Viewpoint (August 01, 2003)

I recently had occasion to take the much-anticipated Yonge-Sheppard line on the way into the offices of this magazine. I was immediately struck by Stacey Spiegel’s Immersion Land (pictured above, left). Using a panoramic camera, Spiegel processed a series of photographs onto millions of tiny porcelain tiles. These tiles present images that are clear from a distance but pixellated and abstract when viewed at close range. The murals are in many ways representative of the city. Spiegel’s installation suggests a displaced landscape of nostalgia and one of an imagined farmland that might have existed several metres above the transit platform before succumbing to the inexorable urban sprawl and development of the past fifty years.

Images of displaced, virtual landscapes can form the backdrop for real and emerging urban landscapes full of promise. Subway cars mercilessly move back and forth while commuters trace their daily itineraries across large, smooth platforms and rise through levels that contribute to the making of a particular urban dynamic. This piece of urban infrastructure, despite its cost and contentious raison d’tre, represents a belief in the future of our city and how bigger and better things are meant to come provided that the architectural profession steps forward to direct these challenges positively.

Up at street level, we must begin to ask what kind of architecture is displacing and altering our built environment. As architects, we must pay careful attention to, listen to, and observe how our many culturally and ethnically-diverse communities are contributing to the development of our surroundings. Our urban conditions and the associated architectural manifestations are developing in ways that are informal and often unplanned. If we fail to consider these changes, we will have missed valuable opportunities to contribute to the spatial qualities of our communities, whether it is Vancouver or Val d’Or. The current situation of the suburban strip malls for example, represents a type of space where complex socialization patterns occur across various socio-economic segments of the population that requires considered designed solutions. Commerce, religion, education, and public spaces are being developed, occupied and understood in these mall territories that will continue to arrange themselves as something distinctly heterogeneous and Canadian. Our challenge as professionals is to continue to facilitate the evolution of our cities and ensure that design opportunities flourish as social trends evolve across cultures and throughout Canada.

After spending the past couple of years in the United States, moving back to Canada has given me a new perspective about what we as architects can do to further the discourse on the value of architecture and urban design in this country. In addition to maintaining the high quality of the magazine developed over the past few years under the direction of Marco Polo, it is my intention as incoming editor that Canadian Architect continues to give voice to the many regional aspects across the country and ensure that new ideas and emerging trends are given an appropriate forum.

We must strive to communicate the importance of linking good design with effective land use, appropriate implementation of building technology and the promotion of effective management. This includes advocating intelligent approaches to urban design and sensible legislation and policies that will affect our ability to create successful spaces. Architecture in Canada should function within an overall strong social purposiveness within the public realm, while encouraging a progressive, well-defined character within our built environment. Ian Chodikoff