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on site

display until may 2009

s e v i h c r a + s m u e s u m

ni c o l e dex t ras

culture urbanism architecture landscape photography research



onsite 20: are archives, galleries and museums important? will the vast collections on the web soon make such buildings obsolete? is the museum still the cabinet of curiosities, or is it the cultural equivalent of the seed bank?

on site 20

archives and museums I have long thought that architecture is a material archive of the social, political and cultural conditions of its making. Reading the built environment as an archive of embarrassingly naive impulse to shockingly cynical thought clearly comes out of all that textual work we laboured over in the 1990s. It still stands us in good stead. However, the magical archives of my memory are quite different:

st e v e c h o d o r i w sk y

1959: the old Provincial Museum in Victoria when it was at one end of that Victorian pile of granite that is the Parliament Buildings, where a stuffed albatross hung in the main staircase. We took down a bird skull we’d found on the beach below our house on Portage Inlet. An old fellow patiently pulled tray after tray of bird skulls out of a long wall of thin flat drawers so that two little kids could learn how to identify their little grebe skull. 1967: the UBC Anthropology Museum when it was in the north end of that ugly pile of granite that was the Main Library. You got to it through the Fine Arts Gallery, through a narrow door and into a vast, dark, completely magical cavern of totems, statues, lumber, fetishes, cabinets stacked in front of cabinets, tight pathways winding through what felt like an auctioneer’s storeroom. Nothing then was ever interpreted, there was no textual space between you and the thing; there was just you, generally ignorant, and the thing, generally mute. Marvellous. A coup de foudre.

the Katsu Kaishu musseum in Tokyo: the obsessive side of archives. see Steve Chodoriwsky’s article on page 40

contents this issue is dedicated to D. O. D.

Farid Noufaily Neeraj Bhatia Farid Noufaily and Gregory M Perkins Michael Summerton Dominique Hurth + Ciarán Walsh Tonkao Panin Jordan Ellis Miriam Jordan + Julian Haladyn Matt Williams Gerald Forseth Joseph Masco Steve Chodoriwsky Gregory Beck Rubin + Conrad Dueck Jaclyn H Jones Jennifer VanderBurgh Matthew Woodruff Dwayne Smyth Mark Baechler Dru McKeown Peter Osborne Aisling O’Connor Jana Macalik Tanya Southcott Michael Leeb Zahra Ebrahim Crystal Melville Ella Chmielewska Mariana Mogilevich Stephanie White Jamelie Hassan masthead Nicole Dextras Jen VanderBurgh

2 8 12 16 20 24 26 28 30 32 36 40 41 44 46 48 50 52 54 57 60 64 66 68 70 71 72 74 76 78 80

House of Reconciliation, Beirut, Lebanon Symbolic Public Form and the Library The Metropolitan Inforgraphic Centre, Mexico City Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra, Ghana Werkbundarchive Museum Der Dinge, Berlin Corrado Feroci’s Museum, Bangkok, Thailand Musée Rodin, Paris Theatre-Museu Dalí, Figueres, Spain The Fauves in Collioure, France Samarkand, Uzbekistan The Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, Arizona Katsu Kaishu Museum, Tokyo South Point Douglas, Winnipeg, Manitoba The Black World History Museum, St Louis Missouri Home Movies Measured Architecture, Vancouver Four Museums: New York, Kanazawa, Tokyo Speaking Surfaces: Dura-Europas, Florence, Foligno Glass Pavilion, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio Ara Pacis Museum, Rome Museum Insel Hombroich, Neuss, Germany Museum Millenial Exhibition Strategies The Irving House, New Westminster, BC Fort Macleod, Alberta The Design Exchange, Toronto Anchor Archive Zine Library, Halifax, Nova Scotia Cinema Skarpa, Warsaw Real Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Books Qana, Lebanon

Front Cover: Toronto Island, 2007 Back Cover: Home Movies

Canada Council Grant for Literary and Arts Magazines The University of Edinburgh Schools of Architecture, Cultural Studies and Scottish Studies Government of Canada Canadian Heritage program for Postal Assistance to Publications

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


projects | beirut lebanon by farid noufaily

the metamorphosis of beirut city centre building

war modernism reclamation representation truth

house of reconciliation

fari d no u fai ly

The signing of the Ta’if Agreement on 22 October 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the Lebanese Civil War that had raged since 1975. The war ended in March 1991, when the new Lebanese Parliament enacted the General Amnesty Law, which stated that there were to be no victors and no victims in the war (la ghalib le maghlub). Unfortunately, this law allowed the Lebanese people to turn a blind eye to the ugly truths of the war and ushered in an era of uneasy silence in Lebanon, where no word is uttered, no acknowledgement nor responsibility is taken by anyone surrounding the desperate events of the past 33 years. Today, as Lebanon’s political battle for independence and a unified national identity continues, the government still hasn’t supported the public in breaking the silence. I believe that this legislated lack of collective/public self-expression has rendered both the local and the diaspora populations incapable of reconciling with their traumatic past. Though public confessions, art, film and novels have begun to facilitate some discourse, architecture’s role will be to gather, catalyse, and give voice to the countless victims of the war. The rehabilitation of Beirut City Centre Building (CCB) is an architectural proposal to breach the silence.

A failed attempt at modernism... A sinister sniper point along the infamous Green Line... An impromptu brothel during the civil war... A failed retrofit by the Ministry of Finance in 1992... A venue for illegal raves in the mid 1990s... Slated for demolition in 2003... These are but a few of the many different incarnations of the former Beirut CCB which stands just south of Place des Martyrs


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and is the only remaining ruin in the centre of Solidère’s newlyrestored Beirut Central District. Referred to by locals as the bubble, the soap, the blob or, most often, the egg, the ovoid CCB was cursed by the misfortune of being at the exact geographic centre of the civil war, and has been blackened by neglect ever since the war ended. Even in ruins, the 6,000 m2 building remains a remarkable surviving icon from Beirut’s golden age of Modernist architecture. 

b e r n a rd k h o u r y a rc h i t e c t : 2 0 0 5

Lebanese architect Joseph Philippe Karam designed the CCB in 1965. The urban complex was planned as three blocks: Block 1 would contain five underground floors (total 22,500 m2) for car parking and a taxi service station; Block 2 would be three floors with 144 retail shops, a 1000 m2 supermarket, a 900-seat cinema, a restaurant and a snack bar; and Block 3 was to be three mixeduse towers with eight, twelve, and 21 floors respectively — a wide range of commercial services under one roof.

Karam’s vision was never completed; only part of his original proposal had been built when the war broke out in 1975 — two floors of the base in Block 2, the cinema and one tower. The CCB’s adjacency to the Place des Martyrs, as well as its unique shape, made it a prime target for heavy shelling during the war. After 17 years and many failed renovation proposals, today’s CCB sits vacant, guarded and inaccessible.

fari d n ou fail y

b e r n a rd k h o u r y a rc h i t e c t : 2 0 0 5

opposite: north face of theatre shell and second floor this page clockwise from left: rendering of Centre Urbain by Joseph P. Karam, Al Mouhandess, no.11 April 1968 (courtesy of Bernard Khoury) Beirut City Centre Building taken during the second half of the war. The patina of the shell’s surface is due to weathering, direct exposure to fire and bullets.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


farid noufaily fari d no u fai ly

CCB promised, as did all modernist architecture, a rational future of increasing peace, prosperity and social justice. History betrayed this promise, and the CCB instead became a powerful symbol of the impotence of modernisation when confronted with unresolved social and ethnic conflicts from the past. The New CCB, proposed here, can be a symbol of national unity through the rebuilding and re-appropriation of what was once a potent symbol of a rational future. The surviving elements of the ruin 4

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will be incorporated into the new building. The plan makes use of the remains of the original, housing the many program elements required to address new roles for the building: archive space, both digital and material, indoor and outdoor exhibition space as well as artist residences and state-of-the-art meeting and research spaces. All of these surround the most important space of all, the space of the voice, where citizens are invited to share their account, experiences and opinions of the civil war. The New CCB will stand

farid noufaily opposite, top: north/south section of the new CCB middle: plans of the top, ground, first and sixth floors bottom: experiential section of the new CCB this page, top: aerial of Beirut City Centre along with a cropped rendered aerial of the new City Centre Building on Place des Martyrs. above: view from the adjacent Mouhamad Ali Mosque looking back at the new CCB

as a beacon – a place for reconciliation of the past and discussions for the future. The new program begins at the datum of the city street (the present), descends through the strata of the city’s layers to the space of dialogue, memory, and recollection (the past) and finally rises to the commanding contemplative view of the city (the future).

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this page, top to bottom: sunken entrance to the supermarket just west of the theatre ‘egg’ view east into Space of the Voice. The entrance bridges to the sacred interview chambers can be seen below. view west into Space of the Voice. the CCB during a moment of celebration. The surface of the new tower serves as a backdrop to the projections of the events. opposite, top: view down Place des Martyrs towards the new CCB bottom: the new CCB as seen from above by an approaching helicopter

the present: the living monument By implementing a non monumental program that is part of the everyday life of the city, the New CCB will become a living monument that not only commemorates the history of the civil war, but also celebrates the present. Visitors are free to wander onto the premises of the New CCB directly from the redesigned Place des Martyrs. The various pavilions provide access to the restored theatre (the egg), a café, residential and commercial floors above, and a nightclub. A bus and taxi station south of the CCB will again centralise the transportation network that once ran so actively through Place des Martyrs. the past: the descent to reconciliation  Below the level of the city lies the ruins and origins of Lebanon. Descending into this void brings one closer to not only the original level of the historic city, but to something sacred. The archives containing the collective memories and voices of the citizens, both patriot and expatriate, are located in the lowest levels, where they are protected from the current unstable and uncertain present. This imagery is not unlike our own escape to the chthonic origins of our hearts, depicted in our escape to the safety of the underground in times of war. Here, the archives frame the Space of the Voice. It is in this space, where whispers echo, that the voices of all Lebanese – regardless of nationality and sect – are heard. Here, the three shared languages – Arabic, French, and English – resonate in the space, and blend, as if one dialogue.

The New CCB will not only become the Space of the Voice amidst a landscape of silence, but a hub for conducting research and promoting art. By gathering, in a single place, a wide range of works and research dealing with the civil war in many media, Lebanon can begin to articulate a unified voice. Rebuilding the CCB will be more than simply revitalising part of Lebanon’s dark past. As its ruins reflect the mindset of a people long ago, its new form will allow for the re-imagination of a unified people and a unified Lebanon. ~


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

fari d n ou fai ly

the future: truth and reconciliation archive centre (TRAC) The archive itself, though effective at storing and encouraging dialogue, is only one step in mastering the past and imagining a bright future for the Lebanese people. The ascent from the sacred darkness is equally important. An elevator links the Space of the Voice (at the archive level) with the privileged Research Level. Perched high above the city, researchers, builders and planners of the future city can cast their gaze from the mountains to the horizon, and to the city in between.

fari d n o ufai l y a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


typologies | the library by neeraj bhatia

symbolic public form and the library

centricity democracy collectivity monuments symbolic form

vers pluralisme

Whether individual or communal, an archive exists to protect information and entrust it to our successors. Not only does this make the archive inherently public, it places an unassailable faith in knowledge as a precursor to progress. It is no wonder that the free-standing library – an architectural type that archives knowledge – emerged during the Age of the Enlightenment. Over the past three centuries, two variations of the original typology emerged that offer clues for how to address the contemporary library – an institution that is losing its spatial information while existing as a rare vestige of collective space in the liberal pluralist city.

n ee r aj bh ati a

n eer aj bhat ia

Centric Unity during the Enlightenment The age of the Enlightenment was characterised by countless scientific discoveries inspiring (and inspired by) a belief in fixed, objective patterns that are discoverable through reason. Glorification of reason promoted new forms of equality under the pretence that all humans have an identical capacity for reason. With freedom and democracy emerging as primary values in society, the library was liberated from hegemonic control and became a freestanding symbol for knowledge and reason.

Often referred to as a centric type, early libraries were modelled after the ideal human mind1, symbolically ordered by a circular plan and unified by a central dome. Christopher Wren’s alternate plan for Trinity College (1676) was the first documented centric library: the circular form was carved from the centre of a cube. An interior colonnade provided a second structural skin to house the books – synthesising information on the architectural container; a monumental reading room centred this ordered universe, indicating the importance of scholarship. Herman Korb’s Wolfenbuttel Library (1710) was the first realised centric type: an elliptical reading room was set within a golden section2; collections were incorporated into the elliptical walls. The major elements of the library – books, readers and staff, co-existed under a uniting dome, in a single symbolic space of collective scholarship. This fixation on maintaining an unobstructed symbolic space, however, allowed little room for storage, administration or growth of the collection. This was both the beauty and failure of the centric type – it bestowed greater importance to the library’s symbolic role than to its functioning.


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opposite 1: Radcliffe Camera Library (Oxford): an example of a centrically planned library. (Creative Commons. Uploaded by Fabbio on August 17, 2006. accessed: August 10, 2008)

opposite 2: Asplund’s Stockholm Library (1928), a late example of a segregated centric type. (Altered by N.Bhatia. Original Image: Creative Commons. Uploaded by Toggan.é_mot_Sveavägen.JPG. Accessed: September 25, 2008).

below: Comparison of architecture, information and scholarship in the centrically planned library, the segregated library and the trading floor typology. (drawn by Neeraj Bhatia)

onto its symbolic form, the typology eventually segregated books from reading 7 – books were housed in below-grade storage or in structures adjacent to the domed reading room.8 The library was now an accumulation of parts rather than a singular monumental space. More precisely, the library needed to be an accumulation of parts to maintain the single monumental space. Segregated Flexibility and the Loss of the Symbol Diverse and extensive library collections in the early twentieth century created rigid subject boundaries that tended towards specialisation. The notion of a single library that contained the universality of knowledge was replaced with subject-specific rooms,9 the final loss of the symbolic monument within the library ­— ‘the sequential arrangement of books led to subject partitioning which undermined the symbolic value of the library as social signifier, whilst, admittedly, improving its usefulness. It was a victory of functionalism over meaning’.10

n ee r aj bh at ia

Romanticism and Collapsing Unity The counter-Enlightenment, Romanticism, embraced irreconcilability and subjectivity, signalling an emergent pluralism. Instead of being universally grounded, new ‘truths’ were believed to emerge from a debate of personal viewpoints.3 Concurrently with the rise of pluralism were technological improvements to the production of information that crippled the centric library. Between 1800 and 1820 the foot-operated cylinder, mechanical steam and metal press came into operation,4 resulting in vast increases to the number of volumes available to libraries. Most importantly, information contained within these volumes now allowed for competing ideas. The novel, often focussed on an individualised sense of selfhood, was surfacing in literature.5 Authorship, for the first time, was liberated through individual identity, reaffirming the rise of pluralism.6 As books proliferated, they colonised the open reading room like spokes on a wheel. The circular form contains a finite amount of wall space that was not easily extended without the addition of new forms. Incapacitated by expansion and desperate to hold

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


below: Comparison of the trading floor and centric type in terms of expansion. The flexibility attained in modern libraries comes from disconnecting information from the architectural container. (drawn by Neeraj Bhatia)

Continued segregation created a labyrinthine library hidden from public view; expandability became a primary design criterion. As the classical orders that often accompanied centric libraries were now considered static, thus librarians and modernists ran with the belief that a new flexibility of subject must be accompanied by a diversification of style. What resulted was a library with a generic floor plate that allowed change. Library programs were then ‘zoned’ into this neutral backdrop and wrapped by diverse containers that were free from the burden of storing information. Zoning the floor-plate reduced the hierarchy between library elements, creating a more egalitarian space, corresponding to an eventual emphasis placed on libraries as ‘democratic agents’ during the Cold War. However, the flexible ‘trading-floor’ library first appeared during the 1920s and 30s: Alvar Aalto’s library at Viipuri of 1927 was one of the first modern movement libraries.11 This library was organised through interconnecting spaces contained within a single volume. Casual reading rooms could be transformed into other programs while remaining both secluded and linked. While no one space was grand, smaller rooms were synthesised into a larger gesture. Although growth and flexibility were possible once information was liberated from the architectural container, this came at the cost of a reduced symbolic presence of the library in the city. Ultimately, the modern library has lost its ability to “speak” as a unified civic monument as its function requires plurality:

Symbolic Public Form The last function of architecture will be to create symbolic spaces responding to the persistent envy of the collectivity. –Rem Koolhaas 13

Adolf Loos’ attack on subjective ornament expressed in Ornament und Verbrechen (1908) questioned the nature of a ‘public’ building. For Loos, buildings needed to have an expressionless, neutral exterior to cater to all individuals. Within these neutral public façades, he designed expressive private interiors for each client. This separation of expression and neutrality could be the key to a new library typology. The centric and trading-floor typologies are the clearest in their motives; while the centric creates a strong symbol, the trading-floor acknowledges growth by disconnecting architecture and information. By hybridising these two types, one is left with a container that protects and contains symbolic form. While the architecture of the container must take a neutral (public) stance, within this neutrality, informational elements (i.e. book stacks, data servers, etc.) of strong symbolic form are placed. By separating, without compromising, symbolic form from architecture, architecture is able to stand as the neutral container of collective values while the symbolic form(s) proudly speak for our distinction. This duality is in fact the basic definition of human plurality. ~

Increasing specialisation and a rejection of the imperial narrative led to a more fragmented and organic architecture. The domed, circular reading room implies a knowable world, centered, finite and complete, viewed from a single privileged point. With Modernism and Post-Modernism that confidence broke down. Hans Scharoun’s free-flowing Berlin library, begun in 1967, was a reaction to Prussian and Nazi stolidity, and to the symmetrical perfection of earlier libraries; his is a new world view of books as liberating, not containing, of text opening up new perspectives.12

ne e raj bh ati a

As information becomes increasingly non-spatially bound, perhaps the primary role of the contemporary library is no longer archival, but rather a return to a symbolic space of our dwindling collective values.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

neeraj bhatia

below: montage of symbolic spiral forms storing information set within a expressionless container.

