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on site architecture +



onsite 21: weather. It is all around us, increasingly angry. Is it changing the way we build?

$12 display until nov 2009


on site 21

WEather Roni Horn, a New York artist who mostly works in Iceland, had a 30-year retrospective at the Tate Modern this past winter, including a series of photographs called You Are The Weather, 110 straight-on portraits of the same woman up to her chin in various Icelandic hot springs, her expression slightly different with each shift in the weather. Horn’s work is austere, minimal, rather like northern weather, extravagant only in its limitations. Weather is never quite the same. Weather is always itself.

contents 2 5 6 8 11 16 20 24 26 30 34 37 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 58 60 62 64 65 66 67 68 70 71 contributors 72

Terri Peters Emmanelle Viera Steve Sopinka Paul Whelan David Courville Tijen Roshko Gerald Forseth Jordan Ellis Christoper Roach Real Eguch + Paul Young Chris Hardwicke Gyungju Chyon + John Stanislav Sadar John Stanislav Sadar Carol Kleinfeldt Sandra Lester Andrew Lewthwaite Neeraj Bhatia + Jürgen Mayer H Reza Aliabadi Reza Aliabadi Anthony Acciavatti Shamim Alaei Dick Averns Eric Deis Stephanie White Michael Leeb Stephanie White Nicole Dextras Stephanie White Michael Barton

Carol Kleinfeldt little wonder

HOT/COLD: Phillipe Rahm’s Digestible Gulfstream le Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, Québec Weather-Causing Architecture: fishing huts of Lake Nipissing Village Life: fishing huts of Lake Simcoe Allons au Camp! the fishing camps of the Atchafalaya Basin Hybrid Informal Vernaculars: Chong Kneas, Cambodia Oasis Strategies: Coachella Valley and the Fergana Valley The Great Leak: the Villa Savoye Weathervanes: everyday weather-control Dufferin Grove: sustaining a community’s health Velo-city Three projects by little wonder, Melbourne Sun, Glass and Modernity Under Construction: weather Learning from New Orleans Absent Bodies, Winnipeg -arium: exploiting weather Trans-image Rain Manifesto Hydraulic Pastoralism: the Ganga Canal, India Desert Tales from Iran Windy City: The Weathermen Conservatory, Tokyo and Rot, Vancouver Books and Journals: Document and Vancouver Matters Nootka Tautologies Loose Form Yukon Residency in Dawson City Books: Ron Benner’s Gardens of a Colonial Present A Winter’s Tale Subscriptions and the Call For Articles, issue 22: WAR

Front Cover: Under Construction #8 Back Cover: Light Pour on the Yarra

Canada Council Grant for Literary and Arts Magazines Government of Canada Canadian Heritage program for Postal Assistance to Publications

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technology | digestible gulfstream by terri peters

hot cold Phillippe Rahm’s architecture as meteorology

experience technology climate modification temperatuve

— architecture should no longer build spaces, but rather create temperatures and atmospheres

Paris-based Swiss architect Philippe Rahm proposes a new way of looking at architecture, beyond mere building, beyond modernist ideals that he claims have created ‘petrified narratives of social, political and moral conventions’. Atmosphere, weather, diet, climate and neurology are explored in Rahm’s pioneering and controversial installations, creating debate about new forms and purposes of architecture. At the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, curator Aaron Betsky argued that architecture is more than just building: ‘architecture is everything that is about building. It is how we think about building, how we draw buildings, how we organise buildings, how buildings present themselves, through façades or interiors’. Betsky selected Rahm’s Digestible Gulfstream for the Arsenale exhibition ‘Experimental Architectures’ because it highlights the architectural possibilities of taste, touch, smell, light and temperature. Digestible Gulfstream is composed of two metal plates at different heights and temperatures (the lower is heated to 28°C and the upper is cooled to 12°C) that naturally moves the air using convection to create a gulfstream effect. Rahm’s invisible landscape is heightened with taste and smell with mint on the cooler plate (menthol causes sensations in the brain as coolness, perceptible at a temperature of 15°C) and chili on the lower plate (capsaicin activates the neuro-receptor TRPV1, which is sensitive to temperatures over 44°C). Rahm calls this project ‘the prototype for architecture that works between the neuralgic and atmospheric, developing like a landscape that is simultaneously gastronomic and thermal’. Here Rahm links the body (diet) and the outside environment (atmosphere). Rahm’s concerns are the invisible parts of experiencing a building, and in bringing the invisible to the forefront. “After decades devoted to the visible, in which a subjective approach and “storytelling” shamelessly replaced the progressive and moral programs of modernity, we are now in a new and extremely interesting period.” he says. Currently, when architects speak of weather or climate it is about controlling, taming or blocking out interaction with it. Solar shading, thermal insulation, weather and moisture barriers, we try to protect building inhabitants from any non-standard environment that could be too hot or too cold, but are we really making people more comfortable? Rahm customises environments with weather, using it as a design tool — at the heart of his work is the questioning of the standard 20° temperature found in every modern building. Architects would rarely think that one standard lighting strategy or sectional relationship would be ideal for all parts of an environment, so why should temperature be any different? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we can’t see temperature, like we can, say, light 2

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or form, and it cannot really be drawn (except as blue arrows for cold air or red for hot). Temperature is rarely considered or communicated in architectural drawings and does not play a part in mainstream architectural design. Perhaps temperature is like acoustics, it is not part of the standard architects’ toolkit of space, light and form, so it is easily ignored, with design control passed off to engineers or worse, to chance. It only becomes part of architectural design when it needs to be dealt with after the fact, when retrofit solutions are necessary. Rahm is optimistic that change is required and that architects are going to experiment with new architectural solutions. ‘A slippage of the real, from the visible toward the invisible, is taking place — a shift of architecture toward the microscopic and the atmospheric, the biological and the meteorological’.

Rahm’s ‘invisible’ architectures have been exhibited extensively, including at the CCA in Montreal, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.  This year his work will be exhibited at the Milan Furniture Fair, FORCE DE L’ART 02 in the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris and Louisiana Museum in Denmark in their summer exhibition ‘The Future Has Arrived-Architecture for a sustainable world’.   this page below and opposite:  Gulfstream: temperature as a design criteria, like light, space and form, rather than an afterthought. Must every room be the same 20°? No. At the 2008 Venice Biennale, Philippe Rahm’s installation ‘Digestible Gulfstream’ created a micro-climate that relates temperature and gastronomy to spatial experience, with two glossy white temperature platforms providing setting for the opening night performance where naked people played saw and guitars to an amused audience (overleaf). The technology behind ‘Digestible Gulfstream’ is simple, the lower plate is heated to 28 degrees, sprinkled with chilli peppers and the top plate is cooled to 12 degrees with mint. The work challenges people to think differently about temperature, and consider it as a varying and dynamic part of spatial experience.

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language + temperature tp: How did you discover the tools for experimenting with temperature and bringing it into your design approach? You use colour and drawing as a tool, as well as thermal modelling (using colours for coding there as well).  How do you creatively visualise this process of thermal modelling? Rahm: Architecture is a question of void. And of course the void is not empty. It’s full of chemical and physical particles, electromagnetic waves, vapour and temperature. I use a digital tool, physics software, to study  the thermal landscape created by the placing heat sources.

tp: So you are seeking to challenge these notions of comfort at all costs? Rahm: All the new constraints related to global warming and sustainability do not have to stay as problems. They have to become tools for architecture. The goal of my architecture is not comfort. Architecture is a composition between, sustainability, physiology and meteorology. *

tp: So how do we begin to develop a visual language for temperature, humidity, and climate? Is a new visual language necessary? Rahm: Yes. For the moment, we use the tools of thermal and meteorological software. But more far from this, there is the fact that working on invisible parameters of space change the way of designing the plan and the section. I like this change of paradigm. tp: Your work is often about ephemeral experiential qualities as they relate to architecture and space — areas that we don’t really have a (verbal) language for as architects: taste, smell and temperature. Rahm: You are absolutely right. Sometimes it’s difficult because it’s so tiny and of course not so spectacular as image.  But the most interesting for me is really to develop a new language, to be in this research of new tools and new sensation. We must create a kind of new dictionary, new codes, for projecting architecture as meteorology.

comfort + architecture tp: How important is comfort? Rahm: Comfort is not the most important thing. I’m against the modern idea of a fixed state of comfort. I don’t want to get to a fixed continuous and homogeneous state of comfort. I’m working on a thermal concept, more related to sensuality. I like the idea that space is not defined only by walls, matter and color but also by temperature, relative humidity, and light. It’s open to a more sensual approach to space, where the body is completely immersed into architecture, through all senses. tp: With the Digestible Gulfstream project, how did you experiment with ideas of thermal comfort and what did you see as outcomes? Rahm: The thermodynamic imbalance created with the two thermal sources generates a complex and imbalanced thermal landscape between the two different temperatures. I like that people are free to change places as a natural migration inside the climate. tp: What do you think about how comfort is described and communicated in architecture?  How do we currently measure comfort? How should we? Rahm: We have to reduce the energy consumed in buildings for heating and cooling because it’s one of the most important causes of global warming. This is why we are looking at the lowest level of comfort, to economize energy. We don’t have to think of the idea of comfort as a norm. Inside the building you could also create an uncomfortable space. This is also architecture.


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above: Digestible Gulfstream installed at the Venice Biennale: the hot and cold plates indicated in the temperature drawings are shown here.  The hot plate is the low one with the people sitting on it, clearly happy to be naked in a perfectly tempered climate in the generally underheated air of the Arsenale!  The gulfstream current is created from the temperature differential between the two plates. Image courtesy: Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia, Photo Giorgio Zucchiatti. This installation was part of the 11th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia.

landscape | jardins by emmanuelle viera and réal lestage

weather poetry

la Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, Quebec

La Promenade Samuel-De Champlain was commissioned to celebrate the 400th anniversay of Quebec City in 2008. Four gardens are part of an extended project of waterfront restoration that reactivates Quebec City’s access to the St. Lawrence River and revitalises the coastal landscape. Four imaginary quays at the edge of the river bring a sequence of experiences and atmospheres, from the wide expanse of water — the macro-scale of this area, to the tactile sensory experiences at the scale of grasses and rain. The quays integrate the Champlain Boulevard that crosses the site, uniting the two sections of the linear park. Each quay captures and magnifies the material and poetic qualities of the local coastal environment. The Quai-des-

Vents – wind and flocks of birds through whirling, poetic light-weight wind sculptures. The Quai-des-Hommes – the need to tame by framing views across the water. The Quai-des-Flots – grey waves and ice floe patterns, water walls, springs and the rich textures and geometries of Quebec granite. The Quai-des-Brumes veils deep cross-river views in an ever-shifting mist. The layered textures of the St. Lawrence are materialised in stone boulders, timber assemblies and corten steel thresholds, by native plants and trees, and by vapour haze, thick shade, mellow light and water reflections. Familiar materials such as rough wood and local stones consolidate the existing shoreline vegetation in a landscape-architectured language, inspired

promenade metaphor urbanism river edges materiality

by the site. These thematic gardens give structure, coherence and rhythm to the linearity of a grey cycle track and a white concrete pedestrian path. This project revitalises an important section of the St. Lawrence River’s borders and brings both an equilibrium and economic benefit to the city. The project shifts Champlain Boulevard from a highway to a landscaped, permeable urban boulevard, and contributes to the restoration of a rich, diverse, albeit fragile, coastal eco-system. The re-established plantings frame views and trajectories, calibrating space and scale. It also brings, importantly, a contemporary face to la Ville de Québec. *

marc c ram er : pho to gr aphy

La promenade Samuel-De Champlain is by the consortium of Daoust Lestage, Williams Asselin Ackaoui and Option Aménagement for the Commission de la Capitale nationale du Québec. The project was completed in June 2008. clockwise from top left: Quai-des-Flots, Quai-des-Brumes, Quai-des-Vents, Quai-desHommes, and again, Quai-des-Flots.

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vernacular | shelters by steve sopinka

the ice huts of Lake Nipissing

Weather-causing architecture

Lake Nipissing panorama, February 2009

Every winter, the waters of Lake Nipissing in North Bay, Ontario freeze solid. The result is a frozen icescape, 875 square kilometres transformed into new territory for snowmobilers, cross country skiers, snowshoers and ice fishers. There is something intriguing about the reclamation of the frozen water — even more captivating are the ice-fishing huts that begin to appear and evolve into an ad-hoc frozen shanty village. These structures capture the eye of the prefab enthusiast, the mobile-architecture buff, the Ministry of Natural Resources and, most importantly, ice fishers who are reminded that fishing comrades are ‘out there’ and they are not. On Lake Nipissing, weather defines an incidental, accidental architecture.

Maybe it isn’t about the fish or the architecture. The most compelling aspect of experiencing these ice huts is the visual transformation of water into ice – to see the massive frozen expanse that begins underfoot and disappears into the horizon. The formation of this newly constructed icescape, brought on by the change in weather, is what is most fascinating.


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st ev e so pi nk a

If there is an architecture that has almost no cost, is void of conscious architectural style and exceeds the expectations of its dweller — the ice-fishing hut could very well be it. Depending on your need for comfort and your ideas of how to outfit an ice-hut, your hut may or may not begin to look like your neighbour’s. The list of materials used is both long and unconventional: used lithograph plates, recycled wood pallets, metal flashing (and lots of it), discarded road signs and $1 trouble lights. Rigid styrofoam SM insulation is an interior finish. A converted greenhouse and an old garden shed have been given second life as ice huts. Given their often slapped-together construction, their random assemblage of otherwise discarded materials into ad hoc shelter, does considering ice huts as architecture give them too much credit? Maybe the taxonomy isn’t important. It isn’t to the ice fishers – it’s all about the fishing – just ask any of the inhabitants. Try to talk architecture or even building, and the conversation inevitably ends up in a discussion about lures, ice augers and more importantly, the weather.

transformation reclamation temporary mobility pickerel ad hoc retreat

lone hut, Lake Nipissing, February 2009

We talk about buildings being connected to site, integrated with their surroundings, symbiotic with the landscape. An ice hut integrates directly with the snow-covered ice surface of the lake, literally freezing to the ‘site,’ as currents and wind shift the ice. There is something strangely indigenous about these huts. They have become something familiar — an icon, a symbol, a retreat, a weather vane, a black dot in an otherwise uninterrupted landscape. The heroic effort of constructing a small hut, transporting it out onto the ice by snowmobile, maintaining it and securing it from being blown away during a sustained wind storm lies in the larger idea of weather-causing architecture: an ephemeral building, upon a temporary landscape, within a unique season. The ice hut grows out of the collective phenomena of weather and architecture where these two entities meet in a typology of low-tech habitation full of simplicity and honesty. The idea of transformation, mobility, temporality and resourcefulness, combined with weather, over time, equals one ice-fishing season on Lake Nipissing. Land artist Andy Goldsworthy has said that ‘a landscape doesn’t have to involve land – time is a landscape’.

The ice huts demonstrate and reveal value as objects, as shelter, as a means to survive and simply as a way to connect with uncommon ‘ground’. The weather, the economy and current architecture trends all have something in common, but the ice hut has a life of its own. It is sustainable by default. It has the potential to weather the climate and recession with resilience. *

ste v e so pi nk a

Why does an ice-covered lake in Northern Ontario accommodate some of the most honest, dynamic, and vulnerable architecture to have evolved directly out of the weather? It is both out of necessity and functionality, but also is underpinned by the seasonal climate change that reclaims of a body of water and establishes static boundaries usually unassociated with such undefined and expansive territory.

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vernacular | lake simcoe by paul whelan

ice fishing 2 village life

As soon as Lake Simcoe starts to thaw, the fisher folk decamp their ice huts and wait out the summer heat until the next winter freeze. Not all the huts get transported to land in time and some poorlytimed hut removals end up in the water as boating hazards. The ice huts are extremely straightforward structures which directly reflect the simple requirements of ice fishing. Most importantly, the huts have to be light so they can easily be transported off and onto the ice. Even during the fishing season the ice huts get moved around as fishers tire of their location and chop other more alluring holes in the ice.

pau l w he l an

above: fishing hole, archaeological traces of abandoned hut sites. Traditional fishers jam pine boughs into abandoned holes to prevent accidents when walking across the lake in the dark. right: official sanitation, delivery of services. below: a fishing hut with transportation sled, the ice village under the watchful eyes of Barrie.


