Constellations of the In-between:
Architectural Speculations in Metro Vancouver’s Interstices

Master of Architecture graduation project, UBS SALA, 2014-2015
Author: Lőrinc Vass
Advisor: Blair Satterfield

Awarded the Canadian Architect Student Award of Excellence, 2016
Published in Canadian Architect Magazine, December 2016
Presented at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Fall Conference, 2015 and Annual Meeting, 2017.

Constellations: overlapping systems of association

The city, far from being a physical object with a coherent view, is a complex assemblage of material and immaterial events, unfolding in space and time. Against this complexity and formlessness, the capacity of architecture is commonly located in the imposition of limits. Yet amidst an increasingly transdisciplinary field, and in an environment of uncertainty and change, the nature of architectural intervention and its sources of agency increasingly come into question.

This project undertakes a series of speculations in interstitial urban territories found in Metropolitan Vancouver. These constellations comprise a historically contested aboriginal reserve on the shore of Vancouver’s False Creek, a congregation of religious buildings on Richmond’s urban-agricultural edge, an office park chosen by thousands of crows as their winter roost in Burnaby, and an infrastructural right-of-way traversing Surrey’s expanding suburban fabric. Although they differ in their particular conditions, the interstitial nature of these territories is commonly located in their ambiguous and contested relations between spatial jurisdiction and temporal occupation. Beyond static topographies of contours and forms, they also constitute topologies of relationships and performances.

Animated narratives

Drawing on spatial indeterminacy and temporal flux as sources of agency, the following speculations respond to possible trajectories facing each of these territories. Positioned between realism and provocation, each intervention encompasses both a localized catalyst and its system-wide effects on the landscape. Beyond transforming the territories onto which they are projected, these effects also become sources of agency within the space of the drawings. In this process of speculation, constellation constitutes both the subject and the method. It offers multiple, seemingly unconnected viewpoints, and allows for an open-ended mapping of relations. It involves both the idea of looking at multiple points, and that of looking from those points.

The four constellations are offered towards a generative critique of their particular urban contexts, and towards thinking critically about urban interstices, at large. They reveal alternative vantage points on the city and show that architecture may find new forms of agency by moving laterally with the currents of indeterminacy.

Map of interstitial territories, Metro Vancouver

In Displaced Reserve: Acoustic Crossing, a constellation of communication devices are deployed at the Kitsilano Indian Reserve no. 6, a historically contested aboriginal village site in Vancouver. By collecting, focusing and transmitting sound, the acoustic mirrors engender provisional connections across the multiple jurisdictions currently occupying the territory.

Displaced Reserve: Acoustic Crossing, view of Burrard Bridge at Kitsilano Indian Reserve no.5 (Senaqw)
Displaced Reserve: Acoustic Crossing, narrative tableaux
Displaced Reserve: Acoustic Crossing, narrative tableaux detail

In Assemblage Agriculture: Interfaith Silo, a series of shared parking towers are constructed in Richmond’s ‘Highway to Heaven,’ located on the edge of protected agricultural land specially zoned for religious buildings. Responding to the uneasy coexistence of assembly and agriculture, the new infrastructure allows both activities to expand beyond their conventional zoning boundaries.

Assemblage Agriculture: Interfaith Silo, pear orchard at Ling Yen Mountain Temple, Richmond.
Assemblage Agriculture: Interfaith Silo, narrative tableaux
Assemblage Agriculture: Interfaith Silo, narrative tableaux detail
Assemblage Agriculture: Interfaith Silo, perspective of church amidst barley field

In Mutable Habitat: Commuter Cover, a series of canopies are installed in Burnaby’s (in)famous winter roosting site of northwestern crows. Deployed above street-front parking, the tensile constructions provide a series of civic amenities for both humans and crows, working around their respective daily and seasonal cycles of occupation.

Mutable Habitat: Commuter Cover, northwestern crows perched on street trees at Still Creek Drive, Burnaby
Mutable Habitat: Commuter Cover, narrative tableaux
Mutable Habitat: Commuter Cover, narrative tableaux detail
Mutable Habitat: Commuter Cover, view of winter canopy with crows

In Succession Infrastructure: Collective Clearing, publicness and privacy become intertwined on the right-of-way of a natural gas pipeline in Surrey. Populated by a series of devices that facilitate spatial demarcation and communal gathering, the linear greenway becomes a mediating framework between personal and shared jurisdiction.

Succession Infrastructure: Collective Clearing, view of infrastructural right-of-way adjacent to townhouse subdivision, Clayton, Surrey.
Succession Infrastructure: Collective Clearing, narrative tableaux
Succession Infrastructure: Collective Clearing, narrative tableaux detail
Succession Infrastructure: Collective Clearing, greenway entry and lawnmower table