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culture urbanism architecture landscape photography research


$14 display until april 2011




s imo n ra by niuk s a m o p e de r s e n

m i g r ate : to remove from one p la c e o f resid e nc e to ano ther at a d i s ta nce, expecially from o n e c o u n try to anot h e r. mi gr ato ry: give n to migr ati o n; m i g r ati n g at certain seasons; rovin g o r wand e ring in one’s mod e o f l ife ; unse t t l e d .

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ro b s to r y


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Zile Liepins Zile Liepins Simon Rabyniuk Vera Frenkel Paul Whelan Christine Leu Joanne Lam Joanne Lam Samo Pedersen InfraNet Lab Michael Leeb Gerald Forseth Marianna de Cola Enrique Enriquez Lauren Abrahams Calvin Chiu Kasia Mychajlowicz Michael Taylor Rob Story and Giovana Beltrao Department of Unusual Certainties Farid Noufaily Joshua Craze Ivan Hernandez Quintela Reza Aliabadi Stephanie White Stephanie White subscriptions calls for articles masthead


Marianna de Cola

4 7 10 13 17 20 22 24 26 30 34 35 38 42 44 46 49 52 55 60 64 68 71 72 73 74 78 79 80


Those that left Those that stayed De-skilling the Garment Industry Bearing Witness. Ireland Park Farming Translated Malls and My Soul Temporary Permanence, Irbid Network Society of Bad Space Migration Intersects Canoe Journey Skeletons and Skins Shift Being Little Mermaid Transitioning Towns The Evolving Myth Settling Down Night Market Mongolia Migrates Main Street Express Leaving Lebanon Between the Red Lines Athlete-Nomad Neglected Moments On Being Serious Azulejos introducing RE:site issue 25: identity, issue 26: dirt contributors’ biographical notes cover: Leaving Newfoundland

opposite: Giovana, Delhi Station, India, 2009 On Site review 24


Culture reconstructed. A model of home. Cultural compound in Milton, Ontario

c o mmu n ity inve n tio n s pac e o ptimis m pe ac e

from the archi ves of A dol fs C ops

mu t a b l e c u l t u re canada by z i l e l i e p i n s

Immigrants have a choice – to assimilate and try to forget where they came from, or to promote and re-create their culture within their new environment. Often the decision comes down to the reason for leaving. Willing immigrants lean towards changing their names and blending in while people that have been forced to leave their home cling to their nationality more than before. Many Latvians emigrated in the 1940s, fleeing Russian occupation and deportation. Preserving Latvian culture was particularly urgent because already swallowed up by Russia into the mighty USSR, this little country risked extinction. Toronto is rich with cultures and cultural centres, but I wonder how many small ‘cities’ have been built in its outskirts. In the 1950s, the Latvian community (more specifically, St. Andrews Latvian Lutheran Church in downtown Toronto) built one in Milton. It was named Sidrabene, after an ancient castle in Latvia. It was a small haven, where everybody spoke your language and understood where you came from, where older people could remember and younger, learn. It is still in use, and in fact, there are two others like it in the Toronto area. Its fundamental purpose was to serve as a children’s camp but it has all the (mini) institutions of a small town – cabins, a church, a dining hall, a café, an outdoor dance floor, performance areas, a track field, tennis courts…even a small ‘hospital’ and ‘hotel’, where nonowners could rent rooms. The signage is in Latvian.


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Summer camp is ready to start, with military tents in place and the Latvian flag overhead, 1950s. Dancing on the dance floor in the 1960s.

fro m th e arch iv e s o f A d o lfs C o ps

The purchase of the land was funded through contributions of church members, in return for which they were given rights to a small plot of land on which they could build their summer cabin. Congregation members bulldozed the dirt roads themselves and the first structures were innovative and frugal – the first dining hall was constructed by building a floor between two out-of-service Yonge line TTC streetcars and the campers’ tents were donated by the military. Later, as money was raised, up went the main house, café and all the rest.

Congregation members bulldozed the dirt streets into the little village themselves. Two Toronto streetcars become a dining hall, 195Os. The playground had the most delightful attractions, most of which would likely be banned in a public Canadian playground today. Some are still operational, their age attested to by the countless colours peering through layers upon layers of paint. A favourite is still the hamster wheel, or ‘the barrel’ as it is called. It is built to run in, but it is just as popular for lying in with friends, head to toe, to chat or to await the rising sun after a party. Kids and counsellors carved their names in its insides until it was completely covered, but the boards have recently all been replaced. A fresh canvas for a new generation?

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f ro m t he a rchi ve s o f Ado l f s C ops

Celebrating summer solstice in the 1950s. Solstice, or Jani, is still celebrated each year in Sidrabene. Cheerleaders at a camp event, 1950s.

Today, while the land is well tended, the old structures have seen countless layers of paint; the signs have rusted, the track field and tennis court are overgrown and unrecognisable, the café has burned down and the streetcars have long been scrapped. Nationalist urgency has faded: Latvia was freed in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004. The immigrants of the 1940s told themselves that they would return to Latvia when it regained independence, but the wait proved long. By then new lives with grown children and Canadian grandchildren were set.


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With the passing of generations the need for cultural preservation has weakened, and although Sidrabene’s structures reflect this, a bit of that original energy and devotion has been conserved there like an artifact. It’s just gotten a bit rusty. A new generation is fleeing Latvia due to the recent economic downturn. Some have found a place in these remains of our grandparents’ community – working as counsellors or in the cafe. Some find it charming, others – very strange and surreal. /

mu t a b l e c u l t u re latvia by z i l e l i e p i n s


o c c u patio n re s ign atio n dre ams n atu re de s ire

z i l e l i epi ns

Migration: being forced to leave your home, within and beyond your country Riga apartments vacated after the dissolution of the USSR

When someone leaves a space, what traces are left in their absence? The photographs are of walls in vacated apartments in Riga, Latvia, which tenants were forced to leave following the privatization of the building after the fall of the USSR in 1991. The owner of this particular building is a man who emigrated from Latvia with his mother in 1944 as a small boy – first to a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, then to London, England and finally to

Toronto. Russia was once again advancing on Latvia, and having witnessed the horrors of the Russian deportations of 1941, they knew what was coming. His father, enlisted in the army, couldn’t leave Latvia and went on to survive two deportations to Siberia. Russian language newspaper used as wallpaper. CCCP is USSR in the Cyrillic alphabet. The power of positive thinking? This tenant transported himself to a better place through wallpaper. The apartment had many walls covered in idyllic landscapes, behind broken, smelly appliances.

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zil e lie p in s

from top left: This wall shows us various periods in Latvian history in just a few square metres. The top and most recent layer was a rose patterned wallpaper. Next came Russian language newspaper, followed by Latvian newspaper in the old script not used today. The last layer revealed a beautiful art nouveau-style stencil. This was the only instance where I could put a face to a place. I can only assume that he is the boy who lived here. You work with what you can get. This kitchen was decorated with parts of food packaging. The text under the boy’s face says simply ‘juice’. from top right: More food packaging: cut-out plums.


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The selection of vehicles in the USSR was limited, the most common models being Lada, Moskvich,Volga and Zaparozec. American pop culture flowed freely to the former USSR in the 1990s. This apartment also had a Kurt Cobain quote, car stickers and pictures of Eminem and Backstreet Boys. opposite: The young boy living in this room seems to have outgrown the kitten wallpaper and gone the way of Emo, still very popular with Latvian youth. The foliage stencil is reflective of the golden years, the raucous 1910s and 20s when Riga could still compete with other European capitals and young artists had a special bond with Parisians. It was such a wonder to find under all that crap.

zile liep ins

After living a better life abroad for years, he returned to Latvia in the 1990s and was able to reclaim his grandfather’s building, in which he himself had lived until he was four. The building was in dire condition. He evicted the tenants who had grown to call these apartments home, living in communal apartments with a rent equivalent to 15 euro a month and rarely paying even that. The joke was that to replace a stolen mailbox three months rent needed to be collected. The building is now fully renovated and is rented to embassy workers and foreign corporation representatives for 700 to 900 euro a month.

Having little esteem for their landlords, the expelled tenants didn’t worry about cleaning up. The spaces still felt ‘warm’ and I didn’t feel fully comfortable in them.

In the time between the evacuation and the renovations, I went into the apartments and photographed what was left behind. No doubt the unwillingness to leave played a part in the traces left.

The graffiti on the wall in the stairwell said – “The people that will live here will die. But we will still come here to drink”. /

Other than some rusty appliances and old magazines, everything had been taken, but you can’t take the walls, and these yielded much information. They echoed a hundred years of history and cultural influence, from art nouveau stencils and layers of wallpapered newspaper in different scripts, to cutouts of Eminem and the Backstreet Boys.

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labo u r s kills to ro n to s u r vival h an dwo r k

installation immigrant stories by s i m o n r a by n i u k

6 garments, 4 machine-made, 2 hand-tailored De-skilling the Garment Industry (6 garments, 4 machine-made, 2 hand-tailored), is a sculpture originally produced for the exhibition, the Grand Trunk, at the Gladstone Hotel, in Toronto, Canada. Curator Casey Hinton, provided ten artists with an historic newspaper article and a suitcase, asking each artist to imagine what the person described in the article may have been carrying with them. Or, to start from a place of fact, and tease out a deeper narrative, fictionalising the story.

si mon rabyni uk

De-skilling the Garment Industry looks at a period in Toronto’s history from the early 20th century. Jacob Galinsky becomes an exceptional character not for his individuality – represented by his petty personal offences – but for how his life experience is a part of the larger story of how one ethnic group came to dominate an industry. It explores the relationship between immigration, labour and transition within the garment industry.

In 1945, The Toronto Star reported that Jacob Galinsky defrauded the Gladstone Hotel of $7.00 and that he stood accused of participating in the theft of clothing from a landed Jewish German retailer along Spadina Avenue. Galinsky was a sewing machine operator working for T. Eatons Company, out of their Terauley Street factory. He spent his working days sewing the inner lining into the shells of ready-to-wear suit jackets; one of the one hundred and fifty discrete operations required to make a single jacket. He had the aid of an assistant who worked between three other sewing machine operators, taking the finished jackets and delivering new shells, ensuring no breaks in the operators process. The success of the modern ready-to-wear clothing factory: every employee was a specialist, each part of the garment being handled by a different operator.


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Galinsky’s family was part of the wave of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to Ontario between 1910 and 1930. His father came first, travelling from Kielce, Poland to Toronto, via Warsaw, Berlin, Antwerp and Halifax. Arriving before World War One, he delayed sending for his family when war broke out. Jacob’s mother followed eight years after her husband’s emigration, negotiating state borders to weather the fourteen day sea voyage with Jacob. They were greeted in Halifax by a Jewish mutual aid society who helped usher them on their way to Toronto. His two oldest brothers came several years later, separately. His father earned the money required to send for his family as a rag picker. Working in harsh conditions he sorted through worn clothes gathered from across the city, lashing bundles together to be sent to the mill for reprocessing into cloth. Each load of rags brought more filth into the workshop and the possibility of another

stillborn infant. It was a predominately Jewish workshop. New immigrants worked longer hours and were paid less then their naturalised equivalents. They were afforded the flexibility to leave work early on Friday to prepare for the Sabbath, although they were required to be back by Saturday after sunset – a wearing issue. ‘How is one to be at rest, when your mind is only thinking about the work you must do later?’ – a common question posed at worker-only meetings, organised to struggle with the issue of unionisation.

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s im o n ra byn iu k

Following the advice sent in their father’s letters, both of Jacob’s older brothers sought experience in needlework. The middle brother earned an apprenticeship with a tailor; the eldest, failing to secure a similar position, was tutored in the evening by his younger brother. Jacob’s father was overwhelmed with anticipation of their arrival in Toronto. The workshop was always alive with news of family members arriving; his boss approached him before his sons’ arrival, asking about their work ethic.

The Star article ends with Galinsky released on bail, waiting for his cohorts to be brought to trail. He was expected back in court later that month. The contents of his suit case, as recorded in the police ledger, were a tweed suit jacket, a cotton white collared shirt, black slacks, worn leather shoes, an ochre tie, with matching underwear and a book. /

St John’s Ward had been the home of the Galinskys when Jacob and his mother first arrived, before they moved further west to Kensington Market. Jacob left school before he was 16, seeking work and a trade. He had short stints selling newspapers, as a delivery boy, roofing, sweeping the shop floor of a clock factory and many other positions. It was his brothers who introduced the possibility of entering the factory as an operator. They started him at home, sewing small personal garments, easy tasks handled on the days when he had no paid work to do. When a larger contract came to the workshop his brothers spoke to their boss. Jacob got a position as a prepress, preparing garment seams to be finished by the presser.


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s im o n ra byn iu k

Jacob’s two eldest brothers were recruited to work in a non-unionised garment factory outside the central business district, located in St John’s Ward. It was part of a second tier of smaller garment workshops that were entrepreneurial endeavours setup to take advantage of low rent and proximity to a cheap pool of labour. The brothers’ work in Poland opened up more skilled positions for them. They were sewing seams on ladies’ serge suits, a sub-contract order from T. Eatons Company. Even with their awareness of their father’s decade of experience inToronto, they did not question the wages or work enviroment. In the end this position turned out to hold more opportunity than that of their father’s. They were upwardly mobile.

further reading: Biderman, Morris. A life on the Jewish Left: An Immigrant’s Experience. Toronto: Onward, 2000 Frager, Ruth A. Sweatshop strife : class, ethnicity, and gender in the Jewish labour movement of Toronto, 1900-1939. Toronto: Social History of Canada 47, 1992 Hiebert, Daniel Joseph. ‘The geography of Jewish immigrants and the garment industry in Toronto, 1901-1931 a study of ethnic and class relations.’ Annals of the Asociation of American Geographers, volume 83, Issue 2, pp 243-271. June 1993

installation aspiration and loss by ve r a f re n ke l

ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive

re c o rds de ve lo pme n t wate r c o n s tr u c tio n e r as u re

(Transcript of voiceover) This report is about a lake, and about longing. Also about greed, and about ways of bearing witness. I don’t know the whole story, one never does. But, in a tale told elsewhere, there’s a reliable account of how I met the scaffolding archivist. I couldn’t know then, and still don’t know to this day, why she would choose me as her beneficiary. I have no experience with construction, nor with archives, for that matter. I want to make that clear before I hand over the material. I realize that the Building Committee is entitled to whatever information I can provide. Much has happened in the years since that first encounter near the yellow wall… Curious, and impatient for experience, I travelled. Calm, she stayed put and wrote her second book. I married – and divorced. Twice. A time-consuming activity. Ruth (… I’m calling her Ruth to ensure her anonymity) – Ruth remained steadfastly independent and continued gathering data in her chosen field and writing about it. Though we weren’t close, we did exchange postcards from time to time, and later on, the occasional quick email, always with the polite hope that we’d meet again. And so it went…

I wasn’t ready for the terse death notice sent by her lawyer from her email address. Her name appeared first on a line by itself, followed by her address. Then the announcement signed by her lawyer: “It is with regret that we inform you that the afore-named resident at the stated address has passed away. Death was confirmed at 7:43 PM EST Tuesday evening, cause unknown. This notice is being sent as a courtesy to all names in the address book of the deceased.” The envelope that arrived from the same lawyer’s office a week later contained a real letter, and a document combining images and words. These were clipped together and tagged by a note in her handwriting saying, ‘Notes from the scaffolding archive’. Seeing it, I hear her voice again. I don’t think it dishonours the dead to quote them. There’s nothing in the letter or support document to be ashamed of. So, I’ll just read it to you. But first, for the Committee, a short summary of what Ruth was doing before she died: An anonymous archivist, passionate about destructive change in the city where she lives, comes to the end of a long recording vigil. Acknowledging the losses so carefully documented, the archivist passes on the only copy of the archive to a trusted associate. On Site review 24


So now you know as much as I do. And here’s the letter. I’ve read it so many times, and I’m still wondering … This is what she writes: “By the time you see this, the city we knew will be gone; a rich, multi-course meal now a dry biscuit. And our ideals? Who can say …. My survey of construction projects began, she continues, using an unobtrusive pen camera with which I could also make notes. Transience was all. Transience was all …


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I documented anything with scaffolding, she goes on, from tiny shop window renovations to annihilated city blocks, the numbering system based on location, date and time of day. In the early years, I included weather conditions as well: temperature, wind direction, humidity, dew point … but, oh my dear! That was far too cumbersome, so I stopped. My wanderings through the city brought to mind that every boy of a certain generation who had a Meccano set would try to build a crane on the living room floor, getting it to lift little things over here and put them down over there. The romance of engineering persists no matter how many planes explode or bridges fall. In the stand-off between cranes and water, scaffolding is the interlocutor, the sweetener, the mediator, satisfying a longing for structure on the one hand and love of transience on the other.

Later on, in those instances where the legality of the scaffolding itself was at issue, either due to questionable structure or lack of a permit, things got more complex, and I had to adopt whatever role was necessary to acquire proof.

Legal or not, the scaffolding and also the archive mark the erasure of places where we played, worked, loved, mourned and buried our dead.

(I imagine she smiled writing this.) Distinguishing the detective from the criminal is always a challenge for the authorities. Still, they nevertheless managed to find me, and my ongoing brushes with the law were well-documented.

And here she grows pensive: In the long run, given half a chance, water will win. Dams burst, bridges drown, buildings soften like sponges. Where we walk today may be flooded tomorrow. Transience is all … The last archive entry is dated today, September 19th, 2008. The key to the code is on the folder itself and repeated as a legend on each chart. You’ll find the full record in a flat waterproof box under your front step, behind a screen of weeds.

(This must have happened while I was away.)

Please remember, there is no copy.

