Thursday, April 23, 2009

Playing Cards

[Image property of Richard Smith]

Plato-Aristotle Aces.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Reconnecting Fragments: The Labour of Love

Boat building and fort construction in maritime Canada form two of the first productive enterprises in the colonies, involving individuals from the community exchanging and developing ideas through the medium of the ship’s draught. This made a profound intellectual impact such as the genesis of engineering in Canada but also the transferring of one culture of building to another . Through this intellectual phenomenon came hybrid solutions to conventional building methods and high-quality construction of dwellings because of skilled boat builders. This creative and analogous relationship has since been divided by historical preservationism and the modernization of craftsmanship.

This thesis explores the theoretical writing of amorous attraction by Barbara Maria Stafford, and a discussion of the amorous qualities philia, and agapē in the writing of Alberto Perez Gomez. Together, these make up essential connective qualities that emphasize making connections between divided relationships and learning through similarity, not difference. Taking spoils of boats and appropriating them inventively, the fort will be transformed into a boat building and repair workshop with outlying trades buildings––common to boat building and fort construction.

Amorous attraction contends that we have forgotten how to think analogically, that we should conduct the nobler task of connecting using analogy rather than dividing by disanalogy. Coupling this process to the architectural process of craftsmanship and bricolage therein, the proposed architecture can help reconnect the vast potential of this hybrid vernacular culture of building.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Drawing Progression

Jan 22, 2009

Dec 8, 2008


A bit of process work that has helped me in designing the boat building shop. Taking tracings of the main drawing at school, I've been pasting them in to my sketchbook and layering upon them. I've adopted the same technique for the final drawings.

Midterm Critique

I bungled my midterm. It was poorly explained and defended -- maybe I was tired? I inadvertently emphasized only the functionality of the boat-building shop, skimming through the theory and poetics of the project, thinking the critics (same ones from colloquium) remembered the ideas of the project from the last crit. And so the question came up "If we are really going to talk about functionality, then why did you place your building away from water, on the top of a ridge, inside a fort?". Traditionally, boat construction takes place at the water's edge; I hadn't discussed or drawn the justification for its placement away from the water. Also, the use of spoils seemed to the critics to have been lost along the way which frightened me the most, despite several efforts at conveying spoils integrated into the building. I skimmed this part in my explanation too, ugh! The critics suggested to flip leftover boats upside down and use them for the roof of my building.

That said, I've revisited some of the main ideas and tried to rework them. To better "stitch" the boat shop into the fort (and manifest the idea of amorous attraction I proposed earlier), I'm introducing the concept of the compagnonnage, or the "journeyman", the apprenticeship of tradespersons to become master craftspersons. Five trades related to boat and fort building (wood-working, metal, fabric/weaving, glazing, and cooking) will be placed at the five bastions of the fort. In the medieval tradition, to become a master craftsperson, the journeyman must complete a masterpiece of his trade. I'm proposing that each bastion is a place to build and/or display these masterpieces, and that in concert, these trades exchange techniques and knowledge, generating hybrid solutions to their craft. The collaboration of these as a "trades centre" better justifies its placement. But tying it all back to spoils...? Maybe this is diverging too much.

"Les Compagnons" is a modern organized version of the same task the journeymen executed in the past. It is a program for youth to travel (in this case, across France) and study the built work of their predecessors. The program helps young tradespersons specify their trade and gain a mastery of their work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Leon Battista Alberti has come up as a suggested reading which could be a very helpful source for my thesis. The text involves both spoils and amorous attraction, but one that exists in the dream state of Poliphilo who pursues his love Polia. The drawings depict spoils in many interesting scenes, and architectural elements celebrated in the text. A warning that this could be an epic tangent...


[The first attempt at a written structure for my thesis].

Reconstructing Fragments: Amorous Attraction in a Game of Spoils

Chapter 1: The Structure of Spoils.
a) Spoils and Memory
b) Cut and Paste: Verbatim Quotation
c) Appropriating Spoils
d) Case Study: House of Loreto

The term spolia, has a clear association to an initial violent act that removes a part from its source to be used elsewhere. Individual Spoils possess an innate ambiguity between simultaneously understanding their original purpose and context and their possible re-understanding. Spoils possess the ability to transport a fraction of meaning from its original source into a new context. They alone have the ability, in the right hands, to stimulate memories and touch souls.

Rome had begun conserving and reusing pieces of their civic buildings in the 4th century. Buildings were judged worthy of conservation because they were repositories of Roman traditions. Ruins were always dismantled for reuse and never demolished. The presence of past building traditions was always to be reconciled before its imbued traditions and “verbatim quotations” lost to a new ahistorical construction.

This project proposes to appropriate the spoils of boats and buildings as the pieces in a game of amorous exchange between fort construction and boat building. Spoils of boats can be disassembled and reused for the boat-building workshop and fortification, chasing the right fit; in reverse, the boats repaired and built from this workshop can employ pieces of fabric or rope from gabions in the building into their construction. The game becomes a sharing of pieces from the similar “other”.