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recreation community ice fishing infrastructure settlement

At first and even second glance, the settlement pattern villages appear completely random. These villages do not have to follow urban planning conventions. All the careful rules that Canadians construct to regulate every aspect of our built environment are abandoned on the ice. This is somewhat due to the lack of jurisdiction. The federal government regulates navigable bodies of water. When this water freezes, the local townships and villages do not have any power over activities on the ice. This regulatory vacuum sets up some unusual situations. Local restauranteurs complain to the City of Barrie about the unregulated food (and alcohol) businesses that supply the ice huts. Beer, rye whisky and high cholesterol foods are an important aspect of ice village life. Alas the local authorities have no jurisdiction so the ribs and rye continue to nourish the villagers.

as ‘seeds’ for attracting even more fish. The huts are scattered in response to water depth and winter fish habitat. This critical settlement imperative creates an apparent random hut placement on the frozen lake. On the ice, sanitation is rudimentary. This particular ice village had a portable toilet. Ironically it is much cleaner than the more easily serviced toilet on shore. It might be possible that at minus 20°C and with a strong wind howling across the flat ice, the fishing holes may do double duty. *

top: a distinctive ice ‘shadow’ marks each hut location, packed snow provides draft protection at floor level. middle: self-expression and tall fish tales, extremely portable hut with a rare commodity – windows. bottom: strong winds demand good foundations, the perfect ice fishing form. Built-in benches and the hut can fit into a pickup truck.

pau l w h el an

As always with humans settlements, there is an ordering pattern, but it is not based on the criteria that drive settlement on land. The ice is free and there is no shortage of prime real estate. Instead the first ordering principal is proximity to a public road so the huts can be dragged onto the ice. Public boat launches and marinas are perfectly suited. The second ordering principal is established by the fish themselves. While the idea of ice fishing may seem rustic, the fishers use sonar to locate fish which generally congregate in the deeper underwater valleys. This fish congregation is further encouraged by the release of live minnows

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pau l w h el an

The huts themselves are tiny. They are designed to permit two or four people to sit in deck chairs huddled around one or two holes. There is often not enough headroom to stand. The design is driven by reducing the hut’s weight and heated volume. Even within these constraints there is some variety and opportunity for self expression. While ice fishing may seem a northern rural phenomenon, its popularity on Lake Simcoe, within walking distance of downtown Barrie, suggests ice fishing also has a powerful urban draw. Aside from an obvious love of fresh fish, what is the draw? Perhaps this is the ultimate thumbing of the nose at winter. The fisher people simultaneously experience the over-heated claustrophobia of an ice hut while floating on a wind-


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swept field of frozen water. After all, it is impossible to forget that first needle-sharp intake of breath when stepping out from the fug of a dimly-lit hut into the blinding light of a sub-zero day. *

left: the alleged object of the exercise below top: two person hut interior below below: two person hut exterior

In Louisiana, the coast and the river basins are hard to reach and hard to tolerate. There are very few miles of beachfront. Most of the rivers are in swampy bottomlands. The marshes, swamps, mosquitoes, snakes, hurricanes, floods, and other, milder forms of amusement have shaped the structures as surely as the elements have shaped the ice fishing huts. This article is about swamp camps, distinguished from the marsh or beachfront camp. These camps are all on the Atchafalaya River, shown in the Google Map below.

vernacular | louisiana swamp camps by david courville

Allons au Camp! fishing the atchafalaya

Here in Louisiana, Spring happens early and quickly. By the beginning of April, the fig trees are leafed out, the peach and pear trees have set fruit, wild berries are ripe, irises are in full bloom, crawfish are cheap and we’re waiting for the flood, the annual flood of the Mississippi River. What we’re really waiting for is the flood’s recession…and the start of Camp season. 8,277 square miles of Louisiana are covered by water. There are 4000 miles of navigable waterway, 7,721 miles of tidal shoreline, 6000 square miles of marsh and a whole lot of swamp in Louisiana. There’s a lot of water here, but it’s not as accessible as you’d think it is. Once you’ve gotten to a place where you want to be in the marshes or the swamps, you can spend only a few hours there before you need to leave. There are 1800 square miles of swamp in the Atchafalaya River

fishing building bayous invention bon temps

Basin alone, the largest swamp in the United States, where most of the photos in this article were taken. The buildings in the photographs are called Camps. They are the solution to being able to spend longer periods of time on the water. Before the Basin was leveed after the 1927 Mississippi flood, there were communities in it occupied with logging, fishing, crawfishing, moss-gathering, trapping, frogging, crabbing, etc. If there were camps then, they were more than likely work camps. Leveeing raised the flood levels of the Basin to a point where the communities were flooded on a regular basis and the residents moved outside the levees. About that same time, the outboard motor became commonplace, World War II moved a lot of people from the farms into towns and the Basin, now more accessible, was the target of newfound leisure time.

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Camp Culture As one Cajun carpenter put it, when asked whether the impressive structure he was building on the Pecan Island cheniere was a house or a store, ‘Iss not a house; Iss not a sto’; Iss a Camp!!’ Camps aren’t houses; they’re not cabins; they’re not a place to go to get away from people. They allow people to get together in a setting where personal space is shared with bugs that bite, snakes that bite, alligators that really bite and lots of other creatures not that bad. There are different types of Camp, but they all have one thing in common: active, independent-minded people who want


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to be ‘at the Camp’. Income level, for the swamp Camp builder has, until now, been a minor consideration. In the 1950s and 1960s, Camps were relatively primitive. Few had electricity. Some had cisterns. A few might have had generators by the 1970s. Now, you’ll see generators, electrical lines, water wells, air conditioning, TV antennas and even satellite dishes at the Camp. Typical activities include hunting, fishing, cooking, eating, gambling, water sports – nowadays, with the addition of more amenities, Camps are becoming more house-like and more family-oriented.

Camp Etiquette It’s a job just getting to a camp, much less building one. Because they are remote and relatively small, being invited to a Camp borders on being bestowed with an award. You bring your best attitude and you make a contribution of effort to keep the Camp clean and organised. They’re a lot like small ships.

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Site There are two primary determining factors in situating a camp. If the camp is built to float, the site selection is more flexible. The Camp can be situated entirely on the surface of the water. Floating Camps tend to be placed in navigable areas outside the current of the river and its associated bayous. Man-made canals left over from oil-field activity are ideal because of the adjoining spoil bank which can be used for creating small yards, elevating generators, etc. If the Camp is land-based, the site selection is limited to those areas which allow the camp to be elevated to a height above flood stage and the outdoor components to be on the water. These sites tend to be near an intersection of a bayou with a lake or river, or on the bank of a chute between lakes, where the spoil from dredged channels has formed a mound. On a larger scale, more Camps are


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situated in the lower Basin where flood levels are less extreme, or outside the levees, where the swamps are relatively protected from flooding. Access: the procession The procession from ordinary places to Camps defines the layout of Camps on-site, especially those that are land-based. Access is by boat, arriving at the dock of the Camp, from which there is a walkway to the Camp, often including a stair to the porch of the Camp. The walkway either traverses or bypasses the waterside pavilion, where most of the daytime activity at the Camp happens: fish fries, crawfish boils, swimming, fishing, crabbing and playing. On the water, there are fewer mosquitoes, there is usually a breeze, and there is the View.

Construction The most difficult part of camp construction is building the foundation. It involves either the construction of a floating platform or the construction of a raised platform. This phase of construction requires the heaviest logistics: pontoons, poles, heavy timbers, etc. After the foundation is built, the remaining construction is accomplished with modular transportable materials (small pieces that fit in a boat): – sheet materials like plywood, and metal building components – roll materials like sheet metal and roll roofing – lumber and boards. Camps were and still are built from leftover or salvaged materials.

New weather Recent hurricanes – Katrina, Rita and Gustav – devastated Camp populations, especially in the marsh along the coast. The coastal Camps have sprung right back up, larger and stronger and with them, so have land prices and the Building Codes. On the other hand, the Basin Camps managed the storm surges from the hurricanes and were somewhat protected from the winds. Unfortunately, accessibility to coastal Camps has become a financial hurdle, rather than a physical one. But the Basin and other swamp areas are the holdout for the middle-income Camp. Building codes aren’t enforced in the swamp, yet, and the sites are generally leased from the State for a reasonable fee. *

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vernacular | cambodia by tijen roshko

hybrid vernacular informalities the floating village of Chong Kneas

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia, and lies in the central plains of Cambodia. The main tributary of the lake, the Tonle Sap River, displays a unique hydrological phenomenon. As the rainy season commences, the excess water from the Mekong River reverses the direction of flow of the Tonle Sap River and leads, as a consequence, to the inundation of 1.25 million hectares of forest and agricultural land for several months each year. During this period, the surface area of the lake more than quadruples and its depth increases by a factor of ten.1 The Cambodian villages are predominantly located on the land surrounding the lake. However, a substantial population of Cambodians also resides in villages on the surface of the lake itself. One of these is a collection of floating villages known as Chong Kneas, which exhibits its own unique rhythm and harmony in response to the changing seasons and weather conditions. The villages have their own enclosed communities which encompass diverse cultural groups, including the majority ethnic Khmer, as well as Vietnamese, Cham Muslim and Chinese minorities. The urban migration that occurred in the Tonle Sap area following liberation from the Pol Pot regime in 1979 had an enormous impact on the fragile ecology of the region. The previously sparsely populated Tonle Sap region was overwhelmed with under-privileged and war-ravaged immigrants. Survivors of the regime, devoid of educational and financial resources, migrated to the great lake area to settle. The landless majority used the free resources offered by the lake as the main provider for their survival. Over the past 20 years, the settlement population has increased and house forms have begun to assume more unique shapes and to reflect the diversity of cultural backgrounds. The current settlement trends are attributed to a variety of causes, such as not owning land, family disputes, economic issues, and lack of education and skills. An estimated 80,000 people are living in floating villages around Tonle Sap, and the Khmer population makes up the majority.2


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map opposite top: Tonle River leading to Tonle Sap Lake left: Aerial view of Chong Kneas from Phnom Kraom, Channel leading to Phnom Kraom, Chong Kneas on the flood plains of Tonle Sap Lake, dry season plans above: typical size and layout of a domestic dwelling below: Chong Kneas Main Street, village layout

Like the other floating communities on the Tonle Sap Lake, Chong Kneas moves location with the seasonal water levels. The floating houses of the villages are of various sizes and types and move with the changing water levels. During the wet season, the residents of Chong Kneas cluster around the base of the elevated Phnom Kraom area while, during the dry season, a small inlet along the edge of the lake is favoured as an anchor point. Some of the floating houses are made of wood and have two levels. The construction materials are predominantly lightweight bamboo, mangrove, and wood poles, all of which are locally available. Some of the houses are built on platforms supported on stilts, while some are designed like rafts, which simply float when the water level rises. Others are designed as small boats, which reside permanently in the water, and which house the families and display the ingenious crafting skills of the locals. The exterior decorations of the structures reflect the imagination and the personality of the occupants. The buildings are simple timber post-and-beam structures. Exterior and interior non-load-bearing partitions are filled in with bamboo or light timber material. The flooring is made of timber plank or sheet. The roof structure is mostly bamboo leaf thatching, although corrugated metal applications can be seen as a replacement, and full length louvered windows provide much needed ventilation as a direct response to the tropical climate of the area. The village proper contains not only domestic enclosures, but also educational and recreational facilities. Most of the commercial and educational facilities display a form of permanence by utilizing timber plank exterior cladding, and corrugated metal and timber roofing materials. The commercial and retail activities are conducted in mobile stores, which float from house to house. Floating churches and mosques service the members belonging to the respective communities.

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The constant threat of flood and varying water levels were common threads among the different cultures and, as a result, all the structures were similarly light in weight, mobile and showed great flexibility in construction. The weather as the primary physical factor constitutes the strongest modifying element in house form development in the area. The movement patterns of the village are directly associated with the changing flood levels. The data collected have indicated a minimum of twelve separate movements during which the entire village collectively relocates without any apparent organized resettlement pattern or grid system. The relative positioning of the houses and individual communities are maintained, and reverse movement commences as the flood level decreases at the beginning of the dry season. Amos Rapoport in his seminal work House Form and Culture has classified the built environments by the manner in which they were constructed and, in more general terms, categorised built environments into three distinct groups: primitive building forms which exhibit very little individual variation and which are built through a collective effort, pre-industrial vernacular which is characterized by limited building types and which are usually constructed by tradesman and, finally, high-style and modern built forms which encompass many different specialized building typologies and which are constructed and designed by a team of specialists.3 However, it is now possible to identify a fourth new emergent typology defined by its building materials, forms and construction methodologies. Rapid urbanisation has resulted in a belt of shanty towns and squalid settlements around the peripheries of the urban centres. The term ‘Urban Informality’ has entered the architectural lexicon to describe the cultural poverty, marginality and the manifestations of informal building processes in urban built-environments.4 These informalities take place mostly at the intersections of the rural-urban interface. The building forms tend to be freely flowing and organic, and the choice of materials reflects the availability of urban remnants, such as rubber tires and corrugated metal scraps. They are built by the user, and provide shelter and reflect most of the cultural trades of the migrants. They are mostly perceived as non-vernacular, and a debasement of skills and traditions, such as in the examples of Barriadas of Peru, Favelas of Brazil and Gece Kondus of Ankara. While the floating structures of Chong Kneas may indeed be regarded as a particular manifestation of urban informality, I believe that they are more accurately defined by the term Hybrid-Informal Pre-Industrial Vernacular architecture.5 An urban network has been interjected into the rural setting, where the hybrid vernacular architecture provides a setting for a new way of seeing or transferring building knowledge. These new emerging structures, which were mainly built to respond to cyclic flooding and tropical weather conditions, can also be viewed as reflections of local culture and knowledge transfer, and as valuable vessels within which social interactions are cultivated and maintained within the multi-cultural fabric of Cambodian society. this page, from the top: four typical domestic dwellings of Chong Kneas, a Vietnamese boat house in Chong Kneas, opposite, from the top: house details a floating retail store and a grocery store, boats attached to each dwelling, a foot bridge leading to main docking area gardening in Chong Kneas, the interior of a Khemer house


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The hybrid-informal (pre-industrial) vernacular structures of Chong Kneas are characterised by individual building forms that manifest the distinct cultural and ethnic backgrounds and traditions while at the same time display certain similarities with the construction style of the urban informalities, such as the use of non-indigenous urban materials. As a result of the socio-economic and political development of the country, these new emerging hybrid-informal vernacular built environments at the rural and urban intersections represent the macrocosm of traditional architectural morphologies. Cultural integration of Cambodian ethnic groups over the last two centuries has reduced the diversity of house forms to two main types, the Rong and the Kantaing style.6 Even though the expression of social status at a domestic built environment level is still evident, it centres on the celebration of differences rather than on exclusion. Although the Rong and the Kantaing style wood house internal organisations have maintained their presence in the village of Chong Kneas, both of these internal organisations are strongly modified by environmental factors to accommodate the yearly physical movements of the dwellings and to reflect the merging ethnic variation and social status of the occupant. * Keskinen, Marko. Socio-Economic Survey of the Tonle Sap Lake Cambodia, M.Sc.Thesis. Helsinki University of Technology, 2003 2 Bailleux,Renauld. The Tonle Sap Great Lake: a pulse of life. Bangkok: Asia Horizon Books, 2003 3 Rapoport, Amos. House Form and Culture. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969 4 Alsayyad, Nezar and Roy, Ananya. ‘Urban Informality: Crossing Borders’, in Ananya Roy and Nezar Alsayyad (eds), Urban Informality, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2003 pp 1-6 5 This term was coined by the author. 6 Definitions can be found in Vireak,Prak. ‘Wooden Houses of the Early Twentieth Century: Settlement Patterns, Social Distinction and Ethnicity’, in Francois Tainturier (ed),Wooden Architecture of Cambodia: A Disappearing Heritage. New York: Rockefeller Foundation, 2006 pp 66-8 1

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infrastructure | desert agriculture by gerry forseth

oasis strategies

palm springs or the silk road?

desert farming sustainability land traditions

An examination of oasis valleys in two great deserts of the world yields important life and design lessons about man’s growth and development within an isolated perfect climate and a lush environment. One is the Coachella Valley oasis in southeast California with its symbolic and sybaritic oasis town known as Palm Springs, formerly settled over 2 000 years ago by clans of the Cahuilla tribe who spoke an Uto-Aztecan language. I have frequently travelled this valley over a span of thirty years. It is familiar to most of us in North America due to our absorption of it as pop culture. The other is the Fergana Valley oasis in east Uzbekistan on a major arm of the Silk Road in Central Asia, with its mythic and extant ancient oasis cities of Andijan and Marghelan, formerly settled over 5 000 years ago by Indo-Iranians who spoke an Indo-European dialect. This valley was been hidden from the world by the Soviets until recently. In Spring 2008 I toured the Fergana Valley oasis and was able to make comparative observations.

The Coachella Valley oasis in southeast California is a small enough stage for its joys and sorrows to be presented with reasonable clarity. Its story involves weather, climate, topography, geology, aquifer, fauna, flora, agriculture, aboriginals, settlers, vacationers, town and country planning and built-form. It’s known for a near-constant warm and dry climate that naturally attracts holidayers and snowbirds. It includes a flaming landscape with a textural tapestry of colours that change from purples and yellows in Spring to grey-green (cacti and tamarisk) in Summer. It is ringed by plenty of cool remote canyons that shelter pools, odd-shaped boulders and palm groves. It has thousands of acres of fertile soil, yielding year-round fruits (figs, plums, mangos), vegetables, grains and livestock feed. And it has residents whose architects are motivated to create iconic but isolated private modern houses that successfully interpret a leisure life-style, the specific setting and the weather. While this suggests a valley of perfect luxurious liveablility, all is not well in this paradise! The valley has a population that has become mainly users and consumers, not producers. The residents and guests are trampling over the fragile environment, they are shitting on and fouling a scattered and wide-spread area, they are maxing-out the water resources and lowering the ground water table, and they

are relying on increasing electrical power to cool their interiors. Powerful interest groups have constructed expensive underground pipelines and wide concrete-lined canals that siphon off vast amounts of water from the Colorado River that then require electrical pumps to lift and spray the water onto exclusive golf resorts that, in themselves, compete with the water needs of the garden and grove agribusinesses. They are over-watering using unmetered irrigation systems which produce run-off water that leaches minerals from the soil and results in a poisonous salt water lake (aka the Salton Sea). Gigantic impersonal corporations control the land and production, the garden, orchard and livestock operations and also the land-hungry spa, recreation, hospitality, holiday, entertainment and shopping facilities. Large hierarchical agencies control vast and spread-out systems for domestic water, electricity, filtering, pumping, lifting, irrigating, insect spraying and fertilising. Building owners over-cool their interiors. Materials for screens that provide shade and catch the cool breezes are imported from elsewhere. Lastly, the ancient tribes of the valley, are inadequately featured by their archaeological and anthropological sites, their traditional objects and stories (bird songs) . The oasis valley feels like it is only 60 years old and dependent on high cost technology and new infrastructure for survival.

The 122-mile concrete-lined Coachella canal is one of many that diverts nearly all the water from the Colorado River into the valley.

This golf course green is one on more than 200 luxurious courses that requires vast quantities of water and labour-intensity to maintain the lush settings.

above, middle: Hundreds of wind turbines in Windy Valley north of Palm Springs provide electricity needed to operate airconditioners and water pumps of sumptuous spas and resorts.

left: Imported manufactured screens of concrete attempt to shade the sun and capture breezes in Palm Springs.


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Coachella Valley can learn from the Fergana Valley of Central Asia. Coachella needs to make immediate planning changes in attitude, direction, control and form. The first is to move away from an economic emphasis on agricultural exports and to organically grow for the locals and slow-food practioners. The second is to replan valley agriculture putting production back into the lands and hands of the private residents and original native americans. The third is to re-adopt more natural systems, practices and methods with an emphasis on low-tech, manual and low-maintainance solutions for water distribution and conservation, for soil amelioration, for sunshading of public and private lands and for cooling inside buildings. The fourth is to reduce the isolation of residents spaced widely apart by constructing simple linked infill development along major roads. And the fifth is to convert the existing water-guzzling lawns of the golf courses to using only drought-resistant ground cover and plants for the rough and the fairways.