Mapping greed, she writes, the words underlined, … Mapping greed is a thankless task.

Do what you want with this: Reminisce. Advocate. Grieve. Write.

My deceptions (and my wardrobe), she writes, remembering… were, though I say it myself, quite inventive.

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Cities have their cycles and we’re approaching the high-speed end of ours. Beautiful as they are in their fashion – and they are beautiful – cranes will fail; water will prevail. And scaffolding … ? My one request, now that the sightlines between lake and city are destroyed: let it be known that our city was once near water. I trust you to protect these notes and images. And she ends almost as she began: By the time you read this, the person you knew will be gone; once a rich meal, now a dried biscuit. Be well, my friend. Take note and take positions. All is not lost.” And then the familiar signature –– ‘Ruth’, for purposes of this report. The box was where she said it would be. It contained files of notes and glassine negative sheets –– the digital held no charm for her. I appreciate the patience of the Committee (and the unexpected tax receipt!) Parting with the archive hasn’t been easy and it took time to make the decision. It’s probably just as well that it be locked away. Your advice during the investigation was most helpful. Vera Frenkel’s ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive was commissioned by the Images Festival, for SHIFT Festival of Dutch and Canadian Art in Amsterdam. It premiered at the Muziekgebouw in November 2008 and in Canada at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre in April 2009. A two-channel installation of ONCE NEAR WATER premiered at Calgary’s EMMEDIA September 10 - 24, 2010.

Thank you. (End of transcript) © Vera Frenkel, Toronto, 2008/9


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s c u lptu re abs tr ac tio n qu ay s me mo r y in te r pre tatio n

memorials l e av i n g i re l a n d by p a u l w h e l a n

Upon entry one is confronted by a fragmented crenellated wall of Kilkenny limestone.  This wall resonates as a reference to Ireland despite the fact that there is nothing like it there.  The rugged quality of the wall and the stacked stone clearly reference the Irish landscape and also the construction technique of the abandoned Irish cottages. The impossibly narrow vertical gaps between the stacked stones are engraved with most of the names of those who died in Toronto that summer. Only those sufficiently emaciated from hunger could possibly slip through the wall.  We must walk around it.

pa u l w h e la n

On June 8, 1847 a ship pulled into Toronto harbour with seven hundred Irish emigrants escaping the Great Hunger – the potato famine. This was the beginning of a six month inundation of over 37,000 into the small city of 20,000.  Many of these people were so weakened by hunger that they became easy victims of typhoid fever.  By the end of the summer over 1,100 died in the temporary fever sheds erected at King and John Streets.  The largely Protestant citizenry of Toronto was remarkably generous towards the largely Catholic migrants.  Many public servants administering to the immigrants contracted fever and also died over that summer.  Within a year, over 98% of the surviving emigrants had moved on from Toronto to the interior of British North America or even further, into the United States.  The memory of Black ‘47 quickly faded from the city’s consciousness.   Much like subsequent waves of immigrants, the migration of 1847 had no impact on the physical form of the city.  Toronto neighbourhoods like Kensington or Cabbagetown once had large Irish communities but there is no memory of this fact imprinted onto the city.   There is no part of the city that looks like Dublin, or Shanghai for that matter.  Perhaps the impulse to commemorate the arrival of of a people is given impetus by their seeming lack of imprint of on the city.   Ireland Park is a commemoration of the summer of 1847.  It sits at the foot of an almost impossibly powerful backdrop, the grain silos of Canada Malting.  The park is conceived as simple grass field with three elements - entry wall, cylinder and sculptures.

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p aul whelan

The 45m by 25m park landscape is defined on the south and east sides by Lake Ontario, on the north side by the Canada Malting Grain Silos and between these edges by six new oak trees, located immediately south of the silos.

Behind the wall and close to the silos is a cylindrical glass block tower. While reflecting the shape of the silos, it appears far too small and perfect.  Intended as a representation of contemporary Ireland and its recent high-flying high-tech economy, the challenge is that the technology embedded in the cylinder will require constant upgrading to retain its technological ascendency.   Straggling across the lawn are a series of sculptures by Rowan Gillespie.  These gaunt attenuated ‘arrival’ figures are a companion to similar ‘departure’ figures on a quay in Dublin.  At first glance the sculptures reminded me of the figurative sculptures placed near the Vietnam memorial in Washington – figures that create a false moment in the memorial.  However the Ireland Park

figures have a different impact.  Materially they appear almost to have staggered out of the wall. They have also been distorted and generalised in a manner that universalises the suffering of crop failure and starvation.   The act of turning memory to stone is extremely difficult.  Ireland Park has the power necessary to invoke that memory.  An internet image search yields many photos by people who have passed through the park and have been moved by it.  The park succeeds because it is accessible to those who respond to the evocative abstraction of the wall as well as for those who prefer memory to be packaged more melodramatically in sculpture.  Both elements are mutually reinforcing and together create a moving and contemplative place on Toronto’s waterfront. /

location: Bathurst Quay, Toronto client: Ireland Park Foundation architects: Kearns Mancini Architects landscape architect:  Quinn Design Associates sculptor:   Rowan Gillespie contractor:  Kenaidan Contracting stone mason: Trinity Custom Masonry


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pa u l w h e la n

The glass silo houses the park’s controls and utilities, power, data and communication lines. Three interactive computer screens give visitors access to the story of the park, the famine tragedy that it commemorates and an acknowledgement of those who made the park possible

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garde n s agr ic u ltu re tr an s itio n as s imilatio n nei g h bo u rh o o ds

urbanism p o r t a b l e k n ow l e d g e by c h r i s t i n e l e u

front yard production A few years ago I bought a house in the west end of downtown Toronto. My roommate and I moved in during the winter. In early spring, when it was barely above freezing, we saw an elderly Chinese couple toiling away in their front yard every morning. We marvelled at their hard work but could never have imagined the remarkable fruits of their labour. The neighbourhood is composed mostly of detached and semi-detached houses from the early 1900s, with front porches overlooking front yards and sidewalks with private backyards and back lanes. It is home to many Portuguese families, some living in the neighbourhood for multiple generations. I am part of a recent gentrification wave. We are singles and young families who have been drawn to the cheaper land and rent, and the active nightlife and art scenes. In between these two demographics sit a few firstand second-generation Chinese families.

chr i tsi ne l eu

The elderly Chinese couple are the Tongs. They are tiny, no more than five feet tall, with grey hair under their traditional bamboo hats. They are also industrious – they work long hours a day in the blistering cold of early spring, the extreme heat and humidity of summer and the first frosts of fall. The Tong family emigrated from China in the late 1990s. The extended family, six children and dozens of grandchildren, all live within a few blocks radius. The elder Tongs speak an obscure dialect of Cantonese and no English. Our communication is restricted to big smiles and eager waves hello. They were farmers in China, and after they immigrated to Canada they had nothing to do, so the family suggested that the grandparents farm as they did in China. Unlike the pristine lawns and perfectly trimmed flowers of my Portuguese neighbours, my Chinese neighbours converted their entire lawn into a small urban farm. The Tongs’ front yard is about 10’ x 10’. There are mismatched wooden boards for walkways, salvaged white, orange, green, and blue polyethylene mesh bags to protect the vegetation, miscellaneous building materials to prop up taller plants and vines, large plastic buckets for cleaning, sorting, and watering and dozens of red and green planter buckets on the walkway. There are three urban farm sites on our short street. The Tongs live in a house at the middle of the street. There is a small side plot at the family-run convenience store, and last year, the corner lot across from me was sold and the rear lot was quickly converted into a farm even before the interior renovation. We gradually realised that the elderly Tongs were farming all of these lots. Relatives had purchased the property across from mine, and the Chinese convenience store family let the couple farm it. It was confusing to piece together who did what and who lived where as there was plenty of criss-crossing on the street, people coming in and out of each other’s houses and conversations held on the sidewalk.


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I must admit to a lack of interest in gardening. It reminds me of my father making me weed the front lawn. My opinion, however, is changing. My roommate and I joked about negotiating a deal with the Tongs. Maybe they could farm my front lawn in exchange for 10% of the yield. But, it would have to include basil for my pasta, arugula for my salad and mint for my lemonade. While chatting with May, one of the Tong daughters, she motioned towards my own front yard and said that I could easily grow food in it. She led me towards my lawn and picked a fistful of weeds and explained that they were edible. I had very good soil, she said, I could easily grow tomatoes and lettuce. She then offered to help grow food for us. The Tongs are a model – an answer for pressing issues like food security, healthy eating, carbon footprints, land development, scarcity of fertile land, and activities for the elderly. In a time when designers are creating solutions that require huge infrastructural outlays and a suspension of disbelief, the Tongs’ life is remarkable for its simplicity. Whereas my Portuguese neighbours – many originally from farming communities – have dropped their farming ways, the Tongs are unabashedly living as farmers in Canada’s largest city. /

ch r it si ne l e u

My parents emigrated from Taiwan to a suburb of Toronto in the 1970s. I grew up eating very little Asian produce – bean sprouts were the only Asian vegetable to be found the local A & P. Chinese broccoli and the like would only be had on occasional visits to Chinatown. In response to changing demographics and tastes, our local grocery store gradually began to stock some ethnic produce and products. Then local Asian grocery stores appeared, and my mother finally had access to her foods from her former home. The Tong’s produce is grown from seeds purchased in Chinatown. Since they grow for themselves, they decide what they want to eat based on what they like – one grandchild stops by on his way home from school to pick tiny tomatoes as a snack. We, despite our Asian heritage, were unable to identify very much in this garden. There are mysterious melons and beans and herbs – many would be difficult to find even at a Chinese grocery store. The Tongs fertilise everything once a week and do not use pesticides. Over the spring, summer and fall their garden yields huge crops.

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this page: Market Village, the former Cullen County Market, Markham Ontario.

joanne lam

opposite: Pacific Mall, also in Markham, and Pacific Mall expansion plans.

typology l i t t l e h o n g ko n g s by j o a n n e l a m

Hong Kong, Sundays. We wake up. We get dressed. We take public transit to a Chinese restaurant and have dim sum with my grandmother. Afterwards, we shop in the area, meandering through the streets. Then we end up at the bustling market to pick up fresh meat and vegetables for dinner.

s h o ppin g c u ltu re tr an s it s u bu rban is m image

Markham, Sundays. We wake up. We get dressed. We drive to a Chinese mall, choose a restaurant and have dim sum with my grandmother when she visits. Afterwards, we wander around the mall. Before long, we end up at the supermarket that serves as a mall anchor and get groceries for the week.

The food may be just as good, the restaurant just as crowded, but pretend as we might, life in Hong Kong cannot be replicated by simply inserting it into a mall in our newly adopted country. My parents and I immigrated from Hong Kong, one of the densest cities in the world. We were part of the decade-long mass migration that left the tiny 80 square kilometre island in South China Sea to place roots in a new country before Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain. Canada, Australia and Singapore, being politically stable, economically viable and having an opendoor immigration policy, were our top three choices. In the summer of 1988, we contributed to the annual 60,000 immigrants. We chose Canada. In Toronto, our new life thrived in a series of suburbs: Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill. Because we have always lived in small boxes in the sky, we are naturally attracted to the big houses and wide lots. Outside of our cookie cutter houses, the suburb consists of strip malls of various sizes. Since our arrival, I have watched scores of strip malls gradually become dotted with Chinese restaurants, Chinese grocery stores and Chinese bakeries, a lot of which were decorated with Imperial Palace canopies made of precast concrete. Despite the fact that the wide setback, the parking lot in front and the tinted precast bear minimal resemblance to the street-oriented development back home, the sheer amount of Chinese goods and services garnered Markham the unofficial nickname of ‘Little Hong Kong’.


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In the early nineties, the strip mall fell by the wayside when Market Village emerged. On the border of Markham and Scarborough, Cullen Country Barn, a collection of shops housed in a series of cutesy brick buildings was transformed. Market Village aptly describes the outside, but is completely unrelated to the Hong Kong shops inside. It was a strange hybrid. Stores were internalised but the clusters of shops were not connected. Nevertheless, it was immediately popular from the first day. By the late nineties, a sizable area of Market Village’s parking lot was developed to be Pacific Mall. This self-acclaimed largest indoor Asian mall completely internalised the stores. For our family, it used to be a day out to Cullen Country Barn to get a taste of the Canadian countryside. Overnight, it became part of our weekend itinerary. Within the Little Hong Kong world, malls have quickly risen to landmark status. Although street grids still reign in the suburbs, they only serve the purpose of giving directions. The mall is the centre of the action because it serves as a family equaliser. It may not offer the best but makes up for it in variety, keeping each member of the family content. So, on a typical weekend we drive to one of the malls, negotiate the sea of parking and follow the corridors for dim sum, shopping and groceries. Our disconnection to spontaneous Hong Kong street life is complete. The irony is that the developer feels compelled to name the corridors in Pacific Mall after Hong Kong streets. /

joanne lam

Not only do these malls disconnect us from our past, they also keep us disengaged from the present. Day to day in the suburbs there is little chance of casually interacting with the existing population or other immigrant communities. The car is the allconsuming mode of transportation; the mall is predetermined and the journey becomes a commute. Our lives are planned down to the minute and spontaneity goes out the window. Changes to how we get around is coming however, indirectly led by all of us immigrants. The many malls that have proliferated have created enough traffic woes to fortunately translate to a demand for an improved transit system. York Region Transit, of which Markham and Richmond Hill are a part, has invested in developing a rapid transit system since 2006. From strip mall to cluster mall to full-blown indoor mall, I watch Hong Kong street life being unsuccessfully reproduced, to feebly imitated, to being turned outside in. The next phase seems to be the competition for bragging rights to be the biggest Chinese mall, with Pacific Mall as a candidate proposing to triple in size. Is bigger always better? More importantly, is that how our generation of immigrants define ourselves? With its many neighbourhoods, Toronto has established itself as a very successful multicultural city. It allows each immigrant group to celebrate its culture, yet its street grid forms a coherent fabric that facilitates casual wandering and discovering. A parallel version for the suburb still needs to be conceived. If there is enough of a critical mass to drive changes in transit, surely we can demand better in our built form. We can take a page from our

lives in Hong Kong, one that emphasises street development and the public realm. Scale and density need to be recalibrated but our attention should be focussed on turning the street into public space: for shopping, travelling, socialising and meandering. Imagine turning a mall inside out and carving out blocks through its parking lot. Each block would have medium-density apartment buildings with shops and offices on the ground and second level. Instead of being cocooned by only-Chinese shops, others would set up shop because the perception of for-Chinese-shoppers-only is gone. The area can be stitched to the neighbouring lower density residential fabric rather than being separated by a fence. Shops in strip malls may suffice in the beginning when immigrants first land, however as we find our footing in Canada and develop our identity as Chinese-Canadians, our architectural expression needs to adapt, mature and innovate. We know transit will come, but what will it support? Whatever form it takes, one thing is for sure: mall typology has run its course. Little Hong Kong will never be Hong Kong, nor should it be. My family and I did not move half way across the world expecting to find the same thing. This next wave of development will define immigrants of my time and my generation. We have to design and build it recognising that we are part of a multicultural community in the suburbs of Toronto. We have to infuse it with our contemporary, Canadian, immigrant soul. /

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limbo o ptimis m i m pe r man e n c e dis plac e me n t waitin g

urbanism re f u g e e c a m p s by j o a n n e l a m

j oanne l am

Rumour has it that some Palestinian refugees still wear their house keys around their necks, holding onto that hope that one day, they will walk into their house in Palestine again. Their conviction and their optimism have lasted for the past 60 years while generations grow up, get married and start families in the refugee camps. Nowhere else is the question of identity, migration and future planning more intertwined than for the Palestinians who have been living in limbo for decades in a neighbouring country. How does one fashion their environment to suit their needs when their future is not within their control?

Refugee camps sprang up in Arab nations starting in 1948 at the wake of the first Arab-Israeli conflict. When the convoluted history started in 1948, UNRWA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, set up to solely manage Palestinian refugee camps, was not in existence yet. The 1948 war was triggered by Resolution 181, passed by the United Nations General Assembly, to create a Jewish state in what was largely Palestinian land. Mayhem ensued. Borders changed. ‘Palestinian refugee’ became an official term. In Jordan, one of the four earliest refugee camps administered by UNRWA, is located in Irbid, the main city in the northern part of the country. The Jordanian government provided the land and infrastructure and at the outset, Red Cross provided emergency relief. Like typical refugee camps that are meant to be temporary, the Palestinian refugees were originally housed in tents. It was not until the late 1950s when UNRWA replaced the tents with more durable structures1. Over the years, the population has grown but the camp area has remained the same, resulting in the extremely crowded conditions of today. Irbid Camp sits just north of downtown Irbid, geographically separated from it by a hill and a cemetery. From the air, only the density and the defined boundary betray the existence of the camp. On the ground, it is remarkably similar to the built form around it. The palette of concrete, punched windows, and three- to fourstorey buildings render the camp almost seamless with the rest of the urban fabric. The small lots and narrow streets have been


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carried over from the tent era, making it extremely difficult for cars to drive through. Almost 3000 families, averaging almost 9 persons per family, are packed into about 1700 units2. The numbers are overwhelming. Naturally, the major complaint is that housing conditions are considered too close and too noisy3. On the flip side, the very narrow streets and the high density makes the community very walkable and vibrant. Children play on the streets. Shops spill out onto the road. Inside the camp, the main commercial strip occupies a road that is slightly wider than others. Despite the lack of sidewalks and other urban design features, it feels safe to shop, to walk, to play and to inhabit the street. In a way, it makes for a good example of the walkable communities loudly championed by architects and planners these days. It also serves as a strong contrast to the rest of downtown Irbid where cars, pedestrians and market stalls all fight for a piece of the street, traffic lights be damned. Unfortunately, despite being a very pedestrian friendly community a mere five minutes walk from downtown Irbid, the tight conditions have garnered the camp a less than palatable reputation and is rarely visited by typical Irbidians. While Irbid Camp continues to hustle and bustle today, its future remains off topic. Even though the recently completed Irbid Master Plan looks at the population and employment growth in the next twenty years for the region and the municipality, it only documents the camp’s existing conditions. The master plan does not offer any future scenario for the land, the buildings, or

its inhabitants. Essentially, the plan ignores it. Not on purpose, mind you, but to propose anything would mean predicting the future of the Middle East. Wading into this political, historical and emotional minefield would invariably bog down the progress of the master plan. However, the camp’s future, purely in terms of living conditions, needs to be addressed. Though Palestinian refugees in Jordan are granted Jordanian citizenship and are free to move outside the camp, many stay for reasons such as being close to family, or having easy access to refugee support. The current buildings and community layout is without a doubt overcrowded and unsustainable. Ignoring it will only let the problem get worse. By separating the political discussions from the one about everyday living conditions, at least a plan can be sketched out for the future, just like any other community. Whether the negotiations are starting or stalling, life continues inside Irbid Camp. Let it be established that building a permanent community does not take away the refugee’s right of return, nor does it tie them to the unit in which they are currently residing. It is merely a physical and structural plan, for both the Palestinian refugees and the Jordanian government. Regardless of when a peace agreement is signed, the plan is implemented in stages to ensure the living conditions are supporting the growing population. The broad strokes may or may not seem attainable or realistic depending on the current political climate, but at least, they are laid out clearly for all, especially the Palestinian refugees, to see. Only then will the discussions begin.

