early 20th century single-family residential development in Vancouver’s Downtown South neighbourhood.

863 Hamilton Street, 1893-5 847 Hamilton Street, 1893-5 837 Hamilton Street, 1893-5 Valued for their contribution to a cohesive streetscape, these three houses and 827 Hamilton Street were moved further back from Hamilton Street during the consolidation and redevelopment of the site in 1990. Like others in the area, they have been adapted to evolving commercial needs and converted to offices.

1062 Richards Street, 1908 1080 Richards Street, 1907 Rehabilitation, protection and on-going maintenance of these two houses has been secured through a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the City of Vancouver. As part of the Agreement, they have been relocated to the corner of Richards and Helmcken Streets to allow for development on the north portion of the block.



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439 Helmcken Street, 1907 435 Helmcken Street, 1907 431 Helmcken Sstreet, 1907 These houses are valued for their contribution to a cohesive streetscape, and are the only remaining grouping of houses that demonstrate development on the end of a city block. No longer residential use, they have been adapted to evolving commercial needs and converted to offices.

1380 Hornby Street, 1888 One of the earliest surviving single-family houses in the area, this house is an A-listing on the VHR and designated to allow for its long-term protection in-situ. The structure, exterior envelope and interior lounge area are all included under the designation.

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references: Berlowitz, Lance. Dream City – Vancouver and the Global Imagination. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd, 2005 Hayes, Derek. Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005 BC Register of Historic Places City of Vancouver Land Use and Development Policies and Guidelines, Downtown South Goals and Policies, Adopted by Council May 16, 1991 and November 4, 1993 City of Vancouver HA-3 District Schedule (Yaletown Historic Area) City of Vancouver Heritage Commission Meeting Agenda and Minutes for November 19, 2007, July 28, 2008, and July 11, 2011

819 Pacific Street, 1902 In 1925, this house was moved from its original location on the same property to its current location on top of a one-storey commercial podium. Today it is valued for its adaptability in response to the evolving commercial needs of the property and its sheer endurance in form and character despite being relocated and raised.

density without urbanism Built at a scale that matches the adjacent infrastructure of industry and highway, peripheral residential development in the urban region of Halifax has not developed as an edge city, but instead, like many cities in the country, is a manufactured urban void ‘zones waiting for morphological definition’.1 Despite obvious urban qualities – density and diversity – these collective housing projects appear suburban, even anti-urban, in form. The result of these collective housing projects is an exception to the city, where density is without urbanism and housing is matter out of place.2

cities | h a l i fa x , n ova s c ot i a b y m at t n e v i l l e

building banal In many ways, Highfield Park-Pinecrest and Clayton Park West couldn’t be further apart. Highfield Park-Pinecrest – thousands of rental dwellings built over a short period in the late 1970s/early 1980s – is perceived as socially broken, with the percentage of lone-parent families more than double the regional average and plagued by high rates of violent crime and unemployment among young men. Clayton Park West, built in the late 1990s/early 2000s, is popular with well-educated young professionals looking for a new rental unit with free parking and generous proportions at an affordable price that is not in Highfield Park.

D I RTY RE A L [ URBA N ] ISM collective housing morphology on the edge

de n s ity te x tu re c las s h o u s in g le gibility



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On Site review 26



Beyond hard social truths and common perceptions, Highfield Park-Pinecrest and Clayton Park West share a number of social and spatial qualities. Both transformed empty fields, wetlands and forest to under-serviced, high-density housing clusters in less than a decade; more than 75% of private units are found in apartment buildings, and approximately 85% of residents in Highfield ParkPinecrest and 75% in Clayton Park West rent their dwelling. Situated between detached, single-family housing communities, major highway interchanges and industrial parks, both are comprised of mostly four-storey horizontal walk-up apartment blocks with generous setbacks, surrounded by fields of asphalt. Often clustered in groups of two or three, buildings show little relationship to the street (in both cases a highway connector) or to one another. Cul-de-sacs and courtyard entrances significantly increase distances between building entrances, sidewalks and bus stops. Residential parcel size is scaled up from 2000 square foot townhouse plots to the outer edges where 90,000 square feet (more than two acres) is the norm. For non-residents, all roads seem to lead nowhere. The 1964 City of Dartmouth Urban Renewal Study praised the new development of multi-unit housing on ‘the recent finished loop streets such as Cedar Court and Pinecrest Drive’, precursors to Highfield Park, and encouraged the development of the adjacent lands using more ‘cul-de-sacs or loop streets, running

