Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fort Beauséjour | Fort Cumberland

I've selected a site for my thesis, pending Marco's approval. Each thesis proposal requires a site as a starting point for a theory and a building design. A site selection can change as often as one is willing to start from scratch, but ideally should be the enduring focus of one's thesis. Though some advisers don't push for an initial site selection, Marco has emphasized this is the most important task at first, as well as a building type for the proposed site.

I've chosen Fort Beauséjour (aka Fort Cumberland), a French stone fort built in 1751-55 located on the west bank of the Missaguash River near Sackville, New Brunswick. The site overlooks the desolate Tantramar Marshes and the Bay of Fundy. It was originally built as a counter to the British occupied Fort Lawrence near Amherst. Upon partial completion, the fort was captured by British forces and New England volunteers; commander Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor capitulated within two weeks. The fort was renamed Fort Cumberland and strengthened for use in the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War.

The attack on Fort Beauséjour was the start of what became known as the Great Upheaval (
le Grand Dérangement) of Acadians in the Maritimes. Fort Beauséjour was a much greater facility than Fort Lawrence, and so the British chose to abandon Fort Lawrence and permanently occupy Fort Beau.

At first, I'm amazed to find grown-over ruins in rural maritime Canada. On top of this, I'm excited to investigate the micro-histories of the site and through it, conceive of architecture from the site's FRAGMENTS. I'm really interested in studying fragments or the idea of fragmentation in architecture -- lately I've been researching physical and metaphysical fragments. Physical fragments are like what you see in Michael Reynold's architecture from Garbage Warrior -- pieces of refuse re-utilized or re-invented as something new and surprising, like glass bottle walls for example. With Metaphysical fragmentation, this is a whole realm of theory that is extremely diverse in opinion and literary stance, but a by-product of post-modernist thinking in architecture. I won't get into it now... At the heart of things is a drive to use fragments for storytelling, sustainability, and memory.

I'm interested in the Fort, but also Acadian buildings, which, according to Marco are the hardest to locate, not because they were destroyed in the Great Upheaval, but because they additive buildings
. When searching for an Acadian building, one might find it within a Victorian home, and before that, a French Canadian home, but at the heart is the Acadian building. Like in Rome, you can find a building that has layers upon layers dating back centuries. The building's legacy is told through its evolution of pieces. In selecting Fort Beauséjour, I'm targeting a moment where this thought process was cut off, and proposing to continue that tradition, which goes against many preservation laws by desanctifying the building and renewing it with purpose.

Here's a recent collage I've whipped up in anticipation of this weekend. I found a journal in the library of John Thomas and Louis de Courville in Fort Beauséjour which inspired me a little:

From Friday till next Tuesday I'll be visiting the site.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hedgehog in the Fog

Considered the greatest animated film of all time, directed by Soviet animator Yuriy Norshteyn in 1975. Story of enlightenment and friendship. Relax + Enjoy.

Post Movie Plot Summary (just to fill in any gaps)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shenkman Theatre Sculpture Competition

Jennifer and I have moved on to a new art competition. We are now designing a sculpture for the main entrance of the Orléans Arts Centre which is currently under construction. The building which includes a 500-seat theatre is being designed by Ottawa firm and Carleton alumni Lalande + Doyle Architects (website under construction). The centre is budgeted at around $37 million and features an intricate curving glass wall composed of hundreds of specially cut glass panels. The arts centre is part of a three-phase project that includes housing, office space, athletic facilities, and retirement homes in a $220 million development of the Orleans suburban centrum area. The space approaching the main pedestrian entrance will be landmarked by an artist's sculpture.

Not to give too much away, but here are some digital sketches of our work so far. No real peeks until the competition jury makes their decision... for now it's a SECRET!!!
(I promise to provide more information on what I'm talking about once the artist has been selected). However, I do want to mention that we are also working in collaboration with Martin Conboy, a very accomplished lighting artist originally from Ireland, but working in Ottawa. I recommend a quick look through his web folio. Here's a fairly big sample of his high-profile jobs:

To my surprise, his website also includes a whole section of renderings or light studies which are in large part done by our own Prof. Yvan Cazabon!

+++CBC 2006 Article
+++Orléans Online Article
+++Carleton Magazine Article on Lalande + Doyle Architects
+++Martin Conboy website

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Garbage Warrior

I just watched an excellent film "Garbage Warrior" which I'd love to share my recommendation for everyone to watch. The film is about architect Michael Reynolds who, for 30 years in New-Mexico, he and his team have designed and constructed "Earthships", autonomous homes that are on the verge of being completely environmentally self-sustaining. Reynolds initially began experimenting on his own home with rammed-earth in car tires as wall structures as well as regular cans or bottles cemented into the walls. The houses would use indigenous materials to the whole planet while reusing wasteful materials whenever possible. They would also generate their own utilities such as electricity, hydro, even food! This makes the homes nearly independent from the “grid” so they would be less vulnerable following natural disasters or dependable on expensive, dirty or sometimes non-sustainable resources. The earthships would finally be able to be constructed by the average person. The documentary followed Reynolds and his team to Indonesia following the tsunami disaster as well as three other countries, where locals were quickly able to grasp the low-tech construction of the homes, making habitation cheaply accessible to everyone, in theory.

A big part of the film reveals how (literally) dormant and antiquated the American legislative system is and how entwined it has become to corporate businesses, to the point where changes in legislation is nearly impossible. Reynold's lobbying for the right to make a sustainable living site is repeatedly annulled by the State through subversive means, maintaining suburbia's ongoing choke hold on the environmental crisis. One last great feature of the film is that 80% of the cars filmed run on vegetable oil!

Watch this film, it renews some of the profession's integrity that many of our "starchitects" have pissed away over the past couple decades.


Design Principles for an Earthship:

+Earthship Biotecture website
+Walrus Magazine Article "The Earthship has Landed", and bidding the Postmodern Horse Adieu

Monday, June 2, 2008

Architect Lookalikes

Just came across this pretty funny page at during my "research".

Le Corbusier & Jean Luc Picard

Philip Johnson & Mr. Six

Sanford Kwinter & Sideshow Bob

Zaha Hadid & Ursula

Daniel Liebeskind & Lee Evans

Eric Van Egeraat & Brad Pitt

Frank Gehry & Darth Sidious

Frank Gehry & Gonzo the Great

Jean Nouvel & Dr. Evil

Snake Game on a Building

Michael Wolf Photography

In lieu of enviable economic prosperity on Eastern horizons, this, a recent series entitled "Architecture of Density", by Michael Wolf. Each monumental high-rise, photographed in Hong Kong shapes an urban experience of regularity, singular character, and massive functional compartmentalized living. Hong Kong has an overall density of nearly 6,700 people per square kilometer (Canada = 24/sq km), the majority of these citizens living in high-rise buildings, as shown. Such Brave New Monotony as this echoes the legacy of modern architecture, of reductive standardization, reinstating the importance of variation + irrationality and structured difference in architecture.

More photographs from Wolf's folio website.