“A national architecture implies the existence of common traditions unified by the sense of a common undertaking. In the Canadian case the traditions were immigrant as were the people, but the enterprise in its geographical setting is distinctive; it is in their interaction that a Canadian architecture must be found” [McMordie, 1976]. The most compelling evidence of the scope of architecture is contained in the built work. However, the key to understanding that work is also to be found in the intentions of the architect, what is often categorized as “theory.” The struggle to understand theory's relationship to the creative process and to the built product lies in the complexity of architecture itself: Theory is often appropriated to bridge the sometimes conflicting requirements of art and science.
How is theory expressed in Canadian architecture? Characteristically, it displays the interplay between the natural and the crafted; that is, between the environment and the structure. In 1992, Canadian architects would reveal several noteworthy sites. For example, Arthur Erickson completed the San Diego Convention Centre, Hugo Eppich Residence and Khosla House projects; Patkau Architects completed the Emily Carr School of Design; Peter Cardew completed the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery; and Dan Hanganu completed the Éperon Building, Pointe à Callières project [Canadian Architect, 1992].
[...] The themed environment becomes an expression of the experience economy, concerned with the individual's transition through symbolic space restaurant, an office, a shop) which project a certain mood or expectation. The themed environment consumes a multitude of expectations and experiences in the creation of architectural projects. Adams and Bressani argue that “Canada has always stood on the edge of empire,” and its peripheral status as a colonial or marginal country affects the development of its architecture [Adams and Bressani, 2003]. The polarity of being the outside' in politics (whether British or American) stirs a desire to locate presence in a particular space: a central focus to orient the nation. [...]
[...] Isenstadt suggests that “theming emerges as a new context for the reception of architecture in our time. It signals an historical shift from symbolic appeals to cognition toward the creation of diffusive sensory environments that link immediate perceptions with scripts” [Isenstadt, 2001]. Adept at reading symbolic environments, individuals are ready to perceive the symbolic markers which start the appropriate script, whether the environment is consciously designed to effect this or not, as in the experience of commuting on a roadway or train invokes a “reading” of that activity [Isenstadt, 2001]. [...]
[...] While Erickson's Hugo Eppich House intentionally causes a trompe d'oeil, effacing the boundary between the wilderness and the domestic; Viguier's Coeur Défense insulates the natural aspect of his building from the urban geography of Paris to create an enclave which demands its occupants realize they work and live in the confines of a human- created edifice and city. The symbolic activity of domestic or commercial life, in the home or in the office, housed in these residential and banking structures is not centrally established: it fades and tears at the everyday, routine understanding of themed experience. [...]
[...] The inclusion of natural qualities or evoking the experience of nature in urban architecture is a characteristic of the thematic environment. Arthur Erickson's Vancouver Law Courts, with their rolling artificial waterfalls offset by immense glass windows framed in steel, attempts to capture and to mirror the mountainous and rugged beauty of British Columbia within the city centre. Consciously reflecting upon the natural setting, and including it within the design and function of a building, is characteristic of post- modern Canadian architecture. [...]
[...] In Canadian architecture, it has been established that the natural magnitude of the Canadian experience is not only immense and over-powering; but that conscious, self-referential innovation has infused the national landscape in its post-modern buildings. This new style is merely an attention to the marginal aspect of human dwellings and edifices amidst the overwhelming backdrop of the country's physical geography. By actively including this experience in architectural projects, Erickson at once centers and distances Canada's marginal identity as a colonial or a meek nation in the core of his projects. [...]
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