City building evokes a certain permanence, a certain legacy that has been capitalised upon by emperors, dictators and heads of states around the globe. Though the definition of city building is broad, it is usually differentiated from temporary structures, held up by air or cables, that denote a definite timeline to their existence. Attaching a time limit to architecture and planning is a contradiction. Yet, this contradiction is exactly what the Palestinian refugees are living through, their futures hinging on outcome of discussions far away. They could be here for many more decades, or they could potentially cross the border tomorrow, homeward bound. Being stuck in a state of temporary permanence renders the Palestinian refugees powerless. A plan will give them some direction, and therefore, hope. /

1 2 3 4 Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Irbid Master Plan. Jordan, 2010 Blome Jacobsen, Laurie. Community Development of Palestinian Refugee Camps: The Material and Social Infrastructure, and Environmental Conditions of Refugee Camps in Jordan. Oslo: Fafo. 2004

j o a nn e la m

UNWRA, after a decade of tents, provided concrete and mortar. Approximately 50 years afterwards, the agency started an infrastructure and camp improvement programme that ‘promotes environmentally and socially sustainable neighbourhoods’4, with

pilot projects upgrading housing and public squares in Syria and West Bank. Thus, the camps are effectively being treated as communities in situ, and UNWRA is carefully, albeit unofficially, taking the long term view, come what may on the political front. It is a small but significant step. The Jordanian government, specifically Irbid Municipality, should follow UNWRA’s lead. It is never too early to start work on a community plan on Irbid Camp and the surrounding areas, ensuring that it is well connected to downtown Irbid. Ultimately, it will be Irbid and its citizens who have the most to gain or lose.

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urbanism p e r m a n e n t ly t e m p o r a r y by s a m o p e d e r s e n

waitin g plan n in g puttin g u p with e n du r in g livin g

sam o p e de r s e n

The other day I found a migrant village on the top of my building. Just to clarify I live in a 22 storey apartment building in Shanghai. I have found out since, by climbing some more rooftops, this is not an uncommon phenomenon. Through my travels I have seen quite some different settlements, floating villages in Halong Bay and Lake Titicaca, housing-caves in Tunisia and outback Australia, various favelas and shanty towns. However I must say I was caught by surprise. It is actually wrong to mention previous listed settlements in this context, as they have very little to do with my newly discovered rooftop habitats. First the rooftop migrant worker housing is not an informal settlement, but mainly for people who are employed within the building, as cleaners, security guards, porters, kitchen staff in case there is a restaurant. Further it is not an isolated village. Mainly these people from the rooftops are working in the service sector, positioning them in a vital part of the urban network. The reason for being surprised was not so much for finding people living among plant and AC units but the fact that their rooms were planned to be there. The developer, architect and whoever else was designing the building agreed that the best way to use the penthouse/rooftop terrace was to create some very low quality units, that most of all remind me of lift shafts with beds and televisions in them. A worker told that in his case it is only temporary, this living under these conditions. When he has saved enough money he will move back to his home town and start his own business. 26

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Born in Yugoslavia, raised in Denmark and since then having lived on most continents, I am used to temporality. However temporality comes in various shapes. I have family who has been living in Germany for more than 30 years, the whole family squeezing into a tiny one-bedroom apartment while spending their income on building a palace-like house in Croatia. Now after 30 years, still in Germany, the children have children. They of course moved out, leaving my aunt and uncle in the small apartment, but everyone remains in Germany with little intention of leaving. The palace in Croatia is empty and probably will stay unused until someone decides to sell it. I have other family with same story; not only that but friends from other places in exactly same position. For these people temporality has become very much the opposite. Looking around, at 30 years of age, I find myself in a tiny studio, newly refurbished but poor quality. It is nice, and all I need, for now, but not a place I ever would consider as a place to settle down. This actually brings me to my main focus. Have migrants, in various shapes and forms, become the consumers of mediocre living space? Are we the lifeline for sleazy developers and property sharks? Probably yes, however the interesting aspect is the fact that as our world becomes ever more in flux, everyday more people are becoming temporary. We are all a part of the network society of bad space!

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sam o p e de r s e n

A quick look at the Chinese property market: first in the money chain is to develop a master plan that looks interesting enough to persuade investors to buy units in order to speculate in rising apartment prices. If the master plan has enough metaphors and can convince buyers that this new development is the key to future prosperity, units are sold and the developer is home-free. Next in the chain is when the building is built and the units are resold to new owners as more people are convinced as the development is realised. Third owners actually have a key in their hand, but most likely they bought it for speculation with the expectation of further price jumps. As the units are re-resold it is the first time that the need to actually have a door and some windows in each unit comes into play. By time people move in money has shifted hands so often that the developer’s interest in building something of good quality is very low. The present situation where it is more likely that people buy apartments for speculation instead of actually living in them compromises the actual value. If it is presumed that increasing migration makes people believe in the temporality of their need, then this makes a perfect setting for continuous development of very low quality residential apartments; an easy way to feed greedy developers and for that sake us architects.


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It is a very difficult situation where demand is driven by something other than actual quality. One way to change this is for the consumer to set higher demands before moving into something that he or she does not find satisfying. Another way would be to explore other ways of temporary residence. Maybe, in 2010, there is a product opportunity in this field. Nevertheless temporality seems to become much less temporal in many occasions and a good reason for re-evaluating one’s situation. And for that matter I have not even started speculating in the amount of urban sprawl the palaces are contributing to, which people are building far away from their actual lives, in order to satisfy some outdated dream. /

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typology re s e a rc h s t a t i o n fe e d i n g c l e a r i n g s by i n f r a n e t l a b

Caribou Pivot Stations in the High Arctic Somerset Island/Prince of Wales Island, Nunavut

Species under Threat It is no secret that the Arctic is undergoing radical environmental changes. Nowhere are the effects of global warming more legible than in the fragile ecologies of the Canadian North, which have traditionally maintained local inhabitants in a delicate balance with species, and these species in balance with food sources.1 A significant source of the Inuit diet remains to this day dependent on subsistence hunting of large mammals such as seal, walrus, and caribou. For this way of life to remain sustainable there must be large enough numbers of these animals accessible to the hunters. A species of significant concern in this regard is the Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi), which in 1991 was officially recognised as endangered. Although many mainland caribou species and individual herds are thriving and enjoy large populations (in some cases numbering over 500,000 individuals), the Peary caribou have declined precipitously in recent decades, from 40,000 in 1961 to a mere 700 in 2009.2 Inhabiting the Boothia Peninsula complex (Prince of Wales, Somerset and Russell Islands), Peary caribou spend a portion of their year off the mainland moving between arctic islands. For close to nine months each year frozen Arctic Ocean waters connect this complex of islands to the nearby Boothia Peninsula which extends from the mainland and allows caribou to make crossings between and among islands. The fate of this species is tied to both the wellbeing of the Inuit, who rely on it for food and profit, and to the success of the island environment they inhabit, where they play an integral role in the arctic food web. Although the exact cause of the demise of the Peary caribou is uncertain, there has been substantial research indicating the critical role played by two factors: increased climate variability and overhunting.3 The Peary caribou’s decline has corresponded to a period when the Canadian Arctic has registered both a significant number of thaw days in the autumn and winter, and an increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation events. These changes, compounded by increasing mean temperatures are seriously disrupting the migration and foraging activities of the Peary caribou. Without intervention, the changing global climate responsible for increased climate variability in the Arctic will surely only further reduce the remaining population of this endangered species.


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arc tic e c o lo gy tracking re s e arc h c limate

For Arctic-island caribou, migration, foraging and their biological cycle are all linked to the yearly progression of the seasons. The most critical and challenging time for the survival of the caribou is the transition between freeze and thaw at the beginning of spring. The thaw makes accessible abundant forage that the wintering caribou have been eagerly awaiting and is tied to the calving of baby caribou. However, the thaw also severs the connections between islands as the sea ice recedes. The timing, then, of the northward migration of the caribou from the mainland to the arctic islands is critical. The caribou must cross before ice melts, but not too soon as to be ahead of the melting forage. Increased climate variability has a negative impact on both of these time-sensitive activities. Firstly, the break-up of sea ice is accelerated, disrupting migration routes and forcing the caribou to cross earlier. Secondly, forage is made increasingly unavailable to the caribou as a result of increased temperature fluctuations and freezing rain, which combine to producing a thin layer of ice over the landscape preventing caribou from accessing their food until later in the season. Coupling Stakeholders There are fifteen research stations dispersed across the Canadian North, with twenty-five more proposed. The overwhelming majority of these stations in the Arctic are designed as singular hermetic monoliths whose primary intention is data collection for scientists while combating extreme environmental conditions. With an anticipated $85 million allocated to the construction of new Arctic Research Infrastructure across Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the opportunity exists to question the design of research stations and their potential agency within the environment. The Caribou Pivot Station is a proposal for a new research station typology in which the station itself creates a micro-climate or oasis by deflecting and clearing snow and ice to reveal a fresh forage field. The stations are strategically located at key points along caribou migration routes. The building mass is inflected toward prevailing winds, while additional snow screens and ice-clearing pivot gantries manage snow fall for deflection, insulation, collection or concealment. Revisiting the logic of centre-pivot irrigators that extend cultivation in arid areas, the station gantries act as rakes by clearing snow and cracking ice layers as they form in the spring, allowing caribou access to forage when it is most critically needed.

The new station typology is designed to not interfere with the larger movement patterns of the caribou. Rather than develop a dependency where caribou linger around a station that provides food, this proposal recognises that food isn’t the problem, access to it is. While net ecological resources are unchanged, the station modifies local environmental conditions, facilitating access to food made inaccessible by increasingly unpredictable climate. The project is designed to acknowledge that architecture in the Arctic landscape can establish a relationship that is mutual, rather than commensal. The Caribou Pivot Station unravels traditional relations between architecture and animals, establishing a position between a trans- and a post-humanism. It contains a trans-humanist dedication to enhanced performance through environmental modification while rejecting the hyper-performance of

evolutionary engineering. Its post-humanist ambition decentralises the human in relation to ecological balance, but only just enough to mobilise action. A ‘man as animal’ approach contextualises the relationship between us, our attendant architecture and infrastructure, and the caribou. The demise of the Peary caribou, the result of human actions, gives us the opportunity to use architecture as a ‘prosthetic creature’ in this ecological network. Our co-evolution with various forms of technology and our consequent separation from nature can propose productive intrusions into ecological systems. Caribou Pivot Stations rebalance ecological and environmental conditions on site without transforming them through additional resources or energy. The stations simply re-direct these conditions to the advantage of the caribou. /

in fra ne t la b

1 For more on the ongoing dramatic transformations in the Arctic Region see Chapin, F S, Jeffries, R L, et al. Arctic Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: An Ecophysiological Perspective, San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1992 2 Miller, F L, Barry, S J. ‘Long-term control of Peary caribou numbers by unpredictable, exceptionally severe snow or ice conditions in a nonequilibrium grazing system’, Arctic 62(2), 2009: 175 – 189 3 Miller, F L, Barry, S J and Calvery, W A. ‘Near-total loss of caribou on south-central Canadian Arctic Islands and the role of seasonal migration in their demise’, Arctic 60(1), 2007: 23 - 36 4 Wolfe, C. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010

InfraNet Lab, Toronto project team: Mason White Lola Sheppard Fionn Byrne Andria Fong Neeraj Bhatia Maya Przybylski

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in fra ne t la b


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i nf ra ne t la b

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s ile n c e r ive r s birds to te ms vo ic e

t r ave l s by w a t e r by m i c h a e l l e e b

a paddle dips gently into shallow water the journey begins gliding along the waters surface memories of the past emerge shrouded in distant fog

1. do crows migrate? yeah…… but ravens don’t they look the same to me can’t tell them apart how many times has this question been asked? 2. two young boys wrestle with each other like two opposing thoughts bear cubs dressed in buffalo robes slapping each other in the face until they laugh memories are that way sometimes searching for the opposite groping for the elusive like a paddle in water shrouded in distant fog musing now with uncertainty uncertain of the destination sought an idea surfaces perhaps his totem is the bear? they walk that way…….. they’re double jointed that’s how they climb trees i like the way they walk perhaps his totem is the bear

a paddle dips gently the journey…….. gliding along……searching the shore searching the past shrouded in distant fog


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silent waves lap at the bow open water leads to a narrow waterway through sedges cattails billow in the wind another elusive glimpse of an otter while a swallowtail dances near the narrow

3. a voice yells from the stern lean into it waves splash over the bow water fills the canoe i close my eyes the Old Man plays his tricks while we all enjoy a laugh

i no longer hear that voice from the stern it has left like a merganser taking to flight the journey……… shrouded in distant fog

This poem and the illustrations form part of an art project entitled Canoe Journey that received  funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts through the Alberta Creative Development Initiative.

s t r u c t u re nomads by g e r a l d fo r s e t h

ge o lo gy c o n s tr u c tio n f r ame s time tr aditio n

A preserved Archelon skeleton from the Mesosoic Era displayed at the Pratt Museum in Homer, Alaska.

Kayak frame (ca 1910), Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks. Great speed and manœuvreability in both one- and two-man versions was achieved by the use of single two-ended paddles. Originally kayaks were clad with sea lion hides, stitched together with sinew then pulled tight over the frame to become extraordinarily waterproof. While the skin was replaced every few years, the frame often lasted more than a hundred.

Traps for ocean fishing have been reproduced for the Pratt Museum. They are woven with bent willow and tied together with sea lion sinew cords. The sea lion provided other useful tools including bones that pierce and scrape and teeth that become fish hooks.

g e ra ld fo r s e t h

It is a dynamic, celebratory and epic tale about animal and human migration where Asia greets America at the Bering Strait. Between 220-40 million years ago land masses from the south Pacific drifted north, filling in between fingers of anchored land, colliding with the peninsulas and creating the highlands of what is now Alaska – a geologic mesh of fragmented rocks, or terranes, with a wide range of origins, character and ages. Earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes and fires chacterised these continental drifts that rimmed the Pacific – tectonic activity from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Importantly, over geologic time, the nearby North Pole experienced many cycles of intense freezing then thawing. Ice sheets could be two kilometres thick, the heavy weight causing many northern land areas to sink. At the thaw cycle, land rose to become swamplands and grass fields with rich soil and fruit-bearing trees.

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gerald for se t h

Salmon drying racks located on the Chena River at Fairbanks, are still used as they were 10,000 years ago. Inland peoples hunted caribou, moose and migratory fowl, snared furbearers and gathered greens, roots and berries. Coastal peoples hunted whales, sea lions, bearded seals and sea otters, fished for cod, halibut and salmon and gathered intertidal shellfish. Drying preserved summer food for winter use.

During the Pleistocene Era, some time before 35,000 years ago, one of many ice ages caused the ocean levels to drop as deluge-rain formed heavy ice packs. The last ice age (22,000 –7,000 years ago ) was caused the same way. During these cycles of ice ages, land bridges emerged throughout the world, including the one linking Asia to North America, called Beringia. At its widest it was 1600 km from north to south, normally ice-free and grew grasses, sedges, sagebrush, shrubs and willows suitable as animal feed.

Beringia at its widest during the Pleistocene era


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A translucent waterproof outer garment, a kamleika, is preserved in the Alaska Museum of the North. It consists of sewn-together pieces of walrus intestines and decorated with cormorant feathers. Special clothing designs using animal skins and parts evolved to overcome severe living conditions in the Arctic. Clothing, boots and mitts consisted of inner and outer layers, shed as weather permits, and having many drawstrings to permit ventilation of perspiration in different locations.

The land bridge permitted herds of Asian mastadon, helmeted musk-ox and steppe bison, beaver, the giant ground sloth, sabre-tooth cat and wolf to move east. They passed North American camel and horse herds migrating west. About 11,000 years ago mastadon, the sabre-tooth cat, rhinocerous, lion and the northern camel became extinct, probably due to changing environmental conditions. Survivors were caribou, bison, moose, sheep and beaver. Between 45,000-16,500 years ago, humans crossed Beringia following wandering herds – their source of food and clothing, shelter, tools and transportation. They navigated the coastline (now underwater) in large skin-covered floating vessels killing whale, walrus, seal and fish. In less than a few thousand years people had migrated as far as Tierra de Fuego.

