My final thesis description can be viewed and downloaded here.
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It all began with memory… and mapping that memory.
“…That’s the precision programming you’ve got built in. You yourself don’t know a thing about the inner shenanigans of that program. ‘Tisn’t any need for you t’know. Even without you knowin’, you function as yourself. That’s your black box. In other words, we all carry around this great unexplored ‘elephant graveyard’ inside us… No, an ‘elephant graveyard’ isn’t exactly right. ‘Tisn’t a burial ground for collected dead memories. An ‘elephant factory’ is more like it. There is were you sort through countless memories and bits of knowledge, arrange the sorted chips into complex lines, combine these lines into even more complex bundles, and finally make up a cognitive system”.
Murakami, Haruki. Hard-boiled Wonderland and End of the World. 1985. Trans. Alfred Birnbaum. Toronto, ON: Penguin Group, 1991.
Which is lined with all things technical and artistic pushing both my artistic and mechanical brain into overdrive – it seems in this case my logical brain had a jump start and so I dabbled in the work and ideas of everyone from jacques lecan, to karl chu, to neil spiller, to jean baudrillard, to j.g. ballard, to franz kafka, to charles baudelaire, to jorge luis borge, to wolfgang strauss, to name a few … but in the end came back to the simple idea of mind mapping and the ability to collect memory through time and architecture in ‘this’ world, with ‘this’ body.
Memory ultimately led me to Joseph Cornell and his collaged boxes. As I studied Cornell and his work I also examined the collage-like work of the Situationist International (I have a soft spot for them to begin with), and Surrealism and its techniques — they both carry the sense of rejection of the traditional instruments and preconceived notions of something ‘is’.
Not to say that collage is not a method that is not employed often, in fact because of its disjunctive and combinational nature it can speak to many different disciplines, however, rightfully so in many ways, architecture still defaults to the traditional plan, section, elevation.
Before I get to deep into an aside, here are the collages that I created for each chapter of the novel (Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World). Which functioned on several levels. First they allowed me to become familiar with the technique and get my hands a bit dirty, revealing that the inherent ambiguity of the method is governed by a set of conditions that the creator must recognize. Further, they allowed my to translate the novel into a physical, non-literal medium that I could begin to read spatially and relate to my site and program.
The above image show the site within its industrial context. The site is unique for many reasons that have made it a topic of discussion within various discourses. The history of the site and its surroundings is filled with major events and structures that have transformed it over time.
I identified 6 major events/’emblems’ that altered the context of the site through some form of erasure.
1. The Molson Brewery (1786) – 1201 rue de la visitation
The Molson Brewery was opened back in 1786 in the Faubourg Quebec by an English man named John Molson. The brewery was rebuilt and expanded several times along the port. The Molson’s were involved in banking, construction, rail transport and shipping. The family prides themselves in their ‘first rule of conduct’ which is to ‘innovate constantly’. Across the street, a monument commemorates the ‘Accommodation’ the first steamship launched on the St. Lawrence by the Molson family (1815).
2. Pied-du-Courant Prison (1836) – 2125 place des patriotes
A historical timeline given here by Yvon Mass:
The old Pied-du-Courant, literally meaning, ‘the foot of the current’, jail sat at the ‘front’ of the Sainte-Marie current, which used to create resistance for ships entering the port. The Prison was built between 1830 and 1836 by Geoge Blaiklock as a long neo-classical cut-stone building flanked by a gate. It is the oldest public building standing in Montreal. In 1894 a house for the prison warden was added at the front corner of Avenue de Lorimier. The Prison was marked by the events of 1837-38, the Patriots revolt in what was then Lower Canada. A total of 1355 patriots were imprisoned there during the rebellion. Above this wall that runs along Notre-Dame street, a wooden scaffold had been set up. Twelve of the 99 patriots who had been condemned to death were publicly hanged here. “Long live freedom, long live independence!”, shouted Chevalier de Lorimier on february 15th, 1839, date of the last wave of repression, at this place exactly. In 1912, the last prisoners left Pied-du-Courant. The building is now occupied by the SAQ (Société des Alcools du Québec, or Québec Alcohol Society) offices.
An interesting account given by Chevalier de Lorimier from the prison on February 14th, 1839 can be read here.
3. La Station de Pompage Craig (1887) – rue notre-dame est & avenue de Lormier
The La Station de Pompage Craig, located beneath the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and acts of a particular case of architectural restoration. The Station was used to prevent the floods which were repeated each year at the beginning of spring. It was built following an important flood caused by the rising of water of the St. Lawrence River in 1886. With the successive changes of the morphology of urban fabric, the Craig Pumping Station became an anomaly in its context. The building which seems now an isolated fragment that was built in very different context. This historical flood had invaded all the downtown area of this time and had caused many damage. Since its construction in 1887, the buildings of the industrial type which surrounded it were destroyed little by little.
