Canadian Architect


Mediating Strata: Connecting Landscape, Building & Artifact

Student Award of Excellence

December 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect



If landscape and human habitation are two dynamic forces that the built environment is able to draw from over time, how can architecture as a constructed entity engage in a more explicitly reciprocal relationship with the different components of a place? More specifically, how might architecture operate as a mediator between the layers of a site such that its manifold relationships to time and place are activated in the present?

The site and program in this project draw from two city blind spots in Ottawa–one a semi-vacated post-industrial landscape on the Ottawa River, the other a compound-like cultural institution–the Library and Archives of Canada, both of which possess different forms of collections. These represent layers of the geological landscape, the built environment and the cultural artifact, which are hidden or inactive to some degree within the fabric of the city and have been treated in this project as found elements to be used as a way of testing the thesis question. What emerged from the iterative visual, factual, and interpretive readings of the area formed the basis for the design of a looped path system and two interventions in the landscape.

A path was chosen as the means through which the various strata uncovered on the site could be negotiated, connected, and framed in a material and perceptual relationship with the individual. The trajectory offers a temporal experience that is based in the present as a body moves through space, while it simultaneously offers the possibility of engaging with static elements found in a landscape marking the past. Essentially the looped path design enables multiple ways of understanding the same objects and structures in space.

Two architectural interventions are incorporated along this path as it meanders down the Ottawa River Escarpment and across Victoria Island. The first intervention, a miniature portrait gallery embedded in the sedimentary rock face of the escarpment, is placed adjacent to 500-million-year-old fossils found in the same area. The second intervention, a 40-metre-tall gabion tower, contains the Glenn Gould collection (including his famous Steinway piano) and acts as a lookout back to the industrial landscape below. Ultimately, the materiality of the landscape, the unique qualities of the existing built structures, and the two collections of cultural artifacts belonging to the Library and Archives of Canada work together in this investigation to reveal, enhance and better connect the place through a new, mutually engaging layer on the site.

Daoust: An interesting architectural promenade is based on a careful reading of the context. Site-specific conditions are revealed through paths and thresholds. This project represents an encounter between urban design, landscape, architecture and public art.

Kearns: This thesis explores layers of geological landscape, built environment and cultural artifact in relation to sites on the Ottawa River. A path is devised through which the various strata are uncovered and which engages the user with an abundance of stone found on the site. The presentation conveys the materiality of the site very elegantly and convincingly.

Ostry: This project sensitively weaves landscape and building into a continuum that results in a suggestively rich and textured environment. The subsurface path through the cliff is particularly evocative and well represented through simple drawings and model studies. The culmination of all the disparate parts of this project produces a genuine gestalt.

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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