Notes: Edwards and Fisher state: ‘The text of the building and the text of the books within, shared a common ideal. The formal organization of architectural space and the space in the mind liberated by the power of the written word became symbolically united. It is this symbiosis which led to the domed reading room – itself a metaphor for the human brain’. (Edwards, Brian with Biddy Fisher. Libraries and Learning Resource Centres. Boston: Architectural Press, 2002. p9) 2 Examples of centrically planned libraries include Hawksmoor’s Radcliffe Camera Library at Oxford and William Chambers’ Buckingham House (1766-68). 3 It is for this reason that Isaiah Berlin affirms the legacy of the Enlightenment as monism and of Romanticism as pluralism. 4 Brawne, Michael. Libraries: Architecture and Equipment. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970. 5 For instance, novels such as Richardson’s Pamela, Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise and Goethe’s Werther’s Leiden, reflected a growing trend towards individuality. See: Goode, Luke. Jurgen Habermas: Democracy and the Public Sphere. Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2005. Habermas also acknowledged this shift towards subjectivity. See: Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989 [1962]. p49-50. 6 As stated by library scholar Carla Hesse: ‘Indeed, while the Renaissance elaborated a new discourse celebrating man as creator, a discourse, which contributed to the social elevation of the artist and the intellectual, it was not until the eighteenth century that the author was recognized in Western Europe as a legal entity. And even then s/he was not seen as the proper creator of his or her ideas, but rather as a handmaiden chosen by God for the revelation of divine truth. It was only slowly, over the course of the 1

eighteenth century, and in a highly limited manner, that the author became legally recognized as the originator of his or her works (in England 1710; in France 1793; in Prussia 1794)’. (Hesse, Carla. ‘Books in Time’ in Geoffrey Nunberg, ed., The Future of the Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. pp 21-36 (21).) 7 Examples include: Library of Congress (1897), Prussian State Library (1914), Stockholm Library (1928). Segregation in plan: British Museum, Bibliotheque Nationale. Segregation in section: Labrouste’s Bibliotheque St. Genevieve (1843-1851). 8 Despite this symbolic rupture, there were also many practical advantages to having books below grade; deliveries could be made with ease at road level and both temperature and humidity could be controlled with more accuracy than at higher levels. 9 Leopoldo Della Santa’s book Costruzion e del Regolamento di una Pubblica Universal Biblioteca, published in 1816, was seminal in marking this separation between readers, books and staff. In his concept sketch for the new library, Della Santa excludes the large circular reading room as a prophecy of the modern library. 10 Edwards, Brian with Biddy Fisher. Libraries and Learning Resource Centres. Boston: Architectural Press, 2002. p14 11 Other examples include Sheffield Library (1958) and more recently Phoenix Central Library (1995) 12 Heathcote, Edwin. (2005). ‘A turn-up for the books’. Financial Times. (3) (June 10). 13 from Vidler, Anthony. ‘Books in Space: Tradition and Transparency in the Bibliothèque de France’ in Representations, No. 42, Special Issue: Future Libraries (Spring, 1993), University of California Press. pp 115-134

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topography memorials markets plazas technology

This project was attractive to our team due to opportunities afforded by the rich historic and geographic context of the site. As it stands today, the ruins of an Aztec temple occupy the westernmost and lowest level of the site, the church of Santiago Tlatelolco and its adjoining monastery are to the south, adjacent and coplanar to the plaza, and surrounding the site to the north and east are the remnants of Mexico’s Modernist period with housing projects by, among others, the prominent Mexican architect Mario Pani, a student of Le Corbusier, and the former Foreign Ministry Tower by Pedro Ramirez Vazquez. Finally, the plaza proper is also the site of the 1968 Mexican Olympics student massacre. Research into the Aztec foundations of Mexico City with its infrastructure of canals, chinampas (floating farms) and markets revealed that Tlatelolco was the central marketplace of the Aztec empire.  Tlatelolco was also the birthplace of modern day Mexico; it was here that the Aztecs made their last stand against Cortez and the Spanish conquistadors. The violent transformations of Spanish colonisation are architecturally embodied on the site by the destruction of the Aztec temples and the incorporation of their ruins into the colonial cathedral of Santiago Tlatelolco — it is a fascinating metamorphosis, akin to the Byzantine re-use of Greek and Roman ruins.   On October 2nd, 1968 the Plaza de las Tres Culturas was the final destination of a student demonstration against a dictatorial Mexican régime. The demonstrators had been diverted from their intended staging grounds at the National Autonomous University by a strong military presence. Having paraded through the streets during the day, the student demonstrators gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, when they were surrounded by armoured cars and tanks. The police and military fired into the crowd, killing both student demonstrators and bystanders. Disputed accounts report between 200 and 3000 casualties (the range due to official and unofficial accounts and the removal of bodies in garbage trucks by the Mexican military to unknown burial sites). In 1993 a stele was erected in the plaza, memorialising the twenty officially-acknowledged victims of the massacre.


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the metropolitan infographic centre

Bridging Strata Mexico’s Arquine magazine launched their ninth annual international competition (2007) for the design of a Metropolitan Infographics Centre in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco district of the Mexico City. The Infographics Centre will house both temporary exhibits and permanent collections ranging from pre-Columbian codices, to colonial and revolutionary cartographic documents, to modern and contemporary infrastructural maps.

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2 3


b akt ash /no ufai l y/p er ki n s /th ün/v el i k o v

projects | collections tlateloco mexico by farid j noufaily + gregory mckay perkins

b a k t a s h / n o u f a i l y / p e r k i n s/ t h ü n / v e l i k o v

opposite: site layers below: the plaza as an active urban space is a setpiece in the theatre of its surroundings.

This research presented several design strategies to support and amplify the immediate urban area of Tlatelolco: impromptu markets in the plaza can be formalised, the three levels of the site can be physically linked, and the historical and social significance of the plaza itself can be respected – any intervention should subsume itself into the infrastructure of the plaza. Instead of beginning the design process by establishing the location of the building program, the team first clarified the entrance to the plaza. The steps found along the south-east end of the plaza were extended across the entire east edge, increasing the accessibility of the plaza and more closely matching its scale of importance. Meanwhile, on the other side of the plaza we addressed the ambiguous access to the Aztec ruins. Though there is a well-lit circuitous pathway through the ruins there was no prominent entrance. Instead, tucked behind the cathedral along the east edge of the site was a small plaque and makeshift temporary stairs. Here was an opportunity for the museum to play an infrastructural role in providing a clear entrance to the ruins from the plaza. In addressing the significance of the plaza proper, both in the historical context and its day-to-day contribution to the city, we wrapped the perimeter of the plaza with a continuous and permeable canopy that both defines and activates its edge. This encourages the growth of the weekly local market that occurs in the plaza as well as seasonal festivals put on by the local community. Additionally, through its embedded photovoltaics, the canopy generates energy to drive the various digital and

hydrological systems envisioned for the Infographics Centre. At the centre of the plaza we expressed the Infographics Centre’s triple-height exhibition space as a monumental onyx clad extrusion surrounded by a reflecting pool which helps regulate the temperature of the plaza. This is both a means of acknowledging the memorial nature of the site as well as a means of diffusing that very solemnity by providing a cool, civic amenity during the day and a beacon at night, as the activities within the Infographic centre below illuminate the square above. Finally, we addressed the program of the Infographics Centre itself, located beneath the plaza. At the western edge of the reflecting pool, visitors descend from the plaza into a sunken forecourt immersed in vegetation and the sound of falling water. This offers a moment of quiet reprieve from the city above and provides a small oasis for gatherings and for staging events.  Visitors enter the Infographics Centre through a passage defined by a wall of luminous niches that house digital displays and artefacts. The entrance to the ruins from the plaza is always open; the archive portion of the Infographics Centre can be closed without severing access to the Aztec level. Towards the end, on the right, the passage expands into expands into a triple height exhibition space. During the day, the translucent Mexicanonyx-clad gallery will be filled with a warm, diffused light. Here reproductions of codices and examples of early cartography hang suspended within the tall, light-filled volume. The large hall easily accommodates both rotating exhibits of public projects and artefacts on permanent display.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


ba k t a s h / n o u f a i l y / p e r k i n s / t h ü n / v e l i k o v

Concealed behind the display wall is the scholars’ archive of precious original artefacts and documents. In contrast to the brightly lit exhibition space and active display wall, the archive is a serene space of reflection. The archive drawer-wall of this rich cavernous space derives its pattern from the traditional textile loom techniques of the Aztecs. The back of the display wall is divided into seven coves which serve as areas of quiet research. The archive is lit from above through the surface of the reflecting pool by seven light-wells representing the seven founding tribes of the Aztecs, creating a contemplative chamber characterised by a rippling soft light in which to study the treasures of the museum.      Our strategy for the Metropolitan Infographics Center drew its inspiration not only from the day-to-day activity and experiential qualities of the architecture of the site, but also by culturally historic, geographic and contextual research. The design physically ties the different levels of the site, allowing the plaza to not only become a gathering place for the community, but also


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a gateway to the ruins below. The Infographics Centre becomes a permanent piece of public infrastructure as well as drawing temporal connections through spatial relationships to recast the cultural perceptions of the plaza, and to form a distinctive urban centre in which to commemorate the past and celebrate the dreams of Mexico City’s collective future.  Contemporary museum and archive projects favour the design of a showpiece building which dominates its surroundings, bringing prominence to its context not by its collection, but by its architectural mastery. Though such projects do bring prominence to the cities in which they are situated, this approach might not be appropriate to every site. The Infographics Centre project offers an alternative approach to the issues of contemporary museum design by addressing the urban design agenda as a primary motivation. Privileging the urban context can impact not only the touristic qualities of the urban surrounding, but also its daily life. ~

bak t ash/n o uf ai l y/ p e r k i n s / t h ü n / v e l i k o v Competition Team: Pooya Baktash, Farid Noufaily, Gregory Perkins, Geoff Thün, Kathy Velikov At the 2007 Ciudad/City Conference, the jury awarded our project Third Prize amongst hundreds of international entries. The design was also featured along with the other winning schemes in a touring exhibition titled ‘Maps of the City: Locations’, curated by the publishers of Arquine, at the Architectural College at Abuascalientes, Monterrey, and UNAM during the month of February 2008.

opposite top: the dramatic and contemplative archive provides a protective environment for the study of original documents bottom: the exhibit hall is bathed in soft light from the onyx volume above and supports a range of curatorial possibilities. above top: the sunken forecourt entrance provides an inviting event space within the Plaza bottom: the perimeter canopy supports a range of active and passive programmes on the Plaza

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


landscape | accra ghana by mike summerton

decolonisation memorials monuments ghana optimism

when I am President

In central Accra, in the same stately quarter as the grandiose and always empty Independence Square, past the road to Osu Castle where the president lives, and opposite the new national stadium, you should turn towards the Atlantic off 28th February Road before it becomes High Street and the city centre’s de facto main car park. There is a green garden with some strange shapes in it. Outside top Accra hotels a tranquil, maintained green space with flowering palms, firs and mahogany is a big deal. The Ghanaian capital is aggressively welcoming, and chock-full of mothers and children, animals, footballers, boxers, businessmen, preachers, and taxis and minivans full of them all. Even the cemeteries are full of dancing, singing mourners or folks sleeping off work or malaria. Here, though, birds swoop and wheel on the winds coming off the unseen ocean. Senegal coucals and pied crows. Somewhere in the trees there are peacocks – you can hear them. This garden, empty of people in the late afternoon, must be somewhere special.

mi c h ael s um m e r t o n

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

Rather than bowl straight in, I shout “Hello! How are you?” to wake up the big woman in the small ticket hut. These encounters are usually fun. We compare the books we are reading. Mine an existentialist novella about a crime of passion, hers a getrich-quick-through-prayer manual published by a pastor in Richmond, Virginia. We enjoy acting nonplussed at one another until eventually she sells me a ticket and photo-pass for the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. At midnight on 6th March 1957, Kwame Nkrumah announced Ghana’s independence from colonial power, the first state in Africa to do so, and also created the country’s first public park. He chose the Old Polo Club in Accra, previously capital of the Gold Coast, to make his declaration that Ghana would ‘manage its own affairs’. The club had been the preserve of British colonials and closed to black people. The choice of location could not have had more resonance. My guide for the next hour or so was the museum’s manager, Stephen, whose commentary was nothing


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

if not rigorous. He immediately challenged my capacity for the interesting facts that he would share until he felt assured that I could take it all in. ‘I can tell your brain is not a paw-paw’ he said. * In 1972 the young Ghanaian architect Don Arthur was in London, having travelled from Moscow where he was pursuing his doctorate degree. Nkrumah, in exile since a coup in 1966, died in hospital in Bucharest, Romania where he was receiving cancer treatment. His body was then buried in Guinea where, in sympathy for the Pan-Africanism he espoused, he had been appointed co-president. Meanwhile, in London, African students gathered to mourn. Many of them had been educated abroad as a direct result of Nkrumah’s education reforms. Together, the African Students Union in London, amongst them Don Arthur, wrote and sent a memo to Guinea asking that the body of the late president be brought to Ghana at such time that the military

mi c h ael s um m e r t o n

opposite: Kwame Nkrumah bronze statue below: Stephen

government would denounce the coup. Thus the project for the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park was born, but it would be twenty years (1992) and two more coups before President Jerry Rawlings decided to commit to honouring the country’s first leader with a permanent memorial. Nkrumah’s coffin was exhumed (it had since been moved from Guinea to his hometown in rural Ghana) and Don Arthur, himself now a Minister was appointed as lead architect and landscape designer. Arthur re-read Nkrumah’s autobiography and focussed on four key facts: Nkrumah admired Gandhi and his non-violent philosophy; he was inspired by the French Revolution; and by the October Revolution in Russia; as an African he took pride in Egyptian civilisation, going so far as to marry an Egyptian, Fathia. Arthur then looked to prominent architecture in these diverse cultures and realised that with the exception of the Great Wall of China they contained the ‘seven wonders of the world’. He developed design principles based on the Taj Mahal in India,

the Eiffel Tower in France, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Alexander Tower and the Mausoleum for Lenin in Moscow. As events in his lifetime and surrounding his death had proved, Nkrumah, in the minds of his adherents at least, was a global figure deserving of a globally significant monument. The challenge was how to express this sense of monument in an architectural vocabulary that was fundamentally African. * On entering the park from the main gate, two reflective pools (a concept lifted from the Taj) lead you to a bronze statue of Nkrumah. These pools are fed by 2 rows of statues of kneeling pipers. These fountains were never actually on during any of the three visits I made researching this article: ‘Cutbacks’ said Stephen. ‘Broken’ said the ticket woman. Because the sound of the (hypothetical) water is carried by the south-west trade winds coming off the Atlantic, at the point at which you pass the last fountain the sound supposedly recedes and you are left in silence,

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


michael summerton


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

opposite, top: Kwame and Fathia Nkrumah Mausoleum bottom: Kwame Nkrumah Museum

m i c h a e l su mme r t o n

right: ‘Dr Kwame Nkrumah tabling the motion of destiny for independence at the Legislative Assembly (1953)’

intimate with Nkrumah’s statue in bronze. Some Ghanaians claim that he was so progressive in outlook that he lived 100 years ahead of his time. The distance from the main gate in to the grounds to Nkrumah’s statue, which is sited on the exact point that he made the announcement of independence, is measured at a hundred steps. Moving beyond the statue, the strangest shape of all is a truncated swoop in grey marble that reaches up about five storeys. This is the mausoleum and its design, like everything here, is significant. It is designed to evoke a tree stump. The tree has roots and needs water. These are important and perennial concepts in Africa. The trunk is solid but the branches have been chopped down in their prime. Nkrumah’s project was unfulfilled, cut short by the coup d’etat in 1966. One passes through the mausoleum, finished in kitsch Italian marble, containing the caskets of Nkrumah and Fathia, Nkrumah’s beloved wife. She was buried here just last year. ‘Chop. Chop. Chop’ Says Stephen (‘Eat. Eat. Eat’). ‘What can be said? Our women love to chop and they grow fat. Alas she died’. Beyond, across a dainty drawbridge, the museum itself is a semisubterranean single-storey room, faced with a stunning white Modernist-Egyptian frieze dedicated to Fathia. The frieze, my favourite thing in the whole park, has a weird, timeless quality as it appears Soviet on first glance, but depicts traditional Ashanti symbols such as ‘Sanko Fa’ (returning to one’s roots) and circumspection (an elderly woman holding an egg representing the fragility of political power in a cleft stick), all in rigid hieroglyphic elevation. Inside the museum is a limited but stunning collection of black and white photos. They have the allure of snaps kept in a tin at the in-laws’, brought out to reminisce on family occasions. But these photos show Nkrumah with the pantheon of post-war political icons: standing stern-faced in a VW convertible on his release from Fort James prison in 1951; resplendent centre-frame in a white suit tabling the motion for independence in 1953; in the back of Kennedy’s limousine; at the UN with Krushchev; in tuxedo, quick-stepping with Queen Elizabeth; on a sofa with Fidel Castro; in three-piece tweed with Harold MacMillan; in Mao’s garden in traditional kente cloth; on the tarmac at Addis Ababa

airport with the tiny, doll-like Selassie; sharing a joke with Nasser, who handpicked Fathia as Nkrumah’s wife. However, Nkrumah is not one of those icons himself. I didn’t learn about him at secondary school. He wasn’t assassinated or killed in battle. He succumbed to prostate cancer in exile in 1972. However, he would hands down win the best supporting actor Oscar for post-war leaders. Nkrumah was the engine in developing a Pan-African consciousness and forging links between the developing world and the soviet bloc. I cannot think of any one other figure of the cold-war, post-colonial moment who achieved dialogue with such a range of world leaders. His moment in the sun, when highlife music set the tempo for an ambitious programme of public works and nation-building, couldn’t last. Ghana stoutly refused to capitulate to the neocolonial pressure of the US – he steered the country towards communism. This led to a populist coup in 1966 and Nkrumah’s flight to Guinea. These days, a year on from the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of independence, there is in Ghana a warm nostalgia for Nkrumah, and I feel, having visited the museum, that he represents a lost era when politicians were creating a global consciousness based on alternative ideas and values and debate – things that technology now somehow flattens and stands in for. But what does the place mean for Ghanaians? Stephen tells me ‘this country’s reliance on aid and tourism is not what Nkrumah would have wanted. He wanted self-reliance for this country. He should be resting here after his hard life, but I think that he is not’. I’m sure that Stephen, an active member of the opposition NDC, is only half joking when he says ‘When I am President I will continue Nkrumah’s work – so that the branches can grow to their highest height’. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


archives | berlin by dominique hurth + ciarán walsh

werkbundarchiv museum der dinge

everyday life good design bad taste bauhaus werkbund


hu rt h + w al sh

The Werkbundarchiv – Museum Der Dinge (Museum of Things) is on Oranienstrasse in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin. In a former factory building, it is spread over two floors – one floor for library and offices, the other a public museum. In its former home, under the cupola of the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum, the Museum der Dinge existed only through its name, temporary installations and occasional off-site temporary events, ranging from ambulating persons with sandwich-boards advertising the museum, to a picnic session on artificial turf using the original Werkbund picnic boxes,


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

public things explained by Dingerklärer (thing explicators1) or the sale of things through the so-called Wundertüten (wonder bags2) in former sandwich-dispensers dispersed in the city. The Werkbundarchiv was created in 1973 to preserve the ideas and products of the German Werkbund, established in 1907 by several craftsmen and artists following the Arts and Crafts movement in England. The Werkbund merged crafts and massproduced industrial design, supporting German industry through German qualities. It developed mass-produced modernist daily-

production tracing the product within a particular art-historical period, the Museum der Dinge follows thematic relations that are often disconcerting, focussing on the accumulation of objects instead of on the admiration of a single one. It plays with objects from an industrial context with everyday functions in the museum context, pushing unspectacular products into aesthetic displays, and realised installations. The chosen displays in the new museum location, representing only a small portion of the entire collection, separate themselves from usual curatorial strategies and focus on the accumulation of things, displayed in an un-aesthetic manner in huge wooden cabinets. * Displays in the narrow and lengthy space of the Museum der Dinge divide into several thematic parts: related methods or organisations, relations or correlations; objects connected directly with the history of the Werkbund and the status of commodities and produced goods in twentieth century German society; those which densely group assorted objects together based on a loose thematic typologies such as body-forms, nature, etc.); and temporary exhibitions and installations. For the first time visitor, it is often difficult to grasp the distinctions between different display zones, although after a slow wander amongst the museum’s claustrophobic arrangement of tall wood and glass cases, you do start to detect shifts in curatorial styles as deliberate rather than accidental. Objects representative of the historical discourses in Germany surrounding materiality and design, of which the Werkbund was a major contributor, range from crockery to furniture

hu rt h + w al sh

life objects, and also values such as the appreciation of quality, materiality, good proportion, functionality and longevity. The aesthetic understanding of good taste and good design, for the Werkbund, was as much about being confronted by bad design and bad taste. The Werkbund was dissolved 1934 by the National-Socialists, along with its institutional product, the Bauhaus. Reinstated in 1950, again assembling architecture, urbanism, design and crafts, the Werkbund introduced the aesthetic of ‘good’ design to education: Werkbundkisten (Werkbund boxes), given to pupils, showed thematised household products that were supposed to be held and arranged by the pupils themselves. The names of the designers and the production dates were absent. Such tools civilised good behaviour in the developing consumer society by favouring good design and good form as an ideal taste of post-war Germany. Today the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge has about 35,000 documents and 20,000 objects. It has collected high-quality designs from Werkbund or Bauhaus personalities and products from companies that joined the organisation, reflecting on the developed quality of mass-produced objects. It also examines the Werkbund in daily-life, contrasting elements of good (Werkbund) design alongside no-name or anonymous objects, hand-made objects, kitsch or trash products. Finally, it defines itself as ‘the museum of mass-produced objects from the twentieth century’. The Museum der Dinge demonstrated ingenious installations in previous exhibitions at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, situating a distinguished branding within Berlin’s museum tradition. Far from art-historical museums that proffer creator and date of

