Displacement; “Terrain Vague as Instigator of Events”
Celebrating displacement as an instigator of events abandoned settings, the project proposes a “physical displacement” of two abandoned buildings in Winnipeg to a new site and life. Facilitated by their adjacency to the railroad their journey to the new site becomes an event of its own.
Displacement, as Heynen5 describes, is “a situation where a new or alien element is introduced into a more or less stable context either physically or metaphorically.” In that sense, it can be compared to “ critical moments in an individual’s life when one feels at turning point”. She finds architecture “greatly capable of providing a medium for dealing effectively with a condition of displacement. Architecture can manifest, enforce or stage displacement”
Once an ambassador of hope and enabler of growth to The Gateway to The West, today the train is a far too recurring animated elegy about a lost opportunity that animates Winnipeg giving it a sense of place vastly different from what it pursued a century ago. It now skips many of its stops at factories and warehouses along the way to make it faster to the next city where there is work to do.
Once a means of connection the train is now an agile sword slicing neighborhoods leaving behind a terrain vague: “places in the city that are empty and unoccupied, vague or uncertain, Internal to the city yet at the same time external to its everyday use”
Located in different parts of Winnipeg, The Gillette Warehouse In South Point Douglas and Central Grain Factory in Archibald, are only two out of the many terrain vague in the city. The neighborhood with the greatest concentration of desolate buildings South Point Douglas was a place of hope and new opportunities for many new immigrants:
“For many new immigrants to Manitoba, their first prolonged exposure to their new country was the streets of Point Douglas. Defined by a bend in the River, Point Douglas was the location of the Canadian Pacific passenger terminal where most new immigrants stepped off the train. Not far from the terminal were the immigration sheds, barracks-like facilities where new arrivals without any place else to stay could live for a short period while they looked for work in the city or prepared to move to a rural homestead.”16
Sneaking into these forgotten places in South Point Douglas I was overwhelmed by the sad irony that what makes them abandoned is what connects them to one another. Yet I was excited to see that the means of connection still remain so is a possibility for reconnecting for events.
I proposed a displacement of these two buildings to a new site in Pembina highway neighborhood. A contemporary equivalent to lively but lost South Point Douglass this part of the city has found a new life by attracting many of the increasing numbers of immigrants to the city because of its proximity to the universities and other reasons.
The buildings will be creatively re-assembled in the new site to host a grain processing facility and a museum. Relevant to their Identity they become strong advocates the forgotten buildings in the city to the public many of them also displaced and ready to engage with the unfamiliar.
Fall of 2009