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(re)CONNECTION: The Emergence of a Renewed Identity

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(re)CONNECTION
the
emergence
of
a renewed
identity
(re)CONNECTION: The Emergence of a Renewed Identity
Christy Hillman-Healey
A Master's Degree Project submitted to the Faculty of Environmental Design in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture.
The University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta
January 20, 2010
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ABSTRACT
(re)CONNECTION the emergence of a renewed identity
Christy Hillman-Healey
January 20, 2010
Supervisor Loraine Fowlow
Over the past century, strong relationships between people, place and built
form has manifested into a common prairie identity The longevity of the common
identity is in jeopardy with the physical deterioration of most historic prairie structures
The focus of most rural communities involves developing 'band-aid' solutions for
addressing senior housing demands while neglecting pertinent issues regarding the
loss of younger generations and a lack of engagement between generations
The goal of this project is not to dwell on the evolution of the agricultural
industry which has perpetuated the loss of the grain elevator and railway networks,
but to bring a fresh sense of identity and pride to rural communities, recognizing the
importance of the history and significance of place
The intent of the this project is to generate an architectural design rooted
within a rural landscape, re establishing a connection between people and place
through an understanding of prairie architecture The initial phase of the project is
meant to generate a redevelopment plan for the original railway corridor of a rural
community The succeeding phase focuses on the architectural design of a multipurpose community centre reiterating the objectives determined in phase one The
synthesis of phase one and two is intended to foster relationships between generations
of residents while cultivating a renewed sense of identity
KEY WORDS
Canadian Prairies, Rural Elevator, Meaning, Identity, Mortality, Vernacular
5
ID
to
to
to
to
to
my
my
my
my
my
husband, for your love and understanding
mother and father, for your unconditional support
sister, for your unwavering support
peers, for your inspiration
advisors, for your guidance and encouragement
thank you.
I.
26
III.
Identity
the emergence of an icon
a
the manifestation of a vernacular icon
b
the loss of an icon
c
multiple forms of identity
d
a question of authenticity
e
a static form of identity
32
IV.
Mortality
41
B B
I I I
the loss of an icon
V.
SITE ANALYSIS
44
VI.
PHASE l_REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
72
PHASE ll_HERITAGE PLACE
79
82
84
88
90
92
94
96
98
VII.
o
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
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LL.
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12
14
18
20
22
Meaning
the evolution of significance
a
the cultivation of meaning
b
the evolution of a rural elevator
c
the loss of significance
l^"
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11
II.
(/)
-
Introduction
: the evolution of an icon
a
context
b
barrhead
c
settlement patterns
d
the agricultural industry
e
the rural elevator
programme
massing
site plan
ground floor plan
elevations
sections
materiality
renderings
VIX.
REFLECTION
119
X.
Appendix A: PRECEDENTS
120
XI.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
122
XII.
FIGURE DIRECTORY
124
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INTRODUCTION
THE
EVOLUTION
OF
AN
ICON
The objective of the following project is to generate an architectural
design within a rural context intended to cultivate the reconnection
between people and place through an understanding of prairie history and
architecture.
The project is intended to provide a comprehensive understanding of
the evolution of a prairie icon, the grain elevator. The rise and fall of the prairie
elevator provides an opportunity to examine the way in which the significance
of built form is cultivated over time. A series of theoretical explorations
consisting of meaning, identity and mortality are developed to convey a deeper
understanding of the evolution of an icon. The three essays are intended to
establish a framework for the foundation of design. Each of the three essays
can be read in isolation or consecutively for a greater understanding of the
evolution of an icon.
The design project consists of two phases; the initial phase includes a
redevelopment plan for an abandoned railway corridor in an existing prairie
community. The proceeding phase includes the design of a multi-functional
community complex, which reinforces the design strategies adopted in
phase one. The synergy between the redevelopment plan and community
building is intended to demonstrate that built form does not exist without an
understanding of the context in which it resides.
The community selected for renewal is the rural town of Barrhead
located North-West of Edmonton. The community has bore witness to the
loss of an era through the disappearance of elevators and the railway line.
The evolution of the surrounding farm operations reiterates the passing of an
11
era and highlights the way in which the agricultural industry has progressed
leaving a way of life behind. The most important artifact is the community
itself, the residents.