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


h ur th + wal sh

from the early twentieth century when Werkbund was founded, through the second World War period, on to the technical and design innovations of the latter part of the post-War period and ending with the post-modern design styles of the 1980s. Nevertheless, many of the displays break from this vaguely chronological structure to contrast specific Werkbund products with mass-produced lambda goods; handcraft with industrial manufacture; high-designer names with no-name products: it shifts from specific German Werkbund products, to products that took influence from the Werkbund, to products that rejected modernist ideas: aesthetic commodities produced by companymembers of the Werkbund. Werkbund-developed taste and aesthetics are challenged by kitsch and the modern use of the German oldtradition that also embraces Nazi products. Another curatorial section has such a sense of apparent material chaos that you can only assume the curators of the museum simply ran out of time after their methodical work on the first part of the museum – simply stashing all the remaining objects haphazardly onto the shelves the evening before the Museum’s opening. Or, you may suspect that a curatorial play is in operation, one which seeks to speak confidently because of, rather than in spite of, the looseness of display methodology. In fact methodology is not absent, but the viewer needs some theoretical help to decode the curatorial objectives as the accumulation of random objects introduce product culture unusual in the context of a museum space. This section includes objects from daily life reminding one of the inventory of an auction house, a laboratory, a folk history museum, antique shops or flea market boxes, sales from the back of trucks, attics, cabinet of curiosities or even some Pennyland (bargain-bin/discount) shops.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

These presentations challenge the characteristic of things and thing-ness3. For example, there are collected artefacts based on the quality of the products, or because they all imitate another material; or they are based on aesthetic codes (for instance, a famous 1950s yellow-black pattern) or on the common material of some hand-made objects; there are those made for emergency situations (often related to historical or military contexts); those resembling body parts, made for the body or suggestive of the body from dolls, to corsets, to prostheses; those imitating reality but without functionality; souvenirs or physical media for memory-based culture; those based on specific functional categories such as leisure or religion; those based on popular culture images – Dürer’s praying hands, or Star Wars, or which are politically- and historically-representative. GDR (East German) products are also presented, either as mass-produced objects based on West-German products (copying, imitating or confrontationally mirroring products from capitalism) or with educational and often propaganda purposes. * In all exhibition displays, much like the Werkbundkisten sets, the names of the designers and producers are not given, the dating of the thing is rarely to be found, and the objects are not chronologically ordered. All the things use every single centimetre of the cases, reinforcing accumulation and the de-aestheticisation of the collection. If some things still retain their coded label from the inventory, no codes or guides have been made to help the viewer finding a way through the alleys: the presented artefacts are neither explained nor displayed in an attractive way. But, in

term naming the tribal council, the village juristic meeting or great councils of northern European folks, in which each tribal member had a voice: a process of early democratic assembly. The democratisation present within the Museum der Dinge arises out of the non-hierarchical methodology of most of the displays. Devoid of declarative contextualisation, and packed together tightly in the museum’s glass cases, each object can be considered with potentially equal interest and value. Each object can, through the processes of highly personalised appreciation, attain its own level of thing-ness. ~

For further information on the museum: 1 A ‘thing explicator’ is a person, often a member or Friend of the Werkbundarchiv who, at organised events, explains to the public specific objects or documents while wearing a white museological glove. 2 The name Wundertüten plays perhaps with the memory of the cheap ‘surprise’ gift-bags for children, containing a mixture of hidden confectionary and small toys, and the German word Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, an early collecting concept. 3 By thing-ness, we understand here the shifting of an object towards the state of an entity, qualified generally by subjectivity – a concept that is explained later. 4 Benjamin, Walter. ‘L’oeuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique (dernière version de 1939)’ in: Oeuvres III. Paris: Ed. Gallimard, 2000

hu rt h + w al sh

this process of de-contextualisation of the object, it is as if the collection was waiting to be put back into reality, into daily-life world, a world of things. The word thing generally refers to something that is not fully defined: something random or vaguely declared. Although the museum presents a collection of random objects, things within the confines of the institution, it nevertheless remains related to our world, a world of things. In that sense, the term thing here should be understood as being not only an object, with a named and functional form, but as something that possesses a transgressive quality. It is not fully defined, but it is qualified by time and location, the hin (here) and the nunc (now) – qualified by the uniqueness of the place in which the object is to be considered. The de-contextualisation of the object in this museum setting offers the opportunity to bestow narratives and relations in an arbitrary, subjective manner by the viewer: the path from object to entity finds its way through the viewer’s contemplation, through the oscillation of considerations within one shape. In the viewer’s appreciation of the objects issued from the thing-world, each object becomes endowed or even blessed by its quality of thingness, but gaining currency also from its daily-life recognition. This helps us consider the museum as a sort of collection of lost souls, where function may be gone, but the aura still remains. While the museum appeared at first glance as a storage unit, we might now come to think of it as a cemetery of random objects, a weighty space of diverse narratives exploding out of the window cases, competing in the constant transmission of their stories. The viewer is confronted by a society of entities , a consideration influenced by the etymology of the old Germanic word Ding – also called Ting, or by historical process Thing – a

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


to n kao pan i n

museums | memory bangkok thailand by tonkao panin

memorials authenticity presentation time affection

corrado feroci’s museum in bangkok

a home far away from home Upon entering the Fine Arts University in Bangkok, one passes through small gardens and courtyards before one sees, hears and smells art productions of all kinds. Students walk in and out and sit at small courtyard cafes looking at exterior walls that are never left blank but always adorned with ever-changing images. Despite its many public art galleries welcoming visitors, this is only a tiny university occupying only half of a small street block in the heart of Bangkok’s old city. Its location is just opposite to the prime tourist spot, the Grand Palace, thus the university is at once a public arena and a small private universe, depending upon who you are and why you are there. At once tranquil and lively, it is a place one easily feels at home already on the first visit. A hundred years ago, this was not possible. Such a place simply did not exist. Art education in an ‘old’ country such as Thailand is something surprisingly ‘new’. And the man who made it all possible was brought in from far away, Florence, Italy. In 1923, King Rama VI sent a request to the Italian government for a sculptor to train Thai craftsmen. The man who came for this temporary task but ended up staying in Thailand for the rest of his life was Corado Feroci, a sculptor from Florence who left his family behind for the task entrusted upon him. Feroci first served the Thai government as a sculptor under the Royal patronage, and was assigned to train Thai artisans of various trades. Shortly afterwards, his reputation as a unique art teacher was known, thus he was asked by the Thai government to establish a curriculum and textbooks for the formal training of artists, which never existed before in Thailand. Thus was the first art school in Thailand born in 1937 with Feroci as its first director, known as Silpakorn School of Fine Arts. In 1943, amidst the turmoil of World War II, the school became the first university of Fine Arts, with Feroci as the first dean. He continued working for Thai government, creating 18 famous monuments, and taught generations of Thai artists until he died in 1962 at the age of 70. Throughout the 38 years Feroci lived in Thailand, he occupied a rather small studio inside the university. It is located near the school’s entrance, on the first floor, allowing him to observe dynamic changes throughout the day. As he was usually the first person to arrive and the last to leave, everyone would see him working, hear him repeatedly singing Santa Lucia which later became the school’s anthem. Feroci’s years in Thailand were dedicated to rigorous teaching as well as artistic productions. Generations of artists and art students regard him as the father of modern art in Thailand. On September 15th of each year, Thai artists and art students commemorate and pay homage to the man, his life and work that made others’ artistic lives and works possible.

Today Feroci’s working space has been transformed into a museum – its name, once Feroci’s studio and now Feroci’s museum, already suggests the past, something that is no longer current and active. Despite the fact that almost every object in the studio is still present, the place seems haunted without its active owner. When in use, everything was simply an integral constituent of the place, acted and reacted in concert with the man who conducted them. They occupied their logical and participatory locations, though not always composed and tidy. Thus the crucial question for the organisation of this museum is ‘how should all the objects be placed in relation to one another?’ If left in their original positions, the objects may emphasise the sense of missing spirit, so much so that they would simply become ghosts that linger in a place of nowhere. If orchestrated into a composed display, the objects may become just nameless antiques, far detached from the life they once lived. How could such a museum be organised to represent both the life it once housed, and the true sense of time and value the objects hold in the present? The solution turns out to be quite simple. Helped in that it is less than a hundred square metres in size, everything is organised into two layers of story. While the first narrative deals with the past, the second is aimed at the present. Feroci’s actual and active occupation sets the spatial framework for the place. Pieces of furniture act as architectural elements determining the configuration of the place as a whole. One moves and turns within the small space the same way Corrado Feroci did decades ago. Yet, objects are deliberately ‘misplaced’, for while some are in their logical positions, many are not. A number of objects are set to become ‘active’ reminders of the past activities, but many are orchestrated into an overtly museum-like display. Together they create a strangely familiar place, at once real and unreal, given a sense of both being somewhere and nowhere. In other words, it becomes a place that the memory of Feroci both owns and disowns. As we walk into it, the structural configuration made me feel as if we are probing into someone else’s private life, yet looking closely at objects and art works we are suddenly brought back into our own life and time. It is a place that allows both kinds of experience to constantly fluctuate within the same visit. A few years ago, Romano Viviani, Feroci’s only son came from Florence to visit the school and the museum. Even though the place his father described in the letters was certainly unfamiliar, he finally acknowledged that however small, it represents a dream, a determination, a sacrifice and a hope for Thai art students. This confirmed the presence of the person he remembered. Upon entering the ‘studio’ Viviani admitted he could no longer picture his father in the place, but somehow it was the smell and sound he used to imagine. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0



musée rodin, paris

house and home

rodin collections narrative suitability setting

j o rd a n e l l i s

artists’ houses paris by jordan ellis


Beside the grand golden dome of Les Invalides in Paris, sits a relatively more subtle house. It is hidden by an old wall inset with a modern stone and glass entrance and the sign Musée Rodin. While this house/museum and grounds are surrounded by a high, hiding curtain, the art inside is the opposite. The separation of art to viewer (voice to listener) is as transparent as the spaces are to the art within: here is not the submissiveness of the modernist white box, nor the fight for attention provided by many new gem galleries — intuitively I feel a historical similarity, a cohesion in the relationship between space and object. But is there really such a relationship? From where I stand with my digital camera and space-age mind I am looking for more than just an old thing and an older thing.

I am reminded of Salvador Dalì’s house in Catalunya, truly of his mind. It is not so much that he was influenced by his surroundings, but rather that he formed his world as an illustration of his imagination. So, in this surrealistic building there is no segregation between object/space because they were constructed coincidentally. Rodin, on the other hand, had little control over his surroundings, which may be why, in 1911, he began to consign his life’s work to the French state upon condition that a museum be devoted to him at the site of the Biron. Could the museum be as confident in its artistic holdings if it was at another site, like so many other artist museums that are continents-removed from the place of artistic creation; is this relationship little more than historical efficiency and regional politic?

The older thing (house-museum) is the Hôtel Biron, built in 172830, and not home to artist Auguste Rodin for its first two centuries. It lived lifetimes in possession of many people before taking its current role. In its penultimate (to date) existence, it was hotel to several prominent artists, such as Henri Matisse and Jean Cocteau, with Rodin moving in, in 1908, in admiration. Quickly, Rodin began to place his sculptures in the garden; he drew and painted on the walls; there was always some physical relationship between his art and his space. But it is just another old house, no? What interests me is the question: would his work have been realised differently if he had lived in another space, another place?

Outside the house is the garden, a small-scale formal layout of pathways, parterres and fountains. Along the path, and at nodal points, are cast sculptures of human characters forever locked in personal or relative tension. If art and its ‘poetics can be articulated only in a broad collaboration and over time’, then while the object remains quantifiably the same, how we see it is forever changing. Perhaps this regular French garden works in favour of Rodin, then. Its iconic and historic conventionality converges with Rodin’s figures, so that over time the viewer increasingly sees a kind of correctness about the placement.

O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

j o rd a n e l l i s

Inside the house lies what we might call the soft arts; paintings, marble and clay objects formed in contrast to the cast-bronze garden figures. The precarious craft of these objects is reflected in the delicate fabrication of detail on walls and ceilings; nonetheless, the solid construction of the building protects the brittle art works. Any building could [hopefully] do this. What is special about this building that makes the art belong here? If the artist’s intention cannot be immediately read, then we must look at his story: ‘there can be no narrative without a narrator and a listener’ writes Roland Barthes, and it is not the canonic form, but rather the regulated transformations that truly matter. It is not what the artist wanted us to see a century after his death, but the transformation of meaning with each new visitor. By neither hiding in the shadow, nor dominating the object, the museum lends itself to an adaptable narrative. Rodin did not necessarily make art specifically for his surroundings, but that does not guarantee dichotomy or offense between one and the other.

I will not intuit Rodin’s intentions, inspirations and the degree to which this hotel influenced his work. As Mies wrote, ‘the visible is only the final step of a historical form, its fulfillment […] then it breaks off and a new world arises’. What I hear now is not what necessarily what was spoken a century ago. While I am thankful that enough care was taken to keep the house looking as it did when Rodin claimed it as the proper venue for his work, I expect it should not remain this way forever. Whether this building could house any other art collection, and whether this art collection would be the same elsewhere, I will say only that Auguste Rodin thought it appropriate that his artistic expression have a home in the Biron, and while the building may not look like a Rodin sculpture, I certainly appreciate the dialogue between object/space, in/out, and all other sides. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


archives | figueres espana by miriam jordan and julian jason haladyn

the architecture and archive of the teatre-museu dalí


surrealism contexts environments curiousities oddness

From the moment of our arrival, we entered a Dalinian world; the landscape of the surrounding countryside was like that of so many of the artist’s surrealist depictions and the abundance of pomegranates served as an appropriate frame for Dalí’s kitschy museum, an architectural fantasy that appears to have emerged from the artist’s strange paintings. The equally quirky interior of the Teatre-Museu Dalí – walls, ceilings, windows, arches, stairwells – function as a canvas for Dalí’s imaginative artistic vision. He rebuilt the stage of the ruined Teatre Principal underneath a latticed dome, which resembles the compound eye of a fly and designed by the Spanish architect Emilio Pérez Piñero. To link the geodesic dome with the supporting vault, Dalí painted the vault with a red lattice, mirroring the lattice of the dome, on a blue ground. The vault painting bleeds into the supporting walls which Dalí covered with blue paint spatters and draped with several of his giant shaped plywood paintings, made specifically for this location: one wall sports an enormous nude titan with a cube for a head squeezing a blue sheet; another wall bears two gigantic hands draping a white sheet over a fluffy cloud, while countless nude figures spill down the walls to the floor.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

j ordan + h alady n

We arrived early in the morning in Figueres, Spain; we had spent the night on a train and got little sleep. It was therefore all the more dreamlike when we came upon the Teatre-Museu Dalí, a surreal mirage at the end of a street, a majestic pink building dotted with triangular loaves of bread and topped with giant eggs. Our reason for visiting Figueres was specifically to see this museum, designed by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí to house his artwork, his extensive collection of art – which is displayed as the context for his work, and his crypt. But, more than simply a site that contains Dalí’s artwork, this structure is, as the guide book for the museum notes, ‘a Dalinian piece, a work to which Salvador Dalí, with his typical stubbornness and thoroughness, devoted thirteen years of his life’1. In other words, the museum can be seen as a grand architectural-scale work of art that Dalí produced to present his work in a context that reflected and embodied his artistic interests and motifs. The Teatre-Museu Dalí was constructed out of the ruined Teatre Principal, an auditorium built in 1849 by the architect Roca Bros, which had been virtually destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War; all that remained was ‘a dramatic semi-circular shell of blackened stone’2, which Dalí incorporated into the building of his museum. Although Dalí proposed the idea in 1960, the project was not realised until 1974 when it finally opened to the public. This project represented a significant accomplishment for Dalí, whose ambition to establish a major collection of his work, specifically within his home country of Spain, and his home city of Figueres, was of the utmost importance to him, particularly in terms of the manner in which the location serves to contextualise the artist and his work.

j ordan + h alady n

Dalí covered the back wall of the stage with a huge painting on canvas copied from his original scenery for the 1941 New York production of the ballet Laberinto for which the artist also created the libretto and costumes. The stage is rebuilt as a fantastical stage-set that displays the inherent drama of Dalí’s artwork to its fullest advantage – a quality that can be found in every detail of the elaborate museological construct. One of the most significant spaces in the museum is the Mae West Hall, which houses Dalí’s room-sized installation Face of Mae West Which Can Be Used As an Apartment (1974) constructed by the artist with the assistance of the architects Óscar Tusquets and Pedro Aldámiz. The museum visitor can survey the optical illusion created with this installation by climbing a set of stairs and peering through a reductive lens, which Dalí positioned beneath the belly of a plastic camel. From this vantage point, the visitor sees Dalí’s literal transformation of a three-dimensional space into a two-dimensional image of Mae West’s face as a drawing room, complete with the ubiquitous sofa lips, Saliva-sofá (1974), constructed by Tusquets from red spongy material. To claim that we had entered the world of Salvador Dalí, in this case, would be a literal description of the experience of this room. Through his consistent use of the architectural space of the museum to actively frame his artwork, Dalí constructs an life-sized cabinet of curiosities for the visitor to wander through and interact with. Like much of Dalí’s artistic production, the museum is an erotically charged space that at times disorients and creates a feeling of paranoiac unease through the juxtaposition of architectonic space and artworks made out of eclectic objects. Reprising the organisation of Surrealist exhibitions – for example, Rainy Cadillac, located in the middle courtyard, directly references Dalí’s famous Rainy Taxi from the 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme – this museum actively defies visitors’ attempts to make sense of this space in any coherent manner. Instead we find ourselves meandering through countless rooms of cultural objects and historical minutiae; an experience epitomised in the Palau del Vent, a series of three rooms filled with oddities, such as a golden gorilla skeleton positioned next to a giant seashell bed supported by curving dragons, both of which are positioned beneath a tapestry reproduction of Dalí’s famous painting The Persistence of Memory. As an archive, the Teatre-Museu Dalí represents more than a space provided to passively view Dalí’s artwork and collection, but instead exists as an artwork to be actively experienced and remembered. Ironically, we can only remember it as a dream. ~ J.L. Giménez-Frontín. Teatre-Museu Dalí. Madrid: Tusquets/ Electa Guides, 1997. p 9 2 Giménez-Frontín, p 13 1

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


museums | landscape collioure by matt williams

painters landscape fauves nature colour

city as museum as landscape


right: an empty frame captures Notre-Dame-des-Anges opposite top: the light in Collioure played a significant role in Matisse’s and Derain’s development of Fauve painting bottom: Andre Derain painted many canvases depicting the culture in Collioure. This painting forms part of the Chemaine de Fauvisme

matt williams


I came to Collioure, a small French city on the Mediterranean coast, during a walking trip that took me across the French Pyrenees. Starting from the Atlantic Ocean, my travelling partner and I traversed various sections of the Grand Randonée 10 trail until we reached the sea, just north of the Spanish border. Over the course of the journey I discovered the ‘noble art of walking’ as Thoreau declared it.1 Walking provides a fine-scale experience, revealing the details that would go unnoticed by travellers in cars, buses or trains. These details become central to the walker’s experience. The minute vernacular – door-knobs, house interiors, tiny gardens – is discovered when you enter a town by way of a trail or sidestreet and not the main road. Walking then became the central mode of travel as my partner and I made decisions as to how and where to spend our time. For two months we moved from place to place primarily on foot and camped in hidden fields, mountainsides or tucked away campgrounds. Thus we arrived in Banyuls sur Mer, the end of our pre-determined travelling plan, and decided to continue walking up the Mediterranean coast. After a day we came to Collioure. The landscape in this area of France is a hot, dry shade of brown, with white, clay-roofed stucco buildings, dissected by green lines of vineyards. Tall, globe-shaped

pine trees bubble over the rolling foothills of the Pyrenees that gently fall into the sea. Cascading pink roses, blue shutters, yellow doors and an everchanging and endless sky radiate from the brown and white landscape. As I discovered Collioure and its vibrant palette I could see how, after spending time here in the early twentieth century, Henri Matisse and Andre Derain founded the style of painting that became known as Fauvism.2 In Collioure, Matisse and Derain were struck foremost by the quality of the light. ‘Above all, the light. A blonde light, a golden hue that suppresses the shadows’, Derain wrote.3 This light, paired with the brilliantly coloured landscape, encouraged Matisse and Derain in their use of bright, vivid colours in flat tracts, the characteristics of Fauvism. Derain, particularly, found the culture in Collioure a magnificent subject for recording. The city forms a natural port and is divided in two sections along the coast by a large royal chateau. Jutting into the opening to the sea is a promontory on which sits the picturesque Notre-Dame-des-Anges, a lighthouse converted to a church. Away from the sea, narrow streets are lined with irregularly shaped and brilliantly painted buildings that break to form quiet public spaces. In Derain’s time, the beach was crowded with small, multi-coloured fishing boats and their Catalan captains returning with their daily catch. Today, a few of these boats remain, mainly for historical and tourism purposes, and annually, during July, many boats gather in celebration of Catalan fishing culture. At this time, the sea becomes dotted with white sails and the shore clustered with bright boats and characters.