off the main grid’. 3 And this is exactly what occurred in Highfield Park-Pinecrest, re-occurred 20 years later in Clayton Park West, and is a trend still evident today. house - home - habitat Stripped down to all but the most fundamental features, this condition represents the ‘dirty real’ in urbanism – the seemingly unpreventable degradation of the urban fringe into nothing more than asphalt fields and uninspiring structures. These banal places are often ignored, yet they represent what to many people is a familiar urban context. For Liane Lefaivre, an architect and scholar credited with first translating the concept for use in architecture and urbanism discourse, dirty realism is precisely what we see and experience along such industrial-urban edges, where big infrastructure dominates the landscape and where ‘reality is sensed as harsher’. 4 As the antithesis of everyday or new urbanism, dirty realism is evident in the fact that many of us actually inhabit such hostile environments. These housing clusters suggest temporality – a place to meet an immediate demand for housing, but not having what is needed to build desirable neighbourhoods. This separation of house, home and habitat, rarely as sharp as it is at these edges, is reflected in a quality of place that has more in common with the temporary camp than of the neighbourhood that one would call home.

focus of any serious discussion where form – as both partial cause and solution to ongoing housing and habitat-related problems – is considered. The dirty real exhibits a particular morphological language that is recognisable within its respective urban context, suggesting that what is too often seen as inevitable is, instead, a conscious and hostile act of (dis)urbanism. n 1 Secchi, Bernardo. Unprogetto per l’urbanistica. Torino: Einaudi. 1989. p96-7 2 “Density without urbanism” is a phase commonly used by New Urbanist evangelist Andrés Duany to criticise recent city-building trends, specifically those guided by principles from the emerging (sub)field of landscape urbanism. ‘Matter out of place’ is anthropologist Mary Douglas’s definition of dirt’ as expressed in her 1966 Purity and Danger - an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. Both Duany and Douglas assume the existence of an established order that, when removed, significantly alters user experience (in the case of the city) or perception (in the case of dirt) regardless of the fact that the basic elements are unchanged. 3 Pearson, Norman. City of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, urban renewal study. Dartmouth: 1964. p 96 4 Lefaivre, Liane. ‘Dirty Realism in European Architecture Today: Making the Stone Stony’ Design Book Review 17: 17-20 1989. 5 Koolhaas, Rem. Interview. Cities of Opportunity. New York: Pricewaterhouse Coopers. 2011. p 22

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see also: Bird, Geoff, Lily Sangter and Brittney Teasdale. ‘Manufactured Slum’. The Coast Weekly. April 14, 2011



urbanism as housing, housing as urbanism It is difficult to imagine a future for a place with so many people but with so little history. And although the homogeneity of big box style peripheral housing development has generally failed to create anything beyond the dwelling unit itself, can this housing ever be considered obsolete – an urban void ripe for reurbanisation or renewal – as long as someone is living there? While Secchi’s definition of urban void referred to large-scale, industrial space that had become obsolete (slaughterhouses, steel mills), future urban voids may be these ubiquitous multi-unit apartment complexes that proliferate at the urban-industrial edge – urbanism in waiting. If peripheral collective housing is ever to be anything more than dirty real, urbanism must be more than an afterthought. Evolving settlement patterns have transformed compact cities into dispersed urban regions. Cities are neither ‘dense nor not dense’, each instead having ‘dense parts, empty parts, low parts, high parts ... almost always so big that they’ve fallen apart into fragments’.5 This results in an urban context that struggles to maintain cohesiveness. Beyond Halifax, housing as urbanism is even more crucial to the health and stability of the world’s mega-cities. Peripheral tabula rasa collective housing developments in Paris, London, Mumbai, Sao Paolo lack context and legibility, and have generally been unsuccessful in creating new areas of urbanism despite high densities achieved. Yet rarely are these clusters the