The goal of this project is not to dwell on the evolution of the
agricultural industry which has perpetuated the loss of the grain elevator
and railway networks, but to bring a fresh sense of identity and pride to rural
communities, recognizing the importance of the history and significance of
place. The following text will explore settlement patterns, the evolution of the
agricultural industry as well as the rural wood elevator in relation to the rural
community of Barrhead.
CONTEXT
Set amidst the vastness of the Canadian prairies resides an icon so
distinct. The rural wood elevator since its first appearance in the late 19th
century has evolved into a built form symbolizing an era of prosperity and
hardship on an unforgiving landscape. The rural elevator erected along the
railway line stood as an economic symbol of the community's affluence of
surrounding agricultural operations. Horizontal and vertical rural icons once
essential to prairie life are disappearing.
Numerous rural communities originally established in relation to
the Canadian railway have lost their physical connection to surrounding
communities and consequently the rest of the nation. Grain elevators once
erected in vast numbers have now disappeared from the rural landscape. In
1933 over 5,000 elevators dominated the Canadian prairie skyline (Friesen
1987, 433). The prairie icon has been a target experiencing a campaign of
erasure over the past few decades decreasing the number of rural elevators in
Alberta to a mere 100 in the year 2000 (Smith 2003). According to McLachlan
(2004) in December 2002, "only 419 remained in Canada" (6). With the
disappearance of these physical symbols of prosperity and industry many
small rural communities have deteriorated, resulting in a severed relationship
between people and place.
The prairie landscape has witnessed a multitude of hardships and
prosperity. The significance of prairie architecture has resulted from the
relationships cultivated between people and place. Somehow the deteriorating
wood structures demand attention and convey more meaning than in their
original state. The weathered structures, which dominate the prairie landscape
stand as testaments to a defining era. There is something profound about how
each community embraced these wooden structures. The Canadian prairies
have become immortalized through the rural elevator providing comfort
for some and admiration for others. The wooden elevator is more than an
economic symbol; it became a landmark and icon for an era.
12
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BARRHEAD
The rural community of Barrhead located approximately 110 kilometres
north-west of Edmonton is the focus of the following project. One of the original
settlers to the area named Barrhead after his hometown in Scotland (Alberta
First 2010, 1). The town of Barrhead is currently home to 4,209 residents,
and provides services for the county with a total population of approximately
10,000 (Town of Barrhead, 2006). The fluctuation in population has been
minimal, however the largest demographic includes an older population. The
community has taken the initiative to revitalize its image and the opportunities
it presents to its residents. The losses of younger generations in addition
to an aging demographic are pressing issues for Barrhead and other rural
communities. The current state of the community provides opportunity for a
revitalization plan rooted in the history of place.
The first settlement in the Barrhead region was established in response
to the Klondike Trail in 1906. The original settlement existed three kilometres
north-east from its present location (Town of Barrhead, 2006). The first train to
visit Barrhead was on October 17th, 1927 (Barrhead History Book Committee
1978, 7). The Barrhead railway line was the final extension established from
the community of Busby, resulting in the end of the line. According to a local
resident, as quoted in The Golden Years, "[t]he big thing in Barrhead in the old
days was for people to ride around the T where the train turned around, as
Barrhead was the end of the steel" (8). Northern Alberta Railways owned the
line from Busby to Barrhead, which was decommissioned between 2000-01
(Pearson, 241). According to the local history book, The Golden Years (1978), the
railway was the first element to be established; the construction of Robertson's
Hardware store, Scott's Drug store, elevators and a local hotel followed suit
consecutively. The street network and settlement patterns were dictated by
the orientation of the railway line (Town of Barrhead, 2006). According to
Pearson (2007) three wood elevators were constructed by the 1930, and five
by 1955 (216). Four of the elevators in Barrhead were constructed by a firm
from Regina (BHBC, 7).
14
The main street of Barrhead is located perpendicular to the railway
corridor. The community's commercial and economic hub has remained in its
original location since 1927. The main street of Barrhead is similar to many
other small prairie communities in the sense that the street is the place of
engagement between residents and the hub of activity. There are two sets of
traffic lights, one is found at the intersection of 51st avenue and 51st street and
the at the intersection of highway 18 and 33. The main street (51st street) is
eighty feet wide, which was originally constructed to ensure the safe passage
of two wagons past one another. Friesen (1987) provides an explanation of the
process of town development:
[o]ne critic of prairie architecture has suggested that, "the railway was the
determining feature of the town's character. Main street ran either at right
angles to or parallel with the track and the elevators...[t]he abnormally
wide main street, often sixty to eighty feet was created to serve horse and
wagon in muddy weather rather than human beings"(323).