O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

matt williams

The legacy of Derain’s and Matisse’s artistic achievements made in Collioure is vivified throughout the city by the placing of reproductions of their work at locations depicted in the paintings. Twenty works are displayed, forming la Chemaine de Fauvisme. This path can be followed, but more often the works are simply encountered casually throughout the city, a way to view the work in a manner not offered by the Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay, or any other museum. This interface, between the painting, viewer and landscape, allows the viewer to make connections between the place and the painting. It allows one to consider how a landscape could be abstracted, what assumptions were made by the painter, what details were glorified or suppressed and to speculate what the painter was trying to express about that landscape in time and space. Landscapes themselves are cultural creations. They are a phenomenon where human and natural systems coalesce and do not exist until they are interpreted as something beyond their mere physical composition. Landscape painting thus reflects a personal, and by extension, social understanding of our environment through the composition of various elements, real and imaginative, that exist in the world or in our minds. Collioure is not a static French village clinging to its heritage as tourist promotion. Its arts community continues to thrive, with numerous galleries of recognised artists. The countryside thrives with vineyards producing the regional aperitif Banyuls and its hand-cured anchovies are a French delicacy. It has an everyday life similar to most rural French villages, though its Mediterranean climate and culture

provide good reason for a large influx of visitors during the summer. As a gallery, Collioure provides the unique experience of viewing the Matisse and Derain paintings, but it also provides viewers the ability to frame their own paintings and develop their own interpretations of the landscape. At various locations throughout the city empty frames are positioned to provide both prominent and everyday views of the city. These frames allow viewers to stop, dwell upon a scene and develop their own interpretation and abstraction of the landscape. Collioure, as a city as a museum as a landscape, creates opportunities for greater understanding of landscape and culture by communicating and exhibiting its heritage in situ. Perhaps visitors sharing this experience will begin to develop a greater appreciation for their own daily surroundings. Perhaps they will begin to see their surroundings as worthy of a work of art and the city as a shifting cultural institution that ‘exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment’.4 ~ Thoreau, Henry David. Walking. San Franciso: Harper Collins, 1994 Freeman, Judi. Fauves. New South Wales: The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1995 3 Derain quoted in Freeman, 1995. 4 What a museum does, as defined by the International Council of Museums. 1


a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


urbanism | uzbek planning by gerald forseth

travelling the silk road, archiving empires

Samarkand We travel not for trafficking alone, By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned. For lust of knowing what should not be known We take the Golden Road to Samarkand. –from The Golden Journey to Samarkand, the final lines of a 1913 poem by James Elroy Flecker

Soviet planning extended to Uzbekistan: in Samarkand the radial planning evident in Moscow is seen on the west side, old Samarkand remains intact

Samarkand, Uzbekistan has a growing population over 425,000 of which 50% are 15 years or younger. The city is divided neatly in two: east (old) Samarkand, and west (new) Samarkand, each with a distinct spatiality. East or Old Samarkand Old Samarkand is an Asian town near the mid-point of the ancient Silk Road with tangled alleys on hills and valleys, tightly constructed spaces, hidden courtyards and beautiful, contemplative and reflective public places. The oldest buildings and squares remain important places of pilgrimage and visitation, and close to each other. Walking is easy and pleasurable. The main axis is Tashkent Kuchesi between the sumptuous, historic Registan Madrassah and Maydoni [public square] and the central bazaar – a frenetic and colourful display of shawls, embroidered dresses, traditional coats, western jeans, turbans and hats of every nationality and every era. The west boundary of old Samarkand is Koksarai, a modern Russian-built maydoni on a visible old/new division line running north and south (see above). West or New Samarkand In Central Asia, the Russian imperialists of the late nineteenth century built beside existing towns, leaving the old intact, liveable and protected. In west Samarkand shady European avenues radiate from the Koksarai Maydoni, the modern heart of the city and province, and adjacent to the old heart, the Registan madrassah complex. Russian empire planning contributed underground sanitary services, broad boulevards, tree-lined


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

streets, large plazas, immense parks and gardens, gigantic fountains and monumental sculpture. Beaux-art façades were built of local beige brick and stone, continuous and long on the street, with grand doorways, sculpted jambs and headers, and lofty interior rooms. Soviet planning, particularly in the 1950s, installed Corbusian planning theory: isolated, tall, concrete buildings within large green parks surrounded by wide streets specifically scaled for fast-moving automobiles. This planning has led to a continuous, sprawling footprint. Covering west Samarkand on foot requires much traversal of heroic concrete plazas, green parks and long distances. Using public transit is necessary, now handled by thousands of small Daiwoo vans.

opposite: Silk Road changes and transformations evidence of economic and political eras (opposite column left), and evidence of programmatic transformations (column right). UNESCO World Heritage Sites are all through this region – in Uzbekistan alone Tashkent, Samarkand, Bhukhara, Khiva and the Fergana Valley and desert. UNESCO has limited resources, stretched thin, and relies on local willingness and compliance to protect heritage sites. Each year, some UNESCO-designated sites worldwide are publicly listed for failure to control looting and/ or protection of historic fabric. In Uzbekistan, there appears to be a local willingness to protect and secure; but some carelessness and lawlessness continually threatens important treasures and surfaces. Diligence, similar to that provided by the Soviets before 1993, is now required here more than ever.

late nineteenth century offices,Tashkent: local masonry; beaux-arts styles imported from imperial Russia

the Soviets planned this immensely broad plaza to link leafy parks containing major concrete buildings, such as the 1950’s Corbusianinspired Hotel Samarkand in the background, or below, the Sharj office building, Tashkent, a 1950’s Soviet-ordered tower that seems to promote labour (clock), masculinity (concrete and cantilever), communications/ propoganda (tower) and purity (white)

modern cafes transform Labi Hauz, Bukhara; tourists and scholars meet daily at this cool, shady maydoni for tea, plov and shashlik

a hotel in Mohammed Amin Khan madrassah, Khiva; a carefully inserted quality hotel places guests in the heart of UNESCO-protected Khiva, its entrance beside the Kalta Minor ‘fat’ minaret

a Gum store transforms the Aloqulli-Khan caravanaseri, Khiva; locals purchase modern goods in this air-conditioned version of Wal-Mart below: high-end retail along Amir Timur Kuchesi is inserted into Sovietbuilt concrete apartments, Tashkent; new petroleum wealth for a few brings with it access to chic renovated apartments with Adidas, Armani, Versace and Villeroy & Bosch boutiques at the base

ge ral d fo r set h

old Samarkand contains grand structures commissioned by Timur and his heirs but also continues as a district where city/country life has changed little over the centuries and miniature mosques occupy small green pocket parks along lanes well-travelled by shepherds, mule carts, residents and now tourists

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


g e r a l d f o r se t h above: a mosque in the Hodja Arrar ensemble, Samarkand: many small mosques in this ensemble are dispersed around the hauz; elaborately painted tapered columns and the perforated ceramic screens embellish the aivan (study porch) at one entrance

below left: the bazaar in Kultimurodinok madrassah, Khiva; trading and bartering for goods is no different today than a thousand years ago, but here the sellers occupy former shaded teaching niches and display local crafts carved, moulded, hooked, stitched and woven from within the preserved city right: a gateway of intersecting streets; Tok-i-Zargaron in Bukhara is one of three remaining gateways each dedicated as a bazaar to money-changers, cap makers, and in this case jewellers located under domes with exposed, unembellished structural ribs that seem both futuristic and photogenic

Samarkand Through History Samarkand (known as Marakanda to the Greeks) was founded in the fifth century BC. It is one of Central Asia’s oldest settlements, located on the edge of the Khryzlkhum desert east of the Caspian Sea, nestled into the foothills of the Tian Shen and Fan Mountains, and situated north of the great Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges. In 329 BC Alexander the Great from Macedonia conquered central Asia and married pretty Roxanna from Samarkand. At the crossroads of the great Silk Road between China, India, Persia and Italy, Samarkand grew to a city larger than the one we see today. From the sixth to thirteenth centuries it changed hands about every 100 years, occupied by Western Turks, Arabs, Persian Samanids, Karakhamids, Sejug Turks, Mongolian Karakitay and


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

Khorizmshaw. Amir Timur, born near Samarkand, a powerful tyrant and a grand patron of literature and the arts made it the capital of the Tamarlane empire by 1370. Timur and his grandson Uleg Beg (1400-1447) forged Samarkand into a new, magical, economic, cultural and intellectual epicentre with extraordinary fortress walls and gateways, mosques, madrassahs, minarets, mausoleums, palaces, bazaars, caravansaries (traveller’s inns) and an astronomical observatory. In 1868 the army of the Tsars of Russia arrived, constructing the Trans-Caspian Railway in 1888 as a fast link to Moscow. In 1924 Samarakand was declared, briefly, the capital of New Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic, but in 1930 lost that honour to Tashkent.

g e r a l d f o r se t h above: Guri Emir Mausoleum, Samarkand, 1405. Under the fluted azure dome are the jade and onyx crypts and tombs of Amir Timur, two sons and two grandsons, including Uleg Beg. There is a debate, both international and local about the degree of restoration appropriate to such buildings: should they be kept in their current but authentic state of disrepair, or should they be repaired to look new. The Soviets opted to restore and repair. World archaeologists now promote a slowing down of that process, opting for the mothballing and protection of ancient treasures on site. right: 1417, 1620, 1650AD. Three Madrassahs form the celebrated Registan Complex and Maydoni, Samarakand. With stunning majolica, azure mosaics and vast, well-proportioned spaces, the Maydoni was once a wall-to-wall bazaar. History is alive when local sites become more than pristine museums. In Samarkand today, local people wish to occupy and use the spaces in and around famous sites. International concerns then become ‘security-of-treasures’ and ‘how to manage and repair as a result of daily wear and tear’. The continual and on-going reprogramming of these sites through the ages offers expanding information and richness to all users and visitors.

Samarkand Today Samarkand is an archive of its imperial pasts. There are archaeological sites with exposed parts of the original Arks [fortress walls] destroyed by Alexander the Great in 329BC, by Atilla the Hun in the fourth century AD, by Ghengis Khan and his Mongol horde in 1220 and by his grandson Kublai Khan in 1250. There are historic and sumptuous UNESCO-protected buildings (Zoroastrian and, after the seventh century, Islamic) commissioned by, for example, the Samini tribe (ninth century), by Amir Timur, the greatest builder in Samarkand (1369-1408), by Uleg Beg, ruler, scholar, mathematician and astronomer (1410-1450) and by the feuding Khanates from Kokhand, Bukhara and Khiva of the 1800s. There are the adjacent broad streets, immense plazas and monumental buildings parachuted into Samarkand by the Russian empire (1873-1917). There are immense and brutal concrete apartments, offices and bureaus constructed under Lenin, Stalin, Khruschev and later Soviet presidents (1917-1993). Finally there are contemporary steel /glass hotels and offices to accommodate global tourism and

multi-national petroleum companies, and replacement public sculpture dedicated to the pre-Russian past representing post-Soviet unfettered capitalism and heroic nationalism (1993 – now). By 100BC the Silk Road, linking Europe to Asia, was pretty much established. Cultural conversions and conversations moved quickly along that road – around the same time the Chinese Kushan dynasty converted to Buddhism. The peoples of the Silk Road worshipped a mix of Greek, Roman, Buddhist, Iranian and Hindu deities; this mix continues – in Samarkand today some people live as they might have the fifteenth century. Others sport iPods, buy Guess-designer clothing and drink mocha lattes. Samarkand exhibits the great mix of Europe and Asia, past and present. It also impressively presents people and places that profoundly and proudly showcase European and Asian linguistic, music, fashion and food distinctions. All this contrast can be easily and precisely observed at the boundary that separates extant old Samarkand from new Samarkand. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


at the titan missile museum

rehearsing the end

nuclear war warheads cold war ICBM fear

j o se ph masc o

museums | sahuarita arizona by joseph masco


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

j o se p h m a sc o

‘We don’t strike first; we strike fast’ says our guide, a former cold war Titan missile commander now taking us through a simulated launch of a thermonuclear missile. We are standing in the control room of a Titan II missile silo, 30 miles south of Tucson, in Sahuarita, Arizona. [opposite, top] We are buried deep underground, facing a wall of lime green computer terminals that look much too archaic and quaint to produce any real degree of violence. We play out the authorising of failsafe launch codes, the countdown and launch sequences, and imaginary nuclear war – an act that happens daily in this room just as it did for the two decades of the Cold War (1962-1982) in which this Titan silo was a central part of the US nuclear deterrent. Now presented to us as ‘history’, the nuclear war logics that support mutual assured destruction and the necessity of the Titan missile system are visible today only as relics, seemingly disconnected from the nuclear militarism of the contemporary United States. The Titan Missile Museum is the only place in the world where you can see an intercontinental missile system on public display, joining a number of new US history museums devoted to the cold war security state [below]. It stands as both a museum and an archive of cold war technology, presenting an all too rare chance to walk through the infrastructure of the nuclear ‘balance of terror’ and interact with the former Titan missileers that now staff the museum. A museum visit consists of viewing a small display of artefacts and cold war history [above], a film presentation which gives

background on the Titan system (hosted by Chuck, a pony-tailed narrator who looks more like a forest ranger than a cold war veteran) and in my case, a tour of the missile silo by a former Titan commander. The Titan Missile was part of a global system for nuclear war, linking the US and the USSR in a shared technological apocalypticism. We learn, for example, that the Titan Missile bases were located as close to the US - Mexican border as possible to maximise the time for radar to pick up Soviet missiles coming over the north pole, giving the missile crews time to launch their retaliatory strikes. The Titan Missile itself is over 100 feet tall and protected by eight-foot thick steel blast doors hardened against nuclear attack [opposite bottom left]. The entire facility sits on giant springs to absorb the impact of nearby nuclear detonations; even the electrical and plumbing systems were designed with enough slack to allow 18-inches of bounce [opposite bottom right]. Massive silo doors (now bolted open to allow satellite reconnaissance of the decommissioned missile) are the only visible aspect of the silo from ground level. However, an above ground museum site is now populated with outdoor displays of the multiplyredundant communication and security systems, plus an exhibit on rocket engines and fuel management systems. [overleaf, top] Much of the tour however is spent underground rehearsing the security of the site (working through multiple code words, safes, telephone checkpoints and procedures for crews entering the facility and various failsafe mechanisms for preventing infiltration or an unintentional launch) and playing nuclear war. [overleaf, bottom]

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


Our guide states repeatedly that the US would never launch first – even though Air Force policy suggested otherwise throughout much of the Cold War – underscoring the strange moral authority required to be a cog in a larger nuclear war system. The one-shot Titan missile was, of course, pre-targeted by military planners. The silo crew (which rotated shifts between multiple silos) never knew where any of the missiles they controlled would land: their job was simply to maintain the facility and to push the launch button without hesitation on order of the President. Crew members simply knew that ‘58 seconds after the launch keys are turned the engines will ignite’ and ‘thirty minutes later a target on the other side of the planet will be destroyed’ — where, when and why was someone else’s responsibility.

jo se ph masc o

We learn early on that crew members carried a pistol at all times while on duty, marked as necessary for site security but also to ensure that a reluctant crewman ‘did his job properly in case of a launch order’. They needn’t have bothered with this implied threat. The crew was pre-selected and trained precisely for their ability to launch a thermonuclear missile on command. Our guide tells us, for example, about daily life in the missile silo – the four person teams (two on duty, two off ) that would work 24 hour shifts, and spend each minute on alert checking and doublechecking the equipment. This constant rehearsal of maintenance and launch sequences served also to make the crews robotic in action and thought regarding the facility.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

