Mediating Strata: Connecting Landscape, Building & Artifact

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. – Canadian Architect – 1/10/2008.
Written by Erin Hunt, Dalhousie University, Ottawa for her Student Award of Excellence