Deserts are regions in which few forms of life can exist owing to exceptional drought or cold. They are often crossed by great bare-rock mountain masses that split from temperature extremes of hot day and cold night. With help from the wind, the split rocks turn to sand, and the desert expands. An oasis is a fertile tract in the desert. The fertility is due to water found near the surface in the forms of aquifers, springs, percolations and artesian wells within depressions, at tectonic plate fault lines, or along the course of a river – all fed and recharged from the snow melt in the mountains. Man can make oases produce a wide range of crops using water diversion and simple cultivation techniques.

The Fergana Valley oasis story is an ancient epic. Man and nature co-exist (excepting the recent period when soviet-ordered cotton-monoculture and military industrial plants threatened to destroy the balance). The current production techniques keep the soil fertile and the crops lush. Springtime sun melts the high snows that permit an extensive and tight grid of man-made clay-lined water ditches to traverse the valley. Slow seepage from the ditches replenishes the aquifer and keeps the water table high, thus reducing the need for above-ground spraying.

An oasis becomes a travel destination or a place to settle, with all of man’s basic needs covered locally. Many oases become sanctuaries for study and contemplation like the Siwa Oasis in Egypt or the Nefta Oasis in Tunisia, giving them a mystical and spiritual reputation. The contrast between barren sand/ rock and hardy natural vegetation, between lush, nutrient-laden vertical fruit and nut groves and colourful horizontal floral and vegetable gardens offers a stunning environment that engages all the senses year-round. Add brilliant daytime sunlight and a clear magnified starry nighttime sky and the result is the closest one can come to being in a sensual and visual heavenly paradise, an earthly garden of eden, a shangri-la‌.

In reality, most of the problems of Coachella Valley would be solved if the entry points were restricted, population was capped, agriculture was handled more cooperatively, landscaped front yards were eliminated and spaces between buildings were filled and linked. But these solutions are probably considered unAmerican and socialistic, thus the fate of the Coachella Valley is likely to be continued degradation of the ecology, misuse of the soil, and eventual run out of water and electricity black-outs because of competing interests and poor land and building conservation techniques. The Fergana Valley oasis offers to the Coachella Valley oasis important lessons showing densely populated towns and cities co-existing with the natural assets and rhythms that keep the valley lush for all residents and visitors. The linear settlements linking the urban centres are ingeneous solutions to getting maximum productivity from the land, even with a high density of population, while simultaneously offering efficient public services to the residents themselves. Smallholder farms adjacent to the tree-shaded, evaporation-reduced ditches have fanciful waterwheels that lift water for animal and plant usage into the courtyard farms. The wheels are simple, individualized, manual, and hand-constructed from recycled-steel. They are almost maintenance-free. Household water comes from wells (some are artesian) drilled into the aquifer that has naturally filtered it for safe drinking.

The Fergana Valley oasis is surrounded by the barren Tian Shan (aka Celestial Mountains) and a radiating arm of the Pamir Alay (aka Roof of the World). They divide the great Gobi (Shamo) desert into an eastern desert (Taklimakin Shamo in China) and a western desert (Kyzylkum in Uzbekistan). The Syr-Darya river flows westward through the valley toward the Caspian Sea. By 100 BC the valley was thoroughly settled, protected and productive, connected by the great Silk Road, and rapidly changing with the trade of different goods, ideas, peoples, religions, cultures and conquerors.

The Coachella Valley oasis is surrounded by the northern Sierra de Jaurez and the San Bernardino mountains that separate the Great California desert into a northern desert (Mojave) and a southern desert (Desierto de Altar in Mexico). The Colorado river basin provides water to the valley flowing southward to the Gulf of California. Around 1850 AD a railroad between Los Angeles and Yuma brought outsiders and changed the lives and power of the ancient Cahuilla tribes who had survived and flourished with simple agriculture, high quality tools and crafts, athletic games, florid body painting and large sand art.

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This market in Andijan is dominated by a shelter that is shaped to capture the gentlest of breezes on the hottest day, and to offer cool shade to the vendors within. This marketplace, as the economic and social hub of the city, presents a unique and simple architectural form in modern materials of steel and plastic that is both dynamic to look at and comfortable to be under.

For more than 2100 years the Silk Road has linked Asia to Europe through the Fergana Valley, a major source of silkworms. It is the leaves of the Mulberry tree that thrives in this valley, that feeds the worm that permits it to produce one kilometre of silk thread for its cocoon. Marghelan is a world centre for silk production, tie-dying, weaving and hooking. Using methods both traditional and modern, silk products are produced with traditional dye sources derived from rocks, plants and herbs; they are desired as high-quality, high-priced materials within world markets today.

Methods for tempering the hot sun in the public realm include natural screens of drought-resistant plants, bushes and trees. Here on the highway connecting Andijan to Marghelan (as elsewhere) is a springtime view of an arbour of table grapevines that will shade the public sidewalk to cool the environment by the early summer. Each smallholder farmer tends and harvests his section for either his personal use or for enhancing the family income; thus benefitting both himself and the public realm in a productive and natural way.

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Smallholder farms dominate the Fergana Valley oasis. Each supplies fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, dairy and meats to the local markets for sale. The food is sanitarily handled and offered pre-washed/preprepared to the buyer, thus permitting instant picnics and moveable feasts from one stall to the next. By purchase or barter the locals obtain Adidas clothing, Stanley tools, Delhi-produced building materials, Deere machinery, Daewoo cars, LG appliances and Nokia cell-phones.

Ancient tribes in Central Asia produced pottery for storing, cooking and eating. Today, some ancestors form and turn the local red clay into objects of both utility and beauty. The firing kilns are unchanged from those used for over a millennia. This private kiln is in the courtyard of a master-ceramicist, a descendent from an original Steppe nomadic tribe. His works are supported, exhibited and sold at high prices in Sydney, Sao Paulo and Sevilla.


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Here the master-ceramicist has created a thin plate of traditional design and pattern. An over-glaze is painted on a white background glaze in various shades of cobalt and green, mixed as in the past. Since the end of the soviet era descendents of the original valley tribes have actively participated in, and profited from, both international trade and increasing visitors to the valley. Locals ask only that people leave behind a small footprint as protection for the future of this earthly paradise.

Between the villages, along connecting roads, are continuous linear estates of smallholder owners. Their buildings crowd the narrow road with high walls that secure the plot. A simple large gate leads into the complex with a generously-volumed house, several out-buildings, a shaded outdoor terrace and an inward view into the year-round orchard. These linear settlements have permitted a medium-density rural population, efficiently serviced by a paved road and sidewalks, water canals, sanitation lines and electrical power. There are no ‘for show’ front yards that require high maintenance. A family spends its time doing useful work (work that produces revenue) or relaxing in the beautiful garden reading or chatting, eating honey-coated almonds and sipping tea.

gerry forseth

The courtyard farms produce nutritious and highprotein food-stuffs. Some is exotic: grapes, figs, dates, persimmons, avocados, artichokes, pecans and lentils. Farming techniques include soil repair, crop rotation and natural fertilisation – all increasingly herbicide-free and organic. Farmers live self-sufficiently and produce enough to afford some luxury items plus contribute to increasing trade with nearby countries. Most of Fergana Valley is now either agricultural land, protected forests or designated recreation zones. Villages remain tight enclaves for those involved in service, merchant, industrial or artistic fields. Former soviet-ordered industries that polluted the air and contaminated the groundwater are being phased out. New visitor facilities ‘squeeze-fit’ between buildings or occupy former luxurious palaces and madrassahs. Development and growth is plentiful but contained.

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Efficient and productive land-use in rural Fergana Valley Oasis: 1. Tree-shaded public roadway and sidewalks 2. Tree-shaded irrigation ditch with manual waterwheel pumps 3. High protective courtyard walls 4. Private entrance archway and gate 5. Large family home with terrace and water well 6. Machinery/vehicle storage 7. Tool shed 8. Animal and feed shelter 9. Garden and orchard 10. Fenced small pasture.

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villa savoye funcion technology beauty shelter

technology | weather and art by jordan ellis

the great leak unhealthy modernity ... the house turns out to be so beautiful, so deeply beautiful, that it would be a sacrilege even to dream about living in it.

I have no doubt that Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye stands among the greats of modernist architecture. Since I have not visited, I have no argument to make against the endless critical support to which I have been subjected over my architectural years; however, the flat roof – a trend in residential modernism – leaked. The dampness gave the owners’ child pneumonia.2 Is great architecture to be forgiven for failing to keep out the weather, simply because it is beautiful? Denis Hollier refers to architecture as symbolic art’s ‘privileged form’.3 Might such an association serve to dissolve architecture’s symbiosis with its (more quantifiably responsible) engineering? As history progressed from the Gothic cathedral to the industrial train station, buildings more and more wore their architecture in the open, hiding the engineering like an ace up the sleeve. Less were the walls used to hold up the building; rather, the building was used to hold the walls. Nevertheless, architecture as a constructing form has maintained what Gaston Bachelard may refer to as the dialectics of outside and inside. While his language is poetic, this described dichotomy provided shelter from all weather outside, both climatic and social. Since humans began to construct shelters, the primary concern has been to ‘provide a predictable environment’.4 If this is the primary purpose of architecture, how can we allow it to be ignored? Perhaps things have become too simple. Simply place the appropriate weather barrier, and all will be fine: a kind of stimulus/response methodology; another instance of the conveniences in the modern and technological world serving to extract archi- from the consciousness of tektum? ‘Compared to other living creatures, we are the only ones who direct our energies toward refining shelter into abodes that might be called works of art’5, writes Norman Crowe, describing a human condition that moves us to focus on the design of space, form and more recently an affection toward surface. In theory, this artistic-lean in design suggests that the practicality of building – that which serves as a barrier from external weathers – has been accomplished. In design practice, however, it has become accepted (more by the architectural community than the litigious law culture) that all great architecture leaks, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s opinion that if a building does not leak then the designer has not exercised enough creativity, to more recent lawsuits involving famous architects and their beautifully leaky creations. Why does avantgarde Architecture appear to be disinterested in function when confronted with beauty? To be more general, at what point is a


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—Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space1

work of architecture beautiful enough that its engineering can be relaxed? The position here is not that there exists no correlation between æsthetics and function, but rather that when one is given precedent over the other, a balance between function and form is neglected. A building that performs well but is mundanely designed is boring, while a beautiful building that fails to protect is frustrating. Until recently, this imbalance was hardly a prime concern. In older buildings, walls were very leaky and porous, the concept being that in a cold climate, one would over-heat the inside and the leaking air would help to keep dampness from the walls. This required an extremely large amount of fuel. For the Villa Savoye, restoration came after the Second World War, but with a more advanced building technology. In both strategies, vast amounts of energy were used in order to make the architecture maintain or increase its functionality. In the 21st century, however, being so wasteful is hardly an option. ‘The environmental crisis stemmed from our success in using nature’s resources to proliferate our numbers and expand our material wealth’ 6 , but in the new century, wealth may be seen more in an efficiency of materials and numbers. While before, ‘interest was concentrated on the way forms grow, rather than the way they work’ 7 , the current concern for sustainability and efficiency with the systems of LEED, biomimicry and others attempts to learn more from nature, rather than about nature. It is not that I wish to propose here any manifesto, I would like to stay away from any stimulus/response how-to guide. My question is whether we will get to keep our beautiful architecture in the face of environmental responsibility. The roles have reversed: rather than keeping the weather out of our architecture, must we now keep our architecture out of the weather?

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1 Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. p107 2 de Botton, Alain. The Architecture of Happiness. Toronto; McClelland & Stewart, 2006. p65 3 Hollier, Denis. Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1989. p4 4 Crowe, Norman. Nature and the Idea of a Man-Made World. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1999. p30 5 Ibid. p5 6 Ibid. p6 7 Collins, Peter. Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture. London: Faber and Faber, 1965. p151

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In the end, art’s privileged form is perhaps not quite so privileged. Without question, there is more responsibility beyond economics, physical and political restrictions. Designers have regained limitations that existed so long ago in the form of structural and material technological inability, but that are now technological responsibilities. Just how different would the Villa Savoye look if it was designed and constructed today? Ignoring design fashion, was it too far removed from the world of nature to be built in any environment? Maybe, instead, I will leave it as a relic of an era when we learned that we could built anything we could imagine, before we learned that perhaps we should not. At least it’s beautiful, right?

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urbanism | public weather by christopher a roach

public space weather protection enclosure methodology comfort

weathervanes anticipating climate changes The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco. — falsely attributed to Mark Twain1 This quote has become an inextricable part of the common lore of San Francisco. It is spoken so often it is beyond cliché, an urban epigram tossed out to explain our indecipherable weather patterns to the uninitiated – those summertime visitors who expect ‘sunny California’, only to be pummelled by swift winds and enveloped in fog. Despite this unpredictability, the lack of traditional seasons and the ubiquitous fog, we love our weather in San Francisco. And though we often complain about it, we get a secret joy from seeing tourists in July stranded on the cable cars, desperately clutching their Bermuda shorts and sun dresses against bitter damp winds. Our intimacy with the weather sets us apart from them – we draw our identity from our weather, just as a culture of shared hardship binds people in icy northeast winters, or the nine months of rain in Seattle. In our heroic narrative of survival, we tend to oversimplify the weather patterns of the Bay; fog and cold sticks in our minds, overshadowing a more complex and relatively benign climate. The temperature generally stays within 45-65° F [7-18°C], with many months in the lower 70’s, and rarely straying below 40 degrees [20/4°C]. While we do have our rare days where temperatures approach freezing, or the occasional ‘heat waves’ where several days can linger in the upper 80s [low 30sC], we can thank the stabilising presence of the water surrounding us on three sides for these comparatively mild fluctuations, and for the temperate climate that results. But climate, as a generalised description of average fluctuations in weather, does not tell the entire story. It does not, for instance, account for the often counterintuitive timing of weather changes and the resulting subversion of traditional seasonal patterns. In the summer the unique mechanics of the marine layer produced by chilly arctic waters heading southward along our coast, combined with hot masses of air rising from the Central Valley, produces a fairly regular pattern of sunny days suddenly interrupted by evenings of stampeding fog. This heavy cloud blanket is sucked up into the Central Valley, where it lingers for a few too many days until it no longer feels welcome, then retreats back to the ocean, starting the pattern over again. This foggy season is bracketted by two ‘real’ summers: one in early May before the cycle starts, and another in late September as the waters finally warm up and high pressure lingers for weeks at a time.


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La Boulange offers little sun or protection from wind, but still attracts a few diners. Café Claude uses the full array of wind screens, awnings, umbrellas, and heat lamps to keep diners cosy. DeLessio’s patio exhibits one of the more elaborate ‘temporary’ interventions on the public way, verging on fully enclosed space.

Even as we describe such ‘seasons’, these temporal patterns do not account for the distinctive microclimates in the city’s hilly topography. Local weather patterns can catch even experienced San Franciscans by surprise. The city’s western neighbourhoods tend to get the worst of the fog: it rarely creeps over the higher hills that roughly bisect the city, leaving most of the eastern neighbourhoods well protected and often quite balmy. Even within this basic division, there are nuances in each neighbourhood resulting from topography, street patters and proximity to the water. This is part of the charm of the city: one can travel less than a mile to escape a cold, damp day in the Sunset to enjoy a warm sunny afternoon in the Mission. But even the Mission can be inundated by a late afternoon fog that suddenly pours over the hilltops like foam on a raging river — it doesn’t take too many times of getting caught before some basic adaptations become ingrained. We learn to always wear layers, no matter how sunny the day is. We bring flip-flops and jackets to the beach, sunglasses and sweaters to the ballgame, and always have an indoor refuge when planning a picnic. Just as we have adapted our behaviour and clothing to changeable weather, we have shaped our physical environment to respond to this erratic climate. Buildings, the highest expression of this adaptation, are first and foremost a response to keeping the weather out; they are shelter and refuge. However, if we are interested in weather and our attitudes to being out in it, we can also look at how we have adapted our public spaces to our desire to be outdoors among our fellow citizens, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. A casual study of the adaptations made to the weather on the streets and public places of San Francisco reveals a range of tactics, from small scale and provisional adaptations to larger, more permanent solutions.2 They break down in to three basic strategies: good sites, architectural solutions, and technology.

good sites The best sites, with good sun access and wind protection, are naturals for outdoor gatherings. Such sites generally face south with some sort of physical barrier on the west side and are both coveted and surprisingly rare. From the sidewalk café that sits on the north side of the street to the park that is nestled into the eastern slope of a hill, or the narrow northsouth oriented pedestrian alley, such sites are highly successful and remarkably popular.

architectural solutions Just a couple of wind screens can make this well-oriented space quite comfortable at Mondo Café. Revolution Café’s southern orientation, transitional patio space, heat lamps and warm Mission District locale keep it packed almost yearround. Dolores Park’s natural bowl shape protects it from the western winds and creates a natural amphitheatre that is incredibly popular on sunny days.

If a public space doesn’t have natural advantages, there is a wide range of physical improvements that can be made, from the most crude and provisional to the elaborate and permanent. While little can be done if there isn’t a minimal amount of solar access, there are plenty of solutions for dealing with the wind. w e a t h e r m a t t e r s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 1


Despite its northwest orientation, this transitional space at Kate O’Briens is well protected from wind and gets good late afternoon sun. Glass and steel wind screens, tall curtains, and heat lamps turned this former loading dock into a sophisticated dining room at the upscale Jack Falstaff. Umbria deploys the most cursory of fabric wind screens under their awning. Several establishments on Claude Lane have installed these elaborate folding wind screens, which they combine with heat lamps to make outdoor dining comfortable in the evenings.

Few outside spaces fall neatly into just one or other of these categories; most adopt multiple strategies to deal with the shifting weather conditions of San Francisco. There has been a surge in the deployment of these strategies in recent years with the noticeable proliferation of outdoor gathering spaces in the city. Does this mean the weather actually getting better, or are we just getting better at adapting to it? Are the common practices that are used to adapt to being outside the result of a changing cultural attitude toward the weather, or are they a subconscious response to an actual change in weather patterns? Answering these questions is essential to understanding how cities and their citizens can adapt both physically and culturally to climate change.

On the provisional end of the spectrum, these range from ad hoc screens of wood and plexiglas, or even tall potted plants, to more sophisticated plastic awnings and curtains. The more permanent solutions often involve high fences or glass wind screens, ranging in their degree of enclosure from single walls to fully enclosed solariums or atria.