The Titan Missile Museum is today largely devoted to veterans, who make up the vast majority of visitors. It is run by veterans, caters to military tourism and is designed to enable Cold Warriors to have a public site of recognition and remembrance for their service. However, this call to memory is complicated, supported as much by amnesia and repression as by recognition and commemoration. This is because the national security state fundamentally relies on, and strives to produce, an absence of public memory. The ability to shift public fear from one ‘enemy’ to the next relies on a combination of perception management and state secrecy enabling, in the case of the U S, the constant roll-out of new threats and new technologies to meet them. Just as declassification can change our understanding of past national security policy and conflicts, public memory is always at odds with a national security apparatus that relies on such a highly flexible approach to the production and management of danger. Put differently, the fears supporting the Cold War ‘balance of terror’ can morph into the ‘war on terror’ today not because it makes any real sense but because the images of threat can be presented to American citizens as both coherent and eternal. Efforts to unpack the detailed history of the Cold War, or to address the specific claims of current counter-terrorism, inevitably challenge the rationale of the national security state. For this very reason, the public history museums and archives that address aspects of American security are both essential and highly politicised. Thus, when Chuck, the narrator of the Titan Missile Museum film, tells us that ‘peace is never fully won, it is only kept from moment to moment’ and then thanks the Titan missile crews for a ‘job well done’, he merely underscores survival. However, walking through the technological infrastructure of a cold war nuclear complex also forces us to think about the constant nuclear war rehearsal that took place in Titan Missile silos (and in other places, then and now) and to consider the production, not only of a nuclear deterrent, but also of a highly militarised, nuclear culture [below]. Cold war ‘defence’ produced a minute-to-minute ability to destroy human civilisation and a militarised national culture that continues to naturalise such a possibility as simply an aspect of the world system. The Titan Missile Silo Museum provides access to the origins of this project while occluding the continuing power of these ideas in the US by presenting them as archaic technology. The ultimate question provoked by the Titan Missile Museum is, then, what would it take to imagine, let alone engineer, a world that does not rely on such mechanised terrors and a society that will not naturalise such apocalyptic potentials? ~

jo se ph masc o

Today the technology looks so archaic as to be incapable of being truly violent. The computer controlling missile guidance – ‘state-of-the-art 1963 technology’ we are told – has a total of 1 kilobyte of memory. ‘That 1K is less than the ring tone on your phone’, says our guide in the best laugh line of the tour. But consider what this 1K system could unleash: lifting off via a two-stage liquid fuel rocket, the Titan II ballistic missile could reach near space orbit and then send its heavy payload, in this case a 9-megaton thermonuclear warhead, back to earth with enough precision to destroy an entire city. Withstanding radical acceleration and vibration as well as extremes of heat and cold, the Titan missile system was designed to launch within sixty seconds and deliver absolute destruction from over the horizon to anywhere on the planet in under 30 minutes. Never has the potential for mass death been rendered as automated, anonymous or immediate as in the Titan system. The Titan II missile system was a central part of the technological and psychological infrastructure of the nuclear age. Built in terrified reaction to the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite in 1957, the Titan missile was a response to the perceptions of a ‘missile gap’. Top-secret reports at the time imagined a Soviet Union deploying hundreds and soon thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles. John Kennedy was elected President in 1960 in part to solve this so-called missile gap through a massive arms build up. Soon after his election the new top secret Corona reconnaissance satellite provided proof that the Soviets had deployed less than 10 missiles, not the hundreds imagined by US planners. The phantom Soviet missiles of the 1950s that produced the Titan Missile complex were very much like the phantom Iraqi WMDs in 2003 that ‘enabled’ the invasion of Iraq. As fantasy they say much about the power of fear and militarism in American culture. At the Titan Missile Museum there are only hints of this history and its over-determined form, for example, in the exhibit on nuclear overkill [below]. Overkill is a theory of nuclear targetting that accounts for imagined future failures in the system by exponentially multiplying the number of nuclear weapons used. In its ultimate form, this produced a US nuclear arsenal of over 36,000 weapons by 1968 and a target list designed to enable a simultaneous global nuclear strike on all communist states. It is difficult today, despite all our current rhetoric of terror, to imagine the social conditions capable of producing a technological system of such total destruction or a national culture that could accommodate the apocalypse so completely within everyday life that it was soon rendered all but invisible.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


museums | tokyo by steve chodoriwsky

reclamation rehabilitation archaeology memory attention

a small protest When I asked the composer Nakai if he could recommend an interesting museum in Tokyo, he began to tell me the rumour of one dedicated to a certain Katsu Kaishu. ‘Actually I’ve never been there myself ’ he said. He had heard that to visit this private (or was it public?) collection, you would first need to bring an object that somehow deals with its namesake. Your contribution is both the ticket and price of admission. There appeared to be some sort of screening process as well. ‘I think it can be anything’ Nakai said ‘as long as you can prove to the owner how it relates to Kaishu’s life’ (as it turns out Kaishu is a critical figure in late seventeenth century Japan – statesman, naval officer, swordsman, peace advocate and one of Japan’s first international representatives. It was his diplomatic skill that is considered instrumental in Japan’s transition of power from the Tokugawa shogunate to the reinstatement of Imperial rule). Nakai then put me in touch with the architectural historian Nakatani, who was at first puzzled by my interest. ‘You are making a very personal request’ he told me when we met, ‘the museum is just my father’s house’. I soon learned that the so-called Katsu Kaishu Peace Museum is the ongoing project of an 83-year-old retired mathematics teacher and lifelong Marxist, and an anomaly of a museum in what often feels like an entire city composed of anomalies. The corner property has three parts: a sturdy but featureless twostorey concrete house (which Naktani’s father himself designed), the remaining portion of a mid-century wooden dwelling and a courtyard garden. As is so often the case in Tokyo the lot is tiny and surrounded by a patchwork of neighbouring buildings. Nakatani and his father led me up to the second floor of the concrete building, where the exhibition occupies but a single room. The flick of a lightswitch revealed four walls covered with carefully hand-drawn maps and black and white photographs, coupled with several anti-violence texts focussing on the life and virtues of Katsu Kaishu and, a bit unpredictably, the thorough decimation of Tokyo during the Second World War. In fact the general site of the house is not without significance. Located in a neighbourhood just north of downtown, it was an area largely destroyed by aircraft bombing and completely rebuilt after the war; Nakatani’s father had at that point moved to, and has lived on, this property ever since. Nakatani then explained to me his father’s activities. For several years, he has been conducting a slow and meticulous archaeological excavation of his property. Sure enough, in the corner was a small glass display case with the objects unearthed so far, dating ruins of the fire-devastated area, centred around everyday life: fragments 40

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st e v e c h o do r i w sk y

site archives and a peace museum

of ceramic bowls and saucers, bits of glass or crystal, sake cups, utensils, buttons and jewellery, half bottles and pieces of jars. Nakatani is at least in part his father’s co-conspirator. He has designed a conveyor belt will which transport the objects up to the second floor to be sorted for display. And he is poetic about the implications, referencing the original wooden house on the property. The earth, he explained, is part of the domain of the ground floor. It is used in traditional dwellings to form the doma, a hard-packed earthen floor mixed with hardening components such as bittern and ash. But here the site’s earth goes through a process of displacement, where its bits and pieces are upended and elevated, examined and exposed. The garden takes up half the property and is thriving in midsummer with watermelons, grapes, rice and sweet potatoes growing amongst recently-planted saplings, various digging sites and collections of pebbles in the midst of being sorted. ‘My father has a long history of being a protester’ Nakatani explained as we wandered through the small wilderness. By excavating objects from his property and categorising them, it is, in his own peculiar way, a protest against violence – the violence that obliterated this and many other areas of Tokyo, and the violence that Kaishu rejected by never drawing his sword. The yield of fruits and vegetables, off of which Nakatani’s father largely lives, then becomes a next stage of the site’s rehabilitation. The original concept of admitting only those bearing Kaishurelated paraphernalia has since fallen away, but the museum remains a work in progress and subject to its creator’s curatorial whims. For instance, on the property, the remaining portion of the original post-war wooden house contains fifty years’ worth of collectibles, documents, household objects, and ‘trash’, in a state of perpetual disarray. Unfortunately I was unable to see inside. The future intention, I was told, is to assemble it all into a ‘museum of ordinary life’, which would complement the excavated artifacts found on the property. A thought occurred while talking to this spry octogenarian that this bizarre little conceptual complex, dedicated to peace, is less the product of an old man’s contempt for lethargy and more a device, in its own personal way, against the act of forgetting. ‘Therefore, doesn’t it succeed as a museum?’ I asked Nakatani upon leaving. Ever the patient observer of his father’s escapades, the architectural historian shrugged, musing ‘Maybe, at the age of 83, the difference between useful everyday things, trash things, and art things is really not so much’. ~

r u bi n + du e c k archives | winnipeg manitoba by gregory beck rubin + conrad dueck

marginal stories south point douglas

de-industrialisation junkyards surplus waste order

In the process of junking its tools of production, Winnipeg has assembled the objects for a museum. Curated by homeless people, bound by trees, tall grass and water, Sheldon’s junkyard archives without restriction the making of the prairie city. And its location is symptomatic of development in Canada – build it, junk it: there’s so much more land. But a closer look at the topography of Point Douglas reveals the framing of the junkyard, and this frame anticipates a new kind of museum. Covering roughly one-half square mile, South Point Douglas is marginalised in part by its proximity to Winnipeg’s downtown. It is bordered on the west by Main Street, the premier street of Winnipeg, which constantly revolts against efforts at gentrification. Bending around the south and east of the site is the main waterway dividing the city, the Red River, badly polluted and threatening to flood every spring just after break-up. The train tracks that bisect the city pass through the Point, and compose the northern edge of South Point Douglas, ultimately isolating this area from normal city development. Containing the old Canadian Pacific Railway station, South Point Douglas is a former city centre, one in a string of attempted civic re-inventions. At its tip is Sheldon’s junkyard, a swelling of the city’s waste under casual surveillance, the final destination for decommissioned industrial machines, heavy metal, rusted truck cabs, antique domestic objects, dunes and dunes of paper. This is a museum that documents the possible lives of objects, but the collection is uncontrollable, wild and under constant tension.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


rubin + dueck

our visit to two rooms one Behind the main gate is a factory wall punctured by the openings of delivery docks; the factory has been closed for years. Parts of the brick wall have been tagged by graffiti artists, and the ground is scattered with countless stoves, fridges and other domestic appliances. It is a jumbled lot, and it is hard to focus on any particular point. We notice the sound of water, closer than the river. Its gurgling draws our attention to the far end of the wall where there’s a pipe hanging off the roof, in front of a window. It’s a peculiar water collection system: discharged from the pipe, streaming in front of the glass before landing and running down long sections of ductwork; the water trickles through an opening to the long aluminum counter top along which it rolls neatly to the corner, slows down, and pools. The pool reflects the sunlight on the wall, and the water slowly drips off the counter and into a black bucket on the ground. Vegetation has crept through the spaces of rusted metal, and little plants grow along the top of the ductwork towards the pipe. The industrial cabinet is tilted, and the peeling paint reveals coats of teal and salmon mousse.


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two Near the tracks to the east of the compound is a yard littered with machines, swallowed by paper in drifts like snow banks. The paper creates a malleable landscape, an elaborate topography engulfing cars, forklifts, bins, switchboard, and containers. It curls like roots into the spaces in and between them, crawling through the windshields, twisting itself to fit through engines and broken glass. The limits of the paper topography are unclear: it appears to reach all the way to the river. We are tempted to step onto this landscape, but like a snowdrift, it could refuse to support us and we would fall in.

rubin + dueck

We are looking for the responsiveness of objects to multiple forces. We seek out the proofs of decay and reinvention; we want to gauge the vitality of things that fill places like this. Every element of the junkyard makes apparent the wide-ranging and co-existent forces trespassing the site, with no distinction drawn between causes. Objects are moved by people with divergent motivations, causing new systems to develop: an abandoned factory, a flourishing architecture; technology transcending its original function. The site, as a part of the city, demonstrates the inevitability of continual change, redefinition of an area that has been considered as finished. Leadership is taken from the margins, in terms of the systems of power in the city. The curator is neither a single person carefully crafting a single line, nor a group of people working in concert, rather curation is a series of decisions in competition with one another, undermining and reframing what others have thought to have completed. And almost every action is anonymous. The person who comes to observe this museum is just one of a diverse group of trespassers, all of whom curate the collection: whether out of necessity or curiosity, they all activate this site. Unlike the normal order of museum-making, objects sit in an apparently unplanned state: time will elapse, objects will move, the specific interaction, the play of water, will have changed – the experience may or may not be repeated – the junkyard museum is an organism, never static. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


jaclyn jones museums| community by jaclyn jones

black world history museum

culture st louis revitalisation social history renewal

necessary stories In 1996, Lois Conley opened the Black World History Wax Museum in a renovated 1916 Catholic school building, in a predominantly African American neighbourhood on the north side of St. Louis, Missouri. More than a decade later, the museum is a significant institution in St. Louis’s cultural landscape. Nearly twenty life-sized wax figures of prominent African Americans, dressed in period clothing and surrounded by contextual material objects, form the basis of the exhibits, designed to introduce visitors to the contributions each individual made to American history and culture. The exhibits expose visitors to lesser-known aspects of common American histories as told from an African American perspective without succumbing to the pitfalls of American exceptionalism often encountered in American history exhibits accessible to children. 44

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The museum’s four main rooms and single wide hallway contain wax figure displays and text panels arranged in roughly chronological order. Starting from a poignant exhibit about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, visitors move through the years to the final exhibit, which features the Reverend Earl Nance, one of St. Louis’s most well-known African American contemporary religious leaders. In between, visitors meet George Washington Carver, Dred Scott, Sojourner Truth, Madame C J Walker, Miles Davis, Josephine Baker, Clark Terry, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr and several others whose striking likenesses help tell their respective stories. While much of the impact of the exhibits comes from their ability to place visitors within reaching distance of each memorable figure, the most moving exhibit does not highlight any one notable individual. Rather, the trans-Atlantic slave trade exhibit features a collection of anonymous brown bodies, barely clothed and chained in small stalls, surrounded by rats and filth. This is where visitors are instructed to begin their tour of the museum, by boarding a full-size portion of a model slave ship. On the top deck, netting surrounds the wax figure of a small black child trying in vain to climb up and off of the ship, and two wax models of a white man fending off a mutinous attack from a black man. In the holding area below, the life-sized wax models of African people lie, chained and crowded. Mirrors expand the scene infinitely in either direction, giving an appropriate impression of the size

jaclyn jones opposite: the exterior of the Black World History Wax Museum above: part of the Miles Davis exhibit

and depth of the original slave ships. A large mirror placed in front of the ship spans the entire width of the below-deck area, so that visitors who go below-deck see themselves amongst the captured Africans. Stepping onto the slave ship is a powerful experience, making it the most successful of many successful exhibits in this museum. For its ability to connect with current African American fashion and culture, the exhibit that features Madame C J Walker is impressive and impactful. Walker was a tremendously successful St. Louis cosmetics entrepreneur who pioneered a national line of hair and makeup products made specifically for black women in the early part of the twentieth century. Through a large collection of African American hair care products and tools from the turn of the century through the 1970s, we learn about the strenuous efforts black women took to create ‘socially acceptable’ hairstyles, striving to achieve a standard of beauty dictated by a white-dominated beauty industry. Also displayed are a 1940s-era standing electric hair dryer and a list of African American superstitions about hair. As is the case for many exhibits in the museum, these items speak to a larger phenomenon than Walker herself and provide a trajectory into the present that may prove powerful for young African Americans today. The very presence of the museum as a black-operated cultural institution in an economically-depressed neighbourhood performs important work as well. Before the museum opened, the building

in which it is housed sat empty and deteriorating for nearly eight years. Today, as it was in 1996, it is surrounded by empty lots, vacant row houses and abandoned apartment buildings. Over the last five years however, signs of revitalisation have started to materialise and Conley is proud to have been one of the first individuals to bring a vibrant, stabilising element to the neighbourhood. With a low admission fee of $5, she ensures that working class and poor African American families, as well as young students, can visit the museum. For Conley, it has been important and meaningful that the museum become part of a community that is racially representative of the figures within its walls. Nonetheless, a limited budget makes publicity and upkeep difficult; visitors cannot miss the poor physical condition of some of the wax figures inside. Although their presence reconstitutes the context of the surrounding artifacts, missing fingers and peeling facial hair damage their potential life-like aura. However, in spite of the damage, visitors of any demographic will leave the museum with an increased understanding of the many African American contributions to the wealth and growth of the United States, and adults in particular will recognize the singularity and importance of the museum’s mission. Hopefully, some will leave a donation on their way out the door. ~ Black World History Wax Museum 2505 St. Louis Avenue Saint Louis, Missouri 63106

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j e n v a n d e r b u rg h film archives | in the basement by jen vandenburgh




O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

families histories time childhood affection

There was once an archive housed in the basement of post-WWII, Levittown-inspired, pitched roof house in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. The street was Cortland Crescent in Applewood Acres, so named in honour of the apple orchards that were razed to build the neighbourhood. Now I draw your attention from the exterior design of the street space where everything looked the same, choreographed to keep kids playing in view of their parents, to the basement where no one but an invited guest was meant to look and I doubt that ever happened. Guests belonged upstairs. This subterranean space was for family, a museum curated by my grandparents as a monument of who they believed we collectively were and their hopes of what we would become. In this place, we would watch my grandfather’s movies. Cool, damp and dimly lit, the habitable portion of the basement was a ‘finished’ box of acoustic tile on a dropped ceiling, speckled black and white linoleum squares, and faux wood paneling. While the rest of the basement was ‘for storage’, this room, too, stored objects in the spirit of utilitarian reverence, housing treasures from Gramps and Jeannie’s family homes, from the family they made together, and the travels they had together once their family had grown. A leather rocker and a large circular missionstyle coffee table came from my grandfather’s side of the family. On the table, scented hotel soaps and restaurant matchbooks, trophies from my grandparents’ travels filled the basket and the lacquered ballerina box that my sister and I dumped and sorted and sniffed through. If my sister and I answered a geography

j e n v a n d e r b u rg h

question correctly, Gramps would dole out artifacts from the ‘secret box’, a trove of trinkets from Christmas crackers, airline freebies, and office supply relics from his time at the Red Cross and the Ministry of Education stashed in his leather studded desk beside the stairs. An L-shaped bench-style couch wrapped two of the main walls and was upholstered in black, synthetic ‘wool’covered foam. Its size was important since it allowed my family to huddle together: me, my sister, my parents, my grandmother, and, on occasion, two cousins, and an uncle and aunt. Here, we would sit and watch my grandfather set up the awkward and threatening spring-loaded screen, and thread his 8mm projector as my father played the piano that had come into my grandmother’s family when she and her eight brothers and sisters were asked by their father whether they wanted to spend that year’s farm surplus on a piano or a car. Behind the piano hung a gilt-framed painting of a fancy Victorian woman lounging at a similar piano, done by Blair Bruce, Jeannie’s storied cousin who left Hamilton to find his fortune as a painter in Europe, and though well-thought of now, impoverished his parents by requiring patronage and having the misfortune of sinking the bulk of his work on a downed ship. Here in this basement museum, my father’s childhood and mine existed simultaneously, separated only by a reel change. In Gramps’ films, dad jumped into Georgian Bay at the same age as I was only moments before, silently dancing all arms and legs before the camera. All of us in the family had our moment as babies wriggling on Jeannie’s white flikkati rug. In these images

we were indistinguishable, even to our mothers who scrutinised and discussed our telling features. This identification was part of the tradition – ‘was this 1966 or 1968?’ — but the point, I think, was that we blended together. Watching these films was an exercise in how connected we are in the passage of time. My father instantly transformed from a child on the screen to a parent before me. I’m sure other families have identical film archives, collections of Christmases and vacations that are interchangeable with mine, but that is also the point. The archives might be the same, but the space and lived experience of every family museum has particular variances and rituals, a language of its own. My dad played the piano during the reel changes and when the film melted in the gate. This was the culmination of years of disgruntled practice that he passed down to my sister and me, music history memorised off of Gramps’ shirt cardboards because Jeannie said it was to be done. This, like the rack of hats from around the world that my sister and I would wear for these occasions, were rehearsals in the cultural capital my grandparents hoped we would represent. This museum architecture had purpose. This space that smelled of soap and damp, that felt so cool on the feet with just enough room to seat my family together, to laugh at the screen, no one for the moment preparing a meal or otherwise distracted.  This was a museum where we munched on After Eights, watching the past, knowing the future was quickly rushing in. Here I learned with all my senses the feeling of being embodied in time and in a family, knowing the bittersweet truth that it would pass.  ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


archives | images by matthew woodruff

the role of photography in the work of measured architecture

Archival magpies

As archivists we draw meaning from a group of images. Our desire is to record everything that exists, as a means of understanding it. Do shadows fall differently on a wall than a floor? How does concrete age? Which walls get graffiti, and which don’t? We have inventories of stains and plants, of forms and textures. We’re interested in the liveliness of old spaces, and the sterility of new ones (including ours). Where does that come from? Photographs are a good way to explore this. Our practice is grounded in the belief that architects are storytellers. We tell the story of the site and the path of the sun, the story of construction, and the story of daily life. We also tell the story of our client’s values. As communicators we find that photographs help us to explore these stories and then tell them

matthew woodruff + clinton cuddington

If you’re a collector, you’re a collector, and we are collectors. We collect furniture, books, old bones, plants, music, collaborators and eccentric friends. We also have a profound desire to catalogue the world; to gather textures, colours, forms, effects, places and moods. Starting at home we’re searching for tidbits that could find their way in to our work. Photographs are seductive because of their transparency. Do they represent things, or are they things themselves? A collection of photographs is seductive as well. It’s substantial (due to quantity) and ephemeral, for the meaning often lies in the space between the images. The digital age only enhances this contradiction, with our collection existing as it does only on the office server, and in a few ratty printouts. What, beyond the knowledge of it, do we really have?