While it was declared a historical structure for preservation the building is abandoned aside from its occupation by Champ Libre for the 5th INTERNATIONAL MANIFESTATION OF VIDEO AND ELECTRONIC ARTS OF MONTREAL (MIVAM)
4. The Jacques Cartier Bridge (1925)
The Pont Jacques Cartier, broke ground in 1925 and was inaugurated in 1930. Prior to that Pont Victoria (1860) and the ferry were the only means to reach the South Shore. City councillors could not agree on a plan that would avoid demolishing many buildings. It was finally decided that the bridge should curve on the way in to Montreal. Today the bridge is crossed by vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
5. The Maison de Radio Canada (1973) – 1400 Rene Levesque Boulevard Est
Maison de Radio Canada, built between 1970 and 1973 by Scandinavian architect Tore Bjornstad. The building accommodates the province’s French language and local English language programming of the CBC, national radio and television network. When it was built the traditional urban fabric of the neighbourhood was completely erased. Nearly 5, 000 people (678 families) had to be relocated. Even 20 years before Radio-Canada was built the width of the Boulevard Rene-Levesque (formerly Dorchester Street) had been tripled, separating the south neighbourhood from the north.
The CBC building alone demolished 11 blocks of housing. Consequently all the local businesses and amenities, especially along Ste. Catherine St., shut down.
Apart from the deindustrialization of the area, which left many empty factories and parking lots in its wake, Gauthier blames the district’s erosion on the construction of the Ville-Marie expressway in the 1960s and the development of the CBC and Molson complexes in the ’70s.
6. Modernisation de la Rue Notre-Dame (present)
The old Modernisation de la Rue Notre-Dame, has been met by a coalition of residents and organizations is trying to stop a controversial six-year, $750-million project to renovate a nine-kilometre stretch of Notre Dame East. The group maintains that the reconstruction does not support a sustainable and modern community. “We want a real modernization, giving a higher priority to public transportation,” said Carl Bégin, a cofounder of la Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre Dame and a resident of the district of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The Coalition has targeted the project’s plans to expand Notre Dame into an eight-lane highway – an “urban boulevard,” according to developers. It is arguing that the plan will increase car use, separate the neighbourhoods from access to the Port of Montreal and St. Lawrence River, and prohibit cyclists and pedestrians from crossing the neighbourhood.
While the pubic has been open to public discussion, consultation, and design submissions it still remains highly debated. The general goals of the project as given by the city of Montreal can be read here.
As part of my final submission of my thesis to McGill School of Architecture I am required to submit a ‘thesis proposition’ (the question and its theoretical context) and the ‘final thesis description’ (a statement of the intentions and results). However, in editing 12 months of work many layers are lost or buried, so the purpose of this blog is to expose the structure that lies beneath those final 2000 words.
First things foremost, a loose record of the reiterations and initial research and interests of the thesis can be viewed here, the course website for the winter 2008 semester. This blog will focus on the development of the thesis between September 2008 and December 2008.
The premise of this thesis is derived from the dual narrative of Haruki Murakami’s novel, ‘Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World’. In which the narrator of the novel flips from chapter to chapter as he simultaneously flips between his inner consciousness (which has been frozen in time) and his outer consciousness (which continues to progress). The purpose of the thesis is to ‘navigate the mind’– examining the technique of collage as a tool that allows the seemingly random cognitive mind to retrieve and input information which in turn processes and produces further information and how that can influence the process of ‘making’ architecture’.
The site for the application of this thesis is located on the land directly east and parallel to the Jacques Cartier Bridge — which annually processes approximate 43 million vehicles (constructed 1925-30). The site also bears the historical icon the Craig Pumping Station which is considered a historical piece of architecture in Montreal and therefore stipulates it’s preservation. As it sits now isolated on an island of land in the midst of eight lanes of traffic it becomes an anomaly within its current context. The station was built in 1887 to assist in flooding. The project will engage this other world as part of our daily process rather than abandon it.
This thesis will make manifest in the programmatic ensemble of a community centre for the Sainte – Marie borough of Montreal Est. The program is chosen for several reasons. A community centre has many ‘given’ spatial dimensions such as regulation sizes for hockey rinks, soccer pitches, swimming pools, gymnastic floors, etc.that enhance the layers of the collage process. As well, the site bears a history of an immigrant population and point of arrival to Montreal and therefore a place that will allow the community to come together and engage in activities is essential. Further, the ability to recall the history and memory of a place is important to a community as a whole, across demographics and not just a specific user group.
process of production
The process of production of this thesis is inspired by the collage works of the artist Joseph Cornell, yet not namely ‘collage’, but also the process of the mind in collage ‘making’. It is very free and allows instinctual and whimsical actions and reminiscent of the outer consciousness. Yet ‘collage making’ stimulates the inner consciousness as a processing system that sequences and engages the input of its given components.
“The encyclopedia wand’s a theoretical puzzle, like Zeno’s paradox. The idea is t’engrave the entire encyclopedia onto a single toothpick. Know how you do it?”
“You tell me.”
“You take your information, your encyclopedia text, and you transpose it into numerics. You assign everything a two digit number, periods and commas included. 00 is a blank, A is 01, B is 02, and so on. Then after you’ve lined them all up, you put a decimal point before the whole lot. So now you’ve got a very long sub-decimal fraction. 0.173000631… Next, you engrave a mark at exactly that point along the toothpick… You follow?”
Murakami, Haruki. Hard-boiled Wonderland and End of the World. 1985. Trans. Alfred Birnbaum. Toronto, ON: Penguin Group, 1991.