Three-part film and exhibition series arrives at CCA

Groundwork is a three-part film and exhibition series that explores the conceptual development and field research of contemporary architects cultivating alternative modes of engagement with new project sites.

Still from the documentary film Into the Island, 2023 © CCA

The first chapter of the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s (CCA) new exhibition and film project, Groundwork, has officially opened to the public.

Groundwork aims to ask how we understand the making of architecture in the present moment, and how architects situate themselves in relation to changing natural and disciplinary boundaries. The exhibition aims to ask questions such as: ‘What to build, or not build?’ ‘Is a building the end point of architectural production?’ ‘What to do with the existing building stock?’ ‘How to intervene in the landscape?’ and ‘How to engage with the increasing environmental and social complexities of a site?’

To explore these questions, the exhibition will delve into a journey with three contemporary practices that “cultivate deep relationships and forms of engagement with project sites and their ecosystems.”

Into the Island is the first chapter of the three-part project, and follows Xu Tiantian of DnA (Design and Architecture) to Meizhou Island. There, in collaboration with local communities and her team, she creates a set of small, distributed interventions to mediate pressures of heritage policies, tourism, and farming on marine ecology.

By recording Xu Tiantian’s dialogues with villagers, fisherfolks, and biologists, the CCA aims to focus on the significance of field research as well as the conceptual work that stems from it.

The result of the first journey is an exhibition which is centred on a documentary film, alongside artefacts, documents, specimens, and site fragments as evidence of an ongoing creative process.

“We decided to primarily use film as a tool to witness how research and encounters on-site affect architectural thinking.  The project deploys a small-footprint, intimate, and journalistic approach with director Joshua Frank, to tell overlapping stories of the communities of Meizhou Island and their engagement with the land, while presenting the conception and development of Xu’s interventions. Into the Island is a narrative composed through the fragments of an evolving culture and fluctuating landscape,” said the CCA.

In the upcoming months, Groundwork will take the public to Berlin with b+ and to Minas Gerais with Carla Juaçaba, where they will continue to examine methodological approaches to question, subvert, and redefine what architectural practice can be in present day.

The exhibition will be on display until September 14, 2025.

For more information on the exhibition, click here.