We can investigate both long-term planning and infrastructural solutions implemented by the state, and incremental behavioural shifts and provisional solutions produced by ordinary people themselves. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission has recently partnered with California College of the Arts in San Francisco to host an international competition to address a specific effect of climate change on the infrastructure and geography of the San Francisco Bay area. The Rising Tides competition is a call for ideas about how to respond to sea level rise, a dramatic consequence of climate change that threatens over half of the world’s population currently living in coastal or low-lying areas. For San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, this is a very real concern and one can imagine the massive changes to our infrastructure and urban geography that will be necessary to respond to this phenomenon. We can anticipate with a certain excitement the bold and dramatic architectural and infrastructural interventions that will be proposed for the competition and will no doubt be seduced by futuristic utopian

technology In outdoor spaces that are not particularly well-oriented or shielded from the wind, or when even the most well-adapted spaces face the chill of night or a particularly stiff breeze, there are always heat lamps. While these artificial suns are no substitute for the real thing, they do serve to extend the range and duration of suitable outdoor environments in the city. Similarly, outdoor fireplaces and wood-burning stoves provide a permanent heat source for an outside gathering.


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or distopian visions of levees and polders, floating cities, alluvial sponge combs 3 and the like. These large-scale architectural and infrastructural solutions certainly make great images for competitions, and while they certainly may be necessary, they represent an institutional tendency toward long-term and capital-intensive solutions whose ultimate practicality and success are difficult or impossible to predict. Alternatively, one can propose a more democratic methodology for adapting to climate change by drawing upon the invisible field of tactical solutions currently used, and codifying them into an evolving and flexible system. If our cities and our citizens are already altering the urban forms and practices that deal with weather, incrementally adapting to long-term changes in climate, then perhaps the most successful long-term solutions will actually arise from this field of currently undifferentiated practices, rather than be imposed top-down by well-intentioned visionaries and technocrats.4 Instead of casting ourselves as futurists and spending our energy designing capital solutions based on complex and imprecise climate models and abstract conjecture, we should also be studying these small-scale adaptations and everyday practices and cataloguing them in a taxonomy of potential futures. If we read them closely enough, the adaptations and behaviours being deployed now are very good indicators of how our urban forms and cultural attitudes will shift in the near term, and potentially in the long term. We can thereby ask ourselves very real and specific questions — Will we continue to see a proliferation of sidewalk seating, and what kinds of problems for circulation and other uses of the public right-of-way will this create? Will our current

system of parks and outdoor spaces be able to accommodate large increases in use, or will we need to change their forms or increase their number to avoid overcrowding, conflict and damage? Will our building and planning codes need to change to allow more permanent installations of wind screens, roof gardens and other architectural elements as these types of quasi-outdoor spaces become more popular? What if, according to some climate models, climate change actually causes San Francisco to get colder? It is by keeping a close watch on these incremental adjustments that we can more precisely track where we are headed, and potentially avoid building an ecological Maginot line. *


There is no record of this quote in any of Twain’s writing, including his journals kept during his two-year stay in San Francisco. The closest Twain ever came to the topic was in his book Roughing It where he said, ‘The climate of San Francisco is mild and singularly equable. The thermometer stands at about seventy degrees the year round. It hardly changes at all. You sleep under one or two light blankets summer and winter, and never use a mosquito bar. Nobody ever wears summer clothing. You wear black broadcloth – if you have it – in August and January, just the same.... You do not use overcoats and you do not use fans’. ‘Glorious Climate of California’, Roughing It. vol. II, chap. XV. 2 For the purposes of this article, I’m considering public space to include quasi-public spaces such as POPOS and the outdoor components of private property such as outdoor seating, café’s, etc. 3 A super-absorbent waterfront landscape element proposed in Anderson & Anderson Architecture’s entry to the High Density on High Ground competition, installed at the 2006 Venice Biennale. 4 See Michel de Certeau’s The Pracice of Everyday Life, especially his discussion of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, and how the methodologies of surveillance and discipline that were institutionalised in the 18th century arose from a field of practices that dated from the ancien régime.

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sustaining urban life Dufferin Grove, Toronto

Dufferin Grove is a working example of how an urban park can advance a broad view of sustainable design that balances economic, social, aesthetic and environmental considerations— things that go beyond traditional resource conservation to include human factors such as physical and mental health. Cities are under pressure to intensify, to increase density and infrastructure, reducing the use of energy and other resources. This trend reinforces the need for the wise use of urban space. Dufferin Grove is a compelling example of how to accommodate and creatively develop parks as integral elements of sustainable city infrastructure. Dufferin Grove is 14.2 acres on the east side of Dufferin Street, just south of Bloor Street in the west end of the old city of Toronto. Three-quarters of the park is covered by mature trees; the site is a plateau that slopes down to Dufferin with topographic traces of a branch of Garrison Creek. The park has been the subject of much academic research and won the Great Community Place award in the inaugural Great Parks/Great Cities awards program of the Urban Parks Institute at Project for Public Spaces, New York City.


parks community urban agriculture engagement programming

Historical Development The revitalisation of Dufferin Grove began in the early 1990s with a public consultation on park improvements. With a relatively modest design and growing involvement from the surrounding community, the park has developed organically, responding to the needs and ideas of volunteers in the neighbourhood. The surrounding community is diverse. Approximately one quarter speak Portuguese. Almost two thirds of households are rented. Twenty

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percent of families and forty percent of individuals are low-income and like many neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto, the community is gentrifying. Volunteers work closely with City staff to develop and manage a range of particular facilities and programs. Governance is organic in nature, running on energy that the community brings at any given moment.

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infrastructure | community by real eguchi and paul young

Park Vision washrooms, storage, changing room and the multi-use Zamboni Room. It has a field house that accommodates a local theatre group, and contains community vegetable and herb gardens — food security in an urban context. There is a natural playground with a large sand pile, logs, water hose and shovels, and there is a children’s garden. Both re-build a connection between children, nature and play. A traditional flower garden is maintained by local residents in active engagement with the park, and naturalised garden areas show native plants, habitat and ecological processes. An artist-built art garden has a water sculpture and there is a native tree nursery in the park.

Two outdoor bread/pizza ovens provide a chance to learn food-related skills using local produce while generating revenue for the park. Three bonfire pits provide focal points for community gatherings. A rambling cob-wall building includes a kitchen, and a composting toilet is nearly complete. These facilities, built by the community, let people learn alternative sustainable building methods and building bylaws, codes and standards. The pesticide-free gardens promoted ecological gardening practices long before the municipal bans on pesticides and herbicides. Composting bins and detailed recycling programs promote progressive thinking about waste management. These are all major urban issues.

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Dufferin Grove wants to serve people through public gathering places, health and environmental sustainability, education and the promotion of diversity with attention to both the natural and cultural heritage of the area. The facilities are sophisticated in their ability to meet these programming needs while being accessible to a range of staff and the public. They follow codes and requirements laid out by the City, yet are often low-tech, community-designed and built on limited budgets. There are traditional facilities such as the skating rinks that double as a basketball court, ball hockey rink and an area for the farmer’s market. There is a wading pool and a sports field. However the park also includes a rink house with kitchen,

opposite page, top: the organic vegetable garden where children (and adults) learn about urban agriculture and the growing and harvesting of food. bottom: locally grown, mostly organic produce is cooked on site and featured in Friday Night Suppers. The line ups are long. These popular community dinners run through all seasons, enhancing social cohesion. this page, above: heritage tomatoes and other high quality, organic produce are sold at the Thursday Farmers’ Market that operates all year. Outdoor, wood-fired bake ovens are used by on-site bakers. Bake time is also rented out. Bread is sold at the market and served at community suppers. Pizza is also made in these two ovens. left: Food prep and serving lines use part of the cob-wall structure. There are also portable carts and tables that take healthy food to the playground area.

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While some of Dufferin Grove’s early interventions were specifically geared toward stemming youth violence, particularly within the skating rink, the central ambition is to build community and to foster social cohesion through the programs and park facilities. People come together to eat at a community supper, to enjoy a bonfire, to watch a small theatre production or to shop at the organic farmer’s market. This is where neighbours meet, form relationships and perhaps volunteer and contribute in other ways to strengthen the community and, ultimately, to create social capital – a fundamental ingredient of a sustainable city. The park is also for learning. There is a visible effort to communicate to the public what the range of facilities are and how to participate in them. Newsletters, signs, personal contact, evening speaker series, interactive workshops and engaging art installations – these all contribute to learning, nurturing and support. And the learning goes beyond the immediate neighbourhood. The Friends of Dufferin Grove know that this park has become a regional draw and have established a research group to share ideas and programming experiences. In this way, other neighbourhoods can initiate locally responsive programs in their parks.


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Vision Manifest and Shared

Discussion opposite page: building the cob -wall house from the foundation to the sculptural walls and organic form. The community made this building, learning valuable, sustainable construction lessons in the process. The wandering walls include the sinks and counter that address Toronto Public Health’s request for proper facilities for food preparation. The walls also form a couryard, a gathering place related to healthy nourishment for children and visitors.

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below: The water sculpture is part of a native plant art garden – an opportunity to experience an alignment of aesthetics, culture and ecology. The garden and fountain were designed and made by Gene Threndyle. A natural hill is used as an informal amphitheatre during the annual Cooking Fire Theatre Festival. Various theatre groups participate in this week-long event; here a performance by the on-site Clay and Paper Theatre Company.

Dufferin Grove Park is an engaging nucleus of social activity. It is an example of a park in a large city that demonstrates that urban parks are essential components of urban infrastructure in the evolution of sustainable cities. So how does Dufferin Grove inform designers who wish to thoughtfully design urban parks and other public open space? What design processes can we use that respond to the social needs of individual communities and in so doing, enhance sustainability? As a park, Dufferin Grove plays its role in carbon sequestration, rainwater infiltration, the celebration of locally

grown food and other ecologically beneficial functions, offering a tranquil green place for recreation and restoration. It also does much more. Serving as a focal point to the neighbourhood, the park welcomes a diverse community through deliberate social inclusion and cohesion. Through its features, its programming and Friends of Dufferin Grove, the park encourages community members to take ownership of Dufferin Grove. This sense of ownership needs to be fostered during or even before the initial design stages of a project, and the design process itself needs to be completely inclusive. Time must be taken and patience exercised so that as many stakeholders as possible can contribute. The design of a park is a community exercise in learning, sharing, facilitating and empowering. New policies that support sustainable practices rely on an informed and engaged public, willing to work for change in the building of better cities. A park must leave room for change, adaptation and experiments with a palette of activities and features. These become potential building blocks for sustainability both in the public park and in one’s private life at home. As we design new parks and revitalise old ones, official policies need to be massaged and innovative approaches explored to manage each new and renewed park so that it is responsive to its own neighbourhood. Parks provide accessible opportunities to engage with life that exists outside of ourselves, and this  steers us towards  a reverence for all living things. The formalism that limits us to certain traditional aesthetics has to step back: if a park is to be a form of art, then it is one that emerges and develops as plants do, as families in a neighbourhood grow, as the spirit of a place evolves. A park must embrace both social and ecological change, build trust and provide a forum for discussion. This is the critical role of the urban park as something absolutely essential to sustainable design. *

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infrastructure | cycling by chris hardwicke

velo city

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia – H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia It’s Monday morning. You grab your gear and strap your bag onto your bike. It is cold and raining, and the traffic’s heavy, but it’s only a few minutes to the bikeway. Here it is. A quick lane change and you are pumping your way up the onramp and gliding through the entrance. The street noise falls away as you join the flow. Already you feel the draft of the other cyclists blurring past in the fast lane, their steady wind pulling you forward. You relax into the rhythm and the tension leaves your shoulders as you let down your defences. No more cars breathing down you neck. You ride along, matching your speed to those around you and looking through the raindrops on the glass-domed tube at the panorama of the city. Up ahead, you see a friend’s familiar bike trailer– he’s taking the kids to daycare. Pulling into the slow lane you chat for a few minutes before they get to their off-ramp. Soon the bikeway opens up, widening to six lanes as you pass the commuter train station. Hundreds of suburbanites on yellow bikes merge smoothly into traffic. As you cross a valley, high above the expressway, the sun breaks through the clouds. You shift down, and take the next exit to work. Checking your watch, you notice you are early again. Welcome to velo-city.


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Velo-city is a highway for bikes, a network of elevated bicycle roadways connecting distant parts of the city. There are three lanes of traffic–slow, medium, and fast–in both directions, each direction having a separate glass-roofed bikeway tube. The separation of directions reduces wind resistance and creates a natural tailwind for cyclists. The reduction of air resistance increases the efficiency of cycling by about 90 percent, allowing for speeds of up to 50 km/hr. Because it is elevated, Velo-city can be located in existing highway, power, and railway corridors, adapting to the built environment while requiring no additional real estate. Bikeways float above intersections and fit into spaces where trains, subways, and roads simply can’t go due to their size, noise, and pollution. Light and compact (you can fit seven bicycles in the road space taken up by one car) Velo-city produces no noise or pollution, so it can run right beside or even into buildings.

For commuters, Velo-city delivers total travel times that rival any other form of high-speed transit, and it is active rapid transit. In contrast to the passivity of taking a train or a bus; it includes exercise as an essential part of an urban lifestyle. Personal independence is expressed in individual freedom of movement. By working as a parallel infrastructure connected to subways, railways, highways, and parking lots, the bikeways expand commuting choices, while reducing congestion on our transit systems and highways. Bikeways are the ultimate in efficient, health-generating rapid transit. Maintenance costs for Velo-city would be substantially lower than the expense of keeping subways and highways in good operational order, because the weight and vibration of bicycles is considerably less than that of automobiles or railways. And because Velo-city is covered, the lane surfaces would be sheltered from weather distress.

opposite: Velo-city map, the Velo-city landscape. this page: how it works

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The culture of a city is often defined by its transportation system: yellow cabs in New York City, bicycles in Beijing, streetcars in San Francisco, freeways in Los Angeles, double-decker buses in London, scooters in Taipei, vaporetti in Venice, cyclos in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Paris Metro. Modes of transport create interdependent relationships with urban forms and city culture. Think of the relationships between cars and shopping malls, subways and skyscrapers, streetcars and main streets, scooters and roadside stalls. Over time, Velo-city will create a cycling culture for the cities it inhabits: kiss ’n’ rides, shower facilities, cycling fashion shops, velodomes, bike parks, health clubs, cycle path stalls, repair shops, bike couriers, bike picnics, car-free housing and intermodal stations. Velo-city would simply give bicycles the same level of dedicated infrastructure that other modes of transportation have enjoyed.

The bicycle has been around for more than a hundred years. It was a brilliant, modern invention back then, and remains one today. Bicycle enthusiasts have always been tenacious and devoted. And now, perhaps, it is an idea whose time has come back – bicycles now outsell automobiles in North America. * learn more at www.velo-city.ca

below: Velo-city spatial comparisons middle: velo-city running next to railway rights-of-way, a Velo-city off-ramp condition bottom: Velo-city connections with other transport systems, Velo-city at dusk.


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liquid light

‘a light pour’ and ‘some kind of wonderful’ appeared at the 2007 Melbourne Design Festival and in the F.U.E.L Collection and Design Within Reach during Design Philadelphia 2007 ‘liquid sky’, was a commission by the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery to exhibit a design proposal based on the Port Phillip Bay shore of the peninsula.

As manifest in the global extremes in weather over recent years, whether Australian droughts, Canadian ice storms or rampant flooding, our current ecological problems are symptomatic of a general estrangement from nature. Our relationship to the world is technologically mediated; the world is seen as increasingly something that happens to us, as something increasingly at odds with us, rather than as our home. The designed world shapes and reinforces this, from the cinematic isolation of our automobiles which remove our bodies from the physical demands of travel, reducing the immediate environment to mere imagery, to the managerial aspect of our buildings which divorce us from fluctuations of light, air movement and humidity in favour of a standardised indoor climate. The designed world is a product of this estrangement while also embodying and propagating it, leaving both designers and public alike distanced from the world around them. To recognise the ecological crisis requires an awareness and appreciation of natural phenomena. The simple luxury of experience offered by the magic of light dancing on the undulating surface of

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water or by the ever-changing movement of the air, often fades from our attention in our highly-managed existence. To appreciate the joy of the uncontrollable vagaries and idiosyncrasies of the natural world is to move ourselves one step closer to reconciling ourselves with it. It is in this spirit that little wonder’s recent installation projects have recognised and amplified small moments of our everyday environment hitherto taken for granted. The works marry sophisticated optical fibre and water-jet cutting to mundane, inconspicuous, everyday items such as baking cups and roller-blinds, elevating everyday phenomena from rain to light on the water. The works are distinctly urban, bringing these phenomena into the realm of the designed world.

‘a light pour’ was installed on a transparently-enclosed barge floating on Melbourne’s Yarra River as one of three floating water palaces. It was a single illuminated cloud of white baking cups, from which dropped a plethora of hand-crimped optical fibres, creating a cascade of light. Illuminator sponsored by Optical Fibre and LED Lighting.

Gar y A nn et t

installation | water + light by little wonder: gyungju chyon + john stanislav sadar

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G a r y An n e t t

some kind of wonderful and a light pour Australia is in the midst of a record drought, with Melbourne reservoirs routinely at around 30% capacity. The question of water has become one of national urgency. The theme of the 2007 Melbourne Design Festival was When it rains, it pours. ‘some kind of wonderful’ and ‘a light pour’ are unlikely combinations of paper baking cups and fibre-optics. These installations take us away from the everyday world, offering us a different perspective on the small things in our lives and giving us cause to smile. Their juxtapositions of technology, craft and nature shift the order of sky, water and land. The magic they create instills an appreciation of these very phenomena: fish swim in luminous raindrops falling from the clouds; a rainstorm of light floats indoors on the river. ‘some kind of wonderful’ is a trio of woven optical fibre nets, each holding a glass fish bowl and hanging from illuminated clouds of white baking cups, like oversized raindrops. Light is emitted from the knots of the optical net, like stars in a clear sky. Optical fibre, illuminator and technical support by Lucifer Lighting.