ideas snaps communication arrays narrative


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it, thus creating a filter to the past. In contrast, our process is deliberate and only begins with the click of the shutter. The best images are tagged and printed, pinned up and rearranged in a search for meaning. Certain images become touchstones. Why is this? We like to think it’s because they communicate a mood, but perhaps it’s just because ordinary experiences are delivered in bite-sized pieces. Our buildings tend to solidify slowly around events and we use photographs as surrogates for the experiences we are planning. It’s meaningful to a client to explain where they will see this or that shadow, or the colour of the light by pointing to a picture. It makes an abstract idea come alive. Ultimately, architects are shameless magpies. We would be fools if we argued divine inspiration over mimetic skill. However, by accepting the visual language of modern life, and surrounding ourselves with these stimulants, we can absorb, digest, work and rework them, until they finally appear as ideas in our projects. In the end, we can trace the thread of a shadow from Cairo to a house in Vancouver. ~

matthew woodruff + clinton cuddington

effectively. Photographs can be tremendously powerful, as much because of what is left out as what remains within the frame. A photograph is a way of simplifying chaos. The problem of course is that life itself is not so easily digestible. Each project in the office starts with a pinup wall filled with images, and the first few meetings are always spent with clients gathered around this wall, seeing what they respond to. Because we use images to start thinking about a project, the narrative of similar spaces, of effects and experiences, modified by our discussions, becomes our departure point. But, we are wary of the pitfall of the Facebook generation, which can confuse photographing something with actually seeing it. It’s not enough to have the document, it has to be understood, absorbed, digested and reworked. At best, each photograph represents an idea, but it must contribute to the project and reinforce the concept as a whole to have a place in the building. The virtual world (and images, especially photographs, don’t have much weight as things themselves) has created a virtual life, where the record of an event or a place, becomes a surrogate for

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


museums | galleries photography by dwayne smyth

shared abstraction

fIlm gris

light + shadow transitory space lost corners atmospheres platonic light

dw ayn e smy t h

Whitney, New York City | Marcel Breuer ||1966 The New Museum of Modern Art, New York City | Yoshio Taniguchi ||2004 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa | SAANA || 2004 Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, Tokyo | Yoshio Taniguchi || 1999


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

dw a y n e smy t h

The museum is essentially a vessel containing a tangible heritage of humanity and its environment. Rather than creating an objectbased catalogue or chronicle of the museum, these photographs are an exploration of the temporal experience of light and shadow within the space of the museum. Some of these diminutive experiences may amount to nothing more than a cast shadow outside a washroom or a momentary reflection on the floor or glass, events not generally immediate to typical museum-goers. Although each of these museums is iconic and widely recognized, the intention is to dematerialise the subject matter and to focus on the interaction of building and light. Light conditions connect us to our environment and define our daily experience. In the southwestern desert I was struck by the intense direct overhead light and the crisp clean shadows it produces. Vancouver provides a dramatic contrast to these desert conditions where many days are under complete cloud cover. Overcast sky conditions often evoke melancholy or even depression, however they also create unique light conditions with an ephemeral quality and unparalleled beauty. Overcast sky simulators are common in architecture and are used to investigate the limits of even light distribution within architectural space from a uniform luminous diffusing canvas. Simulation is done on a completely pragmatic level, and the primary intention is to analyse a building and effectively eliminate solar heat gains, glare or even visual comfort. As with most simulators the permutations of sky conditions is virtually endless. This is an understatement under natural conditions. Not only will the light quality and character change with time or climatic conditions such as wind or density of cloud cover, it will obviously change based on geographic location. This series of photographs examines four museums which contain completely different collections and are disconnected geographically as well as culturally: their connection here is through their interaction with the environment, its atmosphere and its occupants. The museums have been photographed under overcast skies, low-level artificial light and at dusk and dawn. In addition, some spaces were captured in times of extreme high occupancy, others in the complete absence of inhabitants. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


representation| churches by mark baechler

allegorical space

speaking walls

Allegorical space synthesises architectural building material and painted images. This fusion of quantifiable material depth and imaginative projective depth creates a powerful repository for ideas and information which resides in an ambiguous territory between architecture and theory. The clearest examples of allegorical space can be found in early Jewish and Christian architecture where theology is simultaneously read in the material space of the wall itself and the imagery upon the wall.

mark baechler

Archives store and protect knowledge. Contemporary architecture contains but often neglects its ability to be read as knowledge and information in and of itself. During the twentieth century, architecture along with other creative arts moved toward abstraction; walls adorned with imagery and text were abandoned for flat planes with a universal connotation. What architecture lost in this transformation was its legitimacy as a culturally specific object – its value as an historic artefact. The diminished ability of architecture to retain cultural expression is made evident when one looks at allegorical space in early Christian architecture.

dura-europos theology modernity iconicity churches

1 Dura-Europos Synagogue The synagogue in Dura-Europos, Syria is an early remnant of Rabbinic Judaism; discovered in 1932, its heavy stone walls are covered on the interior with allegorical imagery. Built (between 150-200) in an unstable period in Jewish history following the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, the allegorical images on the synagogue’s Torah niche communicate an important moment in Judaism’s development.1 Above the Torah niche is a painting of a flat-roofed building with a columned façade and an arched doorway (1, above). It is thought by several scholars2 that the image represents the temple in Jerusalem3, and because the painted building is surrounded by other symbolic images (menorah, citrus fruit, palm branch and the narrative of Abraham sacrificing Isaac) it has the authority of the Jerusalem temple. However, the theory of allegorical space suggests that the painted building and its surrounding iconography is integral to 52

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above: 1, Dura-Europos Synagogue: plan, section and imagery opposite top left: 2, Giovanni Michelucci’s Church of the Autostrada. Florence, Italy, 1960-1964 opposite top right: 3, Massimiliano Fuksas’ San Giacomo Parish Complex in Foligno, Italy, 2004-2008

the stone Torah niche and cannot be understood apart from it. Through this lens, the painting appears to depict not the Jerusalem temple but the Dura-Europos synagogue itself — the image on the Torah niche is self-referential—the diaspora synagogue presents the authority of the Jerusalem temple in its absence.4 The space of the Dura-Europos synagogue is a form of theological representation; it creates a distinction between the quantifiable material world and the allegorical realm of the invisible Abrahamic God. Adjacent to the synagogue, the Dura-Europos House Church (232)5 is an extremely early Christian building. Its frescoed walls are evidence that the Jewish technique of fusing architecture and imagery was adopted by early Christians.

m a ssi m i l i a n o f u k sa s a rc h i t e c t

aldo cavini benedetti

2 Giovanni Michelucci’s Allegorical Representations Giovanni Michelucci’s drawings for the Church of the Autostrada in Florence (1960-64) suggest that allegorical imagery did not entirely disappear during the twentieth century; rather, it migrated from buildings to their representations. Michelucci’s design drawings for the church depict the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ with outstretched branches. Hanging from the tree is drapery that encloses the sanctuary. Interpreted from these drawings are several concrete sculptures resembling leafless trees which serve as columns within the nave (2, above). The Church of the Autostrada is emblematic of allegorical space in transition wherein religious imagery is used as architectural representation to inspire a sculptural form. The architecture itself is no longer the sole repository for meaning and theology—it shares this role with the architectural drawing.

3 Massimiliano Fuksas’ Allegorical Abstraction As architecture evolved toward abstraction, the projective depth of the architecture was compromised, reduced to representing fewer and simpler ideas. This transformation is evident in Massimiliano Fuksas’ San Giacomo Parish Complex in Foligno, Italy (20042008). The church is a monolithic exposed-concrete cube. Suspended within the exterior shell is a second concrete cube forming the sanctuary (3, above). This spatial arrangement performs a similar function to the allegorical space within the Dura-Europos Synagogue. The exterior concrete walls rest heavily upon the earth while the inner layer floats with the lightness of an image. The spatial divide between allegorical and material realms within Christianity is made evident in the separation of the two concrete cubes; the allegorical depth of the wall is materialised as literal depth or thickness. The abstraction of allegorical space within the church in Foligno invites broad interpretation, and relies on the imagination and knowledge of the inhabitant to complete it. Without human interpretation the church remains silent and its meaning is lost.

The fading of allegorical depth within Christian architecture is evident in its increasing reliance upon subsidiaries such as architectural drawings for the Church of the Autostrada and the informed inhabitant in the San Giacomo Parish Complex. The absence of imagery in these churches has reduced their ability to reveal and archive their faith’s evolving theology. Without a sense of allegorical space, walls have become thin and silent; subtle and specific meaning is sacrificed for

general and universal ideas. In this move toward abstraction architects have denied space as a form of theological representation. Such Christian architecture has become a hollow container for the sole purpose of storing and preserving. As our richest and most important cultural spaces are confined to singular iconic expressions, we must ask if we can restore architecture to cultural artefact and not just its container. ~

White, Michael. The Social Origins of Christian Architecture. Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1990. p 74 Kraeling, Carl H. The Synagogue. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979 p 61; Hopkins, Clark. The Discovery of Dura-Europos. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979. p 144; Perkins, Ann. The Art of Dura-Europos. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. p 56; Wischnitzer, Rachel. The Messianic Theme in the Paintings of the Dura Synagogue. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948. p 88 3 Kraeling. p 61 4 Goodenough, Erwin R. Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period volume 9. New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1964. p 69 5 Hopkins. p 95 1


a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


d r u m ck e o w n museums | saana toledo ohio by dru mckeown

the glass pavilion at the toledo museum of art

glass city The basic supposition that a museum gallery is little more than a decorated box in which to house an exhibition has been repeatedly tossed aside as the galleries themselves become physical, large scale manifestations of the works they contain, an extension of the act of creation, not to compete with their collections but to create a sense of ‘completeness’ between display and museum. This sense of ‘fit’ can only be accomplished through a proper understanding of the exhibits and the context which the new structure will represent.  Responses to these two criteria come together perfectly in the Toledo Museum of Art’s recent expansion, the Glass Pavilion (2006).   Positioned at the mouth of the Maumee River in northwestern Ohio, Toledo controlled a distribution nexus that delivered goods to the burgeoning manufacturing towns of Detroit, Michigan, Chicago and Cleveland along the Great Lakes and provided rail transit into the midwestern heartland.  Due to location and industrialisation Toledo became the headquarters of America’s largest glass manufacturers earning it the nickname ‘the Glass City’.  Glass barons gave their city an extensive art and glass collection, housed in the Toledo Museum of Art, a finely detailed 1901 Greek Revival structure, until it was deemed that the large and renowned glass collection deserved an exhibition structure of its very own.   SANAA, the collaborative partnership of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, was given the opportunity to create the new Glass Pavilion opposite a boulevard to the Toledo Museum of Art’s main entrance in the centre of a lightly treed city block.  The new single storey structure sits upon a slightly raised aluminum wrapped concrete plinth with a reveal at the base which allows the pavilion to float slightly above the lawn.  Wrapped in floor to ceiling plate glass with clear silicon vertical joints the entire exterior envelope becomes a conjunction of the durability and strength of a


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materiality glass detailing ambiguity reflection

dr u m ck eo w n

material whose smooth and transparent nature allows for a more ethereal inference. In a rather interesting juxtaposition, SANAA took a square and squat form (the overall footprint of the Glass Pavilion) and purposely rounded the exterior and interior corners of the wall in plan.  On the exterior this creates certain moments where, as the building wraps away from the viewer, it becomes difficult to discern where the wall ends and sky or surrounding site begin.  Where the interior corners are met with curves the circulation through the building becomes a sinuous path that terminates in shaped nodes giving views across glass-walled interior gallery spaces, into and through adjacent galleries, workshops and gardens.  Thermal transference through the glass walls is dealt with by creating a double wall system allowing galleries and circulation to diverge from the rectilinear form of the main floor plan.  These double glass walls, running parallel at times and curving away sharply at others, change the light and visibility of and through the spaces  This creates areas of layered, playful reflections that mirage-like overlay images such as an apartment tower into an adjacent low density neighbourhood.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


dru mckeown

The glass collection, the historic progression of technique and styles that made Toledo the Glass City encourages all to re-imagine the medium of glass, its confidence and expression – something that SANAA’s Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion exemplifies exceptionally well.

The ductility and strength of glass becomes apparent in these curves and intersections where doors and thresholds are set into formed edges.  The simple act of allowing two curved walls to intersect at an acute angle results in operable doors that cross between both spaces where fine detailing and attention paid to the natural joint and end conditions and where various materials and spaces meet is remarkable.  Joints within the polished concrete floor align with the vertical joints of the interior glass partitions which then align with the edges of the white ceiling.  Not that every joint in the glass walls are celebrated in this manner – instead there is a subtle rhythmic beauty to the sparse sectioning of the floor and ceiling which creates large fields interrupted or outlined by intentionally placed minimal steel diffuser grills in the floors.  Since the plate glass walls are set in channels at the floor and ceiling there are distinct, crisp, fine lines drawn on the main horizontal planes, outlining and demarcating spaces and paths.   Being able to see the edges of adjacent spaces combined with the simple layout of the plan, and coupled with signage in the form of a general map laid into the floor and the overall diaphanous nature of the Pavilion, first time visitors are easily capable of navigating the various gallery and exhibit spaces as well as the hotshop; a public demonstration room where local artisans swing hot glass on the end of their blow tubes, making the myriad shapes and colours found in the collection.  Outside gardens punctuate the plan of the building with openings in the roof that allow natural light to spill into the exhibit spaces.  Secure galleries with solid walls create visual termini to specific views; these solid spaces accentuate the baubles of the more public exhibit areas and create a fine counterpoint to emphasize the nature of the building’s main material, plate glass. ~


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museums | meier in the context of rome by peter osborne

p e t e r o sb o r n e

context branding controversy protection antiquity

meier’s ara pacis museum

beautiful box On October 18, 1997 the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao opened marking the beginning of the global economy’s influence on architecture. This individual building’s influence has been so great it has spawned the term ‘the Bilbao effect’, in reference to the perceived ability of a singular act of architecture to rejuvenate and invigorate a local culture and economy. The Bilbao effect combined with the power of branding in a global marketplace has allowed many star international architects to define and shape their own brand of architecture. Their branded architecture can be sold to cities and corporations alike. In 1998, in the wake of Bilbao, the City of Rome commissioned Richard Meier, without competition, to design the first modern building to be constructed in the historic city centre since the 1930’s: a new home for the Ara Pacis Augustae or Altar of Augustan Peace. The Ara Pacis stands today as one of finest examples of Augustan sculpture in Italy. It was constructed in 13 BC on the northern outskirts of Rome to honour the triumphant return of the Roman Emperor Augustus. It was lost for a time, rediscovered in 1859

only to be moved, in 1938 by Mussolini, close to the Mausoleum of Augustus on the bank of the Tiber River. He commissioned a new neo-classical building, part of his masterplan for the ancient Roman city centre, to enclose and protect this work of art.1 Meier had to demolish the old neo-classical building to construct his new building around the Ara Pacis which remained undisturbed during construction. The program of the building is simple: a main hall to house the altar, a secondary temporary exhibit space (a Valentino exhibit was on during my visit), a lobby and a gift shop. The Ara Pacis is the only permanent piece of art in the museum. However, controversy plagued Meier throughout the design and construction of the project, and the backlash has become so strong that the current Mayor of Rome has promised to tear down the building.2 Much of the backlash revolves around Meier’s perceived or real anti-contextual attitude towards the city. Like most Meier buildings the Ara Pacis Museum relies on clean white Euclidian geometries and elegant, naturally lit interiors that are simple and modern.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


pe te r o sb or n e


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

The interior of the museum is functional and beautiful, quintessential Meier, indirectly lit from above by a series of sawtooth skylights which gives the space an even glow. Well-detailed louvres shade the Ara Pacis on the large fully glazed east and west walls. The evenly lit main hall gives the viewer an idea of what it might have been like to visit the altar in its original natural setting, protected from the elements but enjoying the feeling of the outdoors with open views and abundant natural light. The simple white space and travertine floors take nothing from the white marble altar: the interior space does not compete for attention with the art work, it showcases it.

pet er o sb or ne

The exterior of the Ara Pacis Museum is also quintessential Meier, but unlike the interior, the exterior does compete with its neighbours and the city for attention. In Rome, the foreground, middle ground and distant view define the full context. The multi-layered city gives at once an even field of view and multiple points of interest. Meier’s museum, however, becomes the only point of interest; you can see the low white cubic form from across the Tiber River; from adjacent streets the museum jumps to the foreground and the building’s extending walls hide neighbouring seventeenth century churches. Meier does make some contextual moves with uneven success. A small plaza is created to the south of the museum with help from a grade change across the site. The plaza, like most in Rome, contains a small well-used fountain for Italy’s hot summers. Meier also uses travertine, historically a basic building block of Rome, throughout the museum. The stone finish is smooth in the interior on the floors and walls, and left rough on the exterior. However, the detailing and use of travertine resembles that used for the Getty Centre in Los Angeles where it is devoid of cultural reference. The Getty Centre was designed before the Ara Pacis Museum, which shows travertine as part of Meier’s repeating building palette, not an attempt at critical regionalism. Although critical regionalism does allow architects to reshape materials and building techniques to create an architecture with a embedded sense of place, here Meier seems to simply enjoy the coincidence. Museums, by design, remove the art object from its context. This is done for reasons of preservation and to bring a new clarity to the object which can now be examined without distraction, the viewer bringing their own reading to the art, unobstructed by external messages. The Ara Pacis Museum’s interior isolates the altar and gives its viewers a modern position from which to view the past. From inside the museum you see the city of Rome from a modern reading room, however Meier removes his architecture from the context of the city. The exterior seems to contrast its neighbours for the sake of contrast and does not bring a further understanding of the city of Rome. ~

Ara Pacis, (August 2008). Reuters, ‘Rome’s new mayor set to tear down museum’, http://www. (May 2008). 1


a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


aisl i l ng o ’c arro ll

personal placement at the museum insel hombroich

between art and nature 60

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ai sl il n g o’ car ro l l museums | neuss germany by aisling o’carroll

intention art + nature economy of means balance spatiality

One of the fundamental functions of a museum is to provide a venue for us, the visitors, to develop an understanding of our significance and effect in the universe. One way is to alter the relationship between architecture and nature.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


a i s l i l n g o ’ c a r rol l

Developing an understanding of our universe is implied through a variety of exhibitions which enrich the perspective of one’s situational condition and theoretical (or actual) footprint. Museum Insel Hombroich accomplishes this task with striking effect and through the most modest of means. The museum, which houses a collection of contemporary and world art, leaves the viewer with an altered perception of the relationship between individual civilised establishment and nature, suitable for its motto Kunst parallel zur Natur —art parallel with nature (based on the words of Cézanne). Established by Karl-Heinrich Müller and first opened for viewing in 1987, Museum Insel Hombroich is built around an unconventional museum plan, sitting on over 62 acres of land and islands outside Neuss. The collection is scattered throughout the property with some pieces placed in the landscape, while others are housed in a series of pavilions designed by Erwin Heerich. The visitor freely ambles along a path between pavilion, forest, field and all the spaces between. This format places Khmer sculptures from the Angkor Thom and works by Alexander Calder beside nature itself as an artefact on exhibit. Being confronted by this natural element after every piece of art, one studies the surroundings more intensely than usual, and must recognise their grandeur.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

Two elements (pictured on the previous pages and opposite, top) can most efficiently express this effect here. The first is the entrance, or approach to the pavilions, which is repeated throughout the program. The pavilions, but for a few rare exceptions, are invisible until the visitor is directly upon them. Hidden by a turn in the path, a cluster of trees or a wall of hedge, the built structures submit to, rather than attempt to overpower, the natural presence. Thus wide vistas spread before the visitor like baroque paintings, where nothing of a formal museum is visible. The clearest example of this is the pavilion in the Labyrinth. This simple cube is circled by a tall hedge creating a continuous, narrow pathway between the two, successfully disorienting the visitor, as each turn presents the same brick wall, the same towering green wall. At these moments, where a natural form echoes that of the built, nature asserts herself as an undeniably impressive force. The second significant moment is in the Schnecke (snail) pavilion. At the centre of this pavilion is a small triangular courtyard – the only moment in the entire museum when the visitor finds him/herself outside, but with none of the natural landscape visible. The courtyard has a single door, leading into a core of glass walls, which, in combination with the interior blinds, reflect the viewer and the courtyard infinitely. This one space where built form has clear superiority is where it is repeated infinitely and with the exclusion of the natural landscape. The proportions of this space, with walls about six metres tall, confine the visitor while the endless reflections create a continuous, larger space. Similar to the corridor of the Labyrinth, this space disorients the viewer, but in a sublime and unnatural way. The artefacts on display throughout the museum, as well as the pavilions themselves, form a beautiful and extremely impressive collection, however the power and magic of the museum comes through the experience of it, and the juxtaposition of the structured museum with a pond of reeds, or an orchard of trees. ~

aisl i l ng o ’c arro ll

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


museums | exhibitions globalism by jana macalik

millenial dialogues

exhibition design pop culture relevance social engagement

the museum is the message

pen tagr am

Is the future of socially engaging exhibitions redefining the role of the art museum and thus, modern thinking to the populace?