architecture pat h o l o g i c a l b y j o h n s z ot



s u rf ac e van dalis m de re lic tio n in fo r mal u n s pe akable

then occupation

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J o h n Szo t

In this building proposal, a partially-completed building is temporarily abandoned and left at the mercy of New York City’s street writers and guerrilla artists to be provisionally occupied and abused without supervision. By exposing the raw structure to all the violence and rambunctiousness of a metropolis, this experiment allows us to capture activity and ideas that usually lie beyond the architect’s grasp in a manner that does not compromise their cultural currency. The result is an authentic slice of urban subculture that occupies a legitimate position within the urban fabric, and thus within the identity of the city. This is an inversion of the typical life cycle of a building. Here, dereliction occurs before inhabitation. Therefore the final product remains unknown and outside the reach of conventional architectural documentation. In order to bring some degree of insight into the process during design development, the entire structure was subjected to a simulation in which we developed a narrative to describe the activity that might take place during the period of ‘induced dereliction’ and do justice to the subtleties inherent in this unlikely marriage. n



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J o h n Szo t

Comrade Artists: be happy in your work. Fowlers Gap, New South Wales 2007 The Land an art site, Mountainair, New Mexico 2010 Lethbridge, Alberta 2011

landscape | d o c u m e n tat i o n by don gill

CO M R A DES walking the land

In 2007, while documenting the landscape at the University of New South Wales’ Arid Zone Research Station in Fowlers Gap, I realised that the earth I was walking on had as much presence as the trees and hills surrounding me. Clusters of rocks and animal skeletons started to dominate the images I was making; rocks and skeletons became a part of the long walks and either enhanced or hindered my progress. The phrase, ‘comrade artists be happy in your work’, from Emir Kusturica’s film Underground was the key that brought my arid region projects into focus. I started to have the text inscribed on rocks of varying sizes, adding them to the landscapes through which I was walking and working.

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Mapping the landscape underpins much of my work. The country walker is contrasted with the urban walker through photography, video and GPS technology. n

p h o to gr aphy ar id lan d de tr itu s walkin g


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 7 : rural u rb an ism

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?

Sp r in g 2 0 1 2 ideas/proposals for articles only: due 1st January 2012 specs:

There is a call for submissions for an associated project: Rural Urbanism, the exhibition. see

rural u rb an ism : the ex h ib it ion Sp r in g 2 0 1 2 deadline: 1 January 2012

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 photo-essays 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. Call for submissions to Rural Urbanism, the exhibition: 5-10 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. 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.

issue 2 8 : so und ideas/proposals for articles only: due 1st July 2012 specs:

In both cases, the study of sound unfolds into a larger study of our relationship with architecture, urbanism and each other. A society’s ever-changing mix of sounds casts a more up-to-date reflection than the slower pace of construction. Some may even say too upto-date – every new noise abatement strategy is countered by an unpredictable stream of pulses, beeps and hums emitted by the latest gadgets.

NOTE: an associated sound project curated by Joseph Heathcott: sonic/tech/tonic, a sound compilation.

Similar to how we navigate cities by shifting between map, satellite and street views overlaid with real-time data, we can also listen to (or ignore) sounds with an expanded set of tools—noise cancelling headphones, infrasonic and ultrasonic sensors, acoustic fingerprinting technology, etc.—that may not only alter the sounds we hear, but also our perception of and relationship to the environment. On Site issue 28 invites you to explore sound (past, present and future) in relationship to buildings and cities as well as its impact (good, bad and ugly) on our experience of space.