The geological story of Beringia links nomadic migrations of both people and animals. It provides physical evidence of their dependence on each other and on particular climate-determined food sources. Skeletons and skins were the basic technological ingredients for people’s clothing, transportation and shelter. The materials for skeletons mainly came from scrounging (stones and driftwood), hunting and fishing (large bones and tusks) and cutting (trees and willows). The materials for skins, similarly accessed, were characterised as thick (stones, sod and snow) or as thin (sinews, mammal intestines, animal hides and furs).

This driftwood and skin-covered summer igloo, ca 1900, on an island in the Bering Strait indicates a cool day, since the house is closed in with hides and furs. In July these would be removed and stored. For a few days each year the family occupied the wood platform floor open to the sun, elements and stars, and protected only by the outline of the exposed wood skeleton structure.

Ca r r ie M M cLa in Me m o r i a l M us e u m, No m e

Successive Inupiat families lived in wood, sod and stone igloos – large dwellings, appearing subterranean and hidden but entirely constructed above grade. Driftwood supplied interior beams and the end walls. On hot summer days some of the sod was removed, then rebuilt in the fall.

Inupiat stone house on Little Diomedes Island, ca 1900. The door is framed by ivory tusks. Dwellings like this were subterranean and multi-levelled with spaces high enough for standing. This house had likely stood unchanged for centuries.

In Beringia with its extremes of climate the skeletons would represent a kind of permanence, while the skins could be associated with transience. In clothing skins were layered then shed according to needs of warmth and breath-ability. In housing, similar skins layered or stretched over the man-built skeletal frame were shed during summer then repositioned for winter protection. It is skin and skeleton that represents the very essence of this ancient architecture. However, it is the acts of shedding and adding the skin to expose the skeleton that differentiates this architecture from the skeleton and skin architecture of today. /

Langdon, Steven. The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage: Greatland Graphics, 2002. Lange, Ian. Ice Age Mammals of North America. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2002. Rennick, Penny (editor). Prehistoric Alaska. Anchorage: Alaska Geographic/The Hart Press, 1972. Shah, Monica (editor). Alaska Park Science. Anchorage: Alaska Geographic, 2009. On Site review 24


p ro j e c t re s o u rc e m i g r a t i o n s n ew fo u n d l a n d by m a r i a n n a d e c o l a

Newfoundland’s South

re lo c atio n e migr atio n re ge n e r atio n re pair e n e r gy

Losing too is still ours, and forgetting still takes shape in the kingdom of transformation when something’s let go of, it circles; and though we are rarely the centre of the circle, it draws around us its unbroken and marvellous curve. — Rilke In tracing the course of the Trans Canada Highway, the far eastern end terminates in the province of Newfoundland. The island is connected by ferry to the rest of the country. Newfoundland’s cultural, political and economical existence is a phenomenon that has been affecting the physiology of the province for its entire lifetime. This province’s birth in Confederation initiated the acceleration of the modernisation of this place. A government program to resettle edgedwelling Newfoundlanders to larger urban centres shifted and pushed populations to focus on resources inland. People transferred their families, their cultures and floated their houses from places with ‘no great future’ to more centralised and accessible areas. Many towns had been forgotten; many names have been erased.

Ode to Newfoundland by Sir Cavendish Boyle: ‘Though they are anthem-like, there is something indefinably sad about the words, resigned, regretful, as if Boyle imagined himself looking back from a time when Newfoundland had ceased to be. It is the sort of song you might write about a place as you were leaving it by boat, watching is slowly fade from view, a place you believed you would never see again. He was governor of Newfoundland for only a few years, so he must have written it in the knowledge that he was soon to leave.’ — Wayne Johnston. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

From 1954 until 1975 over 20,000 inhabitants of the province of Newfoundland were resettled with Government grants. This proved to be socially detrimental, and some think economically harmful.


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m a r ia nn a de co la

The history of settlement on the island and the tensions between the French and the British encompass themes of settling, destruction, and resettling again. This initiates the continual themes of impermanence and erasure throughout the island.

channels of emigration

Isle Aux Morts: Death of the Fishery Isle Aux Morts directly translates into Island of the Dead. The fish freezing plant within this community closed within the last decade.

Transporting houses, resettlement 1954-1975

Franรงois, an Outport The diagram below is based on the population of Franรงois in 2010, how many children are in school, how many plan to stay in Franรงois and the ages of the present community. The school groups four grades together for grades 1 - 12, thus there are only three teachers actively teaching. The youngest child born in the community was five years younger than the second youngest child, therefore, the younger-level teacher will soon be unemployed. The demise of the school will spark the demise of the community. Looking at age in general, the points at which healthcare will be an issue becomes apparent. The end of the fishing economy by 2050 is in Clover, C. The End of the Line: how overfishing is changing the world and what we eat. London: Ebury, 2004.

m a r i a n na de co l a

M ar i ti me Hi stor y A rchi ve [ht t p : / / www. mun. ca/ mha/ rese t t le me nt / moving_ ho use _ 1 . p hp ]

In Cod We Trust[ed] Since the joining of Canada in Confederation and the progressive technologies of modernism, the fishing industry had spiraled out of control and nearly exhausted the fish stocks. This eventually led to the Cod Moratorium in 1992. Since then, populations never recovered.

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mar i anna de col a

Grand Bruit: Unsettled In July of 2010, the community members of Grand Bruit experienced the modern version of resettlement. The moving process took months while assets were loaded, one by one, onto the ferry to their new homes. I’ve been to this place and documented this process. I’ve been to this place that no longer is.

Topography The topography of the Southern coast of Newfoundland is astonishing. The shoreline varies from piercingly steep inlets and harbours to rocks peeking above the surface of the ocean. The inability to connect this portion of the island is because of this very topography. Its uneven and dramatic heights and the dense solidity of the granite make it difficult to develop. Grand Bruit Harbour - seasonally populated


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Bathymetry The bathymetry is as astounding as the mirrored topography. The depth of the ocean and its steepness allows for ideal harbours as a perfect threshold to the ocean and fish. The dynamic floor presents an ideal location for renewal. The site is Atlantic’s floor. Wave The ebb and flow of the sea is so powerful to go unnoticed. The most energetic waves are between 30 degrees and 60 degrees latitude. — Wave Energy Conversion: Volume 6. p1 Intervention To prevent slipping, a knot depends on friction, and to provide friction, there must be pressure of some sort. This pressure and the place within the knot where it occurs is called the nip. The security of a knot seems to depend solely on its nip. — The Ashley Book of Knots

Intervention: wave harnessing and artificial reef

Offshore Grand Bruit is the starting point. The design takes Newfoundland’s infrastructure, history and resources that have dominated the collective psyche over the last 600 years and converts them into articles that can be used in a positive transformation of the land/waterscape to prompt restoration of the southern coast. Program/Site/Evolution The southern coast of Newfoundland suffers from a detrimental decline in population as well as in the source of its economy. The intervention is a shifting wave harness system (to offset the cost of the current diesel energy system) coupled with a foundation that works to revitalise the benthic surface of the Atlantic Ocean. This artificial reef will help reconstruct the ocean floor that has been scoured by commercial dragging trawlers in search of cod. The wave energy system will be strategically located where populations gather and where energy is in demand. Simultaneously, the damaged benthic surface areas will be a factor in deployment. The migration of Newfoundlanders is based on fishing season and economy, both informing a dynamic system of intervention. When the system is needed elsewhere it can be dismantled from its nutrientfilled foundations and pulled to the area in demand. It shifts, multiplies and hibernates depending on the needs of the populations and aquatic ecosystem.

Energy hauled to generation facility

m a r ia nn a d e co la

The regenerative artifact is conceptually sectionally split into two parts. The upper portion relates to the energy needs of the population on land. The foundations will respond to the need to regenerate the destroyed benthic surface of the ocean. The form responds to the direction of waves and current to optimise wave harnessing and nutrient collection. / Wave energy converter: first year, fifth year, twentieth year

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translation spaces of exile by e n r i q u e e n r i q u e z

why architects have to experience exile to better understand space I am strong and weak. Sometimes I leave, to be closer to me, and it happened also about my country. Go far to be close. That would give exiles, voluntaries or not, or travels; the knowledge of what you don’t know about who you are.

— Manu Leguineche

Maybe the people who are running away from their lives fascinate us not because they’re the exceptions but because they’re symptomatic of our world.

j or g e enr i que enr iquez esp inosa

— Stephen Bertman. Cultural Amnesia: America’s future and the crisis of Memory

The door pull at Marguerite Yourcenar’s house, Petite Plaisance in Maine, where she lived from 1950 to 1987

To all my little mermaid friends:

Between 1942 and 1943, Marguerite Yourcenar wrote a small theatre play based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It was the first time since her exile from Europe that she wrote an original text after a long period of blockage (without taking in consideration certain commercial translations, past works modifications and minor journalistic works) apparently the fruit of a period of depression. In her new land, America, she experienced the weight of being an exile. In one of her letters to her friend Jacques Kayaloff, she wrote: I force myself to work but I am greatly discouraged. 1 In another letter she finished with a revealing phrase: …and my despair reaches the width and the depth of the Atlantic Ocean.2 The sea creature allegory in her play was a reflection of her ‘état’, as she recognised years later: I realised after some delay what that creature could have meant for me, violently transported to another world without identity and without voice.3


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o th e r n e s s e x ile bo dy s pac e de s pair

The links between the tale of the Little Mermaid and the theme of the exile are remarkable. Like the grotesque creature, the exiled must undergo a transformation to inhabit the ‘other place’; firstly in its exterior space (the territorial one), changing the depths of the ocean for ‘the land of men’ and secondly in its interior space (the language – not only the oral but the whole language of the body), changing the voice for the legs. In the act of exile the space of the exiled is transformed. I remember a discussion I had with a professor, an architect, about this very topic. He argued that it was not about the transformation of space per se but about the transformation of how the space is perceived. But, what is space if not perception? Can we see space as a thing separate from perception? Space is not a self-contained entity. It is built with the immediate experience between the object and the body. It is the relationship among things – rather than the things themselves – that gives objects their identities. Though we tend to regard them as having stable and enduring characteristics, the determination of “thingness” is more a matter of groupings and classifications than it is a consequence of inherent properties. Objects require limits in order to be distinguished from the field of reciprocal relations in which they exist, but the limits we impose upon them are a function of our perception rather than a property of their thingness. 4 Or as Tadao Ando plainly put it, space is alive only if people enter it. 5 According to studies, the exiled suffer physical and psychological distortions, such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia. People were surprised to hear me comment how unsafe I felt on the streets of Montréal during my first years living there, especially since my comments were from someone who had previously lived the ‘dangerous’ Mexico City. As Aijaz Ahmad has noted, émigré writers and artists – for example, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Ezra Pound, T S Eliot, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Salman Rushdie, experienced suffocation and claustrophobia.6 Early studies were conducted on men, but today apparently most of the people suffering from claustrophobia and agoraphobia are women, which brings us back to the figure of the little mermaid. It was not by accident that the character chosen by Hans Christian Andersen on his tale was female. The female body is often used in western culture as a representation for our collective fears and anxieties. Intrinsically concerned with the centrality of the body to subjectivity, sexuality and the politics of power, feminist literary critics have frequently argued a case for woman’s existence as monster under patriarchal law. Woman may be the body in society, but she is excluded or marginalised by the body of society, even as she employs such carnivalesque processes for her own revolutionary ends.7 Remember the female character in Fritz Lang’s apocalyptic Metropolis? I cannot stop thinking about the possible connections between being a woman in a man-made world and the condition of the exiled. In both cases, one has to rebuild one’s entourage from an alien perspective. Being an exile is not only about spaces and perceptions but more importantly the experience of being ‘other”; and to be ‘other’ you have to take into account your body and start again to build your personal points of reference and boundaries. Is there a better way to learn about space? In current times where the architectural core of the profession is invaded with the narcissist cult of the object (which, in fact, it is only the cult of the narcissism of the author), I recommend to future architects (and to well-consolidated ones) exile. I assure them that they would learn something about space, or at least some humility. On December 19th, 1953, Marguerite Yourcenar went to see the famous statue of the little mermaid Copenhagen’s harbour. Paradoxically, this year the same statute was moved – for the first time – to the Denmark Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. An ‘exiled statue’ sign of our times; a reality that more and more defines what is going to be our life in this century. /

1 Marguerite Yourcenar. Cartas a sus amigos. Alfaguara, Madrid 2000, page 76 2 Marguerite Yourcenar. Cartas a sus amigos. Alfaguara, Madrid 2000, page 81 3 préface, La Petite Sirène, divertissement dramatique d’après le conte de Hans-Christian Andersen. 1970 4 Mitnick, Keith. Artificial Light – A Narrative Inquiry into the Nature of Abstraction, Immediacy, and other Architectural Fictions. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. p 42 5 Ando, Tadao. Conversaciones con Michael Auping. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2003. p 31 6 Naficy, Hamid. An Accented Cinema, Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking. Princeton University Press 2001. p 194 7 Armitt, Lucie. Theorising the fantastic. London: Arnold Publishers, 1996. p 70

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e migr atio n re -o c c u patio n c o n n e c tivity is o latio n f le x ibility

rural urbanism technology by l a u re n a b r a h a m s

endangered Italian villages find new life where tradition and technology interface Driving through the Italian countryside, it is striking how unchanged the mediæval landscape of rolling pastures punctuated by rising hill towns appears to be. While the image of the inhabited rock face seems to defy the passing of time, one could hardly say the same about the decaying villages themselves. These compact urban forms, still bound by the old fortified walls engineered to keep enemies out and inhabitants safely within, have experienced enormous population decline over the past century. Threatened to the point of extinction by mass migration, the last decade has seen the rise of technologically driven preservation strategies attempting to save these culturally and architecturally rich villages from literally crumbling to their demise.

So what would it take to bring life back to these towns? Even if there was sufficient funding for restoration efforts, conventional infrastructural and architectural revitalisation is peripheral to the core challenge facing these villages. More than restructured buildings and repaved streets, what these towns really need is a new raison d’être, a reinvented economy that reflects local and global interests and can sustainably support the growth of a balanced population.

In the early 1990s, the deserted mountain village of Colletta di Castelbianco was resurrected. Realised by Milanese architect Giancarlo de Carlo in collaboration with the telecom and digital communications specialists, Telura, the village is one of Europe’s first borgo telematico or cybervillages. The reconstruction remained architectonically true to the original medieval form while wiring the town with an advanced telecommunications network to serve a niche clientele of international business travellers as well as the restructured apartments. High-speed fibreoptic broadband cables support a long list of e-business necessities such as teleconferencing and ubiquitous wireless connectivity, all cleverly hidden within the local stone walls. After decades of abandonment, the town was back online. Since construction finished in 2000, Colletta di Castelbianco has successfully marketted itself as a centre for corporate tourism and as a virtual vacation destination. However, in the years since its completion, the borgo telematico prototype has yet to be replicated. With very minimal provision for the type of mixed public amenity required to rebuild a sustainable greg w ilk i ns

From the North to the South of Italy, there are over 5500 borghi or small towns with populations less than 5000.1 Mostly of medieval heritage, these once flourishing settlements have been shrinking over the past 150 years. At the beginning of the twentieth century over 34% of the total Italian population lived in small towns2 compared to less than 17% today.3 Many borghi have witnessed populations drop

to well under 500 residents of which the majority are elderly and retired. This exodus occurred in waves, driving inhabitants towards the cities or even abroad. The small percent of towns that thrive today exist solely on tourist revenue and tend to be clustered together in the wealthier areas of the country. The rest are struggling or abandoned, disconnected from high frequency public transit and without their historical agricultural income base. Their fortifications have failed to protect populations from a century marked by industrialisation, urbanisation and a fierce global economy. Their walls may still be intact but the towns themselves have all but collapsed.