Main street has retained this large width and has readapted itself to provide
angle parking on either side as well as moderately sized sidewalks and minimal
landscaping. The street is lined with similarly sized buildings, which creates
uniformity in scale.
The main street (51st street) is the stage for many festivities in town.
Throughout the season's parades, performances and pancake breakfasts are
held on main street, bringing to life the community spirit, which continues to
flourish. The streets are a pleasant place to stroll. During the early morning
you can often find residents walking and engaging in conversation with one
another. The daily activities for residents start rather early. A flourish of
activity is evident even on the weekends when church is either commencing
or letting out. Many daily routines involve visits to the local bakery and banks.
The familiarity of main street is something that can not be replicated, it has
matured and evolved over the years. The consistency should not be viewed as
a downfall, but a defining characteristic of rural communities.
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For generations, rural communities have relied on the stability of main
street and its businesses. Over the years many settlements have seen a shift in
location for businesses in response to the improvement of main transportation
routes through town. In the case of Barrhead, the main street has been able
to sustain any detrimental damage. The town's geographic location prevents
daily trips to and from the larger urban centres. The main street is lined with
beautiful trees, which have grown to maturity over the generations. Flowers
are hung and planted annually following a revitalization project by the Pride
in Barrhead Committee in 1995 (Town of Barrhead, 2006). Over the years
long standing businesses have often relocated along the street and revitalized
storefronts. A few buildings have been torn down, some due to fire damage.
Even within the empty lots along main street one can find activity. For instance
, during the summer the fruit truck from British Columbia sets up shop for a
few weeks in the empty lot beside the bakery. In the parking lot along side of
the TD bank pancake breakfasts are held for the Wild Rose rodeo and other
special occasions. During Christmas light-up a local tree is erected in an empty
lot providing a focal point for the community during the holiday season. Main
street is also the main route for annual Christmas and rodeo parades.
The twinning of highway 33 (also known as Grizzly Trail) running
north-south through town has perpetuated the split between the east and
west portions of Barrhead. The highway has also prompted the development
of a commercial core along either side of the highway. The businesses
have diminished some traffic within the main core, however the highway
development is not conducive to daily errands or pedestrian traffic. The
following categories delve deeper into the history of the prairies through an
introduction to settlement patterns, the evolution of the agricultural industry
and the rural elevator. Each section is reinforced by examples relevant to the
community of Barrhead.
/
SETTLEMENT
PATTERNS
Codependent relationships have evolved between rural towns and
surrounding farming communities leading to the development of economic
and social hubs of the prairies. According to Mahar-Keplinger (1993) Barrhead
is classified as a "T-town" in relation to town planning principles. MaharKeplinger (1993) describes this T-town formation where "the main street runs
perpendicular to the railroad tracks but, unlike the orthogonal town, does not
continue across the tracks" (53). In most cases the railway line was a catalyst
for settlement, or in the case of Barrhead, re-settlement. The main street area
often resided adjacent to the railway line and station. The railway brought
economic opportunity, and most importantly a physical connection to the rest
of the nation and global markets. Once the railway was established, the rural
wood elevator became a standardized element of every prairie community.
The prairie giants represented pride and economic stability. The elevators
became regional landmarks providing a sense of orientation on the prairies
and comfort. According to the Alberta Culture and Community Spirit (2005),
"[gjrain elevators are singular symbols of the Prairies, reflecting the region's
deep economic and social connection to agricultural life and providing striking
vertical landmarks against the often monotonous flatness of the West"
(Government of Alberta). Friesen (1987) reiterates a similar opinion:
"...towns were the mainstay of prairie farm society because they provided
the grocery, mail, automobile, farm implement, hardware, and lumber
services - not to mention hotel, cafe, community hall, and rink - that
might be used on a weekly basis by the residents of the surrounding]
rural districts "(321).
Mahar-Keplinger (1993) provides a background of town orientation
and the planning response made due to the railway line and elevators. The
settlement pattern of Barrhead is a combination of "land survey grid" and "axis
of the railroad" (48). Within Grain Elevators, Mahar-Keplinger (1993) identifies
four elements present in all prairie towns including, "a primary business street,
a railroad line, an elevator, and residential blocks" (50). In most situations
18
prairie communities have witnessed the disappearance of two of these essential
elements. The remaining elements such as the main street, and the elevator
can be viewed as artifacts scattered across a landscape. These historical
fragments have been neglected in pursuit of a modern identity. The main
street business corridor has often felt the brunt of the loss of these elements.