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Deadline: 1st February 2012. read the full call at



F a ll 2 01 2

Sound is like a glue that synchs us up with our surroundings by offering us bits of data. Blasting sirens report emergencies, loudspeakers direct crowds in transport hubs and door chimes allow retailers to keep tabs on shoppers. But it can just as easily trigger divisions when protests against noises ranging from a nightclub’s techno beats to the drone of a wind farm eventually result in a forced closure or relocation.

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.

on site

26 D I RT Fall 2011

contributors: M Alexandrescu is a student of architecture at the University of Waterloo. Reza Aliabadi (MArch 1999, MPhil Arch 2006) ICEO, MRAIC, OAA is the founder of atelier rzlbd. He splits his time completing architectural projects in North America and Asia and publishing rzlbd POST. Arthur Allen, retired architect in Vancouver, writes on psychology and ethics in design and operation of mental hospitals, prisons and zoos. His design experience included psychiatric facilities and hospital consulting in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. Greg Barton is a curator, based in New York, currently living in London. Michael Blois has an MArch degree from Ryerson University and he is an Intern Architect working in Toronto. Michael can be reached at

On Site invites theme-based submissions — reviews, commentary, photo-documentation, project descriptions, critical essays.

Barbara Cuerden continues to use her Master’s thesis as compostable research, liking some of the adaptations her original topic ‘Art, Nature and the Virtual Environment’ has made to life outside the academy.

Canada Post agreement 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 copyright: On Site review, ANPAF[A] and each individual author and photographer. All rights reserved.

Enrique Enriquez is an architect in Montréal and part of the international collective, Urban B’s.

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 Libraries: order through SWETS, Harrasowitz or EBSCO subscription forms: PayPal or cheque to On Site 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0Z5 editor: Stephanie White design: Black Dog Running printer: Emerson Clarke Printing, Calgary, Alberta distribution: Magazines Canada 1+ 416 504 0274 Ubiquity Distributors USA 1+ 718 875 5491 On Site gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our contributors, our volunteers, our subscribers and the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through their Publishing Grants to Arts and Literary Magazines.

Gerald Forseth (BArch Toronto) FRAIC practices in Calgary. He investigates ancient/modern settlements, art/artifacts to better understand our relationship to land, societal need and cultural change. Don Gill teaches in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge. He is a co-curator, with Ryan Doherty, of Mapping a Prairie City: Lethbridge and its Suburbs. Kenneth Hayes is an architectural historian, contemporary art critic and Creative Producer with Musagetes in Sudbury. Joseph Heathcott is an associate professor of urban studies at The New School in New York, where he teaches in Eugene Lang College and Parsons School of Design. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. Lisa Hirmer is a designer/photographer/artist/writer based in Guelph, Ontario and a principal/founder of the creative research collective DodoLab. She has an MArch from the University of Waterloo. www.dodo Ksenia Kagner is an urban and landscape designer. Originally from Kazakhstan, Kagner is now based in New York City. Ina Kwon, freelance graphic-designer and researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, studied book art and graphic-design at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. Michael Leeb is a visual artist and writer, a member of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, and the Field Notes Collective, a collaborative collective of artists and scientists. Matt Neville is an urbanist working on the fringe of urbanism, architecture and anthropology, where sociospatial aspects of housing, habitat and territory intersect. He can be reached at or via Twitter @naturestate Giulio Petrocco is an Italian photojournalist who has worked in Georgia, Italy, Turkey, and more recently Sudan and Yemen. Currently in Venice, his next location is Sana’a,Yemen. Maya Przybylski is a director of InfraNet Lab, an editor of [bracket], and Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo. Stephen Riether is a sculptor at in blue inc. in Calgary. Chloé Roubert is interested in the mechanisms behind everyday occurrences. A graduate in Visual and Material Anthropology from University College London, she writes and curates about these questions as well as works in a digital think tank in Montreal. Lailee Soleimani holds a Master of Architecture from University of Toronto, where she became interested in a world constantly at play ( She currently thinks and practices architecture with atelier rzlbd in Toronto.


Tanya Southcott is an architect in Vancouver. On Site also acknowledges the support of Calgary Arts Development, City of Calgary.


Joshua Craze is an essayist based in Juba, Southern Sudan.