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opposite: Colletta di Castelbianco, a borgo telematico prototype, established in 2000.

daniel widlowski

below: Castelvecchio Calvisio, current photos of an almost abandoned town

community, critics of the project fear that reliance on a niche demographic creates an economy that cannot support the growth of a balanced settlement. Furthermore, the cost of connecting remote towns to the broadband network far outweighs the benefits for large providers and therefore requires a private revenue generating strategy such as the business model of Colletta di Castelbianco. Despite enormous headway in universal coverage for all Italians by the Ministry of Communications, 7.6 million citizens are still without access to broadband.4 Organisations, such as Borghi Autentici for the promotion and restoration of Italian villages, see the digital divide between urban centres and the disconnected rural towns as a critical hurdle that must be overcome. They recognise the potential of advanced communication technology as a catalyst for revitalisation projects, but only when applied as part of a larger environmentally and socially sound plan. Rome-based American architect, urbanist and teacher, Tom Rankin, agrees. “There are ever more reasons today for people to move to (or move back to) these small centres, especially if they are redeveloped effectively to ensure low-impact connectivity with the world through high-speed data networks and ecological public transit links and a minimum of quality

local services. A writer, a financial consultant, even a designer can now accesses the same data from a remote village as they can from a downtown office building.” 5 Rankin and archaeologist Dora Cirone have initiated a strategic plan for the town of Castelvecchio Calvisio whose population has plummeted from 1100 to less than 200 over the past century.6 The project aims to revitalise the town and surrounding territory by reinvesting in traditional agricultural and artisanal production, and by stimulating a new, digitally-dependent economy supported by study of the area’s rich history, ecology, archaeology and architecture. The project proposes a flexible public realm that responds to a range of users and promotes various durations of stay in the town. The compact city structure sustains a diffuse network of multipurpose linked-in spaces to benefit a fixed population while simultaneously providing research facilities for short-stay scholars and school groups. Being able to work from anywhere is certainly not a new idea, but the potential for this concept to transform the Italian landscape of abandoned towns is hugely significant. Urban sprawl in Italy is a growing problem. These towns, in their reincarnated state, propose a new development model in which the

permanent stone walls are juxtaposed with new transient uses and users. Balancing tradition and technology, these smart settlements can offer a necessary urban alternative. /

La Nave, Massimo and Paolo Testa. 2009 Atlante dei Piccoli Comuni. Rome: Cittalia. Fondazione ANCI Richerche, 2009 2 Bonifazi, Corrado Bonifazi and Frank Heins. Dynamics of Urbanisation in Italy. Salvador, Brazil: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, XXIV General Population Conference, 2001. 3 La Nave, Massimo and Paolo Testa. 2009 Atlante dei Piccoli Comuni. 4 Caio, Francesco. Portare l’Italia verso la leadership europea nella banda larga: Considerazioni sulle opzioni di politica industriale. Rome: Report for the Ministry of Economic Development- Communications Department, June 9, 2009. 5 Tom Rankin. Il Progetto Borgo Abruzzo a Castelvecchio Calvisio. Lauren Abrahams, editor. Rome: Edizioni Exòrma, 2010 6 Popolazione dal 1861 al 2007. http://www. (elaborated from ISTAT data) 1

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c u l t u re nomadism by c a l v i n c h i u

the Bedouin legacy in the globalised era

The Beduin of the desert, born and grown up in it, had embraced with all his soul this nakedness too harsh for volunteers, for the reason, felt but inarticulate, that there he found himself indubitably free. He lost material ties, comforts, all superfluities and other complications to achieve a personal liberty which haunted starvation and death… In this life he had air and winds, sun and light, open spaces and a great emptiness. There was no human effort, no fecundity in Nature: just the heaven above and the unspotted earth beneath. There unconsciously he came near God. — T E Lawrence1

T E Lawrence did not invent the Bedouin myth. Derived from Arabic Badawi which means ‘desert dweller’, for centuries the Bedouin have wandered the Arabian deserts in search of seasonal pastures for their herds of camels, goats and sheep, and occasionally horses, cattle and donkeys. Many scholars and religious teachers in history saw the Bedouin way of life as an ideal ascetic life that resembled desert retreats of ancient prophets. To them, the Bedouin tribes were wise and courageous, who penetrated the deserts at will and lived in close harmony with nature. In contrast, ancient caravan parties often brought back terrifying tales on how brutal Bedouins attacked, plundered and robbed desert travellers. Villagers who lived near the deserts saw the Bedouins as filthy, ignorant, miserable and cruel barbarians. For generations, these conflicting views have nurtured the making of an evolving Bedouin myth inseparable from the Arabian deserts. Despite various circumstances after World War Two that led to Bedouin sedentarisation, the myth continues to inspire literature and cinema, to enhance global tourism in the deserts and to enrich the national heritage of the Arab nations. In the era of globalisation, the contemporary Bedouin myth is largely built upon cultural stereotypes and a collective nostalgia for premodern living. It has simplified, romanticised and fixed certain aspects of the Bedouin legacy into representational images and customs that can be consumed both locally and globally. The aftermath of World War Two put an end to colonisation in the Middle East. Most Bedouin returned to their homelands after the war, only to find that their traditional pastoral grounds were now restricted by new national boundaries, and many parts of the desert had been littered with landmines. Having lost all their grazing herds during the war and had little employment alternatives, the Bedouin were extremely poor in the 1950s. Without access to modern healthcare and education, almost all Bedouin were illiterate and had a very high mortality rate.2 It was commonly agreed among Arab nations that urgent action was needed to transform the Bedouin way of life. Some officials even believed that ‘nomadism and semi-nomadicism are wasteful


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ide alis atio n to u r is m br an din g du alitie s mo de r n ity

Postcard of Bedouin family in Tunisia, 1899.

and destructive’. 3 Further to the state’s concerns, it was next to impossible to tax the nomads or to conscript them into military service. It was equally challenging to develop and commodify land ownership in the deserts, where the Bedouin had moral and social claims but no legal rights. In 1952, the Arab League officially called for full Bedouin settlement with strong support from the United Nations. Throughout the next few decades, a series of aid programs from the UN, international aid organizations, Arab states and regional agencies were introduced to settle the Bedouin and establish agricultural cooperatives in the Arabian steppes. In 1963 it was agreed between Egypt and the World Food Program to convert 4,000 Bedouin families in northwest Egypt to sedentary farming and livestock production. Each Bedouin family was free, dependent on approval from a local engineer, to select a site for house construction. While food, fodder, construction and technical assistance and monetary aid were provided by the World Food Program, the Egyptian government covered all local expenses of the program, offered extended loans and additional food aid when foundation and structural works were well underway, and supplied wood beams, window frames, a door and a gate as construction progressed. 4 Given the decline in camel demand and sequential droughts in the 1950s and 1960s, most Bedouin were willing to accept sedentarism. Through aid programs such as the World Food Program project in Egypt, scattered homesteads mushroomed near farms and pastures in the Arabian deserts and steppes. Primary schools and basic health units emerged along new highways. Socio-economic transformations turned out to be the biggest support for Bedouins in adopting their new way of life: diversification of local economies, modernisation of infrastructure, rapid urbanisation of regional towns and emergence of employment mobility provided options to replace nomadism.

calvin chiu

Desert Experience: (left to right, all taken in Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan) Camel ride, hospitality tea, tourist camp site, tourist tent, interior of tourist tent.

Many pastoralists in Syria switched to commercial ranching after the droughts. Instead of a return to pastoral migrations, they turned to supplementary fodder and piped water supplies to raise their animals. In Saudi Arabia and Libya, many settled Bedouin became workers in the expanding oil industry. In Jordan and Egypt, the former nomads took advantage of the diversification of regional economies and made a new living from industries such as transport and tourism. A 1998 study in Egypt’s western desert documents four brothers from Awlad ‘Ali: all their 24 sons were settled, ‘four (17%) engaged in farming and herding, four (17%) were merchants, seven (29%) worked in transport, and nine (38%) were employed as professionals… twelve (50%) completed primary school, five (21%) finished secondary school, and seven (29%) university’. 5 Today, most Bedouin live in houses or apartments with televisions and refrigerators. The few Bedouin tents that remain in the deserts are mainly for touristic purposes. Called al-bayt or bayt al-

sha’ar (house or house of hair), the Bedouin tent consists of poles, guy ropes, and a roof and walls made of strips of goat hair. It is easy to erect, dismantle, roll up and load onto a camel. It expands and becomes waterproof when wet, and is warm when a fire is lit inside. 6 The tent remains as an ideal representation of the former Bedouin way of life and can be found in many tourist camps, souvenir markets, festival grounds, anthropology museums and lobbies of five-star hotels. It provokes romantic nostalgia towards the old way of nomadic life, and signifies a reconstructed authenticity of the Bedouin culture that matches common stereotypes. A newly erected Bedouin tent no longer houses a desert family, but instead, it offers a physical shelter that accommodates a kitsch Bedouin experience for tourists that includes a brief camel ride, a couple of cups of mint tea, a mutton dinner, the desert sunset and a star gazing night.

ca lv in c hiu

Primary school near Siwa Oasis, Egypt

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calvin chiu

Siwa village

Tourists apart, local citizens in the Arab nations have also become major audiences of the Bedouin culture. The once-denounced way of life has been re-scripted into a notable regional tradition that makes up a part of the national heritage. Aspects of nomadism are reinterpreted, reconstructed and reinvented in contemporary representations and activities to suit contemporary taste. Statesponsored Bedouin theme parks, radio programmes and festivals have emerged in many cities and towns. For example, Bedouin camel races first appeared in the 1960s in a number of Arab cities, and have become particularly popular in the United Arab Emirates. Despite being claimed as a Bedouin event, camel racing has never been a regular activity in the Bedouin life. The races, however, have helped foster a wider appreciation of the desert culture and provide an annual social event for tourists, expatriates and locals. As globalisation diminishes differences among nations, simplified Bedouin traditions continue to be promoted and reconstructed Bedouin legacies manipulated locally to enhance national heritage and cultural unity within the nation. As Bedouin settle in towns and oasis villages, differences between the former nomads and sedentary Arabs become minimal. Anthropologist Donald Cole states that contemporary Bedouin may disappoint many westerners and urban Arab citizens, as they

are merely ‘ordinary, everyday people… (with) similarities rather than differences’ to sedentary Arabs.7 I recall my experience in Morocco in 2008: my friends and I left the desert and returned to the town of Zagora by bus, arriving at a dusty parking lot filled with service taxis (mainly Mercedes Benz from the 1970s), aiming to bargain for a ride towards our next destination. As we finally settled the negotiation with a driver, we heard someone yelling our names. I turned my head and saw a local man wearing white t-shirt and blue jeans coming our way. Not until he stood right in front of me could I recognise him. He was our desert tour guide, our host and driver for the past two days who we just said goodbye to a few hours earlier. Away from the desert context, without his blue turban and white robes, I just couldn’t associate him with our Bedouin experience. To me, he looked no difference than any other young man in Zagora. Maybeour guide represents the sedentary generation of the Bedouin, or maybe he is just a tourist worker from another Moroccan city who participates in a staged authenticity in the desert. Memory tends to betray, but since my Moroccan holiday, the image of this young man is vividly imprinted in my mind as the representative of Bedouin culture. /

Lawrence, T E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. London: Penguin Books, 1962. 38-39. 2 Cole, Donald P. ‘Where Have Bedouin Gone?’ Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 76, no. 2. Washington: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research, 2003. 235 – 267 3 Abou-Zeid, Ahmed M. ‘The Changing World of the Nomads’ Contributions to Mediterranean Sociology, ed. J.-G. Peristiany. Paris: Mouton, 1968. 279 – 288 4 Cole, Donald P, and Soraya Altorki. Bedouin, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998. 100-107 5 Cole. ‘Where Have Bedouin Gone?’ 247 6 Weir, Shelagh. The Bedouin: Aspects of the Material Culture of the Bedouin of Jordan. London: British Museum and World of Islam Festival Publishing Company, 1976. 1-3 7 Cole, ‘Where Have Bedouin Gone?’ 260 1


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construction pastoralism by k a s i a my c h a j l ow y c z

volunteer s d etachm ent tr ad ition ed ucation enclosur e

The Maasai Women Secondary School, Arusha, Tanzania

The project is a partnership between Canadian not-for-profit Reach Out to Humanity (ROTH), which manages and funds the construction, and the Maasai Women Development Organisation (MWEDO), which will run the school. MWEDO was founded by and for Maasai women, and has paid the tuition and living costs for almost 300 girls’ secondary educations, which less than 1% of Maasai women have completed. By building their own school, MWEDO will be able to increase the number of girls they can afford to educate by not having to pay tuition to other organisations that run schools in the area. They will also be able to better monitor the quality of the education and the girls’ progress. 1 The Maasai are traditionally a pastoralist tribe, moving with their cattle to wherever life can be sustained. As grazing lands were fenced off to become the national parks system whose revenue profits the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments, the Maasai life has changed. Young men have traded their traditional role of cattle raiders for sedentary lives as farmers or security guards in the towns. The Maasai culture as a whole moves towards fixity.

gilles p oulin

The two low-lying, half-finished buildings of the Maasai Women Secondary School were dwarfed by the expanse of sky and grass, and the peaks of Mounts Meru and Kilimanjaro. I had just arrived, at the end of May, in Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer on a school-building project which had been underway just two weeks. The buildings’ skeletons sat defiant against a landscape of constant movement; clouds pass overhead between the peaks of Meru and Kilimanjaro, while cattle lazily pass by on the ground. The fence that rings the new buildings, only notional until the weedy seedlings grow into a hedge, looked like a ridiculous, futile attempt to enclose even a small piece of this massive open space.

Still, most of the Maasai live in a giant territory from northern Tanzania into Kenya. Residents of Arusha refer to it simply as ‘the bush’, but on maps it is Maasailand, or the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. So widely dispersed and isolated, Maasai are often forgotten (or ignored) by government, and access to public services is difficult. In schools, for the few that can afford the books and uniforms, the Maasai learn a foreign language (Swahili, then English, not their native Maa) and another people’s history that posits that their homes and knowledge are primitive, their medicine outdated and their religion blasphemous. I was told that some of the students who have had their tuition paid through MWEDO’s sponsorhip program were baptised and given Christian names at their schools. One outcome of providing girls from pastoralist communities with an education is estrangement and rejection of the traditional Maasai life. This has fostered a mistrust of education initiatives in some people in the community. MWEDO employee and Maasai woman Skolastica Porokwa, who has completed a degree in journalism, told me, “When I go back to my village, I see that people look at me with worries in their eyes”. 1

A traditional Maasai home, part of a boma (village) near the base of Longido mountain in northern Tanzania’s Maasailand, approximately 10 kilometres from the Kenyan border. The house is made of a mixture of dung and earth over woven twigs; because the Maasai Women Secondary School was built with concrete to ensure its durability, the original concept of recreating round Maasai buildings had to be abandoned for more cost-efficient right angles.

MWEDO founder and president Ndinini Kimesera On Site review 24


der mot kehoe , p roject archit e ct

MWEDO Founded in 2000 by Maasai women, the Maasai Women Development Organisation funds activities and projects for Maasai women, addressing maternal and child health, economic empowerment and education for Maasai women and girls. MWEDO has sponsored almost 300 girls’ secondary education and works with over 80 women’s groups (about 2,800 women) dispersed throughout Maasai territory. ROTH Reach Out to Humanity is a registered non-profit, secular organisation founded on the principle that every human being has the right to proper health care, clean water, education, nutrition and shelter regardless of race, gender or religion. Their latest project was the Maasai Women Secondary School in Arusha, Tanzania, in partnership with MWEDO.

The dormitory, named Sasha Hall by anonymous donors, mid-way through the project, reflected in the water hole. There was no running water or electricity on the site, save one solar-powered security light for the night guards.

The Maasai Women Secondary School’s rural setting and its unique objective of incorporating Maasai language, history and culture into its curriculum, hopes to mitigate the shock of this kind of development. Run by and for Maasai women, it is first of its kind. Made of concrete and steel, the school will be the most permanent structure most of these girls have ever lived in. The Maasai boma (village), usually inhabited by an extended family, consists of round thatched huts made of intertwined twigs plastered with a hardened dung and sand mixture. The perimeter is fenced with acacia twigs and other thorny bushes to keep wild animals out. In most of Maasailand there is no electricity or running water and the concept of having a toilet inside your house is foreign and disconcerting to the older generation of Maasai.

d e r m o t ke ho e

Local labourers plaster the classroom building’s concrete blocks with a mix of sand, cement and water, fashioning their own scaffolding with scrap wood, some of which was then used to make outdoor furniture.


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For 11 weeks, a team of over forty Canadian, Irish, Kenyan and American volunteers worked alongside local Tanzanian labourers and tradesmen to erect two buildings which are the first phase of this project (a kitchen and dining hall, and an administrative building, will follow when the funds are raised).

On July 27th, a bus load of Maasai girls and women arrived for a ceremony marking the end of the first phase of construction. The women, of course, were dressed in their finest Maasai garb, huge earrings weighing down the tops of their ears, flat, wide collars dancing up and down on their shoulders as they swayed and sang; as they roamed the hallways of the dormitory, many of them were crying, amazed at this new facility, with indoor plumbing, made for their daughters and granddaughters. But the younger schoolgirls were dressed in Western school uniforms, and their singing and dancing was reserved, or maybe embarrassed. The path that lies before them will require a lot of choices – between past and present, traditional and modern, Maasai and Tanzanian. The goal of the Maasai Women Secondary School is not to make those choices for them, but provide an alternative vision of how these things can be reconciled, preserved, bettered and used for their benefit. /

der mot kehoe

A rivulet was diverted from the water hole around the perimeter fence to water seedlings that will grow into the school’s hedge, keeping cattle and wild animals off the school’s grounds. The living fence was a compromise between the traditional thorn bush fence of the Maasai and the more common tall brick fence topped with glass shards and razor wire that is commonly seen in towns across Africa.

d e r m o t ke ho e

While the pastoralist Maasai are being discouraged from their roaming by a government, justice system and economy that is foreign to them, young Western people like myself are being compelled outwards to the developing world – whether to gain experience or perspective, to help, to assuage guilt or to spread whatever ideology they subscribe to. For people like the volunteers on this project, the world is shrinking, thanks to improved global communications and awareness, cheaper flights and development projects like this which invite participation. The Maasai’s world is also shrinking, in a way; their lands no longer theirs, they have physically less space to move around in. But, slowly and unevenly, technology, infrastructure and development are creeping into Maasailand and broadening opportunities for the Maasai people. Simple as the two buildings of the new school are, what they represent is much more complicated, tied up in the big themes of development, progress, cultural change and globalisation.