According to Friesen (1987) "[l]ike elevator consolidation, abandonment of
branch lines was the product of cost accounting in which social factors were
not to be considered" (433). The shift in transportation methods on the prairies
has brought prosperity to some rural communities and devastation to others.
In Town Life - Main Street and the Evolution of Small Town Alberta, 1880-1947,
Wetherell and Kmet (1995) discuss the implications of main transportation
routes for rural communities. According to Wetherell and Kmet (1995) "railway
and development policies ensured...the abandonment by business of inland
towns in favour of railway towns" (13).
The town planning of Barrhead is a physical artifact, which reflects
the transition from rail dependant transportation to highway transit networks.
The southwest quadrant of town developed perpendicular to the railway line.
A north-south and east-west highway network eventually bisected the town.
Development in the northwest, northeast, and southeast quadrants followed
perpendicular to the new transportation routes rather than the original town
grid. The settlement patterns of a community provide an historic record of
development and deterioration.
Aerial photograph of the
community of Barrhead
depicting the divergence in
settlement pattern (Town
of Barrhead, 2001)
19
THE
AGRICULTURAL
INDUSTRY
The closure of elevators, abandonment of railway lines and
deterioration of rural communities are symptoms of the advancement
of the agricultural industry. A paradigm shift in the method and scale of
farming practice has rippled through the prairies and resulted in changes to
transportation methods for grain distribution, drastic reduction in the number
of family farms, and a shift in the population of rural residents to urban areas.
Friesen (1987) observed that "[t]he degree of change was remarkable. The
farm population was reduced by over half. Whereas over 60 percent of the
prairie population was rural in 1941...[t]he rural west was home to 750,000
fewer inhabitants in 1981 than in 1941" (429). In The Canadian Prairies: A
History, Friesen (1987) provides an historical insight into the prairie culture of
the late 1920's. According to Friesen (1987):
[i]n 1928 Canadian wheat sales constituted nearly half the world export
market. An entire society was organized to facilitate this activity. It was
built upon rural village and transportation networks, a grain marketing
system and a family economy attuned to the rhythms of the seasons and
the demands of the work itself (301).
With the improvements to road infrastructure and the amalgamation of grain
companies, the industry has shifted from small farms to large operations. The
amalgamation of smaller operations has generated a new breed of farming
practice. The methods of cultivation, harvesting and transportation have also
evolved. The agricultural industry has been the main catalyst for change on
the prairies.
The evolutionary nature of the agricultural industry has also resulted
in the transformation of the prairie town. The elevators no longer represent
modern economic prosperity or the social hub for all to congregate. The
infiltration of global franchises has lead to the disappearance of local businesses.
In relation to town planning, the closure of elevators and in particular cases
the decommissioning of the railway line has left a historical and industrial
wasteland adjacent to main street. Many farm implement dealers have either
merged or closed for business. Similar to the shift from local to global in terms
of economic strategy, local farmers are unable to compete with large scale
operations resulting in further mergers. The elevators are no longer activated
by the agricultural industry, and sit vacant awaiting a fate known to many on
the prairies. The bifurcation between community and elevator has resulted in
these massive structures becoming merely artifacts of the past.
20
r\i
MM
THE
RURAL
ELEVATOR
The rural elevator stands as a testament to an era on the Canadian
prairies that resonates with many. The elevator became an object in an
unforgiving landscape, offering pride, opportunity and a sense of place. The
rural elevator became much more than a functional element of the grain trade.
The grain elevators became symbols of a way of life and an icon of the prairies.
According to MacLachlan (2004), "[b]y the 1933-34 crop year almost six
thousand elevators dotted the prairies firmly establishing their long-standing
identity as symbols of progress and prosperity" (5). The original objective
of the elevator was to be a functional and efficient mechanized structure
intended solely for grain storage and distribution. The rural elevator however
has become a vessel of meaning and identity for the Canadian prairies. MaharKeplinger (1993) states that, "[ajrtists and architects found allure and beauty
in the elevator's geometric purity of construction; they found symbolism in
its relation to industry and the rural landscape...the honesty and simplicity of
these vernacular structures continue to teach and to inspire" (11). The soul of
the rural elevator was the community which embraced these towering wooden
structures and took pride in its existence. The elevator became a structure
which a community could cultivate a sense of place.
