I am a regular contributor to the Arts section of Halifax's alt-weekly The Coast. Here is my latest piece -
Migrating through heritage
Migrating Landscapes presents architecture as more than the sum of its parts, our built heritage is a vessel for living.
"Everybody has a living story," says Jae-Sung Chon, architect and curator of Migrating Landscapes. "Whether it's in the past or present or the future, everyone can talk about their living conditions and architecture is essentially an envelope that hosts these stories."
Migrating Landscapes is an architectural project that hosts the varied migration stories of Canadian architects. The exhibit itself is migrating to Halifax, where it will be hosted at Pier 21 until October 27. It arrives at our historic port directly from Italy, where it was Canada's entry in the 2012 Venice Biennale, which Chon describes as "basically the architectural Olympics." Past entries have primarily been existing works, but Chon and his team at 5468796 Architecture decided to do things a little differently.
Instead of putting forth an existing project, Chon and his collaborators Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic decided to initiate a massive pan-Canadian competition asking young architects and designers to share their stories of migration and build maquettes that reflected those stories.
"The idea of Migrating Landscapes really stemmed from our immediate experience as first generation immigrants to Canada," he says. "We jumped on this project with the idea that there might be more of these kind of settling and unsettling stories of architecture or built environment. So we thought let's take this opportunity as a project to collect these stories or at least expose these stories to the world-scene."
The result is a large, intricate wooden landscape that incorporates the 18 winning submissions, tucked away in and around protruding wooden dowels. The structures each represent a personal memory or story--- here the Fort McMurray trap-line cabin of a great-grandfather, there the Iranian rooftops where the young artist heard the chants of the Islamic Revolution---and more abstract constructions like the structures representing the act of packing.
Tanya Bouchard is the chief curator at Pier 21 and sees this exhibit as an opportunity to tell the story of immigration in a new way. "When you immigrate or migrate you bring with you your memories or heritage and wherever you go you apply that," she says. "That's reflected in our built heritage in Canada."
She's optimistic Halifax audiences will pick up on the show's invitation and reflect on their own spaces and stories. "I'm hoping that when visitors come here and see those, they relate to the stories they hear, and think about their stories of their first home or wonder about how it came to be that we have this rich built heritage around them so that when they go back to their neighbourhoods they look around them and maybe pick up some features of the built heritage and wonder about it."
Chon explains that this is a critical aspect. As the exhibit returns to Canada he believes there is an opportunity for us to re-examine the ways we approach building spaces. His suggestion is that we embrace our stories and their cultural heritage, that this will realign the priorities of our built environment.
"Architecture is the vessel that hosts living and that's how it should be, not just hosting function or finances or any other abstract criteria---it's the living stories that architecture should be the vessel of," he says. "Therefore everybody has an architectural story and that's when architecture becomes more accessible to people because virtually everybody has some kind of story to tell in relation to architecture."