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ordering noise, heat, light and food

as s e mbly c ar ts mo du le s u n ity u tility

mi chael tayl or

i n f r a s t r u c t u re m a r ke t s t a l l s by m i c h a e l t ay l o r

Ordered, regular and systematic are some of the adjectives typically used to describe migration. It is the antonyms of these words, however, that would be the descriptors of choice upon first glance at the markets in Jemma el Fna. This contradiction suggests it unlikely that any type of migration could occur here. Jemma el Fna is the main square in the medina of Marrakech and the major attraction for the two million tourists that visit the city on an annual basis. Touted as one of the busiest markets in Africa, if not the world, this remarkable public space has a bustling atmosphere that is chaotic, overwhelming and incredibly stimulating. Restauranteurs, fortunetellers and snake charmers work, among other vendors, to delight the senses of the tourists they captivate and the locals they serve on a daily basis. Amidst the bedlam of the Jemma el Fna night markets there is an unexpected example of human migration in its most intelligent and systematised form. Every night, vendors set up outdoor restaurants in the square. This routine, central to the Jemma el Fna experience, has evolved into a rigorous and incredibly efficient migration pattern, and at its core is a cart. This tool for the migrant restauranteurs was designed to improve celerity and efficiency within the nightly set up, however, it has also become a symbol for the spirit of migration that is so often found in nature. As little as four years ago the night market restaurants were serviced by barbeques on wheels and folding tables. Set-up was cumbersome and the temporary structures added little aesthetic 52

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value to the square. In 2006, the group of about 40 restaurant owners associated and unanimously decided to employ the use of a cart, giving the restaurants a unified and less haphazard appearance. The cart, designed by the president of the association, was received with ubiquitous appreciation amongst restaurant staff and is still praised for its design excellence, simplicity, and overall utility.

mi chael tayl or

the cart. When ready to be assembled, each of these elements fit together in a predetermined way, with well-articulated post and socket joints. Each vendor and their employees have customized assembly, however, using tape and twine. These modifications make each restaurant unique, creating a variety of spatial qualities and experiences within the night market. The predetermined size of each restaurant has enabled a more stringent organisation of their placement. The large area of the square that is reserved for them is clearly demarcated with unique stone pavers. This area is further divided into plots that are sold to each vendor. Plots measure 4 square metres and each has an electrical outlet embedded in the ground. While some of the larger restaurants have purchased two adjacent plots, the cart and plot system ensures that each restaurant has similar aesthetic attributes. At a cost of 30,000 Moroccan dirhams ($4,285 CAD), each vendor receives a kit consisting of a cart, posts, beams, joists and a tarp, which assemble into their mobile restaurant. The cart itself is approximately four feet wide, six feet long and three feet tall. It can be rolled like a wheelbarrow and has support braces to keep it stationary when in use. Four posts stem from its corners that fit into the roof scheme, which extends from the cart to provide shelter for a dining area. While the entire kit is being transported from a nearby storage lot to the night market all ancillary pieces can be bundled onto On Site review 24


michael t ay lor

These carts and their organisation are a brilliant architectural manifestation of the needs of the vendors throughout their nightly routine. They illustrate that migration, in this instance, is the means to an end. It is a movement with the purpose of capitalising upon an influx of resources, and thus efficiency throughout is vital. City bylaws in Marrakech only allow the temporary restaurants to be erected between 5pm and midnight during the winter and from 6 pm until 3 am during the summer; a shorter, more efficient transportation and set-up of equipment allows the hours of operation to be lengthened, maximising revenues for each vendor. In addition to the pragmatic gains of efficiency, the carts serve as a catalyst for a cooperative spirit that prioritises the collective prosperity of the restaurant owners. Rather than differentiating


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their restaurants in the competitive, one-upmanship style of western business, each vendor contributes to the singular experience of the Marrakech night market; a display that could not be created individually. The similarities in appearance and menus, the animated food preparation, and the hospitable and often outrageous servers cultivate a spectacle that depends on consistency to reinforce its authenticity. Although it is a relatively new phenomenon, the night market is a staple on any tourists ‘to do’ list and has become a truly Moroccan experience. While its superficial chaos intrigues us, the ordered and systematised processes of the night market in Jemma el Fna ensure that it will sustain itself as an ongoing tradition in Marrakech and a regular human migration. /

tr aditio n e c o n o my pro c e s s glo balis atio n n e w ve r n ac u lar s

ro b s to r y a nd giova n a be l tra o

urbanism i n fo r m a l p ro c e s s e s by ro b s t o r y + g i ov a n a b e l t r a o

Migration can be a comfortable pattern or a tumultuous struggle. A culture built on migration has it woven into life – movement is integral, anticipated and essential. But migrating a culture out of that pattern can be a different story. On Site review 24


The people of Mongolia have migrated for centuries, routinely carrying their iconic gers with them as the seasons changed. But now, many have made the last migration – into the city – the migration of a culture, a pattern of life, an economy and an architecture. The move is not only theirs. It is a global phenomenon over which a nomadic family has little control over the pushes, pulls and consequences. People are pushed by nature, pressures on resources, a collapsed economy; pulled by awareness of alternatives to the hardships of traditional life, by the draw of the city’s bright lights. The young leave and the traditional cycle collapses. The search for a replacement life is inevitable, but the consequences can be traumatic and adjustments complex. The draw of the city often dumps people into an urban poverty worse than the rural one they hoped to escape. A new settlement pattern must be adopted, a new economy must be entered, accessing basic needs must be re-learned, and an architecture must adapt. Developing governments are seldom ready to cope with the needs, and neither are many families. Sprawling slums are the result.

ro b s to r y a nd giova n a be l tra o

The traditional Mongolian family is nomadic and self-sufficient, moving with its herds through the hostile environment of the open steppes from summer grazing to winter protection. Long-standing communal traditions of land tenure recognise which families have grazing rights in a particular watershed and where their winter camping spots are. When the season ends, it takes only a few hours to fold up the family ger, pack it onto a couple of camels, or into a creaking old Russian truck, and move. Architecture is the management of environments for people and their activities. By definition it must be holistic. Good architecture embodies the realities of a community’s social structure, cultural beliefs, environment, economy and available technologies and materials. Indigenous architecture is always good architecture, it has no choice or it disappears. Best of all it is innately affordable and without formal debt. The well-know ger (yurt in Russian), is a perfect example. It evolved over generations in pragmatic response to that very set of drivers. When the drivers change, the architecture will follow. The situation in Mongolia exemplifies the challenges in doing so. The ger is designed for the pattern of seasonal migration. We are familiar with the ger’s classic kit-of-parts design, the hardware components, but less familiar with the software components, traditional family roles, social structure, household routines and the community relations that the ger encompasses. Migrating to an urban setting changes all of those. The software components are the first to feel the impact of urban migration, then the hardware must evolve. On the land the squat, decorated ger door opens from the expansive steppe to culturally ensured hospitality. A visitor need never knock. The mandatory salty butter tea is always on the stove. In the city, the door is behind a high fence, the gate is locked, the door is locked and the stove may be cold with family away in the cash economy.

traditional ger construction, details, and cultural logic above: door frame attachment, door separating the harsh steppe environment and offering traditional hospitality, warmth of a traditional ger interior left: moveable ger taking shape 56

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Four contemporary events dramatically altered Mongolia’s nomadic norms: the rise of Soviet control in the 1920s, its subsequent collapse in 1990, a twist of nature and globalising communication. Under Moscow’s direction, supply-driven rural industries were established throughout the countryside spurring a wave of migration off the land as families opted to abandon their nomadic lifestyle in favour of sedentary employment. Many brought their gers with them while others took advantage of Soviet-supplied workers housing in blocks of typically poor quality flats. The collapse of the Soviet Union triggered another wave of migration. Overnight, rural industries became unsustainable and collapsed. Former nomads were stranded in small towns without employment, and without the ability or desire to go back to the land. The option was to migrate again, this time into the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Then nature kicked in with two consecutive devastating winters that decimated the herds of the remaining nomads and launched yet another wave of rural-urban migration, this time straight from the land to the capital. Compounding all of these, globalised communication is beaming exposure to lifestyle alternatives into even the most remote rural ger with its satellite dish and solar panel attached to a car battery. Aspirations rise, migration accelerates. Ulaanbaatar is centuries old having evolved as a trading hub and a religious base anchored by Buddhist temples from which nomadic monks provided far ranging support. During the 70 years of Soviet domination, large portions of the simple traditional core of Ulaanbaatar were transformed into the semblance of a developing 20th century city with a combination of grand Soviet public buildings, shoddy apartment blocks, wide streets, centralised infrastructure and central government land control. The social and architectural contrasts between the two eras are stark. With the end of Moscow’s subsidies in 1990, government resources to manage urban growth disappeared. The result is that about 70% of Ulaanbaatar’s built-up area is unplanned, sprawling beyond the Soviet-era core in poorly serviced, informal ger areas.

ro b s t o r y a n d giova na b e lt ra o

from the top: Two patterns of settlement where Soviet influence has transformed parts of Ulaabaatar’s corea densified ger area The organic form of an older, densified ger area. The emergence of a new peripheral ger area.

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ro b st o re y a nd giova na bel trao

from the top: Soviet transformation of old Ulaanbaatar An urban alternative for rural migrants

The nomadic perception of free rural land usage is dramatically different from that of an urban sense of ownership with a cost. Government guidance to orderly development of land, infrastructure and economic development should come first as the framework for growth, but the pace of rural-urban migration far outpaces government’s capacity. Families can’t wait and the building always happens first. Real life replaces planning. Government then struggles to overlay some form of land tenure and insert infrastructure into the organic form of an informal settlement.


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Incremental processes of development and densification over time are readily evident in Ulaanbaatar’s suburbs. New families arrive on the edge and plant their ger behind a new fence. Whatever plan, infrastructure and control exist have not made the transition to urban needs. Someone will claim land ownership, official or not, and payment for a ‘fence’ will be needed, but without recourse to a Central Land Titles Office. It may be hundreds of metres to the nearest source of water with a wheelbarrow to pay market prices up to 20 times that of the subsidised urban core. The sanitation system is a hole in the ground. Food comes from a shop and shops want money and that needs employment.

ro b s to r y a nd giova na bel trao

from the top: Thousands of rural stoves choke the urban winter air Ger life in urban transition

In older ger areas a single fence may have densified to contain two or three gers and several contemporary structures built as the family grows, aspirations are realised, or relatives arrive to share the space. Gers may have even been replaced all together. Corresponding improvements to infrastructure, however, are usually far behind. Bankable land tenure is not in place. Primitive pit latrines remain frozen through the harsh winters, then melt in spring and flow into the dirt passages serving as streets. Coal, dung and wood smoke from thousands of rural stoves choke the urban winter air. The struggle to enter the cash economy can rapidly alter the familiar family structure with the men migrating for work, women leaving the house and kids on their own.

It is true that the perceived social and economic opportunities of the city exist, but for far too many they remain out of reach. Migrations will continue. Cities must embrace the dynamic processes involved and target the key points of intervention if the goals of urbanised social, economic and environmental health are to be met. With the framework in place, a new vernacular architecture will evolve. /

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civic frontiers: using the Long Island Rail Road

Civic Frontiers – Moving Immovable Space In the past decade several architectural competitions have been held under the banner of ‘fixing the suburbs’. It seems that North America’s iconic crabgrass frontier has been declared a failure. With the impending threat of peak oil, decentralised and migratory living has been deemed untenable, ending the epic suburban experiment that defined North America in the twentieth century. Where do we go from here? What new form shall twentiethfirst century urbanism take on? How can the characteristic tension between social contracts and individuality, frontier mentality and need for some sort of central organisation, that has so defined American living, take on a new sustainable form in the next century? These are exciting questions, so it is heartbreaking to see that although urban design as a profession and body of knowledge has grown exponentially in the last fifty years, innovative idea competitions are yielding such conservative results. Fifty years of urban design research, and the best we can come up with are perimeter blocks and sidewalk cafes. Density Fetishism and Rescuing Suburbia Perhaps these competitions are rigged from the outset. One such competition, Build A Better Burb, was released in May of 2010, and focused on the commuter suburbs of Long Island. Implicit in the competition results was densification, reviving the traditional main street, and maximising the use of commuter rail. An island-wide land-use survey revealed that there was 8,300 acres of developable land in the form of vacant parcels and parking lots that were within a comfortable walking distance of the 156 commuter rail stations. All of this seemed to suggest that the competition curators were really looking for variations on singular concept – the Transit-Oriented Development – a New Urbanist concept that pits mid-to-high density residential development around transit hubs, heavily garnered with ground-floor retail. New Urbanists have been riffing on this concept for twenty years now – represented in soft-toned watercolours and handdrawings that recall a pastiche of pre-WWII America, mid-rise European perimeter blocks and Vancouver-via-Hong Kong-style skinny towers. Central to their argument is that density and ground-floor retail will create the dynamism and street life that people secretly desire, and a patronising position that suburbia is something that needs to be rescued and repaired by making it more urban.


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r ail lin e s c o mmu te r s c o mmo n s c r an e s c o n tain e r s

Traditionally, the train station has been a hub of commercial and public activity. The Long Island model removes public space and commercial activity from the station area, creating longer drives and separated islands of retail and services. Can we use the energy of LIRR ridership to re-activate downtown public space?

Long Island commuter stations: Amityville, Freeport, Hempstead and Hicksville The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter rail network in North America. It serves over 81 million passengers each year. Despite this, most of Long Island is suburban. Shopping malls and cars are the preferred choice. Downtowns and the areas around train stations are neglected. The Long Island Index estimates that there are 8,300 acres of vacant land and/or parking lots located within walking distance (half-mile) from a LIRR train station. This means 8,300 acres of potential downtown development which would support more transit use and revitalised downtowns.

depar t ment of unusual cer t aint ies

i n f r a s t r u c t u re suburbia by d e p a r t m e n t o f u nu s u a l c e r t a i n t i e s

But all this New Urbanist-old-school revivalism overlooks some defining elements of the crabgrass frontier. Specifically it ignores the work of several anthropologists, sociologists and architects in the post-war era who took note that a new society was forming on the urban periphery – one that potentially could breed new architectural forms and social relations. It was a lonely crowd of migrants – commuters who moved from corporate downtown office towers to modest suburban estates in a daily dance between conformity and individuality. Could new forms of urban design arise from such a unique situation? If anything this intricate socio-spatial dance played out by the post-war middle class was fertile ground for architectural speculation.

de p a r tm e n t o f un us u al ce r t a int ie s

Radical Itinerant Architectures of the 1960s Concurrent to these sociological and geographical observations but seemingly worlds away (in Europe that is) was a flurry of radical architectural speculation concerning itinerant and de-centralised systems. Although the connection is rarely made, groups like Archigram, Superstudio, Archizoom and Cedric Price were responding to sub-urbanism in their own special way – through cryptic manifestos, ironyand-metaphor-laden collages and almost-serious architectural proposals. Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt is a good example of a decentralised architecture of uncertainty, responding in this case to the post-industrial ceramics region of North Staffordshire. With the project, Price strategised

how to make an educational institution work in a peripheral environment, employing the local rail network with mobile classrooms, laboratories and residences, which could respond to uncertainty and programmatic variability. Archigram put forth a model for a moving city appropriately titled Walking City designed for a decentralised post-apocalypse. Archizoom’s No-Stop City was a vision for an endless de-centralised city. Superstudio’s Continuous Monument was a similar proposal for a never-ending structure. What all of these projects have in common is their rejection of traditional urban centre, and their exploration of what life could be like on the edge of a centre-less place. Flash-forward to today, and it seems like much of the excitement for migratory systems, itinerant architecture and a future suburbia has been lost. Suburban values of cheapness, temporariness and movement have not been taken up in serious urban design proposals. Instead we get heavy-handed gestures of permanence, ersatz downtowns and nostalgic references as the preferred proposal for the future of suburban life. So when Department of Unusual Certainties sat down to put forth a concept for the Build a Better Burb competition, a central goal was to build on the frontier spirit of the places we were being asked to redesign. Was there a way of improving the system, without sacrificing core suburban values of individuality, cheapness, temporariness, and movement?

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Main Street Express and the Plug-In Commons Our proposal is about creating a few minimal infrastructural and symbolic gestures that play on the daily rhythm of the commuter rail and create, at certain points of the day, a temporary civic environment. It involves four moves – clearing up civic space in front of the train station, adding a symbolic and pragmatic power source, providing a power-grid with plug-in opportunities and introducing a mobile system of shops which travels from town to town via the rail system. Civic quality is not generated by design or aesthetics, but through program and convenience – the need for commuters to access shops and services immediately before and after their daily commutes. Step 1: Make Space Most areas around Long Island rail stations are a mess of infrastructure, parking garages, and parking lots. Clear the space in front of the train stations and make a proper square/plaza/ common. It doesn’t have to be big, but it should be able to house a certain number of kiosks and stalls geared towards the town population and commuter size. Most importantly, the design should be minimal and not impede any possible modifications/ appropriations that may ensue. Step 2: Build a Tower of Power The main infrastructural investment will be a monumental, sustainable power source. Because wind turbines are already monumental in nature, simply placing a wind turbine adjacent to the square will do, but it can also be a solar panel tower. The power source will be tall, so it can be seen throughout the town and will orient people to the centre. Its main purpose is to supply renewable electricity to vendors and kiosks by feeding into an energy grid of plug-in power sources embedded in the commons. Power is free and anyone can use it.