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Matt Kennedy

liquid sky

Gary An n et t

Mornington Peninsula is cottage country for Melburnians, and home to some of Australia’s most significant residential architecture. Abundant sunshine, fresh sea air and clean water has made the peninsula a popular summer residential and recreational destination for Victorians and the perfect stage for generations of Melbourne architects to explore new ideas. Pressures wrought by development threaten not only the attainability of the waterfront experience, but the very nature of that experience itself, potentially diminishing those particular attributes of serenity and convenience, proximity and seclusion that the waterfront offers. Rather than building another summer single-family residence, little wonder proposed to make the experience portable with a multi-layered textile sunshade/blind that acts as a camera obscura, as it both filters and collects the particularities of sea, air and light in its surfaces. As with the reflected light created by the gentle movement of the sea which shifts from the dazzle of glittering reflections to the subtlety of calm fog, the light captured by ‘liquid sky’ similarly shifts with changing wind and daylight. In bringing just this one aspect of the environment into the home, ‘liquid sky’ enlivens domestic life, injecting an exceptional experience into the everyday routine. *

top: Collage of the sunscreen/blind used outdoors on the balcony of the Paradiso by Paul Uhlmann Architects

Gar y An ne tt

above: with the movement of the sun and the air, the quality of the light captured by the curtain changes - from hard focus to soft blur - in an animated light effect resembling that of sunlight dancing off the surface of the bay. left: ‘liquid sky’ is made of two layers, such that one layer can be operated independantly of the other. When the back layer is used alone, the room is animated by the the play of light and shadow in the room rather than the capturing of light on the textile surface.

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technology | modern connections by john stanislav sadar

sun and glass healthy modernity

glass chemistry health sun tuberculosis

1 2 3

The relationship between climate and the building has been a concern since Vitruvius marked it as a public health issue two thousand years ago. Through most of the nineteenth century, traditional western medical theory linked issues of climate with qualities of place and time and, ultimately, the balance of bodily humours. Alongside fundamental shifts in our understandings of disease in the late nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the role of buildings became one of environmental management, producing and maintaining an interior climate distinct from that of the exterior, articulated by Le Corbusier, and later by Reyner Banham. The production of interior weather has been a particular fixation of the past two centuries, since the first successes with mechanical heating and ventilation systems. Artificial cooling, humidity control and illumination have all been further elaborations of a drive to develop the ideal interior climate, continually evolving with shifting values and understanding. The interest has been in buildings which would simultaneously admit, repel, augment and diminish natural forces to create an ideal indoor climate. By the 1930s, this burgeoning scientific approach dovetailed with the Victorian veneration of the natural world giving us the ideal of a building interior that would equal and even surpass the climate provided by the natural world.


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The creation of artificial weather was not limited to the introduction of building equipment, but was also evident in the organisation of the building’s surfaces. Residual Victorian practices coexisted with the ascendancy of scientific rationality. When Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch revealed an invisible microbiological basis for disease, nineteenth century environmental remedies took on a new urgency. [ fig. 1] Florence Nightingale pointed to visible attributes of the environment such as dust and debris as harbingers of microbes. This influenced the reduction of ornament and the privileging of hard, polishable surfaces, particularly glass. In addition to revealing dirt and dust, the large expanses of glass that characterised buildings between WWI and WWII demonstrated a particular understanding of the building and human bodies vis-à -vis the sun. With solar radiation linked to the eradication of microbes and to the treating of rickets, the sun became a curative, a preventative and a restorative re-connecting the body and the natural world. The suntanned, athletically-sculpted body became the modern image of the healthy body; size, muscular development and colour became hallmarks of the outward sign of health. More and larger windows were like the toned and tanned body in that they became the outward indicators of the healthy building.

fig.1 Interwar anti-tuberculosis advertisement by the Rensselaer County Tuberculosis Association. fig.2 Vitaglass, the first ultraviolet health glass, was the result of precise chemistry and continuous assays as suggested by this recipe by W H S Chance of Chance Bros, who partnered Pilkington Bros on the project. (courtesy of Pilkington plc.) fig.3 Vitaglass exemplifies a particular relationship between the body and the weather. Vita Glass Marketing Board ad from Architectural Review 01.1935. (Pilkington plc.) fig.4 Ultraviolet health glass promised heliotherapy in nordic climates. Vita Glass Marketing Board ad, from Architectural Review 01.1934. (Pilkington plc.) fig.5 The fit body of health. Interwar advertisement for the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium by The Tuberculosis Institute of Chicago and Cook County. fig.6 Vita Glass Marketing Board ad, from Architectural Review 03.1934. (Pilkington plc) 4 5 6, below

Nowhere was the linkage of glass and health more explicit than in the development of ultraviolet health glass, which increased ultraviolet light transmission through a particular glass chemistry. [ fig. 2] Precise quality control measures during production enabled the admission of germicidal sunlight, leading to claims by ultra-violet health glass buildings to radiant health. [ fig. 3] The curative value of the sun made it fashionable amongst vanguard medical practitioners, demonstrated both in medical heliotherapy and purpose-built sanatoria. Because of the climate of Britain where alpine and mediterranean heliotherapy was impractical, if not impossible for much of the year, ultraviolet health glass became a way of transporting mediterranean and alpine weather north, allowing indoor suntanning while maintaining protection from the temperature, wind and rain. Glass chemistry sought to transform the interior climate with the biochemical components of natural light, providing the northern latitudes of Britain with the heliotherapy opportunities found in more benign climates. [ fig. 4] The quality control of light extended from building product to architectural space to the human body itself — fit, tanned, toned, youthful and active physiques were promoted as normative and emblematic of health. [ fig. 5] A good building [ fig. 6] became one which produced healthy effects — producing health — by harnessing technology to admit the healing powers of the natural world into the building. *

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photography | construction sites by carol kleinfeldt

under construction uncontrolled processes

c aro l k le i n fe l dt

Site photographs are typically confined to the role of record shots, indications of conditions soon to disappear, one layer after another until the finished product is complete. They are obligatory and uninspiring but necessary, like a sheet out of the Specifications Documents. When the project is completed, a professional photographer is commissioned to take the photographs that will be used to promote, publish and submit the work to awards programs. These are the beautiful images taken by Steven Evans, Richard Fitoussi, Michael Brunelle, Michael Awad and a host of talented Canadian photographers that give us those iconic images of architecture. There are so many more states to the production of architecture, from liquid to solid, that could be illustrated and allow the frantic and uncontrolled aspects of a site to enhance the understanding of that process.


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weather finish accident documentation landscape

The photographs shown here, taken just after the worst of a winter storm, record the awesome elegance and calm that followed. The construction safety officer had cleared the eighty-six acre site of all crews leaving me and my associate the unique experience of looking around at a strange new world, rather than the familiar, frenetic construction site we had come to take for granted. We were free to just look without the burden of inspecting or instructing or criticising. This was the point in time when the architecture is a folly within a landscape, not

would enter them and protect their prospective polished finishes are humiliated by the unexpected apparitions and patterning of apparent happenstance. Chaos Theory and the dynamic systems of weather are playing (with) the architect, interior designer, constructor and painter. Excavations for the future foundations of a wall become an instant temporary canal containing rebar weirs. A plastic fence becomes an undulating red ribbon, tied to hold a stand of trees. The earnest attempts to ‘weather-proof ’ an area under construction are easily whipped into the Flying Dutchman’s sail, reflecting that perfect light – The Light – that is only momentarily available to the photographer and stops you in midstride. The experience of the aftermath is exhilarating, rewarding, devastating, frightening, frustrating and ultimately connecting. Anything is possible and the air is cleared. *

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a new construction or a ruin. The storm had created a dramatic stage set, more suggestive of Waiting for Godot than The Importance of Being Earnest. The ephemeral and sometimes surreal conditions that occur when the elements intrude on the interior of a space, not quite yet enclosed, challenges our architectural conceit to spare these spaces the wear of sun, rain, wind, snow and the endless variations of each. Our incomplete efforts to mitigate their effects on the people that

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C o u r t e sy o f t h e U n i v e r si t y o f Te x a s Li br a r i e s, T h e U n i v e r si t y o f Te x as at Au st i n building technology passive economics by sandra lester


Rejuvenation is synonymous with post-Katrina New Orleans. In one of the oldest cities in North America, what can we learn from its past successes and mistakes to carry into the future? The oldest part of New Orleans, le Vieux Carré, is located on high ground. Eighteenth century plans show a garden next to every house, producing most of the food needed within the limits of the city with the exception of large-scale agricultural products such as cotton and sugar. The pressure to infill must have been great in this city, as it has been in all others. Economic sense outsourced the gardens to the suburbs, and then to the countryside — giving up gardening to others and leveraging their time. Post-World War II economics led to the 44

new orleans 20/20 hindsight

development of New Orleans below sea level. Suburban wards with inexpensive wood houses have proved themselves incapable of dealing with the potential dangers of the held-back flood waters of the nearby river and channels. The levees themselves were inaccurately built, invisibly compounding the dangers. Can we learn anything from the earliest incarnation of New Orleans? The city was ceded to Spain in the 1763 Treaty of Paris and remained under Spanish control until 1801. Most of the surviving architecture of the Vieux Carré dates from this Spanish period. It was climate-appropriate architecture and innately passive in design. The buildings are shaded in the summer, bring in sun in the winter and have interior courtyards that block winds off the Gulf. Outside the city, along the banks of the Mississippi, slave-owning plantations produced the wealth that supported New Orleans. Some plantation houses still stand: the San Francisco in St. John-the-

On S it e re vi ew 21: s tormy w ea ther

water inundation economies plantations self-reliance

Baptist Parish, built in 1856 by Edmond Marmillion has been restored by the Marathon Oil Company for tours and events. The location is quite shocking. The house is subjugated by massive oil tanks on the property behind and on either side. It’s ironic to think that the petroleum industry that sponsored the restorations is mostly responsible for the climate changes that have caused the erratic weather patterns and more frequent and violent storms which so viciously attack this region. The San Francisco was built just before the Civil War, the sugarcane industry was at its peak, the port of New Orleans was the fourth largest in the world and a number of plantation owners were millionaires who could afford the best and latest technologies of the day, implemented in what we would consider today as un-serviced off-grid properties, with no connection to a power supply, water or sewage waste-disposal systems. At San Francisco, two large cylindrical silos stand

sandra lester

the kill times

c o u r t e sy Ro y Te n n a n t , F re e La rge P h o t o s.c o m

beside the house. A pipe at the top level in each was for the rainwater from the roof providing running water to ground floor sinks. With the groundwater so high adjacent to the river, all sink water was returned to the yard in what must have been a nearly continuous run of buckets, and sprinkled over the lawn outside the back door. This avoided standing water and the malaria that mosquitoes would bring. An outdoor kitchen, separate from the house and quite a few hundred yards away kept the house itself cooler in the summer. An indoor winter kitchen has herringbone brick floors, set into mud, allowing flood water to seep in and back out again. Clay storage vessels, watertight and immersed in ground water, are set into the floor, their interiors cool enough for limited food preservation. Rooms are enfilade; large shuttered openings are aligned to the prevailing breeze. The top storey is shuttered on all

sides as an open sleeping porch. From this floor two stairwells to the attic are stacks in a natural ventilation strategy – and what a glorious space this attic is, with a view from what was the top of the world. The house no longer functions as a passive system: recent air conditioning ducts and sprinkler systems look like the true invaders that they are, clumsy with their promises and obligations. The flaws of socio-economic system of slavery led to the downfall of the plantations; the flaws of a socio-economic system of subsidised fossil fuels and overdevelopment in unsafe geographies with inadequate infrastructure has led to the downfall of New Orleans. In the long durée, for New Orleans to bring itself into a post-carbon world, to prepare for the future as more than an energy-consuming historic reconstruction like the San Francisco Plantation House, it must take a conscious review of socio-economic systems of the past

opposite: a 1726 map of New Orleans, showing the number of gardens it took to sustain that number of blocks. above: the 1856 San Francisco plantation house, left: the Lower Ninth Ward, open land, sitting idle for various economic and political reasons. San Francisco’s attic today, with 1974 intrusions, rendering it too, idle.

(low-technology, based on free energy and cheap labour), the present (mediumtechnology based on cheap energy and expensive labour) and the future (sophisticated technology based on expensive energy and expensive labour). In the short term, given that before Katrina, 19,000 people lived in the Lower Ninth Ward and just 3,600 live there now, why shouldn’t all that empty land, so vulnerable to inundation still, be seasonal crops. The difference in duration between building and occupying a house, and the time it takes to grow beans, is so disparate that a great opportunity to re-establish some sense of food security in New Orleans is being overlooked. Two of the keys to a sustainable energy future is a return to passive technology for building design and to urban agriculture. In New Orleans’ distant past, these were not strategies that required an incentive program. They were used, by choice, because they made sense. * w e a t h e r m a t t e r s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 1


project | construction materials by andrew lewthwaite

absent bodies

frozen architectures on the prairies

ice water winter winnipeg celebration

Water is deep and shallow, life-giving and murderous. Twinned, water arises to form chaos and waters cannot be but dual.

a n d re w l e w t h w a i t e

—Illich, Ivan. H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. (London: Marion Boyars, 1986)

drawings above: stair ascending from pumphouse to tower walkway level, above right: steel tower and walkway shrouded in frozen skin. photos above: small ice slab & driftwood construction occupying river surface. above top: the abandoned Amy Street pumphouse, below: tower model in hibernation state showing gabion foundation and protective steel plates right: an architecture of winter and water.

sub-zero situating: the project begins on the frozen banks of the Red River in one of the world’s coldest major cities, known by its seasonal moniker – Winterpeg. The site is the abandoned Amy Street pump house, formerly an integral part of a downtown steam heating system that warmed the blood of the urban core during the depths of prairie winters. With its feet dipped in the waters of the river, the building site opens up a series of questions both general and particular: how might the making of architecture participate in the seasonal rhythms and dramatic physical transformations that qualify the site’s fundamentally restless character? How might one construct with the materials of weather?

opposite page: in-situ model/ laboratory of the pumphouse and river condition. The model was used to explore the phenomenal realm of frozen architectures as well as test the realities and possibilities of building in the cold by engaging the material transformations directly


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The strategy is one of literally ‘playing in the snow’, in homage to Winnipeg’s complicated relationship with winter that finds pleasure in the cold: the popular annual Festival du Voyageur is held outside in the middle of February, and the world’s longest natural ice skating path sits high in Winnipeg’s civic consciousness. A love/hate duality that marks the existential dilemma of the city dweller in reference to the realities of their climate (death is never far from one’s thoughts on cold winter nights) points to a poetic tension within that relationship full of possibility for architectural engagement. liquid to solid: the project unfolds as a series of experiments in the basic matter of site – water and ice - as material for construction. The existing pump house becomes a land-locked laboratory for a series of constructive operations. Blocks of ice cut from the river surface become substitute windows, filtering light through their watery depths into the building during the day and lighting up the river landscape at night. Blocks are stacked to make massive ice walls clad in driftwood screens. Other experiments involve the misting of cables and fabric hung within the building’s riverfront recesses in thin icy layers. Rooms in the form of human scale ice-lanterns allow one to inhabit ice’s mysterious inner realms of captured air bubbles, particles and maps of cracks, while receiving the world through its thickness. Multiple techniques –casting, accretive misting, cutting, milling, welding and carving – use water’s in-situ transition from liquid to solid at the scale of building component (i.e. slab/wall), surface (misted skin) and connector (water weld). Construction is celebrated in its sequential un-folding and its material ephemerality.

At ice level, the tower is an armature for ice construction experiments: a network of tension cables and spray hoses together generate an architecture that shifts and transforms throughout the sub-zero season. In its cyclical existence the architectural body is always partial, and never static. Equilibrium shifts across many levels: structurally, the seasonal loading of the frame is balanced by the bracing presence of the frozen river and the accumulation of ice mass at critical structural joints for strength. Formally and materially, the architecture uses the propensity of ice (water in conversation with the forces of gravity and temperature in the transition from liquid to solid) to find a means of supporting itself. solid to liquid: as winter turns to spring, the architecture turns from playground to graveyard as it gives itself up to the raw forces of nature. The thick steel plates protecting the tower structure chronicle the annual battering by ice floes and debris carried by the force of the river — hyper-weathered sculptures that depict the brutal but poetic reality of their situation. The ephemeral skin of the tower is shed, returning to whence it came. As the waters of the river are renewed, the tower stands quietly in hibernation. The project suggests architectural possibilities for seasonal delight in the material realities of the climate, seeking a means of architectural making that resonates with the temporal cycles and transformations that give the city its seasonal lifeblood. Architecture, in its inhabitation and materiality, might well celebrate the cold and see the opportunities and beauty that lie within it. *

an dre w l ew t hw ai te

winter-centric architecture: a program develops through continued constructional explorations and the poetic realities of place. Here, a weathering steel tower, anchored to the riverbed with a gabion foundation, extends from the face of the pump house out into the centre of the river. It is a framework for an annual ritual of ice-making, echoing the pump house history

of drawing water from the river, but for dramatically different purposes. A small mobile pump and spray rigs shroud the tower frame in a skin of ice-misted fabric, gradually veiling its walkways and voids as temperatures plummet and material thickness increases. A thin ice wall at the tower’s core serves as a climbing surface for members of the Alpine Club of Canada and as a spectacle for the public in their wintery wanderings.

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from the schools | weather research by jürgen mayer h. and neeraj bhatia shelter interface green economy everyday weather exposure/enclosure project | thermarium daniel rabin and annie ritz rain beach sediment water purification

weather-arium exploiting the weather of every day ‘Arium’: a 2008 M.Arc Level III architectural design studio at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto, instructed by Jürgen Mayer H. and Neeraj Bhatia. The research (the weather report) and design work (the weather forecast) from this studio provide the basis for a forthcoming book: -arium: Weather and Architecture, edited by Jürgen Mayer H. and Neeraj Bhatia; graphic design by Eric Bury; published as a Daniels Faculty Publication.

Technology In contemporary society, an intuitive reading of everyday weather has been replaced by scientific prediction. At the same time, weather remains one of the most difficult phenomena to forecast in its constantly changing local and global atmospheric patterns. Attempts to tame this chaotic system through rigorous and meticulous prediction has created a prosperous commercial market, detaching us even further from nature. Paradoxically, in urban metropoli weather is often cited as the last form of ‘uncontrollable nature’ that persists within the city. This relationship to weather – the need to control it versus the only uncontrolled condition in everyday life – determines how weather is perceived, commodified and potentially harnessed. Weather is a natural phenomenon that impacts our health, economics, infrastructure, media and architecture. Comprised of large and turbulent forces, weather could potentially be harnessed to be a productive and sustainable element in everyday life.