The railway network on the prairies designated the location of most
grain terminals within town limits. Most prairie communities had at least one
elevator ensuring access for all farmers in the region. According to McLachlan
(2004) a standardized elevator design was adopted in 1913 (5). In Grain
Elevators, Mahar-Keplinger (1993) provides extensive documentation of the
22
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The two remaining
elevators along the
decommissioned railway
corridor in the town of
Barrhead, 2009.
- 4
23
history and construction of rural wood elevators. There were a multitude of
different forms of the rural elevator. A majority of elevators on the prairies
within North America utilized the 'cribbed construction' method (18). The
cribbed construction method used 2xl0's or small nominal sized lumber "laid
flat in a rectangle or square...and held together with large metal spikes" (18).
The reason for annexes on rural elevators according to Mahar-Keplinger (1993)
resulted from the "self-contained cribbed structure" (18).
When cribbed
construction is used, "the walls interlock like logs in a cabin...resulting form
is a self contained that additional storage facilities must be placed in separate
annexes along side the original structure rather than directly attached" (18).
The elevator annex often housed the office of the elevator agent and became
a place of social networking and conversing. Mahar-Keplinger (1993) indicates
that elevators in Canada were upwards of 110 feet (approximately. 33.5 metres)
in height (14). The simplicity in form, function and construction, in addition to
the sheer scale has made the elevator an object of mass production, lending
itself to the emergence of an icon.
Due to the evolution of the agricultural industry, the future of the
prairie elevator has been in jeopardy for many decades. The remaining two
elevators in Barrhead stand as physical testaments to an era of prosperity
and hardship. The concept of mortality for the purposes of this project
pertains to the evolution of prairie architecture. Surrounding communities
have approached the issue of mortality differently. For the community of
Mayerthorpe, 64 kilometres west of Barrhead, the final elevator slotted for
demolition was saved by a community organization. The town of Westlock,
located east of Barrhead and on the main Highway 18 north from Edmonton,
has seen many elevators fall. However a new modern elevator terminal has
24
dOL
A selection of diagrams
depicting cribbed
construction, a common
form used in the
construction of rural
wooden elevators by
Mahar-Keplinger (1993)
recently been constructed. Location of settlement bears a huge significance
on the economic development occurring in small rural communities and the
fate of the elevators. According to Dunford (2009), a writer for the Town and
Country, a local newspaper published in Barrhead, Westlock and surrounding
communities, "[w]hat took many months to build in 1952 was brought crashing
to the ground in just 35 minutes with the help of a track hoe and very little
physical effort" (6B). A demolition company based in Edmonton known as
Twin City Excavators stated they have "demolished well in excess of 200 of
the old wooden grain elevators in the past several years" (6B). According to
McLachlan (2004) "[t]he same progress that is destroying the wooden grain
elevators today is what brought them to the prairie in the first place" (4). The
agricultural industry made way for the railway network and the campaign for
rural elevators; the industry has now amalgamated and opted for a highway
transportation network away from rural communities. The shift has left many
communities mourning the loss of an era as well as a common identity.
The loss of a cultural icon leaves a landscape scarred and communities
in flux. Mahar-Keplinger (1993) states, "[fjor [Aldo] Rossi...the grain elevator
expresses an inherited way of life - what he called the collective memory of a
place-embedded within a specific building type" (11). Rossi acknowledges the
power of built form and the relationship people have with their surroundings.
The elevator was built not for beauty but for function and this allowed the
structure to inherit an iconic status through the cultivation of a relationship
between people and place. The current state of the Canadian prairies provides
an opportunity to engage with the collective memory of place to ensure a
relationship between past, present and future generations exist.
M E A N I N G
THE
EVOLUTION
OF
SIGNIFICANCE
In Deconstructing the Kimbel, Benedikt (1991) states, "[m]eaning is
thus not an object or something at rest that can be grasped once and for all,
it is the very flow, and the very sensing of this flow of in-formation" (49). In
contrast Scruton (1979) provides a definition of meaning, which reflects the
elements, used to assemble architecture as the root of meaning. According to
Scruton (1979):
[architecture seems, in fact to display a kind of 'syntax': the parts of a
building seem to be fitted together in such a way that the meaningfulness
of the whole will reflect and depend upon the manner of combination of
its parts (160).
