BEA Atlantic’s inaugural Nova Scotia talk reveals Halifax’s zones of inclusion and exclusion

On March 19, Susan Fitzgerald, partner, award-winning architect and design principal at FBM Architecture | Interior Design, hosted the first Building Equality in Architecture Atlantic (BEA Atlantic) Talk to be held in Nova Scotia.

BEA Atlantic was publicly launched in Saint John, New Brunswick at the 2018 Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) Festival in collaboration with Building Equality in Architecture Toronto (BEAT). The Atlantic organization aims to connect the Atlantic Provinces through public outreach events, lectures, workshops and initiatives to develop strategies and practices of equality in architecture.

Susan Fitzgerald delivers the inaugural BEA Atlantic talk in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“An organization like BEA Atlantic is very much needed to help amplify diverse voices within our industry,” said Fitzgerald. “Mentoring young people coming up in this field has been an integral part of my work, which makes collaborating with BEAA such an ideal fit.”

Susan’s lecture, “In Between Research and Practice: Diversity and Resilience in Architecture”, focused on how we read the city, and how a greater understanding of it might lead to a more diverse and resilient architecture.

Pulling experience from current projects in Halifax, and ongoing research in Havana, Cuba, Susan highlighted the need for projects within cities to embrace broad social and economic synergies rather than being singular in intention. Such a strategy leads to resilience, both in ecosystems and in cities. Upcoming projects such as Midtown North, and completed projects including the Halifax Central Library and Bible Hill Consolidated School have learnt from this intelligence and embrace this diversity in different ways.

Attendees participated in a group mapping exercise.

“Study of the city of Halifax highlights that there are places of inclusion and exclusion – places where people feel comfortable, and others where they do not; this changes with different groups,” said Fitzgerald. “A cognitive mapping exercise with the 50 participants during the BEAA session at FBM helped to reveal the city and led to lively conversation.”

David Paterson, planner, and Alicia Gilmore, intern architect, headed up this exercise, showing FBM’s interest in engaging with ongoing research and important conversations about everyday life within Halifax and how it can be more inclusive and resilient.

A group mapping exercise highlighted zones of inclusion and exclusion in Halifax.

Participants, given a map of peninsular Halifax and coloured markers, were asked to draw their “drift” – their destinations, what they experienced as boundaries, and their perceptions of different areas of the city. When the maps were scanned and overlaid, a drawing emerged that represented the room’s collective experience.

Participants found the experience very revealing.

Not surprisingly, the downtown and core of Halifax was familiar. The waterfront, although greatly appreciated, was revealed to be largely inaccessible outside of downtown Halifax. The north end was considered an area of change. Places that people wanted to explore included the industrial waterfront, George’s Island, Africville Park, and areas beyond the peninsula.