From hermetic to atmospheric architecture In its simplest terms, architecture is born from a protective need to shelter from the weather. Beyond bestowing this primary responsibility on architecture, weather symbolises everything architecture is not but continually wishes to be: ephemeral, formless, dynamic and immaterial. Instead architecture is forced into a physical state of stasis. The tension between architecture’s responsibilities and secret yearnings, between interior and exterior environments and between the artificial and the natural culminates at the interface that is the building skin. Here, layers of enclosure are each systematically designed to control an atmospheric condition – humidity, moisture, wind, rain – creating hermetic boxes that contain the ‘ideal’ climates manufactured by mechanical systems. Patterns of global climate change suggest an amplification of weather extremes in the next century. It is not a coincidence that there has been a rise in millennial floods, hurricanes and the ‘coldest’ or ‘hottest’ days since records began. As weather patterns continue to polarise, architecture is forced to further seal itself.


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The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report attributed approximately 27 percent of all fossil fuel usage to buildings.1 Of this, air and water heating and cooling account for an estimated 12 percent of all carbon emissions.2 CO2 emissions from buildings is rising at an average of 2.7 percent per year, due to the continual development of the built environment.3 The increasing carbon footprint of buildings can be attributed to this man-made interior weather suggesting that the hermetic quality of architecture is no longer tenable. While architecture can be designed for the extremes, those days that linger within these limits – the everyday – is of particular interest. It is these moments that both effect how we perceive nature and have a potential for new types of permeability that is yet to be exploited. As ‘green’ architecture is offered a more substantial role in contemporary society, a new relationship must be developed between architecture and weather that engages the productive aspects of the atmosphere.

_ _ _ _ _ arium The complex interplay of architecture, economics, new media and social relevance guides our understanding of weather and climate change as a driving productive force at this moment in time. We have called the design project to test this newly formed relationship between architecture and weather, an _ _ _ _ arium. An -arium is typically associated with a controlled artificial environment with a specific atmospheric condition, whether it be for plants, animals or planets. Not only does an -arium question the relationship between architecture and weather, it invites an architecture that uses, frames, mines and capitalises on the external atmosphere to create a productive relationship with weather. By rethinking conventions and climatic effects, a new set of atmospheric and informational spaces can occur.

r a bi n + r i t z

Silo Dreams Mountainous silos, incredibly space-conscious, but creating space. A random confusion amidst the chaos of loading and unloading corn ships, of railways and bridges, crane monsters with live gestures, hordes of silo cells in concrete, stone and glazed brick. Then suddenly a silo with administrative buildings, closed horizontal fronts against the stupendous verticals of fifty to a hundred cylinders, and all this in the sharp evening light. I took photographs like mad. Everything else so far now seemed to have been shaped interim to my silo dreams. Everything else was merely a beginning. —Erich Mendelsohn4­ The case study site is the landmark Victory Soya Mills on Toronto’s waterfront. While modernists such as Mendelsohn, Gropius, Corbusier and Behrens gravitated towards these industrial typologies for their functional and monumental nature, we enlist the silo typology solely because of its impenetrable walls. The silo is emblematic here – a controlled interior storage space that ignores any transformations in the exterior climate. While most

buildings are constructed to resist large exterior lateral loads, silos are one of the few types capable of enduring great lateral loads from within. As a result, industrial silos produce a zero baseline relationship to weather – an ideal challenge and point of departure. How might one transform these iconic buildings along the waterfront so that they can respond, educate and transform with weather? As Toronto, like many North American cities, struggles to (re)develop its waterfront, what role can these monumental industrial buildings play in its development? As we enter a time of energy scarcity, we must question how we can create an atmospheric architecture that renegotiates the fundamental relationship between architecture and weather. * 1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPPC Fourth Assessment Report. Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. 2007. pp259 & 392 2 Ibid., pp259 & 393 3 Ibid., p391 4 Mendelsohn, Letters of an Architect (edited by Oscar Beyer, 1967, p69), quoted in Banham, Renyer. A Concrete Atlantis: U.S Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture 1900-1925. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986. p7

r abi n + ri t z

ThermArium, designed by: Daniel Rabin and Annie Ritz The Thermarium explores how CSOs from heavy rainfalls can be converted into a productive element in the city. Conceived as a water purification facility, the Thermarium exploits the output of sedimentation as a building material that accumulates due to rain, and slowly forms an urban beach along the Toronto Waterfront.

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landscape | canada by reza aliabadi


a landscape as deep as a country’s width

geography country nature travel time

On the 5th of August 2008, I began my Trans Canada trip with my brother; it took us five days to make this journey. Driving from dawn to dusk everyday, passing through three time-zones, spending the whole day in a less than two square metre space (his car), listening to the varieties of music, and watching the landscapes were all we had to do. I am using this 5000-kilometre trip as an inspiration for the following text that explains a concept that I call TRANSIMAGE. 50

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Undoubtedly, in a country as large as Canada, with a small population, the ratio of manufactured landscape (cities, plant and the like) to virgin landscape (forests, lakes, fields) will leave a vast portion of this country dominated by rich, beautiful and pleasing nature. This scenery fascinated me and caught my attention for five days through out this long trip. My entire anxiety was finding a way to depict this diverse beauty into a kind of image that can embody the whole in one. How is it possible to compress or intensify an experience, which has happened at different times and places? The answer was found in an exercise, which ended up being an illustration, which I called ‘Transimage’. A multi-layered scene resulted from superimposing fifty photographs which had been taken at every 100 kilometres. The only thing that they share is the shoulder line of the road, which has been considered as a base line in all of them. In order to distinguish the three major features of Canadian landscape, they have been sorted into three groups introducing the Canadian Shield, the Prairies and the Rockies. The main challenge was to convert an image from two-dimensional media to a three-dimensional experience. Although, one can explore a dynamic experience in each of these three fused/merged perspectives, it is more interesting to investigate the similarities and differences of Canada’s three main geographical divisions, not in a conventional comparison of two photographs, but on their characteristic flavour, their taste. How do the natural features such as the blueness of sky, the greenness of foliage, the quality of light and the palette of colour change from one to another? This process of ‘Transimage’ gives us an opportunity to experience at a glance both a thousand kilometres of place and a condensed exposure of a five-day experience. ‘Transimage’ could be a key to free us from the prison of time and place. *

BASICS: km 0000, Toronto Home Address / km 0072, McDonalds (Breakfast) / km 0385, Sudbury (Coffee Break) / km 0700, Sault St. Marie (Dinner) / km 0927, Wawa (First Night Sleep) / km 1030, White River (Shopping) / km 1192, Terrace Bay (Brunch) / km 1400, Thunder Bay (Break) / km 1640, Ignace (Coffee Break) / km 1906, Kenora (Second Night Sleep) / km 2122, Winnipeg (Brunch) / km 2693, Regina (Dinner) / km 2936, Swift Current (Coffee Break Third Night Sleep) / km 3207, Medicine Hat (Brunch) / km 3500, Calgary (Coffee Break) / km 3635, Banff (Dinner) / km 3785, Golden (Fourth Night Sleep) / km 3842, Mountain Lodge (Brunch) / km 4507, Vancouver! CDs: 01- Love Songs -> Julio Iglesias / 02- The New School of Flamenco Guitar -> Gerardo Nunez / 03- Miles Davis Plays for Lovers / 04- Vivaldi -> L’Estro Armonico / 05- Juaneke / 06- Khamooshaneh -> Mohammadreza Lotfi / 07- Narciso Yepez / 08- Spain -> Tomatito Michael Camilo / 09- Blood Dimond / 10- Luzia -> Paco de Lucia / 11- Shoorangiz -> Alizadeh / 12- Love Songs -> Chris de Burgh / 13- Vicente Amigo / 14- Zyryab -> Paco de Lucia / 15- Tango Argentino -> Guitar Collection / 16- Colores Morenos -> El Torta and Moraito / 17- A Jazz Odyssey -> Oscar Peterson / 18- Allegria -> Gypsy Kings / 19Flamenco En Nueva York -> Gerardo Nunez / 20- Summer Classics / 21- Mendelssohn Piano Concertos 1 and 2 / 22- Summer Nights -> Armik / 23- Kisheh Mehr -> Shahram Nazeri and Jalil Andalibi / 24- Bee Gees (1) / 25- Tomatito / 26- J. S. Bach Harpsichord Concertos (2) / 27- Sepideh -> Shajarian, Lotfi, Meshkatian / 28- Gypsy Kings Fuel Consumption: Total Fuel consumption; 341 litres / Fuel Economy; 7.57 litres/100km / Total Average Speed (24/7); 42.92 km/hr / Daytime Average Speed (14/7); 69.34 km/hr w e a t h e r m a t t e r s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 1


methodologies | modelling by reza aliabadi


There was a water-drop, it joined the sea, A speck of dust, it was fused with earth; What of your entering and leaving this world? A fly appeared, and disappeared. —Omar Khayam This proposal for a required metonymised object is derived through the simple extrusion of the not-yet-present volumetric capability of the site as a flexible domain which has been interrupted by random falling drops of rain within a specific time frame. To illustrate this experiment, a wave rupture has been modelled in a domain of 60m by 180m (the shape and proportion of the site). Ten drops of rain that hit the surface of this domain in random locations, time delays, amplitudes and frequencies, originate ten waves. The impact of this rupture has been simulated in MATLAB for 49 seconds, and freeze-frames of the pattern are produced every 7 seconds. These indexical diagrams have been transformed and re-read as a manifestation of becoming — the resultant object/project is the action of becoming rather than a representation of function and program. Voids in random diameter and depth, with unpredictable spatial intersections and super-positions, provide a different kind of space and place in an architectural realm. Conventionally, architecture is a considerable rupture on earth in term of scale, energy, time and material, and inevitably leaves traces, footprints, effects and changes – but to what extent, and by what means and intentions? Here, in this experiment, the architecture is a result of an interruption by a very natural phenomenon. *

Design: atelier rzlbd Contact: www.rzlbd.com Scientific consultant, wave study & modelling: Amir A Aliabadi Wave Equation: EMBED Equation.3 Wave Average Power: EMBED Equation.3 Wave Amplitude: EMBED Equation.3 Principle of Super Position: EMBED Equation.3


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rain waves rupture form landscape

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infrastructure | colonial ambition by anthony acciavatti

india canals irrigation hydrology technology

Hydraulic Pastoralism the Ganges canal system

Entrenched within the crust of the ground or drilled to the depths of the nearest aquifer, hydraulic infrastructure permeates the physical environment of the Ganga-Jamuna doab of north India. This doab, or land between two rivers, has been the site of an unrivalled number of public works projects aimed at mediating time and value in terms of weather, agricultural production and social ‘stability’. Of the infrastructures constructed in this region that came about through a social and environmental crisis, the Ganges Canal remains one of the most expansive and ongoing. Initiated by the great famine of northern India in 1837-38, the Ganges Canal began construction in 1842 under the management of the British East India Company. By 1854 the first half of this huge infrastructure project was complete with a total length of nearly 500 kilometres. At the time, it was the longest canal ever constructed, five times longer than the main irrigating lines of Lombardy, Italy and Egypt combined.1 Coupled with massive deforestation, myriad bifurcations and numerous wells over the last 150 years, the Ganges Canal has developed a new hydraulicpastoral landscape. This terrain was imagined by colonialists and nationalists alike as a serene topos, innocent of modernity’s culture of consumption. If anything, the agricultural hinterland supplies the caloric energy of modern India.

Evolution of the Ganges Canal: the canal is situated in the modern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.


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The ongoing process of enlarging the canal draws on an ambition to construct the ‘environment’ in a work of total design. Such a totalising environmental argument takes shape in the colossal, sublime scale of this project, believing that if it is properly managed, its effects – that account for social and economic futures – can be carefully engineered. Nineteenth century hydrological technology sought a strict standard of fidelity between imagination and reality. The engineering within the first 30 kilometres is impressive: the canal starts at the city of Haridwar and crisscrosses the drainage paths of the lower Himalaya where it passes over and under rivers that transform from small streams to cascades of water and debris every year. Due to the demand for cash crops and food stuffs since the tenure of the British East India Company, this region has been intimately tied to maintaining soil moisture through artificial means rather than from rain. Carefully calibrated barrages, embankments and bifurcations regulate the necessary space to synthesise water, nitrates and human labour.

Hardiwar: the bifurcation of the Ganges Canal from the Ganges River

Sitapur: moment where river passes over Ganges Canal

Roorkee: Ganges Canal passes over the Solani River

The goal of large scale irrigation projects begun during the nineteenth century was to increase agricultural productivity to mitigate famine.2 Within British India, these projects of irrigation were advanced as part of an elaborate network of roads, railways and wells.3 Conceptualised as such, the economic and ultimately moral development of India depended upon the development of mobile infrastructures to extract India’s then untapped resources of labour and agricultural production. John Strachey, a nineteenth century official in the North-West Provinces, observed that ‘in India, the very existence of people depends on the regular occurrence of the periodical rains, and when they fail through a wide tract of country, and, still worse, when they fail in successive years, the consequences are disastrous’.4 Managing water extended to mediating social structures and economic wealth. The construction and maintenance of the canals put thousands to work. The increases in crop production were intended to provide greater yields for farmers and consumers alike. While there has been fierce debate as to whether or not the canal has provided economic and ecological incentives,5 the Ganges Canal has been continually lengthened and adjusted up to a now total length of 6540 kilometres. 6 Today a variety of agrarian and urban conditions line the edges of the Ganges Canal as it passes along farming villages and dense urban centers such as Kanpur. Whereas originally the canal was intended to extend an ecological super-surface for agriculture and navigation, today it is also used for bathing, waste disposal and drinking water. More staggering than the canal bridging rivers or passing beneath them, is the canal’s implication in what I would call a hydraulic pastoralism.7 The spaces next to this expansive infrastructure might appear rural and rustic with minimal intervention, almost a-temporal with the constant sight of oxen and donkeys, the reliance on human versus mechanical labor on the farm or in the historic city, and the seemingly endless ad hoc construction of homes and markets. However, this landscape is highly organised around hydrological features that range in scale from a hand pump to a diesel-powered tube well, and to brick-lined, serpentine canals. An infrastructurally-engineered existence is at play within the doab, sharing the same degree of infrastructural excess and detail as that of the city. Yet for some reason the hinterland does not appear to capture the imagination of contemporary design culture. One would think that these spaces would be rife with design potential.

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Hardiwar: at bathing ghats near the head works of the canal

Kanpur: one of the lines of the Ganges Canal that passes through the city of Kanpur

South of Kanpur: a point where two canals converge


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The irrigation of the countryside constructs an invasive sensibility affecting not only villages and towns but local and regional ecologies. Changes initiated by the canals and wells have been studied through charts and tables, but little has been investigated through drawing and mapping as an intermediary between this space and the data collected. The ways in which water, soil, agriculture, infrastructure and culture format the ground plane, continue to percolate with little regard for their anxious, pictorial surrogates – maps, which largely focus on static forms of representation, ignoring natural and artificial systems, and soil structures and cropping patterns. Among the difficult tasks facing design today is how to bring design to a social and environmental project. For architects and urbanists, infrastructure projects engage both authenticities and imaginaries, creating new problems and unforeseen relationships. Unfortunately, the dearth of proposals from designers and urbanists for spaces outside the consolidated city, explains the current malaise of both the open territory of the countryside and the historic, dense city. The Ganges Canal is the most salient example of the possibilities and hubris of total design. Its size and magnitude extend to such territorial and managerial excesses that it simply becomes untenable. Within its overarching structure, cause and effect are seemingly incoherent. What opportunities arise for rethinking infrastructure as a decisive mechanism to bring about change through design? One possibility is to rethink the autonomy of hydrological, road and rail infrastructures and the potential of laminating these infrastructures to precipitate more environmentally attuned proposals and prospects of this highly unique series of territories. *

Due to the lack of sufficient information on soil structure and animate characteristics of the ground in the Ganges River Corridor, instruments were devised by Anthony Acciavatti to measure the ways in which the river and canal system affect the ground over time. This series of devices employ low-tech methods of measuring with global positioning systems to reconfigure the relationship between figure and ground, solid and wet, rigid and flaccid. The Surface Accumulation Sleeve (above) was developed by the author to take horizontal and vertical sections of the ground through the measurement of surface soil samples. The wearable prosthetic takes surface soil samples across a kilometre stretch of land running perpendicular to the river edge or the canal system. Locations are determined using a GPS unit attached to the prosthetic. The samples are scanned and disaggregated to better understand and to propose how the river and canal distributes land and debris throughout the year.  

