Volume 37: Future Legacies

2017 will mark Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary. With 150 years to reflect upon, this anniversary compels us to cast a critical eye on the legacies of the past century and a half and how they stand up to their early visions; and simultaneously to project ideas for what the next 10, 50, 100 or 150 will bring. Our frame of reference, however, is not limited to Canada nor only to celebratory reflections. We welcome broader discussions of past and future legacies–the successes, the failures, and the unknown outcomes–across countries and continents and across scales and time. We are interested in those elements that have left a lasting mark on our spatial, social, political, and cultural environment; as well as the forms and methods used to express, represent, and project those legacies.

This moment–a looking glass of sorts–is one to speculate on the past and future together, and collapse them into the now.  

On Nations and Globes

What specific role has design played, and what role can it play–from infrastructure to products to policy–in nation building? Or concurrently, at a time when ubiquitous globalization confronts the (re)emergence of nationalistic assertions, should design play a role in any national project?

On Memories and Anxieties

Questions of national identity inevitably rely on readings of collective memory. But history and memory run in parallel, so how are these readings influenced as the point of origin shifts in relation to our past, present or future perspective? Are our anxieties of the present making us increasingly nostalgic for a familiar future? What role does memorialization play in extending past legacies or liberating future visions?

On Scopes and Scales

As the scope of human influence shifts across extreme scales, from the geological to the digital, how will our current and future legacy-making be distinguished from that of the past? And as designers, what are our  ethical responsibilities in shaping future visions within such extremes?

On Words and Pictures

What specific methods do we invoke to represent and communicate reflections on the past and speculations on the future, if it is even necessary to distinguish or reconcile the contrast between vision and reality? Is the manifesto still relevant?

We encourage contributors to reflect on these questions or put forward their own. We are particularly interested in submissions which explore alternative methodologies for communication in an effort to break down traditional boundaries and linear relationships between speculation and reflection, drawing and writing, as well as the conventional expectations of architectural image-making.

As the poet Paul Valery once said, “The future isn’t what it used to be.”

Let’s reflect on what the future once was, what it could be today, and as designers, what role we play in shaping and translating it. In the context of the history of Canada’s national project, and our global condition, what can architecture say about our past futures and our future pasts?

 

Volume 36: VERNACULARS

Building is a universal phenomenon: long before there were architects, people have crafted their own homes, built cities, and designed systems to harvest requisite natural resources such as water, wind and light.  Today, as climate change threatens, as engineered solutions spur new problems, and global politics fall short in addressing local issues, architects are turning to the vernacular: the informal, the spontaneous, the regional and the handmade.  Is it mere nostalgia that drives us to seek examples from the past?

Vernacular architecture, made from local materials using techniques that respond to the local climate, present a vision of architecture where human needs exist in perfect harmony with the landscape.  The craft is rooted in an instinct and respect for the land.  Cultures that still practice vernacular construction often have an intimate relationship with nature and a strong sense of environmental stewardship.  These traditions contain valuable lessons for today's socio-environmental concerns.

Yet these same cultures, such as the Native people of Canada, are also marginalized by colonization, resource extraction, and political decisions that have lead to their displacement from landscapes deeply connected with their identity and way of life.  Can vernacular traditions continue to thrive in this context?  Moreover, modernity brings new technologies, new affluence, and new social desires to traditional communities.  How do vernacular typologies evolve and adapt to contemporary living?

The construction industry is driven by cutting-edge technology, computer-aided design and fabrication, and benchmarks for building performance efficiency.   Are the homes that people build for themselves, work that is done by hand, using found materials rather than mass-manufactured and certified products fundamentally incompatible with the future of construction?

Amid a looming awareness of the fragility of the environment and its finite resources, are there new answers to be found by revisiting the constructions of the past?  Beautiful though it may be, is vernacular architecture still relevant today (and tomorrow)?

 

Volume 35: BORDERS

A border is perhaps the most necessary, ambiguous and political architectural tool. The line that defines an area on the one hand has the power to create, and on the other an equally great capacity to divide and destroy.

Borders delimit to diminish the scale. Thanks to borders objects can become objects, buildings can become buildings, forests can become forests, countries can become countries and so forth. We often see borders foregrounding their prohibitive role, but limits can often be valuable and their lack can become equally oppressive as borders themselves. The inability to define and comprehend can turn into a lack of an alternative, an impossibility to escape or to create something new.

Even though borders still define objects, buildings, forests and countries today we cannot interpret them only as walls of brick and mortar, cliffs or other kinds of hard edges. They are also soft, invisible and intangible barriers. What does it mean today to delimit a territory? What does it mean to control society, when repeating after Deleuze we are living in a time in which “man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt”? In a context in which the access to the Internet becomes more desirable than the access to natural light – how do we define exclusion or detainment? When “all that is solid melts into the air” also borders become redefined and less tangible. How does that influence the way we define our identity? Are borders defined by what divides us or by what connects us and which one of those do we find more important nowadays?

When discussing borders it is difficult, however, not to talk about danger, fear, protection and shelter. We tend to think that a fight for territory belongs to the past, that territory has become almost irrelevant because the power is distributed and controlled through capital. Yet we are currently experiencing one of the biggest migration crises in recent history and it is all about the territory. We should also not forget about the fact that the capital continuously materializes itself in various forms. It is in real estate, oil platforms, gas pipes, telecommunication cables and many other forms that are actually different forms of physical borders. Fear also finds expression in physical forms, even though walls seem not to be able to protect us from contemporary dangers anymore. How does that influence our idea of dwelling if safety is still one of the most important values in defining domesticity? And what does it mean today to protect a territory – be it a household, a country or the planet?

Borders are always political, but all of them are constructed– either through geological processes, planetary relationships, political and social contracts, distribution of wealth or built environment. What defines borders is eventually also how do we act upon them, our attitude towards them. Do we accept them? Do we trespass them? Do we create them? Do we comment on them? Or do we destroy them?

Issue #35 will explore borders as political, solid, ephemeral, creative and exclusive delimitations of space. We are interested in critical contributions reflecting on borders in the form or articles, artworks, models, theories, technical drawings, poems or any other way that can be somehow represented or documented in print and/or online.

As of issue #35 On Site review is going to transform and become –Site Magazine, perhaps in itself it will also become a border between the old and new On –Site review.