No object is capable of possessing significance at birth. The form begins as a
seed planted in a landscape with the intention of eventually blossoming into
an object of significance. The struggle is in finding the key ingredients capable
of fostering growth and engagement. Community is often the catalyst, which
embodies the ability to cultivate the significance of an object. The relationship
between people and place is a natural yet unpredictable phenomenon.
Significance of built form emerges over generations of interaction and
perception. The decoding of meaning can be approached through a series of
explorations including such aspects as context, history, community, materiality,
and scale. Meaning develops in layers, piece by piece, a history emerges, telling
a story of the evolution of an icon. The conception of meaning does not grow
static, it evolves from season to season and is reflected in the continuous flux
and redefinition of place. The evolution of identity is explored in the following
section.
26
THE CULTIVATION OF MEANING
The prairie can no longer be perceived through an historical perception.
Residents and visitors alike have grown to find comfort in the idealistic and
nostalgic view of the pioneer and the prairie. There is no single entity which
catapults a structure into iconic status; it is a complex relationship between
people, place and time responsible for the evolution of significance. If each
layer is stripped away, an understanding begins to emerge revealing the essence
of meaning. The grain elevator did not emerge as an icon solely as a result of
the grain trade. The economic prosperity of the grain industry provided rural
communities the opportunity to blossom and establish economic and social
networks. All generations, young and old, were part of the social network.
Today the elevators that remain are no longer a reflection of the community
they reside in; they have been demoted to merely the backdrop of main streets.
Formal changes in elevator design, materiality and location demonstrate the
fading of an era. With the closure of many elevators and the decommissioning
of railway lines, the physical presence of the rural wood elevator no longer
embodies the iconic strength once inherent to its simple form. The grain
elevator was never intended to become the icon of the prairies. The rural
elevator was designed for optimal production and profit for the grain industry.
The original elevators were designed and constructed with functionality and
efficiency in mind.
In The Aesthetics of Architecture, Scruton (1979) discussesthe intention
of functionalist design and the unlikely result of original intentions:
[i]t seems arbitrary to require of architecture a pattern of thought and
reasoning which would not be required in the design of a kettle, a spade,
or a motor car. In all these activities, it has been suggested, the aim is to
achieve a 'clear' or 'rational' design...[t]he first task in design, therefore,
is to understand the needs of a potential client, the architect must then
study the interaction of those needs, and finally devise a mechanism
which is responsive to them as possible. Beauty may be a consequence
of his activity, but it is no part of his aim (25).
27
According to the Royal
Alberta Museum (2002-07),
"the elevator row was a
physical declaration of a
town's economic viability
as well as the region's
agricultural strength".
28
Settlements residing near the elevators were the catalyst for generating
meaning and the eventual iconic status of the elevators. Perception of meaning
is demonstrated through the depth of engagement an individual has with built
form. Those who worked within the elevators have a completely different
definition of an elevator's importance than visitors driving through the prairies
for the first time. Built form provides a community with a vessel in which
relationships between people and place are manifested. The original builders
of elevators never could have predicted the significant impact the form would
have on the prairies and beyond. The elevator has possessed a visual strength,
which has sustained the significance of its form.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE RURAL ELEVATOR
The elevator can no longer be viewed as an icon of prosperity, only a
reflection of yesterday. Since the elevators will one day physically vanish from
the prairie horizon, there is now opportunity to learn from the evolution of
such an icon and ensure that future built form embodies the essence of place
and history. According to Benedikt (1991) in Deconstructing the Kimbell: Essay
on Meaning and Architecture, "[t]o sense difference one must have at least two
elements, two members of a system of marks, two ideas in complementarity
or even the same work or idea displaced from itself into another context"
(11). In the case of the rural wood elevator there has been a distinct shift in
meaning made due to a transformation in forms and location. Elevators still
exist on the prairies, often located outside rural communities along major
transportation routes. The elevator has undergone a transformation in form,
location and subsequently significance. The modern elevator composed of
concrete cylinders and exposed mechanical equipment no longer embodies
the simple beauty and integrity of character of the original elevators. The
rural grain elevator constructed through a functionalist framework has evolved
in some sense to be an object of beauty within an unforgiving landscape.
