Second House First

This exhibition at Winnipeg’s RAW Gallery of Architecture & Design explores the tension between two contrasting forms of domestic dwelling – the vernacular architecture of the cabin and the ubiquity of the suburban house – through an exploration of the cottages and cabins that surround the lakes of Manitoba.

For much of the year, many Canadians live in an analogous “city” in cottage country, with entirely different friends, activities, and lifestyles. Their cottages are not simply second homes in idyllic settings, but materialized refuges from the perceived daily grind of urban life. Often self-built, these summerhouses are informal expressions of an individual’s personality and willful – often eccentric – attempts at escaping the city. The peculiarities of their cottages create an environment for playful exploration and a strange “otherness” that confounds the banality and staleness of the suburban home.

Where the stucco sprawl of suburban houses is characterized by standardized construction techniques and generic designs, cottages tend to have a material richness that’s absent in the city – whether through the creative misuse of cheap building materials, or the recycling of construction waste from the city. Less inhibited by market forces and planning control, they are often built through a series of collaged accretions, adding to their idiosyncratic nature.

The exhibition presents a catalogue of “samples” from cottages across Manitoba. Five cottages in the form of fragmented images and models are shown – isolated from their wilderness context – exposing the material use, misuse and reuse that forms these unique structures and compelling interiors.

In Second House First, the cabin becomes a conceptual tool to explore and question the contemporary nature of our increasingly disaggregated and dispersed living environment.

The exhibition closes October 27, 2013.

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