There have always been analogies between art and science; scientific theories and the interdisciplinary expression within art converge as modern thinking is expressed to society. If the tools, models and ideas for building a better future surround us, then we can explore and present these theories and expressions of art and science to the general public in a museum. In today’s culture, global recognition revolves around issues of climate change, human rights and socioeconomic positioning, however our awareness of global issues is frequently a media representation rather than personal experience. Museums can only be socially and personally meaningful if users can connect to their own identities, extending themselves into both the virtual and real worlds.


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

In this decade alone, several engaging and provocative exhibits with a global dimension have been staged within art museums: Massive Change at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Sanctuary: The Project at the Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow; Global Cities at the Tate Modern in London; and the most recent, Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. These sensory-rich environments reflect a highly modernist graphic interpretation of ideas, at times resembling a three-dimensional website rather than the evocative atmosphere of reflection and expression generally expected within the traditional ‘white box’ art museum. Art museums have had to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves in order to attract visitors and survive. Creating spectacle has become an inherent part of the exhibition designer’s repertoire but there has also been a need to reconnect with the visitor and to design more meaningful exhibitions. This refocussing of collections and the inclusion of exhibits with a global dimension are on the rise. Reaching new visitors, especially the significant Millennial generation (aka Millennials) has rendered many directors and curators experts in youth relations and pop culture attraction. The interest in the Millennials, compounded by their numbers, is due to this generation’s skewed view of culture, mass media and celebrity influences. It needs to be reintroduced to the art community. Millennials have a great interest in social engagement, as ‘those who will inherit the earth’. They are considered the most globally aware generation in years in terms of politics, environment and social issues.

Congruently, as a society comforted by the increase of rapid visual cues within television, advertising and virtual games, the attention span of a typical modern museum visitor has shortened and is no longer responsive to the lengthy interpretive exhibits of the past. Modern exhibits veer away from linear narratives, the single storyline which must be adhered to; instead multi-thread stories are assembled within distinct information pockets, as chapters in a spatial book. Layered information in a visceral montage of imagery and text guide visitors to their next information interaction. The multi-dimensional attempts of conveyance are subject to interpretation by all. Artist interpretations and installations further disseminate the issues in virtual and real methodologies of exhibition. The dialogues that these exhibits elevate within the cultural milieu of an art museum reveal the communication of art and science occurring within generations and mediums.

br uc e mau de si g n

In times like these, where environmental, political and social issues proliferate, the desire to examine alternative approaches and viewpoints has grown. Globalisation within our lives has contributed to our thirst for these innovative perspectives, globally and locally. The contextualization and commodification of knowledge has become the motivation for designers, artists and visionaries from all fields to express original solutions to these global issues. And as such, contemporary art museums as purveyors of original, innovative expression can respond as culturally enriching contributors to otherwise sombre debates.

opposit: Global Cities, Tate Modern, London above: Wealth and Politics, Massive Change, Vancouver Art Gallery.

As witnessed by the crowds visiting Design and the Elastic Mind at the MoMA, the critical accolades for its content and its visionary curator within design and art magazines to science and technology magazines and ultimately its success as an ongoing web-based expression, no longer is the ‘exhibitionas-spectacle’ that of a King Tut blockbuster from bygone decades, but that of visionary experience that connects with its visitors within the real and virtual realms. Interdisciplinary expression within the art museum permits diversity and unity to exist and flourish as human expression of knowledge through artistic and scientific endeavors seep into public consciousness. ~ a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


museums | houses new westminster bc by tanya southcott

nostalgia, new westminster and irving house

colonialism frontier gothic revival gold rush british columbia

n e w w e s t m i n s t e r m u s e u m a n d a rc h i v e s I H P 2 9 1 4

colonial texts

To visit Irving House is to step back in time to the earliest days of colonial British Columbia when the promise of gold brought pioneers and prospectors in great numbers to New Westminster and the Fraser River. Captain William Irving, his wife Elizabeth Jane and their five children arrived in 1865. A Scotsman, he had followed the goldrush to the American west coast where he made his wealth in the riverboat trade carrying men, their equipment and supplies to the goldfields. Irving saw in the Fraser River the ideal business opportunity. Through his sternwheeler company he established the necessary transportation link between Vancouver Island and the interior goldfields of the province with New Westminster at its hub. The arrival of the Irving family in New Westminster was noted in the local newspaper, The British Columbian, under the heading ‘Local Improvement’. Particular attention was paid to the construction of their house considered to be ‘… not only the handsomest, but the best and most home-like house of which British Columbia can yet boast’.1 Built in Gothic Revival by local architect James Syme it reflected both the status of the Irvings in early BC and the high degree of design and craftsmanship available in New Westminster. The house remained in the family for three generations until it was sold to the City of New Westminster by Captain Irving’s granddaughters, Naomi and Manuella Briggs. After almost 100 years the building was still very close to original; exterior and interior elements remained intact, including a large collection of 66

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original furnishings. With the encouragement of the Native Sons and Daughters of British Columbia, Irving House was reopened as New Westminster’s Historic Centre on 19th November 1950. Today the house stands much as it did almost 150 years ago, overlooking the city that has grown around it. The oldest house museum in the province, it is considered one of the finest of preserved Victorian houses open to the public. House-museum refers to a single historic structure whose maintenance, care and interpretation provide the basis for a museum. Interpretive emphasis is on the building itself and the lives of the individuals related to it. Unlike a conventional museum in which artefacts are displayed against a neutral background, the historic house provides a spatial context and framework for the interpretation of its contents. The site, structure, furnishings, landscape, family and personal possessions are used to preserve a particular past and communicate it to future generations. The single most important artefact in the collection, however, is the house. As architecture it provides the container for the abstraction of time. Irving House offers New Westminster a modest museum in which to store and display the accumulation of the community’s heritage: it functions as both a show case and an educational tool whose authority comes from the authenticity of its objects and the degree of accuracy with which they are presented. Its strength is in the narrative it provides, the story told by objects in the context

n e w w e st mi n st e r mu se u m an d a rc h i v e s IF P 0 3 6 9 opposite: New Westminster circa 1865.  Irving House sits on top of the hill overlooking the Fraser River.  [New Westminster Museum and Archives IHP2914] above:  Irving House circa 1890.  [New Westminster Museum and Archives IFP0369]

tanya southcott

right: Irving House today, in 2008.

of how life was lived. If the Renaissance cabinet of curiosities conveyed, symbolically, its patron’s control of the world through the telling of that world – a kind of propaganda, then too the house-museum offers a specific world located in a precise time and space. Irving House acts as an historical text; the context from which it came offers insight into a community’s desire to tell this story. New Westminster’s story is that it was founded as the capital of the mainland Colony of British Columbia by the Royal Engineers in 1859. In an effort to ‘civilise the frontier’, it became the first incorporated city in western Canada a year later. Its strategic location on the Fraser River was the ideal outfitting point and mainland berth for the Cariboo gold rush and the city prospered as the centre of trade and commerce for the entire Fraser Valley. When the mainland and Vancouver Island colonies merged in 1866 to form British Columbia, New Westminster became the new provincial capital, destined for greatness which was, however, short lived. The rights to the capital were transferred to Victoria only two years later, and New Westminster’s course changed drastically. Over the next century its significance as the main economic centre for the Fraser Valley was bypassed by the development of new communication and transportation networks in the region. While its neighbours fed off the increased economy and rapid change, New Westminster had the time to take stock of its resources before they disappeared.

In the early 1950s, a time when progress was associated with things ‘new’ and buildings were at the forefront of development, the Native Sons and Daughters of British Columbia were largely responsible for preserving and maintaining historical relics and records of the province, including buildings of historic significance. Originally formed in Victoria in 1899 to assure that native-born sons of pioneers received fair competition for civic and provincial jobs among new immigrants, their mandate evolved over the next century to perpetuate and cherish the memory of those pioneers. Now, their goal is to carry the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century values and customs of of those responsible for the development of the province into the new millennium. As the oldest city in Western Canada, heritage is a significant part of New Westminster’s civic identity. Named by Queen Victoria after her favourite part of London, New Westminster still proudly markets itself as ‘the Royal City’, and is laden with references to its colonial days. There is a nostalgia not necessarily for what was but what could have been that fuels this image, also present in the house museum. Irving House is the story of what it meant to be successful in British Columbia in 1865, and the house and its contents are tools to monumentalise the potential for what the city could become. ~ Miller, Archie. Irving House, a Family History. New Westminster: The Board of Trustees Irving House Historic Centre, 1988.

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


michael leeb

left: detail of Fort Macleod’s northwest blockhouse with rampart (to the right) along the inner wall of the fortifications. The blockhouses originally comprised the barracks. centre: sketch by Richard B. Nevitt of Fort Macleod in 1875 [permission to use from the Glenbow Museum. Calgary, Alberta. NA-1434-8]. right: the original 19th century Kanouse House, a general store owned and operated by the former whiskey trader Fred Kanouse. Note the sod roof of natural prairie grasses.

We have come to our journey’s end at last, a beautiful place in the valley of the rivers. We have already begun building, but probably it will be five or six weeks before we get into our winter quarters. — R.B. Nevitt. October 14, 1874 2

We start again tomorrow morning to cross the river, and then another one called Old Man’s River, and here among some hills called the Porcupine Hills, our long, tedious winter begins. — R.B. Nevitt. October 11, 1874 1

Fort Macleod, constructed in 1874 as an outpost for the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP), established Canadian sovereignty in the southern region of the area that in 1905 became Alberta. The fort, built over a period of several weeks, is just south of the Old Man River. An ample supply of cottonwoods provided the building material for the fort’s timber frame, and watchtowers were placed at each of the fort’s four corners. Period artefacts held by the NWMP museum are displayed in the various buildings located within the fort and include such cultural objects as buffalo robes, uniforms, medical instruments and a variety of First Nations artefacts. The structure of the fort itself is also an artefact, the buildings and fortifications sharing similar characteristics with the smaller scale artefacts. Defining characteristics of an object or specimen as an artefact include: an object associated with an historical act, event, or cultural practice; its association with a significant person or institution; being representative of a type of design/style/workmanship in terms of construction and materials used; whether it is of scientific significance and value; the integrity of its physical requirements or qualities. 3


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museums | cultural objects fort macleod alberta by michael leeb

artefact, cultural object and structure

michael leeb

g l e n b o w m u se u m a rc h i v e s n a - 1 4 3 4 - 8

spatial archives

The apparent distinction between whether a specimen is an artefact or a cultural object is whether it is primarily of scientific or of cultural significance. Historically these specimens were collected primarily as scientific artefacts, even though today we would consider that their cultural value and significance outweighs their scientific value. The same can be said of most historical buildings that are now museums. These historical structures are cultural objects, albeit much larger in scale. A structure as cultural object allows a person to experience the structure by moving through the object – a qualitative and experientially different spatial relationship between object and subject. In most museums a person tends to move around the object or artefact displayed, rather than through it. While visiting the fort I walked along the ramparts on the north side between the blockhouses with views of the river, then walked through the blockhouses up and down the stairs, all the while imagining what life may have been like over a century ago. Nevitt’s diary and sketches which emphasise the importance of the weather and climate, the geography of Fort Macleod and the influence of these factors on the daily lives of the NWMP stationed at the fort are appreciated not by the articles exhibited within the museum, but rather by walking through, between and outside the the fort. It is the structure of the fort itself that is a cultural object in and of itself that provides a unique spatial and cultural experience not all museums possess. ~ Dempsey, Hugh, editor. ‘Diary of R.B. Nevitt, NWMP surgeon’ A Winter in Ft. Macleod. Calgary: GlenbowAlberta Institute, 1974. p18 2 Ibid. p19 3 These criteria are among those used by the Alberta Historical Research Foundation (AHRF) as a means of determining a building or site’s eligibility for designation as a heritage/historical site or building (based on a conversation with Gerry Ward of AHRF in 2004).


a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


discussion | cultural dialogues by zahra ebrahim

canadian design and architectural institutions

survival struggles To go to a museum or a gallery in one’s spare time comes with an educational hope and a cultural currency that marks one’s pursuit of higher learning — taking in art – taking in culture – and, hopefully, using the institution as the impetus for thoughtful discussion. But do these institutions house provocative, progressive and groundbreaking discussion? Institutions that specifically celebrate design – from architecture to industrial design, have traditionally played the role of niche institution, often thought of as superfluous and only targetting a particular design-oriented demographic. However, increasingly common is the idea that design has the power to affect widespread, diverse change and therefore the role of design in the lives of all members of society needs to be recognised as vital — as a tool and a vehicle through which day-to-day life is lived meaningfully in the twenty-first century. Both insignificant items – such as spoons, and items as monumental as houses are designed within parameters, often with an assigned parameter for creativity. What is the potential of these tools, these vehicles, should we lift both the parameters and the regulations around creativity? If this is done we can see the potential of design institutions around the world, and specifically in Canada, as incubators for the next generation of great ideas. Canada has two such institutions: the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Design Exchange in Toronto. The Design Exchange opened in the former Toronto Stock Exchange in 1994 and has several goals. It is committed to raising public awareness and understanding of the essence of design and its importance in building Canada’s cultural identity. It promotes Canadian design in both national and global contexts. Its activities include public education, curation, a permanent collection, lectures, seminars and exhibits ranging from Hallmark Cards to Canadian representation at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, to cultural design innovation occurring on the fringes of Canadian cities.


The Canadian Centre for Architecture was formed in 1979 as a new kind of cultural institution that builds public awareness of the role of architecture in society, promotes scholarly research in the field and stimulates innovation in design practice. It is a museum conviced that architecture is a public concern. Both are institutions with complementary roles in the promotion, celebration and exploration of architecture and design, however when most Canadians are asked what that CCA or the DX are, the questioner is met with a blank stare. In contrast, many Canadians are familiar with the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. They often know more about these institutions than the ones within Canada. So many are unaware of the institutions that serve the innovation of the tools of our everyday lives, of space and of material design — we have fallen behind in promoting the importance of these critical institutions.

How do we make design part of a cultural dialogue, a cultural vernacular en masse? Alfred H. Barr, the first Director of the Museum of Modern Art, said that the museum must be a laboratory in whose experiments the public is invited to participate.1 Our problem lies between museums keeping to their mandates and the public perception of the use of a design museum in the context of all the other institutions available to them – major art galleries, museums, performance centres. Which, when investing time and money, is the most culturally relevant? With a cultural and demographic shift to post-modernity and a post-industrial leisure society, the public’s perception of the museum has shifted from education to recreation, from research and display to a more audience-driven and service-oriented

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canadian culture design culture vitality communication discourse

approach. Few families, for example, can explain the role that Ebenezer Howard, the father of the Garden City, played in how their children’s homes and neighbourhoods are structured, but they all know about the Mona Lisa. In recent years, with exhibitions such as Bruce Mau’s Massive Change, the design community has engaged with some of the major cultural institutions in the country and the role of design has started to become part of a broader cultural lexicon. If we can partner these dialogues with the design institutions in Canada, some longevity can be created around this discourse while simultaneously raising the profile of the institutions themselves. However, to get to a place where ideas flow freely around the potential of design, cultural institutions require an influx of capital ‘I’ Innovation. As many of them struggle to survive, there is little room for the creative, thoughtful incubation process that has traditionally guided their direction, and they are losing their instrumentality. The Design Exchange, notably with its recent Innovators in Residence program, has mobilised its resources to play a more relevant and contemporary role in the changing fabric of cultural dialogue. The museum has seen so many iterations over time that we often forget that in essence all museums are public spaces – spaces of public education, gathering, engagement and discussion. As the generation that has seen the ability of cultural institutions such as the Guggenheim Bilbao to transform the fabric of entire communities, we are starting to rediscover the power of the museum to transform cities and to facilitate the education of a society at large. Design institutions must be at the core of this cultural revolution: it is the role of the new generation of museum-goers and cultural investors to have the foresight to see how these institutions can shape a more holistic and well-rounded vision of what is constituted as higher learning. ~ 1

Karsten Schubert, The Curator’s Egg: the Evolution

of the Museum Concept from the French Revolution to Present Day. London: One-Off Press, 2000. p 67

archives | placemaking by crystal melville

c r y st al me l v i l l e

place culture zines north halifax demography

the anchor archive zine library

halifax treasure Place was not only the anchor missing from my life but an anchor missing from others’ lives as well’1 —