From tradition, the house of the Virgin Mary is thought to have been transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia, then again to Recanti, Italy; and finally a third time to its present location in Loreto. This practice of dis-assembly is a fundamental aspect in a game of fragments, where a building is never static, but able to move and be modified.

Chapter 2 – Games and Amorous Attraction
a) Objective and Rules of the Game
b) After Descartes: Postmodern Annihilation of Resemblance
c) Amorous Attraction
d) Spoils as Analogical Devices and Storytelling

The game of spoils is a game played between boats and architecture. The rules are that spoils from boats (e.g. wood planks, sails, masts etc) are disassembled for use in parts of the boat construction workshop, and by extension the Fort Beauséjour. In reverse, rope, fabric or wood can be used the construction of boats. The game operates on its own course and meaning as a volunteer activity that can enhance the co-dependency of the regional boat building trade and architecture. The purpose of the game is to revive the similarity between, historically, a collaborative activity which is now two otherwise unrelated things.

Cartesian thinking created a will to divide things into smaller individual parts. It fuelled an annihilation of resemblance and a celebration of difference. The after-effects of this is a difficulty to relate between a seemingly infinite cosmos of individuality. Difference, be it cultural, artistic, or pedagogic, has many positive qualities but at a certain intangible point, we lose the ability or patience to relate between entities in a gigantic superstore of convictions.

Barbara Maria Stafford describes a Game of Back and Forth in her Visual Analogy, a work that attempts to restore analogy and perception to the forefront of some of the issues confronting our time. She argues that we have lost the ability or interest to work analogically, and as such are drifting further away from making connections, only emphasizing differences. Amorous attraction is used in the context of this thesis to describe the process that spoils undergo to find their proper fit, as well as a programmatic union between boat building and fortifications. Using an analogy of amorous attraction, we can begin to make connections between boats and architecture, land and water, invention and memory.

Storytelling using analogy with spoils. Need more info.

Chapter 3 – Transformative Exchanges
a) Metis and the Workshop
b) The Bricoleur and Rural DIY Methodologies
c) Boats to Buildings and Buildings to Boats
d) Paradigm Conversion (Reason from Symbolism) (Boats and Buildings)

From mythology, Metis is the skillful intelligence that guides the Greek goddess Metis. This is conjectural knowledge that lies between reasoning by analogy and skill at deciphering signs which link what is visible to what is invisible. The thesis proposes that both the game of spoils and workshop spaces foster a development of the Metis sensibility.

Synonymous with Metis is the bricoleur, borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler – equivalent to the English "do-it-yourself", the core meaning in French being, however, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". The do-it-yourself attitude is commonplace in rural Canada, and equally in the maritime region of Chignecto. A person who engages in bricolage invents his or her own strategies for using existing materials in a creative, resourceful, and original way. The bricoleur is the intended worker of fragments to exchange between boats and architecture in the game of spoils.

Seafarers are often cited describing the boat they build and sail as a house of their own. The inhabitation of boats share many commonalities to that of inland buildings, such as shelter, structure, maintenance and decay, pleasure. Much can be learned from the other. Creating an exchange of spoils is a start to making a timeless partnership between disparate vocations.

At the time of the construction of the Fort Beauséjour, a paradigm shift was occurring – a shift from symbolic, metaphysical thinking to scientific methods. Vauban stripped all symbolic and analogical meaning from the fort in favour of prescriptive, scientifically grounded occupation of defensive buildings. Much the same way, boat builders drifted away from crafting symbolic meaning in their watercraft. Today, “superfluous” ornamental details are lost and the naming of a boat is one of the few residual myths associated with a traditionally romantic pastime.

Chapter 4 - Site
a) Materiality
b) The Acadians: History and Tradition
c) Vauban: Paradigm Conversion
d) Spoils of the Chignecto Ship Railway

A quarry is situated near Fort Beauséjour. These stones were retrieved by native and Acadian workers to be used for gabions within the ramparts of the earth fort. Wood from nearby growths were cut to build an ephemeral palisade at the periphery of the earth-works. Small branches were cut to make baskets for the gabions. The two materials form the basis of the site’s construction. Local wood was also used for a short-lived but prosperous shipbuilding industry in the mid to late 1800’s.

Acadians worked the land’s inhospitable marshlands with dykes to transform it into workable farmland. The Great Expulsion of 1755 is a well-known fragmentation from their land. Acadian homes are often additive conglomerations of building extensions.

Vauban sacrificed all symbolic meaning from fortress design, to refine their defensibility that was grounded in scientific reason. Pentagonal forts can be drawn in many different ways (approximately eight methods). The traditional Roman method draws two immense circles, where the pentagon fits within the overlap of the two circles. References to the landscape are drawn with these circles. The fort’s embodied “size” on the draught is then much greater than its physical size. The Fort Beauséjour however skipped this entire process by simply using ready-made plans based on a set of rules outlined and drafted by Vauban.

The Chignecto ship railway was an abandoned project, lead by Henry Ketchum that sought to taxi full size ships from the Northumberland strait to the Chignecto Bay. The project was abandoned at the collapse of the British economy. Spoils of the railway and arched bridges were collected for reuse in the visitor’s centre.