Step 4: Provide Ambulatory Services through the Main Street Express Many stations have less than two thousand riders daily. They can’t support daily services, but could support specialised services once or twice a week. This is where the Main Street Express comes in. It is a train of specialised services contained in modified containers, which uses the Long Island rail network to move from town to town, dropping off and picking up retail services on certain days. The containers are hoisted into place on the square by cranes on the train. Such services could include manicure/pedicure, used bookstore, jeweller, fortune teller, farmers market. Main Street Express Network Several Main Street Express trains will travel Long Island, setting up and dismantling market spaces in the plug-in commons. They will operate on a set schedule, with larger towns hosting more frequent market days, and getting more container shops and kiosks than smaller towns.

d e pa r t m e nt o f u nu s ua l ce r ta int ie s

Step 3: Provide Semi-Permanent Services A series of cheap semi-permanent kiosks will be the first pioneers of the site. The uses – a coffee stand, newsstand, shoeshine, flower stand – will be determined by what services can be sustained on a daily basis given commuter rates. This can change over time as commuter rates hopefully increase: larger more permanent institutions can be erected around the square – child daycare, doggy daycare, a grocery store, accountants, a walk-in clinic.

de p a r tm e nt o f u nus ua l ce r ta in t ie s

Conclusion: The largely unimaginative quality of contemporary planning and design solutions in North America has become some of what of an epidemic. The notion that the creation of large ubiquitous commercial islands in the form of Transit-Oriented Development can cure the problems of our suburbs has little to do with how society actually works. Today, we are all inherently migratory. The notion that our social networks, places of work, and places we access our information be static ignores society. From Facebook to Google docs, we are increasingly creating new ways for us to do what we want, when we want, where we want. For some unknown reason this is constantly being ignored by planners and how they design our space. The Main Street Express and the Plug-in Commons, although somewhat fantastical, attempts to provide a design solution that

represents our daily lives – everyday migration. It is constantly in motion, adapting to the needs of it users rather than its users adapting to it. It avoids the creation of secured commercial spaces, and instead creates a kind of temporariness that allows the freedom, for both the shop keeper and the consumer, to provide and access goods and services in a more direct way – ignore the middle man, buy direct! At a larger scale it illustrates how existing infrastructure can be transformed with new technologies and without the necessary ‘buy in’ of developers that concepts such as T.O.D. heavily rely on. Currently found only in Long Island, The Main Street Express and the Plug-in Commons is coming to a suburban regional rail network near you – the future of tomorrow – today! /

f amily dias po r a n ar r ative me mo r ials c o n tain me n t

identity things by f a r i d n o u f a i ly

‫جوزيف النفيلي‬ ‫فريد‬

coming home

fa r i d n o ufa ily

…there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for the collector . . . ownership is the most intimate relationship one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. —Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library

At the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1991, my family, the Noufailys, left Canada and returned to our ancestral home in Rabiegh, a neighbourhood 17km north of Beirut. This wasn’t the first time we had migrated to a completely different continent. In 1978 during a severe period of fighting during the Lebanese civil war we fled Lebanon for Lome, Togo in Africa. A few years later in


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1985, spurred by a better quality of life, education and economic prosperity, we emigrated to Canada. With each move we put all our goods in a suitcase and a shipping container. During this extended peripatetic period, the act of packing – our lives stripped down and contained in an anonymous box – always left me disoriented.

far i d noufai l y

Though my we have been back and forth to Lebanon many times since, this double journey remains etched in my memory as a symbol of my family’s displacement and my on-going sense of dislocation and rootlessness. Wherever we were, my siblings and I always felt out of place. In Canada, my brother and I looked different from the other children in our school. Similarly, my sister’s mental and physical disability further stressed how different we truly were. Despite our best efforts to adapt, with our brown skins and accents, we were often the targets of teasing, bullying and juvenile racism. But, our return to Lebanon left our situation no better. Though we now looked like our neighbours, we were still different. We spoke Arabic with a foreign accent, we dressed differently and, having spent seven years in Canada, our values were different too. It was then that I realised I would never be at home. Home was a place forever left behind. In January 2005, I began to probe our family history in order to better understand our place within the Lebanese diaspora. With my parents refusing to speak in depth of the experience, I got nowhere until in May, my father finally broke his silence. During one of our many interviews he handed me a log documenting our return ‘home’. Among certified citizen documents, photocopies of insurance records, police reports and airline receipts, I found a list my parents had made of all our possessions, along with what they felt would be necessary for each of us to survive back ‘home’ in Lebanon.

I was fixated by that list. Many items were purchased specifically for our journey back with the intent to soften the shock of our return. For instance, the bicycles that my brother and I had grown to love over three years in Canada, and a symbol of our freedom – were replaced with newer shinier mountain bikes that were better suited, we were told, for the Lebanese topography. I showed the list to my parents hoping it would let them open up about the double journey but it did not seem to help. I had to find another way of understanding this pivotal moment in our family history. I decided to interrogate the objects on the container list and to make them speak instead. Each of these objects was a link between two different cultures, a symbolic map of my feelings of rootlessness. As I began to transcribe the contents of the 40’ shipping container from conversations with my parents it struck me that they had deliberately packed the container in a way beyond simply making everything fit inside it. There were priorities for the packed contents based not just monetary value, but also sentimental value, placing them in special locations inside the container.

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Eager to put to rest the upheavals of displacement and migration, I conceived my own memorial, a cemetery of empty containers that carried the Lebanese diaspora. I began to look for a place where the thousands of containers of beaten up and beaten down families such as ours could be assembled. Only one place would do: Place des Martyrs. Founded as a place of national unity, Place des Martyrs held the collective memory of the first martyrs who fought for a sovereign Lebanon. In many regards, we were also martyrs, martyrs of a certain kind. The empty containers could be filled, I believe, with the accumulated possessions and papers of the Lebanese diaspora like the papers that had allowed me to reconnect with the contents of my family’s container in 1992: a monument to a failed return home. /

fa r id n ou fai ly

I recalled the weeks following our arrival in Lebanon. Our containers were scheduled to arrive two weeks after our return however something went wrong and we were left to start our lives back ‘home’ without our survival gear. With each passing day, my brother and I grew restless, longing for the contents of the lost container. The shipping company handling the transportation had gone bankrupt and our container was stuck in New York Harbor. We now had to secure alternative shipping arrangements with another company that charged twice as much. Even today, my mother still maintains this should have been the indicator for us to return to Canada: it was an omen of our failed return home. Years later, I have come to realise that my fascination with home and inhabitation first started – at least partially – with the list of our possessions. Drawing and analysing them made me realise they can store not just memories, but cultural practices and ideas.


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fa r i d n o u fa il y

c l as s ific atio n s apar th e id ho me le s s n e s s ‘r ac e ’ i nf r as tr u c tu re

1 Mar c i an o, R , D Gol d b er g , C Hou . T- R AC E S : a Te st b e d fo r the Redlining A rchives of Califor nia’s E xclusio nar y S p ace s . http: // salt . unc . edu/ T-RACE S

urbanism zoning by j o s h u a c r a z e

above: the original Oakland Residential Security Map, prepared by Division of Research and Statistics, Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the Appraisal Department of Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, 1939.1 green: first grade, then blue, yellow and red. hatched: sparsely settled, double hatched: industrial

neighbourhoods discussed in this article

In Oakland, California, there used to be red lines on the street, drawn so thick you could see them. They ran through the colour gradient, from black in West Oakland through various shades of gray, before turning into a solid white block that extended up into the foothills, to Oakland’s Bible Belt, an area noted for its high concentration of churches, and for its white homeowners who actively attempted to keep out black buyers. Soon I will take a flight, and pass from Francophone countries colour-coded blue in my atlas, into the pink of the former British colonies. Border-crossings after long journeys are the movements most commonly associated with migration. Borders inscribe differences in spatial form and mark the legal change from one state to another. Yet national boundaries mark only the most visible of these borders. They can occur, not just when moving to a different continent, but even moving down the street. The differences entailed by Federal Housing Association zoning lines were no


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less total than those implied by national borders. Eldridge Cleaver described them as ‘racial Maginot lines’; step across them and you realise you are living in two countries, not one. In the same era in which Andre Gunder Frank proposed a model of capitalist relations that saw centres exploit a third-world periphery for raw materials and labour, the Black Panthers pointed out an internal colonisation: the centre of Oakland was exploited by its periphery, just a few blocks away. Between the managers in Piedmont and the workers of West Oakland, there were red lines. They first divided Oakland in 1937, in a housing survey for the Home Owners Loan Corporation. All neighbourhoods west of Broadway were given a security grade of red, indicating racially mixed neighbourhoods. Residents inside the red lines found it almost impossible to get loans. These lines, which functioned as an effective barrier to African-American mobility, were kept in place through a variety of mechanisms. Schemes to encourage suburban workers to move into commuting

1960 African-American population

1970 African-American population

zones meant a predominantly white work force received favourable access to loans and capital, while African-American industrial workers in West Oakland found it impossible to acquire mortgages, creating a form of economic apartheid in which black residents were forced to stay within the red lines. Even during the 1960s, when most of the legal forms of redlining had ended, the effects of the lines themselves continued. Oakland’s post-war history has been marked by large transportation construction projects – promises of future mobility that became the means to divide up neighbourhoods and mark boundaries. In the 1930s and 40s, African-Americans had worked to purchase houses in West Oakland; by 1949, Oakland’s planning commission has designated the entire area blighted. Both the Bay Area Regional Transport System, which began in the 1950s and an interstate highway linking the East Bay suburban corridor were built right through West Oakland. These transportation lines,

built to facilitate employment, became racial lines, marking steep differences in house prices. Thriving communities of owneroccupiers were designated as blighted and on the basis of that categorisation, people relocated, communities were cut in half and West Oakland fell into a downward spiral. How many times have we heard that classifications reproduce themselves? Many of the dispossessed residents of West Oakland moved east. Today, on High Street, a major artery in Fruitvale, East Oakland and one of the red lines that indicated the beginning of the redlined lower reaches of the Bible belt, there is little evidence of racial zoning. The smell of roast chicken wafts from a large Mi Pueblo supermarket on one side of the line, and meets the small of simmering lengua from the tacqueria opposite. The policies that institutionalised the red lines are now gone, immigration totally changed Oakland’s urban space and, according to census data, Oakland has 27,000 fewer African-Americans than it did in 2000. *

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above: percentage of the population that is African-American top: 1990 below: 2000

above: percentage of the population below the poverty line top: 1989 below: 1999

the absoluteness of the line. The 1999 poverty map, at the underpass

But if the policies have gone, some informal red lines do remain; most of them follow the route of post-war transportation projects. The Grove Shafter Freeway is one such red line. Above it, stretching into the hills, the houses remain mainly white-owned. Below, as if in a photographic negative, they are black. In between, at the border, another world occurs. To get to my house just off Martin Luther King Junior Way, you have to pass from the hipster restaurants of Telegraph under the Grove Shafter at 45th. The traffic roars past as you pass the steep banks that lead from the pavement to narrow ledges just underneath the freeway. One night I found John, a frequent resident of the underpass, pushing a trolley up that impossibly sheer slope to where so many make their homes. These are shallow settlements, unobtrusive agglomerations of mattresses and the occasional stove. Some of the faces I have known for two years now, others pass through quickly; like most homelessness in the USA, the residents are temporary. Yet, as quickly as people pass through


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the space, certain constancies remain. This space between the red lines is not a harmonious neutrality. Shelter, ad-hoc accumulations of cardboard and canvas, is racially divided. Rather than these divisions marking out the limits of urban space, here the divisions run through the space, dividing up people who live almost on top of each other. Too close to keep apart, fights break out, and everyone is aware of the lack of distance that separates oneself from one’s neighbour; there are many types of internal colonisation and often they are felt most strongly when one is weakest. There are reasons to keep these settlements unobtrusive. The council frequently puts up notices banning illegal camping, and the police erratically come by to move people on. Recently, the area was designated an area of urban blight and the council began cleaning and re-designing the underpass. Mary Douglas famously called dirt ‘matter out of place’. In this case, blight serves the same function. Life on the red line is life lived through the red line, and an uncomfortable reminder of how close we are to things we wish were kept far apart, in time and in space. /

s alvage ac c o mo datio n vis ibility s u r vival adaptatio n

tools stamina by i v a n h e r n a n d e z

With an appreciation of their survival skills, I set up myself to design a series of critical but practical tools, that would not attempt to solve the problem of homelessness, but instead would call attention to the problem itself – the problem being one of perception, of invisibility – where the purpose is to make apparent their non-presence in the city. I wanted to equip them, to aid them as the urban athletes they have to be, constantly exercising, moving and adjusting within the city.

Vehicular Refuge is a vehicle meant to get the attention of people. It positions the homeless as an athlete, moving if not swiftly at least noticeably through the streets. Made out of two recuperated tractor wheels separated by a plastic chair, Vehicular Refuge is activated in a similar way as a wheelchair, where with the arms one pushes a metal bar that connects and moves the wheels. One wheel is used to store cans for recycling and the other is used as a small hammock-shape space to rest in. The intention of the Vehicular Refuge is to convert the homeless, a non-visible presence, into a sort of Mad Max character that projects his mobility back onto the city. Kimono Refuge is a garment that enhances the fact that homeless people tend to carry their home with them. Made as an apparently simple garment, each of its parts, its patterns (as a sewer would refer to each of the pieces that compose a garment) disassembles in order to be reassembled in a different composition. This new composition creates a tent-like structure. So as one finishes the day, one removes one’s clothes to create with that same material a shelter to rest in. These tools do not attempt to solve their living condition; they instead try to activate a response through critical humour – they enhance a problematic, exaggerate a condition, call attention to what tends to go unnoticed. /

iva n h e r n a nd e z q ui nt e la

As we walk through the crowded streets of the city, we are taught, by osmosis, not to notice the homeless. We know we have just passed over or next to a body, but we convince ourselves that we might have just step over a bundle of stuff. To miss seeing them allows us to rush by them unperturbed on our way to the office. They, the homeless, in return learn to pass unnoticed, to become invisible, to camouflage themselves into a corner, hoping passer-byers will just throw a coin in their direction with no specific purpose in mind. Perhaps, even, their strong odour even becomes an intentional strategy to establish a distance, a non-visible barrier of protection that guarantees them a safety net. We are told homeless people represent a non-productive non-member of society. They are labelled parasites, organisms that live off other organisms without giving anything back. But if one takes the time to observe and comprehend their survival skills, one might come to the conclusion that they are athletic urbanites par excellence. They move with great efficacy but also know how to conserve their energy standing motionless, they know how to respond to immediate conditions of the terrain even though they do not belong anywhere. They can make of the most inhospitable place a place of refuge.

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sleep limbo escape ob ser vat i o n r egistr ati o n

t r ave l opportunity by re z a a l i a b a d i

I wonder, why I am here? Where I am from and heading to? Don’t you reveal my tranquil home, my origin? —Rumi It was an ordinary afternoon on the 21st of March in 2004; I had a connecting flight from Frankfurt to Toronto. In my itinerary was an 11-hour layover before my flight to Toronto. And I spent all that time in Frankfurt International Airport, the longest stop I have ever had between connecting flights anywhere. I had heard that if you look up to the sky of Frankfurt, you will see at least two airplanes; one is approaching the city and the other one is leaving it. It was true. Today it is the case in many other cities. but at that time Frankfurt International Airport was one of the busiest airports in the world, a real hub. The transit hall of the airport was an amalgam of people of different sexes, ages, races, cultures and countries. It was a miniature contemporary Babel. The whole stew was tempting enough for me to start finding a way to create a project of my own out of this context with so much potential. As an architect/artist I have a kind of disease which is to sort, categorise and archive things in order to study or analyse them. Well, in such an intense and diverse context, this was not an easy task. While I was reciting to myself some of my favourite poems of Rumi (you have already read one at the top of this page) I noticed lot of people had fallen asleep in some corner or spot in the airport’s lounge. This image along with the above poem was the trigger for a catalogue of people who had neglected a given opportunity. The airport is a metaphor of our existing world, a setting that we get to from different origins, we stay in for a while, and we leave from for different destinations. So I considered the situation the same as a gift, just like life itself, a very unpredictable piece of time which we as humans have been allowed to experience, to explore, to encounter, to walk around, to love, to learn, to help, to teach, to have fun, to play, to amuse and to enjoy. How many of us close our eyes and miss our opportunities, our very chance just to be out there! Why, every now and then, do we ignore the very moment of our existence? There are always excuses; to be tired or to be in rush are probably two of the most favourite. It does not matter, where we are and how much time we have. What matters is how we use it. s t u dio rzlb d

In Scent of A Woman Al Pacino says ‘some people live a lifetime in a minute’. Why don’t we all? /

Thanks to all of you who had fallen asleep; this would not have been possible without your collaboration. I have no idea where in this wide world you are now. I dedicate this article to all of you. — March 2004. Frankfurt, Germany


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e th ic s po litic s ide o lo gy s c h o lar s h ip atte n tio n

books globalisation by s t e p h a n i e w h i t e

Owen, Graham, editor. Architecture, Ethics and Globalization. London and New York: Routledge, 2009 ISBN 13 978-0-415-32373-4 (hdbk) ISBN 13 978-0-415-32374-1 (pbk) ISBN 13 978-0-415-32377-7 (ebk)

One of the things I miss most about no longer teaching architecture in the States (besides the rather terrific salaries) is access to the massive conferences and symposia that good universities hold on a regular basis. Some go on for days, and one comes out totally swept away by the headiness of current scholarship. Graham Owen’s book on architecture, ethics and globalisation comes out of one such extended event, the Fourth Harrison Symposium on Professionalism at Tulane School of Architecture in New Orleans. He started the symposium by citing Rem Koolhaas: Does being part of a specific culture impose a systematic dishonesty upon us, because we are part of a culture and not free? Maybe one of the exhilarating possibilities of a leap to somewhere else, where we no longer have to posture to become members in good standing of our communities is this uncamouflaged freedom.