Ian Stone. Canal Irrigation in British India: Perspectives on Technological Change in a Peasant Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. p 18. 2 John Strachey. India: Its Administration and Progress. London: Macmillan, 1903, p 230, and Ian Stone (note 5, below) p 17 3 John Strachey. India: Its Administration and Progress. London: Macmillan, 1903. p 230 4 Ibid, p 229 5 See Ian Stone. Canal Irrigation in British India: Perspectives on Technological Change in a Peasant Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. 6 According to the Irrigation Department, Uttar Pradesh (2008). 7 This is not meant to be confused with Karl August Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism: A comparative Study of Total Power published in 1957. Hydraulic pastoralism refers to a notion of an aesthetic of water consumption and distribution that is uneasily lodged within the crosshairs of tradition and modernity. 1

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vernacular | iran by shamim alaei

desert tales learning our lessons

Strategising to improve quality of life in the contemporary cities of the developing world has been the focal point of many studies over the last few decades. Imported technologies, design concepts, standard models and urban solutions to modernise the developing world often ignores the strong identity of local communities whose architecture contrasts strongly with that of the western world. In Iran, the gap between idealistic intentions and actual achievements has been so sizable that it has resulted in severe social and environmental complications. These dilemmas have forced designers to re-focus on the principle element upon which vernacular architecture is based: weather. Iran has extreme geography and weather. A temperate, well-cultivated zone on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the north is separated from a central hot dry zone by the Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges that run from the Iran-Turkey border to the 58

Persian Gulf, embracing the Lut and Kavir deserts. On the edge of this topographical split, very old cities such as Yazd, Kerman and Kashan reveal spectacular traditional architecture with cogent lessons on building in extreme climates. Here is just one: ventilation. This region is one of the driest parts of the country; the ground is covered with sand, salt and sediments whose vulnerability to high wind erosion is compounded by a lack of vegetation. Such conditions gave birth to a most complex sustainable architecture. It emerged from an incremental process of house-building by dwellers who collaborated in erecting, expanding and improving their buildings over centuries. Dense urban fabric of uniform height allows buildings to shade one another, to reduce surface areas exposed to solar radiation and to create narrow, breezy, street networks. Public squares or meydans

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heat and dust wind and sand sun and shade old and new hot and cold

in dense urban fabric promote cool winds: these internal open spaces heat up faster than the surrounding buildings and as hot air rises it draws air from the street network, setting up a breeze in all directions. A similar concept is used in individual buildings: summer and winter rooms face an inner courtyard of usable and protected outdoor space. Winds pass over the buildings creating areas of low pressure in the courtyards resulting in air pulled in through the exterior walls’ ventilation openings, through the rooms and into the courtyards. Another element of a natural ventilation system is the wind-catcher, or badgir. The design of these towers is directly associated with the direction, speed, gustiness and frequency of each region’s winds. Inlet openings at the top of the tower capture the breeze off the desert. The temperature of the captured air cools as it travels down the tower to outlets on the leeward side

opposite: the texture of Cham, Iran – the mountain, the courtyard, the badgir and the qanat. Shade and breezes are maximised by the architecture in public squares and private courtyards. this page: water and wind in Yadz, Iran. Water comes from the mountain. Badgirs catch and channel the wind, pulling it across courtyards and down underground, cooling the water stored in the qanat system. The dome is the top of the quanat water reservoir. Badgirs below: the Applied Computing and Engineering Sciences building at Sir Sandford Fleming College. It uses a badgir to pull the wind into the building, drawing it down to the ground floor where it picks up heat and rises back out the leeward side of the badgir.

of the building, creating a difference in pressure that pulls the breeze downward, releasing some of it at the ground floor over a shallow body of water before it enters the living area. Part of the captured wind is funnelled to a deep well directly below the tower, which is connected to yet another well, as deep and a few metres to its side. Air that passes through these reservoirs on the way to the cellar drops in temperature by about twenty degrees during the day. In the challenging heat of the desert, water is brought to the city by an underground water collecting system, a qanat, to storage tanks, aab-anbars. A qanat is built of numerous wells and a long canal that connects water storage to a water reservoir located kilometres away at the foot of the mountain. The wells are also part of the construction of the qanat, ensuring that the alignment of the canal is correct. The canals are well below the ground surface

to minimise water evaporation when daily temperatures are about 50°C – the reverse of the frost penetration we are familiar with here. These are sophisticated ways of building in extreme conditions. Studying them can shift the way we approach architecture here. The Applied Computing and Engineering Sciences (ACES) building in Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, for example, has a natural ventilation system very much like the badgirs of Iran. Three thermal chimneys oriented in windward and leeward directions, together with a central galleria, provide natural ventilation of the building, maximising its fresh air supply. Although this is but a small step forward in our recovery of basic vernacular architectural principles, it must be seen as a constructive effort towards a more sustainable building culture. By studying, we can decipher and apply centuries’ worth of practice to reverse

our ineptitude in building in harmony with the environment. Modern methods of design and construction were inherently critical of old techniques that required little energy and little imported technology. Perhaps the time has now come to take a step backward in order to move forward in a safe, sustainable, affordable, accessible way.

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Da v i d F e n t o n / H u l t o n Arc h i v e /G e t t y Ima ge s analogues | chicago by dick averns

Windy City

opposition wars imperialism protest durée

Immediately following 9/11, there was a sense that never before had America been subject to such large-scale terrorist bombings on home soil. Al Qaeda’s World Trade Centre death toll certainly bears this out. But in looking further, one discovers there is an American home-front history of terrorist bombings that is much broader in scope. During the 1970s The Weathermen conducted a string of continental bombings that wrought both symbolic and literal collapse – architectural, cultural, social and political – across the United States.1 These contestations, portrayed cogently in Sam Green’s 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, from which this article draws much material, reveal The Weathermen as a homegrown operation.2 While Al Qaeda and The Weathermen come from different hemispheres, they are not disparate entities: both have contested Western capitalist imperialism. Connecting these entities, one can chart a textual weather map locating Weatherman Bill Ayers and President Barack Obama on the same occluded front. The outcome is not directed towards 2008 Republican electioneering theories that couch Obama as a synchronic terrorist fraterniser3, instead Ayers and Obama are connected diachronically by political im-

peratives around winds of evolved conflicts: on the one hand Vietnam, and on the other, the War on Terror. Obama’s critics have accused him of fraternising with Ayers, attending his house for a function in the mid-90s and sitting on the same Woods Fund of Chicago board.4 Whilst Ayers, a self-admitted radical, has undoubtedly transgressed law and order, he has since reintegrated to society and works as a professor at the University of Illinois.5 I imagine Obama considers such reconciling factors as key for achieving broader peace and social justice, a desired climate change dovetailing with the aims of The Weathermen then, and for Obama, now. The Weathermen mapped their name from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues: ‘you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’6– apt, as both The Weathermen and Obama have their roots in Chicago, aka the Windy City. It was at the 1969 annual conference of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), held in the Windy City, that individuals such as Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn and Brian Flanagan, feeling that years of non-violent protest had done little to change American imperialism, forged The Weathermen. Their split from the SDS is framed by Ayers’ subsequent

characterisation: ‘the sense was that we had to do whatever we had to do to stop the war’. The Weathermen’s core issues in the 60s and 70s were a call for racial equality, US troop withdrawal from Vietnam and civil rights. During this era, The Weathermen fought to live up to the slogan of the times –Bring the War Home – with a string of domestic bombings.7 ‘Our strategy was that we would make the war visible in the United States; that people couldn’t just ignore it’. While it would be faintly facile to say America’s eventual withdrawal from Vietnam – including Saigon’s aptly named Operation Frequent Wind – was due to The Weathermen, their sustained efforts undoubtedly added pressure. This leads to the first of three key fronts. Obama, as the first black US president and the embodiment of a collective striving for racial equality, in early 2009 announced a timetable for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.8 Hence a diachronic relevance: The Weathermen’s aim to curtail US occupations of foreign soil forms a continuum with Obama’s contemporary policy. The Weathermen’s bombing campaign struck at targets representing justice, democracy, the military and government operations. Courts, corrections offices, po-


reconciling The Weathermen and Barack Obama

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opposite: October 11, 1969. The Weathermen take to the streets precipitating Chicago’s Days of Rage. From left to right: Jim Mellen, Peter Clapp, John Jacobs, Bill Ayers and Terry Robbins this page: a partial list of The Weathermen bombings: date, target and reason.

Aug 28, 1971: State Corrections Dept at Ferry Building on San Francisco Waterfront, in response to killing of George Jackson and the warriors of San Quentin. May 1970: National Guard HQ, in response to Kent State killings. June 1970: NYC PD, in response to police repression. July 16, 1970: Presidio Army Base in San Francisco, to mark eleventh anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Oct 8, 1970: Queens Courthouse, in solidarity with New York prison revolts. Oct 8, 1970: Harvard Centre for International Affairs, to protest the war in Vietnam. Feb 28, 1971: US Capitol, to protest invasion of Laos. Sept 17, 1971: NY Dept of Corrections, to protest killing of 29 inmates at Attica State Penitentiary. May 18, 1973: 103rd precinct New York, in response to killing of a 10 year old black youth by police. Sept 28, 1973: ITT HQ in New York, in response to YS-backed coup in Chile. Mar 6th, 1974: Dept Health, Education and Welfare in San Francisco, to protest forced sterilisation of poor women. May 31, 1974: Offce of California’s Attorney General, in response to killing 6 members of Symbionese Liberation Army. June 17, 1974: Gulf Oil HQ, Pittsburgh, to protest its actions in Angola. Jan 28, 1975: State Department, in response to escalation in Vietnam. June 16, 1975: Banco do Ponce, New York, in solidarity with striking Puerto Rican cement workers.

lice headquarters and key architectures in Washington DC were all targetted. Today, many critics still shun Ayers and his partners as terrorists or criminals, not worthy of credence, but it is important to probe the reason why these protagonists are still in circulation. Notwithstanding that some Weathermen served jail time, Ayers and Dohrn avoided prosecution. ‘Ironically, the government was forced to drop most of the charges against them when it became clear how much the FBI had broken the law in pursuing the group.’ This leads to the second of my connecting fronts to Obama. Then, as now, the US is alleged to have contravened domestic and international law in pursing hegemony. Guantanamo Bay, abuses at Abu Ghraib, and twenty-first century US rendition programs, covertly transporting detainees to secret black sites in foreign countries for detention and interrogation, have resulted in Obama’s new administration declaring that the interrogation technique of simulated drowning, or waterboarding, is torture.9 The extent to which, in 2005, the CIA compromised evidence of interrogations was recently revealed: 92 videos were destroyed.10 This renewed front of judicial compromise imperils, again, America’s ability to successfully prosecute alleged criminals. These compromises draw attention to

the ambivalent status of buildings such as the US Capitol and the Pentagon. On one hand they appear as monuments to democracy and defence of free-world principles; on the other they are sites of imperial and neo-colonial conquest. For this reason The Weathermen included both venues as bomb targets, or artistically what might be known as anti-monuments: ‘We have attacked The Capitol because it is a monument of US domination over the planet’. It seems Obama is aware that this sentiment still prevails in some quarters, as his administration is now more conciliatory, acknowledging that many peoples have been alienated by recent US foreign policy. My third and final front correlates the remarkably similar state of the nation left in the wake of The Weathermen with the postBush War on Terror inherited by Obama. The Weather Underground does a good job of noting that ‘as the 70s drew to a close, America seemed to be falling apart. Watergate, Vietnam and recession had sapped the country’s confidence’. An analogy for 2009 of Waterboardgate, the War on Terror and recession indicates similar weather patterns between The Weathermen and Obama. These fraternities of Chicago bring new twists, and also hope, from a weathered, sometimes winded, yet still winding city.

1 The Weathermen’s death toll included three of their own blown up in their Greenwich Village home/bomb factory in 1970, recalibrating The Weathermen’s propensity for incurring human collateral damage. Bombings from the era did kill a small number of people, but not all were conclusively linked to The Weathermen. 2 All quotations in this article are, unless footnoted otherwise, from The Weather Underground. Thanks also to Sam Green for his consultation. 3 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin repeatedly made references to Barack Obama as fraternising with Ayers. e.g. ‘Palin Targets Obama Over Knowing Bill Ayers’, CBS2 News, Chicago. Oct 6, 2008. 4 ‘William C Ayers’. New York Times People, April 10, 2009. 5 Ibid and <http://education.uic.edu/directory/ faculty_info.cfm?netid=bayers> April 10, 2009. 6 The Weather Underground and also via a film clip of Bob Dylan <http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=srgi2DkDbPU> April 10, 2009. 7 Dreyfus, Robert. ‘Bring the War Home’ August 9 2006. <http://www.tompaine.com/ articles/2006/08/09/bring_the_war_home. php> April 10, 2009. Martha Rosler is also know for her photomontage series Bringing the War Home. House Beautiful (1967-1972) & (2004). 8 Baker, Peter. ‘With Pledges to Troops and Iraqis, Obama Details Pullout’ New York Times, February 27, 2009. 9 Scott, Shane. ‘Remarks on Torture May Force New Administration’s Hand’ New York Times, January 16th 2009. 10 Mazetti, Mark. ‘U.S. Says C.I.A. Destroyed 92 Tapes of Interrogations’ New York Times, March 2, 2009.

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photography nature by eric deis


conservatory Tokyo


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rot Vancouver

ruin decay progress destruction insensibility

ericdeis.ca *

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document 01 street

books and journals urbanism by stephanie white

Aniket Shahane, Christopher Yost, editors

The reality that immediately invades and compromises a completed building is of scant interest to design magazines, and plays little part in the conversations that make up architure’s broader intellectual territory. In the “field”, the designer’s expectations collide with the spontaneity, experimentation, and kunpredictability of individual and collective will. That collision inspires the launch of this journal. Document seeks to promote the discussion of architecture as a temporal and adaptive medium evers susceptible to ordinary use and extraordinary appropriation. By privileging neither the new nor the old, the designed nor the accidental, the exceptional nor the mundane, Document aims to establish a multi-disciplinary record of observation, speculation, and interpretation centered on the interaction of people and the built environment.

Who could ask for more? The type face, the small size, the plain paper, intense black and white photography: this issue, Street, ranges from graffitti messing with form, to the vertical villages of Shenzhen; from the micro-ownership that gives a street its life, to the shifting logistics of street use. Document is seriously global, as are its contributors, yet all have a foot in our own streets here. The back cover quotes Archigram from 1963: ‘When it is raining in Oxford Street, the architecture is no more important than the rain...’ www.documentmag.net


Manners Vancouver Matters James Eidse, Mari Fujita, Joey Giaimo, Lori Kiessling, Christa Min, editors. Vancouver: Blueimprint, 2008

Document is a new journal out of Brooklyn, NY. From its opening manifesto – Design magazines are critical agents of architecture culture. Most of the space in these magazzines is devoted to showcasing newly completed buildings, as depicted in professionally staged and doctored photographs. Like a celebrity on the talk-show circuit, a “hot” new building will make an appearance in all the major publications, confirming current trends, and granting the architect immediate cachet. Not coincidentally, architecture remains an art form obsessed with its own photogenic capacities.


A little book out of the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UBC, takes Vancouver keywords: water, trees, hedge, water, freeway, view – sixteen very short essays in all – to bring attention to a kind of hidden materiality usually irrelevant to Vancouver’s booster narratives. Some essays are very good: Courtney Miller, in ‘Heritage’, outlines the rise of Vancouver heritage as an amenity and density transfers as instruments that protect under-developed heritage building sites and landscapes in a development-minded city. Heritage becomes a matter of linguistic, cultural and political definition; mutable and expedient. Kelty Miyoshi McKinnon, in ‘Sugar’, investigates the BC Sugar Refinery, its connections to the CPR, the Port of Vancouver, the internment of Japanese Canadians in WWII, the shift from sugar brought from the wider British empire to Canadian sugar beets, farmed by the internees. The irony in this story is in the distance between the product: sweet, twinkling crystals, and the internment story where a thoroughly embedded people from the Pacific coast were vindictively dismissed to work in the dusty furrows of prairie farmland. Given the density of thought and research in such pieces, others such as Lindsay Sung’s photo-essay ‘Hedge’ are quite weak. Is ‘Hedge’ in this book (cut-out smiley faces put onto various cedar hedges around the city) as whimsy in an otherwise deadly serious collection of studies? Although the internment of Nisei is a deadly story, several of the essays have that faux-anthropologist tone of the surrealists when they looked seriously at some trivial bit of material culture, but here without the underlying sense of the absurd. Stacy Moriarty’s ‘Blackberry’ comes to mind here. And, on the subject of being completely humourless, I would hazard that it is rubus discolor, the aggressive Himalayan blackberry that runs rampant through waste ground, not the shy native rubus ursinus.

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Many of the studies edge towards thick description, only to veer away somewhere after 500 words to curiously limp endings that belie whatever enthusiasm started each project. Not sure if this is the editing or the original terms under which these studies were conducted. To my surprise I found one contribution that had appeared in On Site in 2007, Joey Giaimo’s ‘Veil’, but unacknowledged as such. Kenneth Terris, in ‘Stucco’, identifies precedents for the Vancouver Special, a postwar boxy two-storey house type that exploits the limits of a 33’ lot and which was built to excess in Vancouver. It is one of those ghastly popular phenomena that through sheer ubiquity become beloved of designers. There have been many articles and photo-essays on the Vancouver Special over the years, but Terris serviceably puts it into a longer tradition of vernacular working class housing. The best pieces, such as Hannah Teichner’s ‘Freeway’, look at Vancouver as a body politic with material consequences. Teichner identifies Vancouver’s historic resistance to the scaling of development to transportation trends, leaving it with a traffic nightmare but also with a lovely collage of fine-grained urban episodes such as Granville Market sheltered by an uncommitted two-block long piece of freeway that hurtles across False Creek. Despite this, she calls for an ending of the civic inertia that looks backward rather than forward: it is time to develop what she calls Vancouver’s ‘freeway lacuna’. Although the tradition of inefficient and regressive development calls up ‘unanticipated realities’, she appears to ask that this development become codified and practiced. A kind of Vancouver anti-development. Well now, this sounds familiar. *

teleology | british columbia by michael leeb

nootka sound

time totems weathering inevitability process

Teleology, as developed by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, refers to a natural process whereby all living

species aspire towards a natural, predetermined end due to the nature of their created existence.

This totem pole, in its original site, now rests on its back amidst blackberry bushes. The figure with a face-like appearance is located at the base of the totem pole, just above the place where the pole had broken, probably in a severe windstorm. A small bracken fern now emerges from the totem that provides the detritus of its red cedar as a nursery to new plant growth. Deep fissures in the totem hasten the eventual passage of time. The top figure (below) is near the top of the totem. Lying amidst these shrubs, the fallen totem has begun a natural process of decay and over an extended period of time will return fully to the earth where once the towering red cedar grew, was cut down and then carved by a Nuu-chah-nulth artist. Its weathered patina is clearly evident, the result of years of salty sea air, heavy rainstorms and other climatic conditions associated with temperate coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. One can not help but think that this monolithic art form intended this teleological process in which the earth provides the natural material for the totem and now only asks for its return, while the totem figures rest in silent vigil. *

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project | weather screens by stephanie white

loose form ant ventures

In the days when I was doing a lot of travelling with my dog and cat, I could only find very odd places to live where petlets were allowed. They all shared an extreme porosity to weather and they were all, in their various ways, beautiful. The tiny North Carolina sharecropperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house with its bee hive between two joists in the kitchen (the wall hummed, warm to the touch) sat at the edge of a 30-acre field edged with cornflowers and poppies. The old store in Texas had a 15-foot pressed tin ceiling that collected hot air all day and kindly radiated it back at night, whether you wanted it or not. The fishing shed in Nova Scotia had been made into a little cabin, heated by an oil range that also kept it dryish in that climate of sleeting horizontal rain and snow. The houseboat was an experimental hovercraft that had gone to Dunkirk in WWII, rescued its stranded soldiers, and retired to Chelsea Reach. Being wood, it had a slight problem with mould â&#x20AC;&#x201C; shoes were especially vulnerable if left unworn for a few days. These were great places. I loved them dearly. You had to work a bit at living in them.


ailerons shutters slack response motion

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house for a hot, humid climate: breeze is needed, but the storms that come from humidity differentials can blow a house down. Like hurricane breakaway walls that quickly detach and blow away saving the basic structure, we need a wall here that can turn transparent to extreme wind, opaque to sun, translucent to breeze, tight in the winter, generous in the summer. Can the whole structure be so sloppy, with all joints and connections so full of tolerance, that at rest, the house sighs and settles into a casual looseness. The roof, shaped to lift in the wind like an aircraft wing, can draw up the whole structure, snapping joints tight, pulling sheathing up into channels making it weathertight to wind, until it becomes dangerously opaque and resistant, at which point under pressure, shutters snap open under the eaves. Could it all be done with the building simply responding to air pressure? Probably. We would be living in an architecture that was always changing with the weather. We would know what was happening outside by what was happening inside. We would be living in the world through a building. *

installations | dawson city, yukon by nicole dextras

termperature climate change rivers water naming


writing history

Les Noms, LEGACY and The River’s Bride were new works created during a residency at the Klondike Institute of Art in Dawson City from November 10 2008 to February 4 2009. In the past I have battled the warming weather trend in cities such as Toronto and Montreal where I did other ice projects. The intent of going to the far north was to avoid weather uncertainties. Unfortunately severe cold of -50°c, followed by unheard of above 0° winter rain, caused difficulties for these installations. My work is a testimony to the vagaries of climate change.