Alan Thein Durning

Different industries have shaped North America’s northwestern geography and culture, including the Maritimes. However, despite the many place-forming industrial sectors in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it is housing development that is having a dramatic effect on the demographics, geography and culture in its north end district. Luckily there are several cultural anchors in the north end that encourage dialogue about these transitions and locate the specific culture of this area. The Anchor Archive Zine Library is one of these treasured places, located inside a little red, wood-shingled house, recently renamed the Roberts Street Social Centre. Once abandoned, now surrounded by businesses and the only functioning house on the street, its architecture reflects the history of the area. Its present status stands in contrast to the redevelopment of cheap and abandoned houses into condominiums and upscale businesses currently replacing and displacing the culture of this area. Artists, students and families that had settled in this once affordable neighbourhood are now subjected to inflating rents and consequently forced to move to other communities. The culture of the Roberts Street Social Centre resides in its linoleum floors, 60’s curtains and pink walls. Salvaged furniture, cardboard zine holders and colourful screen-printed embellishments in the Zine Library exhibit the ever-changing DIY/youth/ art culture of those that use the space. The Anchor Archive Zine Library preserves the architectural and interior heritage of the area, and also contributes to an impressively expanding zine culture. * Zine production preserves key elements of culture: in 1995, 16-year-old Sarah Evans in Ottawa picks up a zine about music and culture on the east coast. Captivated then by how the zine maker

presented the east coast independent music scene, Evans explains why she is still drawn to zines: ‘they are raw and unedited, with no rules and a variety of styles and content that reflect people’s passions and interests. They offer different stories and voices’. In 2005 Evans moved into the Roberts Street house with Sonia Edworthy, and the two started an informal zine library in their living room. Now, neither Evans nor Edworthy live at the house, and the space they occupied is used to offer other services, such as a collectively run screen-printing studio, a multi-purpose space for meetings and workshops, and an artist and zine-making residency. The collection circulates over 1500 zines. Evans points out that ‘zines are now found in American public and research libraries’. While zines and zine culture have progressed over the years, there still remains a strong cultural consistency of expression and style — different cultural groups use zines to express political oppression and to challenge the status quo. Technological transitions have made production and distribution more accessible and efficient, and zines continue to give voice and empowerment to social movements and underrepresented cultures outside mainstream media. Anchor Archive members further extend these tools of empowerment to marginalised groups through zine-making workshops at schools, hospitals, women and youth shelters and additional social service agencies. The Zine Library and the stories in the zines cannot be replaced. The Anchor Archive Zine Library, a cultural treasure in Halifax’s transitioning north end neighbourhood, voices culture through the circulation of thousands of zine gems across the city. Currently, the library is working on an on-line cataloguing system, which can be seen at ~ 1 Durning, Alan Thein. This Place on Earth, home and the practice of permanence. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1996. p17

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


e l l a ch mi el e w sk a


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

one more file in the archive


signs placing trace (post)memory documentation

e ll a c hmi e l ew sk a

demolitions | cinema skarpa warsaw by ella chmielewska

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


gardens | botanical rio de janeiro by mariana mogilevich

collecting, exploiting, displaying, preserving

Native Species

1808 When Napoleon’s troops crossed into Portugal from Spain in late 1807, Portugal’s Prince Regent Dom João VI and the entire Portuguese Court set sail for Rio de Janeiro. Almost overnight, Rio, a sleepy colonial city of some forty to sixty thousand people, became the capital of the Portuguese Empire. In the eyes of the new arrivals, Rio was a backwater lacking any of the requisite urban character and amenities. To transform the city into one befitting its new status was a formidable task. The first stage of Rio’s modernisation was the importation of major institutions. The city’s first year as capital saw the birth of a public library, the Royal Arsenal, a medical school, an astronomical observatory, the Bank of Brazil, and on the outskirts of the city, the Royal Botanical Garden, or Real Jardim Botânico. That same year, Prince Regent Dom João VI was presented with the first foreign plant species for the garden. Luiz de Abreu Vieira e Silva, a corsair who had been captured by the French and imprisoned in Mauritius, escaped to Rio, smuggling back with him a trove of seeds. Thus nutmeg, avocado, lychee, cinnamon and grapefruit became among the garden’s first holdings, along with Roystonea oleraceae, a palm tree native to the West Indies. Dom João planted this one with his own hands, and


the palma mater, as the first specimen was christened, eventually grew to a height of 38.7 metres, towering over the garden. Hundreds of additional palms were planted along the main axis extending from the garden’s gate. This allée of ten-storey trees became the Real Jardim Botânico’s most distinctive feature, sketched by nineteenth century visitors and reproduced on postcards. Thus a foreign specimen became the garden’s symbol, an unlikely interloper at the helm of a land already profoundly associated with its own abundant and exotic tropical nature. In its early days, the garden’s nationbuilding functions were more practical than symbolic. It began as part gunpowder factory, part acclimatisation garden: both establishments served a strictly economic role. The Real Jardim Botânico was for the importation and acclimatisation of new species for cultivation and profit in Brazil. One early successful experiment was with tea. Imported from China in 1810, along with a number of Chinese knowledgeable in its cultivation, the crop took well to the soil, and soon the Real Jardim Botânico was supplying tea for much of the city of Rio. all images from Rio: 141 Hectáreas, a video currently in production

O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

colonialism legitimacy cultural politics exclusion patrimony

Outside the garden walls, tropical nature was a major Brazilian export. Naturalists and collectors flocked to the Amazon in search of exotic plants, for scientific investigation and to supply European botanical gardens and their need for exciting nature. By the mid-nineteenth century, there were at least a thousand European agents searching for exotic plants in mid-Atlantic Brazil alone; a single British firm was importing between 100,000 and 200,000 orchids a year. While foreign capital and expertise extracted value from Brazilian nature outside, the fortunes of the Botanical Garden were less impressive. Many visitors complained that its collections and research failed to live up to its name or to the richness of plants in the vicinity. ca. 1898 Into the fray stepped João Rodrigues Barbosa, an accomplished botanist who became the garden’s director in 1890 and saw himself as its saviour. In his own mythology, at the time the park was more like a forest, whose ‘promiscuous specimens were not indicated by a plaque, a label, or a simple sign which would identify them. It was all very nice to look at but, scientifically speaking, in deplorable shape’.

Rodrigues Barbosa focused on the wealth of his surroundings, sending research missions into the Brazilian wilderness and publishing the definitive survey of Brazilian palm species. Inside the garden, he modernised and restored order. As he amassed species in great new quantities, Brazilian plants finally gained ascendance, 396 out of 837 according to one guide, neatly laid out and labelled on the garden’s grounds, or catalogued and archived in the new herbarium. There is a surreal quality to such a space, the intersection of a tropical jungle and a formal garden plan, of the Buriti palm and an abundance of French statuary, all enclosed within wrought iron fences but sited just beneath a tropical Atlantic forest. A garden of labelled and formally arranged tropical plants was a curious paradox, but one with great popular appeal. This was the age of the great public park, and the garden was claimed as one. With the growth of the city of Rio and the extension of a tramway line to the garden’s gates, it became a popular site for Sunday strolls and socialising. Science and pleasure quickly came into conflict. While the director vaunted the garden’s attendance figures, Barbosa moved swiftly to end the execrable practice of picnicking.

2008 As the garden enters its third century, the allées of palm trees stand tall, along with rows of mango and rubber trees. Rio has grown all around, the garden’s neighbours are now apartment towers and favelas. Far beyond the city, clear-cutting of the Amazon continues apace. As the landscape outside is decimated, the Real Jardim Botânico’s mission has shifted to the protection of Brazil’s biodiversity. Yet even within its walls, it is hard to protect nature from humans. No one can stop vandals from etching their initials in the trunks of the pau mulato trees, and the Amazonic sector looks a bit worse for the wear. Myteriously, piles of cut-up trunks appear on this and that path, as if the practice of logging also demands to be represented in the garden’s microcosm. The garden’s specimens now seem less on public display than behind a cordon sanitaire, protected from the ravaging forces of the outside world.

Sometimes it is hard also to protect humans from nature. The garden has acquired, in the last century, an unusual collection—a small community of some five hundred families on its grounds. They are employees of the garden and their descendants, who were once given permission to build their homes inside the garden’s walls and have now lived there for generations. For many years the relationship between garden and residents was symbiotic, but more recently the garden’s administration has labelled them an invasive species, and wants them out. In one very ugly episode, armed police officers were sent to force out an elderly household. The stand-off has continued for decades with no conclusion in sight. Though the garden claims that their homes stand in the way of its work of preservation, the residents of Horto (the Orchard, as the neighbourhood is called) would like to preserve their close-knit community. With comfortable houses, close to work, free from violence, impossible to replicate in the city outside, the garden is their sanctuary, too. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


archives | between the covers by stephanie white

incipient chaos

coherence intimacy geography embeddedness collections


sketches for Nostalgia for the Present, 2006

Blue Republic: nostalgia for the present. Catalogue to accompany the exhibition Blue Republic: nostalgia for the present, curated by Caroline Bell Farrell for the Koffler Gallery, Toronto Ontario. Essay by Mark Kingwell. Toronto/Sudbury/Barrie: Koffler Gallery/Art Gallery of Sudbury/MacLaren Art Centre, 2008 An exhibition catalogue of the work of Anna Passakas and Radislaw Kudlinski – Blue Republic – a Toronto collective. An essay by the ubiquitous Mark Kingwell embeds their project in a checklist of theoretical stops: in order – Joseph Cornell, Kim Adams, Duchamp, Doug Copeland, An Te Liu, Foucault, R G Collingwood, ˇ ˇ Adam Phillips, Schopenhauer, Derrida, John Berger Slavoj Zizek, and Walter Benjamin, plus Judith Butler and Althusser in the footnotes. Impeccable credentials. Photos of the installations and drawings show vast assemblages of material – construction debris, rubbish, little objects, lots of tape on walls and floor, all meticulously arranged according to unseen texts with a spatial evenness in both drawings and installations


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

that gives each mark, each little fragment an importance that is both marginal and heroic, tender and anonymous. Their subject is the city: ‘Beautiful Infections’, 2006, is like a 3-d version of Candilis and Woods’ 1961 model of organic urban growth. ‘Untitled’ from Limited Activities (2006) – a brush sweeping a clean circle in a dusty, messy floor: a diagram of various kinds of cleansing. It all looks so open-ended, so provisional, so ephemeral we can project a hell of a lot onto this exhibition. It invites critical shaping. It is an archive that has lost its labels , so we can project what we need back onto it. To do this is both dangerous and gratuitous. Although it is very very difficult to achieve coherence when using great piles of found materials: Bill Woodrow, working in Britain in the 1980s, shaped his rubbish into iconic shapes – no escaping his messages; here, Blue Republic presents a spatial order that is intimate and infinitely more subtle and equally pointed. It injects us into the eccentric spaces between diagrams and objects, diagramming our real position in the city – personal, interstitial and irrelevant – and lets us know it.

Saint John urban renewal demolition, 1968 Leroux p242

Building New Brunswick. An Architectural History. John Leroux, with essays by Robert M Leavitt, Stuart Smith, Gary Hughes. Frederickton: Goose Lane Editions, 2008 Handsome, handsome, handsome — the New Brunswick I never saw as the Trans-Canada hurtled through endless miles of chilly woodlots. This book must have every building in New Brunswick from the earliest Acadian history side by side with Mi’k Maq traditions, to the newest, most invasive proposals by Toronto and Montréal big name firms. In between, a long history of serious building – banks and city halls, post offices and churches, hydroelectric plans and bridges, barns and houses. It is a hidden New Brunswick of late nineteenth century fishing lodges and American tycoons’ estates; of wartime RCAF stations and internment camps, of frugal postwar modernism and frivolous 1990s postmodernism. Writing about this book in the context of the previous two, I can see them all as taking unwieldly and often unpromising material (much like life) and shaping it into some sort of coherence. Leroux follows a traditional chronology making a rather impressive catalogue of New Brunswick architecture. Everything that happened architecturally in the western world – McKim Mead & White, le Corbusier, Venturi, every planning paradign – everything turns up eventually in New Brunswick, somewhere, at some scale. Chronology gives it credibility and context: a precise line is drawn between a lovely M Claire Mott glass-fronted bank and Mies van der Rohe. Leroux makes interesting, sometimes impassioned. always important connections.

The Lure of the Local. Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. Lucy Lippard. New York: The New Press, 1997 Three books in one here: in a band at the top of each page of this book is an intimate journal about living in Maine – daily life, local events, people, politics – the texture of a sophisticated kind of life in semi-rural America on the eastern seaboard. The middle of the book and I mean this literally — the middle band of each page, is Lippard’s discussion of space, landscape, identity, history and community, informed by her long career as a writer on contemporary art. The bottom zone of the book, identified by photos, credits and a brief description, has hundreds of contemporary art projects that engage place and identity. This is a multicentred book from a multicentred cultural theorist in a country that by definition (despite its rhetoric of unity) has such a multiplicity of centres that politicians have had to resort to the broadest of strokes to describe it. This is a discussion of America in small strokes, in collective movements of rainbowed coalitions, in the difference between the red dirt of Georgia and the rocks on a Maine beach. We’ve been discussing the impossibility of the meta-narrative of modernity for a generation now. What does it look like to take this seriously and to write about place and space, land and identity, art and culture with a multicentred coherence? It looks like this book. ~

a rc h i v e s a n d m u se u m s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 0


what are you drawing?

Jamelie Hassan, Qana, Lebanon, 2006 4 part drawing, India ink on hand made paper private collection


O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

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! architecture and weather on site issue 21 call for articles:

spring/summer 2009 an old theme, but a good one. can we have some new takes on weather, for example: urbanism landscape industrial design architecture art performance installations projects theses engineering polemics gardens history material culture books drawings

stormy weather halcyon days climate response war weather rain, snow, drought breezes, gales, hurricanes weathering economic storms weathering– mould, verdigris, patina, collapse construction for climate rainy urbanism northern urbanism southern urbanity cultural space hot streets portage & main shade desertification take weather in its widest sense, or its most narrow. take it in all directions. 800-1000 words maximum, you provide the images, and don’t take them off the web. Make sure you have copyright clearance for any images not produced by yourself. specs at

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on site review 20: archives + museums fall/winter 2008/9 On Site review is published twice annually (Spring and Fall) by the Association for Non-Profit Architectural Fieldwork [Alberta]. This association promotes field work in matters architectural, cultural and spatial. Canada Post Agreement 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 PAP 11017 copyright: On Site review and ANPAF[A] All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of Copyright Law Chapter C-30, RSC1988.

news stand price $12 subscriptions per year/two issues: $20 two years/four issues: $35 three years/six issues: $50 in Canada: shipping and handling included. for USA: add $12/year for International: add $24/ year back issues: $7.50 subscription forms: PayPal or download from subscribe and send with a cheque to On Site 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0Z5

editor/publisher: Stephanie White design: Black Dog Running printer: Emerson Clarke Printing Calgary, Alberta distribution: Magazines Canada 416 504 0274 Ubiquity Distributors, NY 718 875 5491 acknowledgements: On Site gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our volunteers, and the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts Publishing Grants to Arts and Literary Magazines and the Government of Canada through the Publications Assistance Program, Department of Heritage which subsidises a portion of the mailing costs of this magazine. On Site invites theme-based submissions — reviews, commentary, photo-documentation, project descriptions, critical essays. for any and all inquiries, please contact: 403 266 5827

Mark Baechler is an architect and sessional lecturer at the University of Toronto Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Neeraj Bhatia is an architect and urban designer, founding member of The Open Workshop and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Ella Chmielewska, urbanist, designer and photographer teaches cultural studies at the University of Edinburgh. Steve Chodoriwsky is living in Tokyo. Nicole Dextras, a photographer and installation artist, teaches at Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, and will be in Dawson City, Yukon in an arts residency in December 2008 Jordan Ellis is still young and wide-eyed in the world of architecture. At HOK in Toronto he is learning how to focus. Gerald Forseth (BArch Toronto 1970) MAAA, FRAIC is an architect (Gerald L. Forseth Architects Ltd in Calgary), planner, researcher, traveller, teacher, lecturer, writer, photographer, curator, dreamer and (professional) volunteer. Dominique Hurth and Ciarán Walsh are two artists and researchers based in Berlin whose practices include archiving, object making, media and writing. They co-write the Berlin art-review blog, Paramnesia Berlin: contact: Jaclyn Heather Jones ( is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies at Saint Louis University. Her work blends social history and visual culture studies to explore how disenfranchised groups combat cultural marginalisation. Miriam Jordan and Julian Jason Haladyn are doctoral students at The University of Western Ontario, where they also teach visual arts. Michael Leeb, photographer, visual artist and historian, lives in Claresholm Alberta Jana Macalik (MArch Dalhousie) specializes in spatial communication, and since 1994 has been designing cultural exhibitions and branded environments. She teaches at the School of Interior Design, Ryerson University. Joseph Masco is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (2006, Princeton University Press). He teaches courses on science, security and American society at the University of Chicago. Dru McKeown is a designer currently living and working in Cleveland, Ohio who would give anything for a good bookstore with an art/design section. Crystal Melville has explored Canada from coast to coast. For the past five years she has lived in Halifax’s north end district, completing a degree in Social Anthropology and has participated in community development and arts projects. Mariana Mogilevich is at work on a video about the botanical garden, Rio: 141 Hectáreas. She is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Farid Noufaily (MArch Waterloo) splits his time teaching at Waterloo and working in Toronto. In 2008 he received the OAA Guild Medal for his MArch thesis (House of Reconciliation). His current interest focuses on walls and barriers: physical, social and theoretical. Aisling O’Carroll, currently studying at the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture, has an interest in landscape and urbanism, strongly influenced by experience in northern Ontario and an appreciation for the natural landscape and networks within it. Peter Osborne, an architect practicing in Edmonton Alberta, visited the Ara Pacis Museum in 2007. He can be reached at Tonkao Panin is an architect in Bangkok, Thailand.

back cover: Jen VanderBurgh: an image from Home Movies, this issue, p 46


j e n v an der bu rgh

front cover: Nicole Dextras: this photo is from an art residency at the Gibraltar Centre for the Arts on Toronto Island in 2007

n i co l e de x tr as

Gregory M Perkins is currently working in Toronto while completing his Masters degree at the University of Waterloo. His interests focus on the mechanical, spatial, and sociological aspects of re-inventing urban transportation.

O n S it e re vie w 2 0: a rc hi v es a nd m us eum s

Gregory Beck Rubin and Conrad Dueck recently moved to Montreal. Gregory is a University of Manitoba student completing his M. Arch in collaboration with Hexagram/ Concordia ( Conrad is at work on a young adult novel. Tanya Southcott (MArch Waterloo) is now an intern architect living and working in Vancouver. Dwayne Smyth trained as an architect and works with the interplay of light and shadow in both man-made environments and the natural landscape. A blending of the ephemeral and permanent is an underlying theme of his current exploratory work. Michael Summerton is an urbanist from London, living in Toronto and currently working in Accra, Ghana. Jen VanderBurgh is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University. Stephanie White lives in Calgary and is editor of On Site. Matt Williams is a landscape architect at O2 Planning and Design Inc, Calgary. Matthew Woodruff and Clinton Cuddington are principals in Measured Architecture based in Vancouver. or

stand up on site

architecture and war: the Canadian War Museum 27 NOVEMBER 2008, 7.30 PM What is worse than an economic meltdown? War, perhaps. Come and see how the nightmare of war becomes architecture. Alex Rankin of Griffiths Rankin Cook tells how the Canadian War Museum was engineered and built. Dick Averns, an artist with the Canadian Forces Artists Program, will discuss the connections between war, art and the museum. We will be in the new Kasian-designed Naval Hall at the Military Museums, surrounded by some quite amazing hardware.

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FREE ADMISSION FREE PARKING WHERE: Southeast corner The Military Museums 4520 Crowchild Trail SW Calgary T2T 5J4 HOW: Take the Flanders Avenue exit east off Crowchild Trail SW and follow the signs WHEN: 7 for 7:30 pm, Thursday November 27, 2008 CONTACT: 403 266 5827

The New Canadian War Museum is the recipient of a 2008 Governor-General’s Medal in Architecture. The RAIC describes it thus: Regeneration embodies the sequences of devastation, rebirth and adaptation.War destroys nature and yet it regenerates as the power of life prevails: a process that rekindles faith and courage. Regeneration as a design concept was inspired by the deeds and stories of Canadian veterans. Moriyama & Teshima Architects, Toronto and Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects, Ottawa in joint venture. Lead Design Architects: Raymond Moriyama, FRAIC and Alex Rankin, FRAIC

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on site 20: archives and museums  
on site 20: archives and museums  

The architecture of archives and museums, embedded histories, sites of memory.