For Owen, this paragraph is the smoking gun that makes clear Koolhaas’s embrace of the global project, especially in China, without qualms about ideology or political restriction. The symposium started here and set off in a far-reaching, extended discussion of the practice of architecture when there is no, or at most a very weak, social contract. For Owen, Koolhaas’s perfidy is his betrayal of the social responsibility of the architect – a dismay as avant garde architects go global, building a lot for socially questionable regimes. One wonders if the sense of betrayal, notwithstanding evidence to the contrary, has come from the elision of the avant garde with liberal left progressive politics, proper socialist thinking about designing for the greater good. This was, however, so rarely the linkage. Take Koolhaas’s 1978 Delirious New York, written after a stint at the IAUS under Eisenman. He actually felt a sneaking tenderness towards New York’s corporatism, its hopelessly idealistic ambitions to extend, extend further, to be a total state, echoed unsurprisingly in contemporary China. The avant garde has always broadcast its ‘apolitical’ admiration for action, for the ability to build. Why did so many of us, of a certain generation, assume that progressive art meant progressive politics? And that to find a niche as an architect in rampant new capitalist systems is somehow to betray our role as social improvers, a role we never really had despite twentieth century modernist rhetoric of social equality and access. That was perhaps an error.

Architecture, Ethics and Globalization has two parts, each consisting of a paper, a response to that paper, three or four subsequent papers and then three long, detailed, searching, intelligent and serious panel discussions about the material just presented. The papers are not allowed to sit as a list of monologues, the responses are not allowed to be glib, the participants do not grandstand, and if they did, it has been subdued in the editing. Owen had wanted to have this discussion for a long time, for years. He got it, and a powerful book he has made from it. Philosophers, sociologists, architectural theorists, academics and practitioners, with a collective backlist of publications on ethics and contemporary globalised culture, focussed their wide interests on the subject of architecture: how it should be taught in the current transcultural, transnational world and how it should be addressed, critiqued, understood. The old rules do not apply; postmodern relativism as explained by Geoffrey Galt Harpham has made critical inspection invalid. The free market brings with it a freed conscience. Not so, says Michael Benedikt who is quite capable of saying ‘this is good; that is bad’. And so it goes. The code of ethics for professional architects comes under scrutiny. Is one bound by the legal and ethical strictures of one’s own country when working outside that country where there are few if any codes of conduct? Business is done quite differently in the developing world, in other cultures, than in Europe or the USA. Koolhaas implies that abroad, one is free of all those fetters, that tedious demand for transparency. Is this another version of Rumsfeld declaring that ‘freedom’ includes the freedom to do bad things? It is essentialising to say that there is an ultimate good or bad: postmodernism taught us that, but is that helpful? This is a necessary book, not least because it illustrates what serious architectural discussion actually is. /

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l uso tro pic alis m pro du c tio n c las s c u ltu re tile s

e ly ro ss

m a t e r i a l c u l t u re colonial migration by s t e p h a n i e w h i t e


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The late twentieth-century consists of revisitations to this artistic ceramics tradition and precisely zero time is spent on the eighteenth century stencilled tiles of Lisbon which constitute most of what we actually see in the public domain. Stencilled tiles are, of course, anonymous, not particularly ‘artistic’ and were mass-produced in an artisanal way.

s t e ph a ni e w h it e

One of the most enchanting things about Lisbon is all its tiled houses – whole façades entirely covered in 5 x 5 ceramic tiles that range from arab geometries to art nouveau flowers. Tiles had been used throughout the Iberian peninsula since the 1400s under the influence of the Ottoman Empire – an early migration that locates Portugal as the western end of the Silk Road. There are patterned tiles all over Spain and the old Spanish empire. They aren’t rare, but it is Lisbon’s fully tiled house fronts that are unusual – the domestic realm, the narrow time frame, the effects of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the Brazilian connection, the means of production. In art history it is the exceptional that has value: the artist, the art object and its unique and unrepeatable singularity. Lisbon house tiles occupy a slice right at the beginning of the age of reproduction, between vision and skill with the brush, the glazes, the historicism of the medium, and mass-production. What precipitates art into material culture? Accessibility, desire satisfied by a simulacrum of the original, modes and means of production. Even today in any of the books on azulejos, nearly 80% of the history deals with the vast hand-painted baroque panels and panoramas done by well-known and documented artists, and found in churches, convents and palaces. Azulejo historians then leap to nineteenth century transfer methods. By the early twentieth century when tiles were used mostly in industrial installations – metro stations and public works buildings, tiles were silk screened and later photo-lithographed, the hand eliminated completely.

opposite: the sheaf of stencil evidence – 48 stencil tracings of tiles and borders. A pattern might be a single colour with a single stencil; others have perhaps 5 colours each requiring its own stencil. Plus, a pattern might be done in a number of different colours for different tile sets, as below. opposite below: Travessa das Pedras Negras, 14-20 left: Rua do Chão da Feiro, 3 below: blue/blue at Largo do Terriera, 18-20, green/yellow and green/blue on Travessa do Terriero do Trigo.

While I was obsessively tracing tile patterns, putting up with the ubiquitous hissing from men in windows above, figuring out the order of the colour layers, the calculation of how each tile attaches to its neighbour making a larger pattern unit, and photographing the tile, the pattern unit and then the whole surface, I was also thinking about why this use of tile happened at all. There is a history here, a colonial history that predates the colonial zenith of the nineteenth century. There are tiled walls in the Netherlands, cobalt blue and white Delft replicating much more cheaply the exceedingly expensive Chinese porcelain that arrived in the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century by way of the Dutch East India Company. In 1661 there was a peace treaty signed between the Netherlands and Portugal and an exchange of colonies and, clearly, other customs.

s te p ha n ie w h it e

1. stencil production What is curious bout the lack of information on stencils as a tilepainting technique is that if one looks at an eighteenth century tile closely, it is evident that a stencil has been used. One can see the continuity of stroke across the pattern, derived from hand pressure and variations in the brush, and the evidence of flowback where the brush loaded with glaze hits the edge of the cut out shape in the stencil. A tile-sized stencil is cut in oil-impregnated card for each colour and tinted glaze is brushed over the tile: still done by hand, but standardised by the stencil. The individuality of the hand holding the brush as it passes over each tile is what gives a wall of several thousand identically patterned tiles such life.

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this page: Rua da Boavista, 34-36. The stems that connect the leaves on both the ribbon border and the tile are drawn by hand. A brush also runs around the central circle to cover up the necessary gaps left by the stencil. On the ribbon border, a brush has dabbed in the shading on the ribbon. opposite left: Rua Eduardo Coelho, fundador do diario de Noticias 18351889, 14, 14A. The same tile was on the Livraria Bertrand, Rua Anchieta, 3A at Rua Garrett. right: Rua da Boavista, 44. Tile repair: two pairs of different stencilled tiles and two hand-painted tiles.


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s t e p ha n ie w h it e

2. tile production The Atlantic was Portugal’s demesne and its colonies in South America and Africa were some of Europe’s earliest. Each European country treated its colonial territories slightly differently within the overall lineaments of colonisation, depending on its particular history, its religion, its mentality. Resources were imported from colonies, people were exported to them, sometimes in complicated patterns of slavery, emigration and military occupation. Protestant countries such as England, the Netherlands and Germany treated indigenous peoples rather differently than did Catholic countries: apartheid rather than métissage. The interchange between Portugal and Brazil was intense. A large, new bourgeoisie of wealthy merchants and traders developed in the colonial advantages of Brazil, returning to Portugal where, historically, none had existed before. In the spirit of small town boys made good returning in a new Cadillac, Brazilian middle classes appropriated the use of tiles which hitherto had been hand-painted panels and panoramas for the church and the monarchy. When the earthquake of 1755 reduced Lisbon to rubble it spurred a housing boom that took the extravagant Brazilian use of tiles, which deflect intense solar gain, and applied it to cloudy, temperate Lisbon. The cultural seamlessness between Portugal and Brazil developed further when Napoleon was conquering 1830s Europe, France acquired, briefly, Portugal. The Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil, Dom Pedro IV declared himself Emperor of Brazil, Portugal and Angola: Portugal had become a de facto colony of Brazil. Napoleon’s defeat brought the monarchy back to its palaces of Lisbon and with it even more Brazilian emigrés. Their demand for tiles from the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century changed production from rarified hand-painted allegorical scenes to democratised and everyday mass-produced pattern. This is a case where a kind of colonial sensuality rebounded to the core. Excess wasn’t just something that happened in that space of transgression that marked Europe’s attitudes to its various colonies, where rapacity, miscegenation and vulgarity could be practiced, but there supposedly stayed. No, in Portugal’s case, and it has to do with Brazil’s ascendence and transcendence of Portugal, a kind of excessive display came home and in a reverse colonisation revivified an unsustainable Iberian fragment on the Atlantic coastline of Europe.

s t e p ha n ie w h it e

3. hand production Material culture: the material things that are produced by, and come to represent, a culture. Traditionally it has been used to describe the specifics of a culture. These photographs were taken just before Portugal and Spain joined the EU in 1992, after which there were no more sardine roasters on the street or hot chestnuts in little paper bags, no more bins of wood cutlery in the hardware stores. Late-twentieth Portugal was not wealth, the Estado Novo under Salazar, and which fell in the mid-1970s, had over-extended its resources with colonial wars in Angola and Moçambique, and what wealth there was was concentrated in a handful of corporations. Why had so many tiled house façades survived for so long? Because there had been so little re-development. Why so little re-development? Poverty and lack of outside interest other than cheap holidays on the Algarve. One finds the same phenomenon in Havana: the absence of economic development protected old colonial mansions from urban clearances, but not unfortunately from the effects of weather and age. Poverty delayed Portugal’s entry into the global market, although it was littered with the architecture, art and urbanism put in place when the country was wealthy and powerful. Thus it remained, more or less intact. Artisanal production is the level that appears to have disappeared from contemporary western culture: there is informed art, faux-naïve folk art, mad outsider art and then industrially produced things that look like art. Signs of the hand are either absent, or egocentrically particular; the serious, disinterested hand, repetitively producing products for everyday use is very much diminished. The market here for artisanally produced bowls made of telephone wire from Botswana seems to indicate that we quite like signs of hand production, we admire the skill with which things are made, and the variations within the type that come directly from the hand. These stencilled tiles are one of those products. One is very aware that a person made them while deferring to the overall pattern. The delight in making complex patterns, sorting out how to do them in stencils with a stencil’s demand that each cut out area remains surrounded by card so the stencil remains intact, the exuberant combination of geometry, flowers, ribbons, scrolls and leaves: pure decoration, pure love of pattern, great pride in the product. The installation: the tile-laying, the replacement of broken tiles over many decades, the continuity of small workshops replicating old patterns for wall repair – these are the words of a long and complex colonial narrative. /

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RE: etis Introducing RE:site Edited by DUoC Brendan Cormier and Christopher Pandolfi RE:site is a companion publication to On Site, an alter-ego of sorts. Its mandate is to create an environment where readers and contributors are encouraged to continue the dialogue of previous issues of On site, to create new lives, questions, definitions and meanings out of the ideas presented in the magazine. RE:site is parasitic and therefore risks its life and usefulness at all times. It puts itself into the hands of the On Site community for both its survival and relevance — its failure is our failure, its success is our success. The current culture of dialogue and criticism associate with contemporary Canadian architectural and planning practice has become banal and meaningless. RE:site will be a refuge for meaningful, insightful commentary, visual weirdness and criticism free of nepotism. RE:site encourages all and turns away none. The inaugural issue responds to On Site 23: small things. RE:site is free to all On Site subscribers and will be sold at the upcoming Toronto release party.


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on site 2 5: ide n t i t y architecture + identity urbanism + identity landscape + identity art + identity geography + identity culture + identity research + identity design + identity

The next On Site will be issue 25. Twelve and a half years old, something like being halfway through Grade 7. No longer young, not old enough to know where you are going. So, we are going to look at identity. Do we inherit our identity or do we create it? Can identity be transplanted? Is our culture our identity, or are we all more global than that? Are there such things as invasive cultural identities? Is branding the creation of an identity where none previously existed? or, is branding the strengthening of an identity? Is it possible for architecture to be without discernable identity? Is it clearer if it is stamped with the identity of its architect? What is the relationship between ‘style’ and identity? Is identity drawn from the environment, as in ‘we are a northern people’? or is that a euphemism for something. If one can always recognise a Siza building no matter where it is, or a Burtynsky photograph no matter what it is, or a suburb no matter what city it is in – is that about identity, or is it about typology? Does identity control ways of seeing and of thinking? Is identity political? Is globalisation and its concomitant quelling of identities such as nationalisms and theisms, successful? After having done this issue of On Site on migration, it seems that identity is mutable, dependent on circumstance, not entirely stable. How does this affect they way we work? As always, take the term ‘identity’ in whatever direction you want, and remember, this is a magazine about architecture and urbanism, design and landscape. Bring issues of identity to these fields. ideas only: due 1st January 2011 specs:

issue 26: dirt Joshua Craze quoted the anthropologist Mary Douglas* in his article in this issue: ‘dirt is matter out of place’. Issue 26, for this time next year, Fall 2011, will be about dirt. and weeds. This is a huge topic. outsider art buildings that don’t fit in architectural pornography transgression** construction sites rammed earth, adobe and any kind of mud construction*** vigorous hybrids (often considered weeds) pollution and taboo (thank you Mary Douglas) * Mary Douglas. Purity and Danger, An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, 1966 ** Peter Stallybrass and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 1986 *** Taymore Baalba on the mud buildings of Mali, On Site 17: water, 2007 ideas only: due 1st July 2011 specs:

On Site review 24


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Fall 2010

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Lauren Abrahams is a Canadian architect/urbanist currently teaching and practicing in Rome. Reza Aliabadi [M.Arch 1999, M.Phill.Arch 2006] ICEO, MRAIC, OAA is the founder of atelier rzlbd. He splits his time completing architectural projects in North America & Asia and publishing rzlbd POST. Giovana Beltrao is a Brazilian-born architect and urban planner who started working in the favelas of Brazil 18 years ago and continues to work on human settlement projects throughout the developing world with Rob Story and HABICO. Calvin Chiu has a Master’s degree in Architecture from University of Waterloo. He has worked at design offices in Toronto and London, UK. He is currently working in Toronto as museum/gallery consultant with Lundholm Associates Architects. Joshua Craze is the co-editor of The Kingdom, on Saudi Arabian politics. Line Language, his book on the borders of the Middle East is forthcoming. He is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Marianna de Cola, BAS, is currently completing her MArch thesis at the University of Waterloo. Her research focuses on infrastructure, particularly oceanic systems, and its intersection within the cultural and ecological environment. Department of Unusual Certainties includes Brendan Cormier and Christopher Pandolfi. DoUC concerns itself with investigations into unusual, overlooked and speculative urban situations. Jorge Enrique Enríquez Espinosa: exiled architect living – for now – in Montreal. email: Gerald Forseth (BArch Toronto) MAAA, FRAIC draws, practices, teaches, lectures, researches, curates and travels from base city Calgary. Multidisciplinary artist Vera Frenkel lives and works in Toronto. Her installations, performances and media projects have been seen at documenta IX, the Venice Biennale, MoMA New York and the National Gallery of Canada. Her writings have appeared in Art Monthly, artscanada, Canadian Art, FUSE, Hors d’oeuvre and n.paradoxa. Ivan Hernandez Quintela is an aikido-architecture practitioner who intervenes in the city with small projects called urban prosthetics. He lives, works and teaches in Mexico City. InfraNet Lab, launched in 2008, is a research collective probing the spatial byproducts of contemporary resource logistics. InfraNet Lab is the co-editor of the almanac Bracket, and the co-author of the forthcoming Coupling: Strategies for Infrastructural Opportunism (Pamphlet Architecture #30, 2010). Joanne Lam is an intern architect, writer and emerging artist. Her experience as an immigrant continues to colour her work and her writing. She has worked internationally and is a partner of AtelierPool based in Toronto. Michael Leeb is a visual artist, writer and photographer. He is a recent recipient of a project grant from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Alberta Creative Development Initiative, and is a member of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada. Christine Leu is an intern architect working and teaching in Toronto. Her ongoing projects on Urban Farming and the Highway of Heroes are rooted in her fascination with unique communities in everyday places. Zile Liepins is a graphic designer and artist from Toronto, currently living in Europe. You can reach her at or view her photos at Kasia Mychajlowycz is a journalist, a volunteer with ROTH and lives in Toronto. Farid Noufaily, MArch (Waterloo) has worked with Paul Raff Studio and RVTR, and has been involved with social art collectives since 2005 such as RENDER and DodoLab’s mapping project, Fresh Ground, about Canadian identity. He has also taught, reviewed and published widely. Samo Pedersen is wondering if he, through his practice as an architect, should consider himself as urban theorist or urban terrorist. Simon Rabyniuk is a Toronto-based visual artist, linked to Department of Unusual Certainties. He has presented work at Harbourfront’s Hatch Emerging Performance Series, University of Toronto Art Centre, Ryerson’s Modernity Unbound Symposium and Broken City Lab’s Storefront Residency for Social Innovation, Windsor, Ontario. Rob Story is a Calgary-based architect, urban planner, traveller and photographer who has worked with human settlement issues throughout the developing world for the past 25 years. President of HABICO Planning + Architecture Ltd.


Michael Taylor has studied at Queen’s University and The Copenhagen Business School. He spent the summer researching Islamic architecture and urbanism as a Master of Architecture candidate at the University of British Columbia. Paul Whelan lives in Toronto and practices architecture for Stantec. Stephanie White is the editor of On Site review and lives and works much of the time in Calgary. She spent considerable time in Lisbon on a Canada Council grant researching the postcolonial differences between Portugal and Catalonia.


On Site review 24

May 2010 party supported by —

Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects Inc

$14 $14 $M170 e10 ÂŁ9

m igration


on site #24

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fall 2010 architecture art culture landscape infrastructure

cover: Marianna de Cola Travelling the south coast of Newfoundland, 2010.

onsite 24 : migration  

migrate: to remove from one place of residence to another at a distance, especially from one country to another. migratory: given to migrat...

onsite 24 : migration  

migrate: to remove from one place of residence to another at a distance, especially from one country to another. migratory: given to migrat...