For any and all inquiries, please contact:

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.

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Liam Brown is a graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. His research on mortality and architecture focusses on associative memorial rituals. He approaches the subject with unapologetic optimism.

Meaghan Thurston is a freelance writer based in Montreal, Quebec, with recent articles published in and Forum:The University of Edinburgh’s Postgraduate Journal of Arts and Culture. WAI Architecture Think Tank is a workshop for architecture intelligentsia based in Beijing. Co-founded  in 2008 by French architect Nathalie Frankowski and Puerto Rican architect Cruz Garcia, WAI constantly asks What About It? Stephanie White is the editor of On Site review.

Triangle Gallery 09.09 — 12.10.2011 Connections with Collections Series


Imperfect Health opens 25 October 2011

Highlights of 20th Century Canadian Architecture From the Collection of the Canadian Architectural Archives University of Calgary

Sturgess Architecture. Spiral House in Calgary: Entry Courtyard Rendition/Sidewalk View #1, n.d.

Building A History: Highlights of 20th Century Canadian Architecture is drawn from the rich collections of the Canadian Architectural Archives at the University of Calgary and reflects the growing interest of architectural drawings as art form. The Canadian Architectural Archives is widely recognized as one of the few Canadian institutions dedicated to the preservation of architectural records and the promotion of architecture as fundamental to the definition of a culture and society. The exhibition features a great diversity of drawings from a period in Canadian history in which Canadian architecture found its own voice, and the subjects cut across many different categorical boundaries. This is a timely exhibition as Canadians are becoming more aware of their architectural legacy and are engaging in public discussions of what makes architecture great, thus contributing to a better understanding of Canadian cities.

Stephen Smith, photographer. Turquoise Lawn, Sun City, Arizona. 1981. Chromogenic colour print, 32.3 x 48.3 cm. CCA Collection. PH1983:0011 © Stephen Smith As health becomes a central focus of political debate, are architects, urban designers and landscape architects seeking a new moral and political agenda to address these concerns? Imperfect Health looks at the complexity of today’s health problems juxtaposed with a variety of proposed architectural and urban solutions. Imperfect Health is curated by Giovanna Borasi, CCA Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Mirko Zardini, CCA Director and Chief Curator.

Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts • 800 Macleod Trail SE • Calgary Alberta T2G 2M3

// Mapping a Prairie City: Lethbridge and Its Suburbs Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge Alberta June 24 – September 5, 2011

Mary Kavanagh and Rose De Clerck-Floate. Video documentation of plant growth at the Police Shooting Range and Water Treatment Plant, Lethbridge Alberta

Field Notes Collective is a group of arts professionals and scientists working in the Southern Alberta area who are bound by a shared set of social, environmental and cultural concerns. The mandate of the Collective is to foster dialogue and action through the staging of cross-disciplinary events, engaging with matters of local and regional interest. Mapping a Prairie City: Lethbridge and Its Suburbs introduces the Field Notes Collective through the presentation of externally sited works-in-progress by six collaborative art-science teams. Emerging from dynamic intersections in their research and creative practices, these projects have evolved through conversation and field trips to artist studios, research stations, laboratories, rangelands and parks. Combining aesthetic gestures with scientific methodology such as data collecting and seasonal tracking, many of these projects are also responsive to political and economic pressures that affect public policy and quality of life in the city, while raising questions regarding land use, community and place.

canada usa mexico europe uk

$14 $14 $M170 e10 ÂŁ9


$14 display until may 2012


architecture urbanism culture landscape art photography research Lisa H ir m e r

Lisa Hirmer : dirt piles Maya Przybylski : landfills as open space Greg Barton : interview at the Wellcome Ina Kwan : landfill parks of South Korea Tanya Southcott : lost houses of Yaletown Enrique Enriquez : dirty salt, dirty world

on site 26: dirt  
on site 26: dirt  

Dirt. It is more than the neutral tray upon which we do our projects and live our lives. Dirt, as it emerges in this issue of On Site, has i...