AUTOnomous exhibition at Harbourfront Centre

Running from June 24-September 8, 2013. this exhibition at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre concerns, as the title would suggest, the automobile. Asked to develop an emergency response system which was distributable and accessible, design collective Gauge looked to Canada’s most expansive national infrastructure: the car. With more than 20 million cars in distribution across Canada, our most heavily invested-in emergency relief system may already be in place. Built to withstand impact, weather, climate and looting, the car is already a shelter in waiting. As junkyards accumulate derelict vehicles, public investment in roadways declines, and supply and distribution of gasoline becomes ever more unsteady, the car as a vehicle seems to be on the eve of its obsolescence. But as a refuge, its second life may just be beginning.

Canada encounters a set of unique geographic challenges in the face of unexpected crisis. The building of the Trans-Canada Highway in the 1950s marked the beginning of a previously unthinkable era of connectedness – linking rural to urban, Pacific Northwest to the Maritime coast. AUTOnomous harnesses the highway as a lifeline, mobilized to facilitate the movement of a fleet of emergency shelters.

But what is the crisis for which Canadians should be preparing? While acute environmental and biological disasters are becoming more frequent with the changing climate, slower and less quantifiable socio-economic crises also need forms of shelter. Gauge has imagined three crises unfolding along the route of the Trans-Canada highway: environmental disaster in Vancouver, civic conflict in Montreal, and economic downturn in Halifax. Through a series of scenarios, AUTOnomous explores the potential of our national supply of ready-made shelters.

Founded in 2009, Gauge works between the scale of the object and that of the city, engaging with both tactile processes and spatial politics. Trained as architects, the members of Gauge are committed to the production of space as a social catalyst. As part of its commitment to exploring the edges of spatial practice, Gauge has collaborated with design professionals, spatial activists and artists. Gauge has previously proposed mobile housing tactics for communities in Shishmaref, Alaska and launched an international ideas competition in the interstitial spaces of Griffintown, Montreal. Gauge has published work in several North American publications, and has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Architecture as well as galleries in Toronto, Montreal, California and Japan. Gauge was co-founded by Shannon Wiley and Ya’el Santopinto.

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