Chapter 5 - Design
a) Methods
b) (De)Monstration of Sea Monsters

The drawings use vellum which has translucent qualities. Cutout drawings or diagrams are added continually, recognizing a past thought, inspiring a new interpretation. The use of adhesives naturally collect atmospheric fragments throughout the drawing process. Fishing line is embedded in the site drawing to denote topological changes, and the geometric symbolism divested by Vauban is carved permanently into the board. Instead of using branches for weaving the gabion baskets, sailing rope is used instead. Denuded figures can be seen constructing these gabions in the drawing (referring to Pastor).

The partnership between fort and boat construction is made through the exchange of spoils. In trading spoils between boats and buildings, there is the potentiality of new uses for parts of each respective thing. In the spirit of bricolage, chimeric monsters, or hybrid building systems can emerge.




Reconstructing Fragments: Similarity in a Game of Spoils

This thesis explores why today we possess a limited language of talking about resemblance and an exaggerated awareness of difference. Within this theoretical framework of what can be called a recession of similarity, this thesis proposes to appropriate the use of spolia in a proposed boat building and repair workshop to be sited within the preserved ruin and National Historic Site, Fort Beauséjour near Sackville, New Brunswick. The fragments of buildings and boats used in this playful, amorous exchange between boats and architecture will foster a sense of culture, play, and invention for the boat builder and rural community surrounding Fort Beauséjour, and an attraction of common bonds between otherwise disparate entities: boats and fortifications. It explores the discovery of similarity within difference. The game’s rules are defined as a “chase” or courtship of spoils to find its complementary fit – a timeless game that is not serious so as to encourage an attitude of voluntary play throughout generations with pieces of the building and boats. The playful exchange and appropriation of spoils will consolidate a regional language of similarity.


Alchermes, Joseph. Spolia in Roman Cities of the Late Empire: Legislative Rationales and Architectural Reuse. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 48 1994.

Colonna, Francesco. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. (New York City: Thames & Hudson Inc., 1999).

Duffy, Christopher. Fire and Stone. The Science of Fortress Warfare 1660-1860. (London: Greenhill Pr; 2 Sub edition, 1996).
Techniques for the construction, repair, siege and defense of fortifications. Relevant to the place and time in which the Fort Beauséjour was constructed. Many of the building techniques outlined in Fire and Stone were in fact employed on site, according to archaeological studies of the site.

Hand, Chris. The Siege of Fort Beauséjour, 1755. (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2004).
Historical account of the Siege of Fort Beauséjour, by Major Chris Hand who joined the Canadian Forces in 1981 and attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. The book is based on his master’s thesis.

Hanson, Maria Fabricus. The Eloquence of Appropriation. (Rome: Accademia di Danimarca, 2003).

Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950).
Discusses the importance of the play element of culture and society. Huizinga suggests that play is primary to and necessary (though not sufficient) condition of the generation of culture. Play is a central characteristic to the activity of appropriating an amorous attraction of spoils.

Lefaivre, Liane. Leon Battista Alberti’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997).

Miller, Paul D. Sound Unbound. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).
Article written by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid. Describes DJ culture as a an archival impulse applied to a hunter-gatherer milieu of collecting clips to be patched in (as spoils) into remixed music. Identifies the problem of difference and multiplicity in this medium – we never move anywhere in a civilization of expanding forces of citation, remixing and sampling. An eternal expansion of information dividing a million-fold, and never creating integrity. With difference, comes indifference.

Rowe, Colin. Collage City. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984).
On the ideologies, philosophy, manifestations, and flaws of modern architecture. Most relevant is the proposition to reorient conceptions of the city from the utopian grand narrator’s single vision of the city to a more multivalent view of the city, micro-utopias.

Stafford, Barbara Maria. Visual Analogy. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001).
Argues that our culture has succeeded in creatively articulating differences, leaving us in a compromising situation that leaves us diminished in our ability to recognize the existence of the degrees of likeness. Stafford offers us a game of back and forth that exercises the analogon, where through due ratio we can link fragmented things.

Strauss-Levi, Claude. The Savage Mind. (Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1966).

William, Garratt. Loreto the New Nazareth and Its Centenary Jubilee. (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003).

Wilson, Garth. A History of Shipbuilding and Naval Architecture in Canada. (Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology, 1994).
An historical overview of the interrelationship of science and industry in the colony in New France. The work focuses mainly on large-scale shipbuilding that impacted on international trade. It does however mention the coexistence of small boat building and the family-oriented trade that grew to prominence in the maritime region following the decline in large-scale shipbuilding.

Vergani, Gianmarco. The Culture of Fragments. The Journal of The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation 6, no. (1987).
Collection of essays and articles that discuss fragmentation in a metaphysical sense. A theoretical work situated in the height of postmodern and deconstructivist theory. Provides a varied springboard of precedents on the topic of fragmentation and difference.

Vernant, Jean Pierre. Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society. (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Harvester Press, 1978).

Monday, December 15, 2008


Throughout this nuisant transit strike I've been stuck at home to work without my drawings. I was however able to work out some details (e.g. wall sections, corner conditions, foundations, glazing etc.).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Boat Construction Time-Lapse

A sense of the process and space required to build a wooden boat.