LEGACY consists of eight-foot tall letters made of ice, installed on the Yukon river. Wooden forms were set out on the river, filled with water in-situ and left to freeze. Unfortunately the extreme cold caused fissures in the ice and they cracked and fell almost as soon as they were released. The L and Y were left standing surrounded by huge broken ice blocks resembling the ruins of some frozen archeological dig. Legacy refers to the landscape as being the heritage of the inhabitants of this region.

Les Noms (a coucher dehors) is a series of names made of ice taken from the 1901 Census of Dawson City during the gold rush. They were people who originally came from Québec. Many were mis-spelled or Anglicised and I have represented them they way they appeared in the census. Elphese is one of these old names or noms a coucher dehors, as we used to call them when I was a kid, that are no longer in use. Noms a coucher dehors means names that sleep outside, because they were uncultured, rural names. It is the kind of name, such as Gédéon, Cléophase and Gandias, which belong to my grand-parents generation. Today I feel these names are quite beautiful and poetic.

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books | garden works by stephanie white

garden notes Gardens of a colonial present / Jardins d’un présent colonial Ron Benner with texts by Melanie Townsend, Mireya Folch-Serra, Matthew Teitelbaum, Len Findlay, Adriana Premat, Dianne Bos, Marcel Blouin, Andy Patton, Barbara Fischer, Joe Cummins, Scott Toguri McFarlane and Gerald McMaster. London Ontario: Museum | London, 2008

The great multiculturalism and immigration debates fall broadly into two camps: Canada’s official but recent policy of multiculturalism encourages roots in one’s native country and stem propagation in one’s new country. First and second generations of new Canadians develop roots of their own, eventually self-pruning themselves from the rootstock. Immigrants to the US have, historically, allegedly, been happy to arrive as bare root stock or even cuttings, plunging into American soil and sprouting new patriotic shoots, with nary a look back. Much is made, in Canada, of this difference: ours is the more ‘tolerant’ proposition vis-a-vis culture, identity, language, religion. We cherish difference as a matter of appearance, rather than complete, functional participation at high levels.1 At the same time, I’ve often wondered why Canada’s traditional national symbols tend to be landscapes and animals, not great works of engineering (of which we have many), or our cities, or our social achievements. Group of Seven paintings still appear, regularly, on new books about Canadian identity.2 The sublime Canadian landscape transcends culture, origins, belief systems –who made the Rockies? — God? shifting tectonic plates? doesn’t matter, they are ours, ours, ours — and are on every calendar handed out at the hardware store. Alongside this Canada of pantheistic wilderness clichés is another kind of project.3 Small seed companies are collecting heirloom seeds – for example, Russian and Ukrainian tomato varieties, brought to Canada by immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century, carefully grown and saved for generations on prairie farms, back yards and allotments: once a hedge against an alien landscape. This recovery of heritage seeds is a decided turn away from modern industrial agriculture, away from perfect uniformity. It is a turn away from homogeneity (modernity’s social ambition for the even and equal, over unfair hierarchies). The promotion of heritage seeds is about not denying one’s imperfect grandparents in favour of mass media constructions of family. Curious that when Canada really


was full of grandparents with their accents and old recipes, it tried to unite us all in the image of heroic nature-based national landscape projects such as the Group of Seven and the Trans-Canada Highway. Now when we have almost total access to the whole country, when one can get any kind of food in most grocery stores and we all speak in the same flat accent, now that we can fuse everything and anything, we are finding interest in the specific, the pure, the original, the local. Is this because we need relief from too much time spent participating in the world through our computers? Or, more darkly, is this another version of a rejection of hybridity? Is this part of an attraction to fundamentals after the amorality and cultural promiscuity of globe-conquering modernity?

origins vs complexity Since the mid-1970s Ron Benner has studied the food plants of Central and South America – tomatoes, peppers, corn, squashes, beans – millennia-old, which spread across the world in a reverse colonialism: as newly found places were taken over, especially by Europe, importing slaves and indentured labour to hold down the land, so were plant species taken back to Europe, where their very orientalism made them desireable, even addictive. These imported species were then exported to and grown in other continents, especially Africa, as cash crops. Benner has recorded the species, found out where they came from, collected the seed and replanted them in a series of gardens, generally around London where he lives and Toronto. However, as Benner is an artist and activist, not just an agronomist, these gardens have a mission, and that mission is to discuss this complex exchange —people for food. Plants become the synecdoche of Empire. Such institutions as Kew Gardens or Jardins des Plantes were the seed banks of Britannia, or Francia, or Iberia, or Germania, where appalling stories of acquisition were subsumed by new Latin names on small brass tags. It is undoubtedly important that these

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agriculture colonialism geography culture economy

stories be recovered. They are the basis for indigenous land claims, medicinal plant patents and restorative justice around the world. Given the bastardised versions of eighteenth century English landscape traditions and seventeenth century French parterres that generally litter our municipal parks, a 1997 stand of blue and scarlet corn in the grounds of the MacIntosh Gallery in London, Ontario marking one of Benner’s corn vectors, tells us something about corn. Corn is the subject, not the object, corn is the story not the illustration. Corn is not picturesque, it is, in Benner’s installations, an essential key to a global story of transmigration and military adventurism that started 500 years ago and continues today. These are the roots of the food we consume. In Benner’s plant discussion, amplified by billboards and photos, treating food as trophy and then commodity has completely erased our relationship with land, lands and history — I am modern; I know nothing about a tomato except it is $4.99/lb. Not that much different from I am modern; I do not know my grandmother’s name. Benner’s work tells us that this is not that interesting a position to take. Gardens of a Colonial Present / Jardins d’un présent colonial (London Ontario: Museum | London, 2008) documents thirty years of Benner’s study of the vectors of indigeneity, of colonialism, of hegemony and power, of genetic technology, of nationalism; a study conducted in plants themselves. Benner’s garden installations include billboards, videos, photographs and archival references, but first and foremost they are plants, growing outside, in the weather. The proof is in the horticulture, not just the written manifesto. This book is composed of a dozen articles, essays and interviews by a number of people, some of whom address Benner’s work directly, others who write all around his subject, bringing in other case studies, other examples of plant physiology, curious histories and technologies. Very useful is Barbara Fischer’s interview with Ron Benner, as Benner is generally the most

Américan Cloisonée (detail - corn and photograph), Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (1987-1988) Matthew Tietelbaum writes: [Américan Cloisonné] was, at once, a celebration of a sprawling and verdant garden, and a critique of structures which enclose, restrict and classify the populations they represent. [Benner] consciously articulated the enclosure of the Conservatory in his references to the prison, the covered arcade, and the shopping mall. All are sites of classification and containment. In their prescriptive order, they establish a process by which people (and plants) can be observed and disciplined. The corn, beans and peppers of Américan Cloisonné represent contact between cultures restricted by the present boundaries of nation-states. (pp33-35)

focussed and eloquent about his project. Andy Patton’s two pieces, ‘The garden of the unsuccessful politician’ and ‘Ron Benner and the Ecology of Limitation’, speak directly about the art. Scott Toguri MacFarlane reminds us of the other garden participants – fungi, rot, insects, mildew and weather – in ‘Something of the Tender: the work of others in Ron Benner’s Gardens’. He sets these inevitable processes against such hard edged political discussions as, for example, Asado –through the eyes of young sheep (1976-77), which refers directly to the disappeared of Argentina’s dirty war. Politics, and Benner is deeply political, is never dissociated from the processes of tending the garden. Collectively, all the essays describe the complexity of Benner’s work. It is not a project of the purity of origins, but is about the complexity of origins. In this, it too is a hedge against an increasingly alienating aspect of post-national politics that reconstructs us into ethnic camps. Nothing is that pure. *

1 In ‘Multiculturalism: a Canadian Institution’ (James Duncan & David Ley, editors. Place/Culture/ Representation. London: Routledge, 1993) Audrey Kobayashi outlines three stages of multiculturalism: demographic, symbolic and structural. These are useful demarcations: the banlieus of Paris are demographically diverse (within France), but not symbolically accepted and certainly not structurally integrated. Canada seems to love the symbolism of ‘ethnic’ festivals and foods, but cannot seem to integrate its highly literate taxi-drivers. The question is whether Michaëlle Jean’s symbolic role as representative of the Queen is evidence of symbolic multiculturalism, or structural. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency, despite its symbolism, is undoubtedly structural multiculturalism.

As The Crow Flies, winter 2007. Mireya Folch-Serra writes: As The Crow Flies (1984-1991) depicts not only the connections between geographical points on the map of the Americas along the meridians of longitude 81.14 and 79.23, but also sheds light on their disjuncture. One encounters plants native to the Americas, and enclaves associated with indigenous cultures and the militarisation of contemporary life. The world view that has informed the creation of the installation is a process and not a conclusion. (paraphrased from pp 17-30)

2 For example, Robert Sibley’s recent book, Northern Spirits. John Watson, George Grant and Charles Taylor. Appropriations of Hegelian Thought. (Montreal: McGill-Queens Press, 2008) uses Lawren Harris’s 1926 North Shore, Lake Superior, on its cover. The National Gallery describes it thus: Through the central image of a strongly lit, solitary tree, blasted smooth and clean by the forces of nature, the artist sought to convey the underlying spirit and universal principles found in the northern Canadian landscape. Perhaps Harris’s theosophical construction of the Canadian landscape can be linked to Hegel, but it appears to act more like a notation of nation, a shorthand mark of Canadianness in a crowded academic publishing landscape. After reading Benner, my first thought is that Harris was probably painting what is now a land claim.

3 Salt Spring Seeds, for example, has a seed sanctuary, dedicated to the preservation of ‘edible, medicinal and useful crops that can be grown in Canada’. There are interesting parallels here with the original concept of zoos as collections of species from the empire, and contemporary zoo work in conservation breeding programs, keeping endangered species going and reintroducing them into their original territories. Benner’s work teaches us to examine such projects from a more critical and informed position.

w e a t h e r m a t t e r s: O n S i te re vi e w 2 1


places | north by michael barton

loving weather femund, norway

These pictures were taken just before and just after New Year 2009. They start out en-route to Anne’s cabin at Femund, which is located in the centre-south of Norway,on the very large lake of Femunden. The cabin is on a tiny peninsula of land on the northeast side, and is accessible by boat in the summer and by skiing in the winter. This area is remote and one of the least populated areas in Norway, or indeed Europe. The light here has many moods, and weather can change suddenly and dramatically. Norwegians are very fond of being in nature and many have cabins in the mountains or on the coast, or ‘away’ somewhere. There is a dualistic quality to this, as in town-country, urban-rural, summer-winter, light-dark, in-out. The cabin has the quality of both prospect and refuge, experienced simultaneously. One is your view of the outside natural world, and the other is shelter from the storm, just outside the window. There’s a special quality to all of this when the candles are lit in the window and seen against the fading light of the landscape outside. The glow of red-orange and subtle reflections from varnished wood and other surfaces is a pleasure in the short day (about four hours), when the colour outside is often lavender-purple. * right, top to bottom: Heading out. New Year’s eve at Femund. Across the lake (with dog) to the cabin. Sun sets on 2008 at 2:30pm New Year’s day 2009. Anne with the dog, and a storm coming in. The storm in progress. Outside the cabin as night draws near.

mi ch ae l bar to n

below: View from the farmer’s window, with festive overtones. The farm is about 4km away as the crow flies.


On S it e re vi ew 21: s tormy w ea ther

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Take this theme and run with it: have a think about war and all the ways it shows materially in buildings, landscapes, cities. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be afraid to take on the biggest of all subjects, and the most local instances of it. We would like proposals for articles, notes, photographs, interviews, projects on the subject of architecture in its widest interpretation and war, in its widest effects. The keywords above are an indication of the potential breadth of this issue. deadline for proposals: any time up to July 1 2009. send to editor@onsitereview.ca deadline for finished articles: August 15 2009. Texts should be 800-1000 words, or less. Images must be 300dpi CMYK jpgs at least 2000px wide. Copyright clearance must be obtained for any images not your own. On Site is not an academic journal, it is an independent magazine read by architects, artists, landscape architects, designers, geographers, students, historians and people. It covers culture, infrastructure, landscape and design. We aim for sophisticated ideas in accessible language. We like construction issues and theory. We like engineering and art. We like drawings and photographs. We like enthusiasm and energy.

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on site review 21: weather spring/summer 2009


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.

Anthony Acciavatti teaches in the department of architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. At present he is completing a manuscript on his research on urbanism and infrastructure along the Ganges River in northern India.

Canada Post Agreement 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 PAP 11017 copyright: On Site review and ANPAF[A] All rights reserved.

Michael Barton retired from Energy Solutions In Yukon and now lives in the 17th century town of Gamle Fredrikstad in Norway with wife Anne as a semi-retired architect and artist. (mlb_mcc@ yahoo.ca)

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.

Eric Deis is a photographer from Vancouver, British Columbia. His images of architecture and urban spaces illustrate the intertwined dynamics of nature, history and economics. www.ericdeis.ca

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Reza Aliabadi [M.Arch 1999, M.Phil Arch 2006] MRAIC, ICEO is the founder of atelier rzlbd. He splits his time completing architectural projects in North America & Asia and publishing the rzlbd POST. www.rzlbd.com Dick Averns is an artist and writer whose practice investigates the commodification of space. He lives is Calgary and teaches studio and theory at the Alberta College of Art + Design.

David Courville is an architect and naturalist. He maintains a general practice of both in and around Lafayette, Louisiana.

Nicole Dextras is a graduate of the Emily Carr University, where she is currently a sessional teacher. She has exhibited her environmental artwork in both Canada and the US. www.nicoledextras.com Real Eguchi is principal of Eguchi Associates Landscape Architects in Toronto, Ontario. He believes well-designed landscapes are essential to our alignment of art and beauty with personal, social and environmental wellness. www.breal.ca Jordan Ellis is an architect at HOK in Toronto, 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. Chris Hardwicke, as an associate at Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects researches, designs, teaches, gives advice, makes policies and writes about places and cities. www.andco.com www.velo-city.ca . Carol Kleinfeldt graduated from UofT and is a partner in Kleinfeldt Mychajlowycz Architects Inc. Her photographs have been exhibited at the contact Photography Festival, Snap08!, Elysian Arts Gallery and Len’s Factory Gallery, all in Toronto. carol@kma.to Michael Leeb, photographer, visual artist and historian, lives in Claresholm Alberta. jleeb@telus. net Réal Lestage and Emmanuelle Viera are members of Daoust Lestage architecture design urbain in Montréal. Sandra Lester has a Bachelors in Architectural Science. She is the Sustainable Design Area Leader at HOK, Toronto and supports Integrated Design on their Canadian and Middle Eastern projects. sandra.lester@hok.com Andrew Lewthwaite is an intern architect with psa studio in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He also teaches a 2nd year architecture studio in the Department of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. little wonder is an interdisciplinary design studio, led by Gyungju Chyon and John Stanislav Sadar. Projects range from installations to products. www.littlewonder-design.com Terri Peters is a British Canadian writer and architect based in Copenhagen. Daniel Rabin, M.Arch (UofT) is on a Cohos Evamy travelling scholarship, researching new citycampuses in the Middle East, established by outposts of American universities. Annie Ritz, M.Arch (University of Toronto) has worked as a furniture designer as well as an architect in China and the Netherlands. Christopher Roach, B. Arch (Texas 1996) is a registered architect in California and an associate at Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects in San Francisco. His interest in urbanism is inspired by his travels and 10 years as a student of the City by the Bay. Tijen Roshko teaches interior design at UManitoba. She has a Masters in Nuclear Physics, a Bachelors in Interior Design and researches the vernacular architecture of Cambodia. John Stanislav Sadar studied in Montreal and Helsinki, practiced in Europe and North America, teaches at the University of Melbourne and is a PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. jsadar@design.upenn.edu Steve Sopinka has a background in architecture and landscape architecture. He has spent time in the Canadian Arctic, Iceland and northern Ontario, and is continually fascinated by the north. He is currently living and working in North Bay, Ontario. sjsopinka@hotmail.com Paul Whelan lives in Toronto and practices architecture for Stantec. Stephanie White studied at the AA, taught architecture for a million years, did a PhD in urban geography and is the editor of On Site. Paul Young is a landscape architect and health promoter, often working with the public and community health sector. His work includes park design and developing strategic plans for walking and cycling. www.publicspaceworkshop.ca

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front cover: Carol Kleinfeldt, Under Construction #8 back cover: little wonder, light pour on the Yarra (2008)

Profile for stephanie white

on site 21: weather  

architecture and weather, from vernacular traditions, to sustainable technology. Weather, extravagant only in its limitations. Weather is ne...

on site 21: weather  

architecture and weather, from vernacular traditions, to sustainable technology. Weather, extravagant only in its limitations. Weather is ne...

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