Design at Riverside
7 Melville Street S, Cambridge, ON
Master Works is a juried exhibition that showcases exceptional thesis projects by recent Masters of Architecture graduates of the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture. Proposals are submitted to the Design at Riverside Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from Cambridge Galleries and from the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture.
This year's exhibition, entitled Landscapes of Resistance, features the work of Suzanne Harris-Brandts and Chris Knight.
The natural environment is intrinsically tied to our lives as humans, framing our survival on this planet and the relationships we form with one another globally. Yet, it remains largely unstudied how this complex connection manifests itself in highly-charged militarized areas. As such, ‘Landscapes of Resistance’ examines the ecologies of militarization and the physical and abstract mechanisms which are imposed upon the landscape to apprehend and maintain control by the prevailing regimes of power. While we are often unaccustomed to thinking of the natural landscape as a politicized instrument, this exhibition contrasts a pair of theses which examine two very different militarized landscapes - which nevertheless share many similarities in the structures by which control is exercised and enforced. These structures range from the abstract – cartographic manipulation, aesthetic, legalistic or scientific classifications, and the descriptive appropriations of the landscape in a peoples’ cultural imagination – to the physical - the walls, checkpoints, barriers, and armed presence of the occupier or the belligerent on the land. Within such an environment, landscape emerges as not only the backdrop for confrontation, but also its very medium of engagement. ‘Contesting Limits’ examines this process and its consequences in the contested landscape of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, while ‘Raising Islands’ investigates the militarization of an atoll nation in the western Pacific - the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
‘Contesting Limits’ - the work by Suzanne Harris-Brandts, parses the spatial apparatuses of control and land seizure in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, identifying within them subversive opportunities for Palestinian resistance and territorial reclamation. By augmenting ordinary acts of Palestinian subsistence and impregnating them with a hidden dual geopolitical purpose, a landscape of empowerment emerges, creating new avenues for economic development, environmental regeneration and social stability. Cumulatively, the three design tactics argue against the futile despair felt by many Palestinians that self-determination will only come by means of the perpetually stalled negotiations process. Instead, they outline new avenues for redirecting the trajectory of this conflict on the ground, through the strategic choreographing of Palestinian action within, and taking advantage of, the very landscape in which they inhabit.
‘Raising Islands’ - the work by Chris Knight - considers the history of militarization of the Marshallese atolls by the United States. Its research examines the physical and abstract manifestations of this occupation within the larger context of Oceanic history, revealing a gradual shift in the strategy of appropriation as practiced by old-world colonial powers to the contemporary tautologies of the American empire. ‘Raising Islands’ propounds a design strategy which empowers local people to effectively occupy and reclaim the landscape by engaging with the natural processes of the inter-tidal environment. While islanders and the isolated landscapes they inhabit have been consistently framed in rhetoric stressing vulnerability and smallness - often to the advantage of distant powers maintaining explicit or de facto dominion from beyond the horizon - the independent, grassroots actions of local groups have achieved surprising and dramatic results in defiance of the policies and planners at the top.
In these two otherwise very different geographic settings, the structures of militaristic control and the political machinery of their occupying regimes share a number of striking similarities. Both theses suggest a greater inherent capacity for architecture and landscape to effect change: one which seeks to challenge hegemony and empower local people by outlining new avenues for action which engage with the natural processes of the land. As such, they unleash an unprecedented potential within landscape and ecology to contribute to the political realm.