The engagement of built form is diverse for every person. The diversity
of perception lends itself to the richness and integrity of the significance of
29
WTO*"' ^ J H '
'Z^&wtiFfiksft
... „ .--• -....» J* rl
place. Scruton (1979) and Benedikt (1991) both present arguments regarding
the influential nature of iteration and meaning According to Benedikt (1991),
"[iteration does not create meaning as much as it creates the possibility for
meaning" (45). Scruton (1979) states that "through the sense of detail that
architectural meanings become 'rooted' in experience, and in the apt use of
detail that even the most unreflective builder feels confident in what he does"
(205). Scruton (1979) brings to light an important aspect of architecture, the
replication of previous or foreign building elements. Scruton (1979) states,
"[t]he soul of a thing is of its essence; it cannot be simulated, borrowed or
stolen from some foreign source" (254). The question must be posed: would
the elevator have evolved to such cultural significance without the mass
replication of uniformity across North America?
disappear only our collective memory can enable us to "read" the land and
thus, help us understand who we are". Drastic changes have rippled through
the agricultural industry leaving communities without stable futures, however
the essence of community still exists. The edifice in which community spirit was
cultivated has disappeared. Rural communities are the essence of the prairies.
The strength of community continues to live in local coffee shops and senior
drop-in centres Scruton provides insight into the passing of significance:
When a fashion is about to collapse, a last chorus of established voices
rings out in praise of it, and roars its abuse at the skeptics and iconoclasts.
Then, overnight, the guardians desert their positions, leaving fashion to
die at the first assault, and pretending thereafter that they never had
anything to do with it, or that they defended it only with reserve and
irony, and only for the sake of fair play (1994, xi).
THE LOSS OF SIGNIFICANCE
There are severe consequences associated with the physical loss of
the elevator. Due to the sheer scale of the grain elevator and vast prairie
landscape, elevators became a mainstay for orientation and identity. Without
the physical presence of these massive entities, way-finding and community
identity has been lost. As previously noted, the elevator functioned as a vessel
providing an environment for the relationship between people and place to
cultivate. According to the Royal Alberta Museum (2002-07), "as the elevators
30
Rural communities are outraged at the mass campaign of demolition of
elevators across the prairies. Communities are relying on physical preservation
to maintain the essence of the prairies. Physical preservation does not ensure
a future. The time of the rural wood elevator has past. The evolution of the
agricultural industry no longer resembles that of yesteryear. A few elevators
within Alberta have been retained by community organizations striving to
preserve the essence of the prairies. The purpose of the elevator has become
an artifact rather than a symbol of economic stability and community pride.
I D E N T I T Y
THE
EMERGENCE
OF
AN
ICON
A sense of place emerges from the cultivation of meaning. The
significance of place is established through an array of characteristics,
which become inherent to place over time. Identity often involves an allencompassing vision used to describe the essence of a place. Authenticity
is derived from an identity rooted within the context of a community. An
authentic identity involves a deeper immersion into a given place versus the
overtly generalized identity often associated with regions such as the prairies.
At a distance every prairie community stems from similar circumstances.
Each prairie town strives to distinguish themselves from other communities.
There is an untapped resource waiting to be unearthed in every prairie town
that provides a historical narrative to the evolution of place. The differences
between each settlement may not be as distinct as the variations that
exist between urban and rural environments. The pace of change in rural
communities is not equivalent to an urban speed, however, as mentioned
earlier in the text, the evolutionary nature of the agricultural industry and
deteriorating prairie structures and main streets are evidence indicating that
rural communities are in flux. The documentary Death of a Skyline (2003),
directed by Smith, provides insight into the repercussions associated with
the closure of elevators in rural communities. Within the documentary, the
elevator is referred to as a "tombstone to a way of life".
32
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The documentary Deot/i
of a Skyline directed by
Smith provides insight
into the repercussions
associated with the closure
of elevators in rural
communities.
Within the documentary,
the elevator is referred to
as a, "tombstone to a way
of life" (Smith 2003)
•4 < • > ' :
The elevator row in
Barrhead, Alberta prior
to the decommissioning
of the railway line and
demolition of the UGG
elevator. The photograph
was taken in the year 2000.
33
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11
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v 4k
•#*
THE MANIFESTATION OF A VERNACULAR ICON
The grain elevator was never intended to become the iconic
representation of economic and social vitality; however the relationship
between community and built form spawned the emergence of an identity
unique to the prairies. The relationship between the elevator and the community
is what cultivated a sense of identity for the residents. From any vantage point,
even via air and automobile, the grain elevator towered over the prairies. The
difference in perception lies in the level of engagement individuals had with
the elevator. McLachlan (2004) provides a collection of stories written by those
who engaged with elevators on an often daily basis. In Gone But Not Forgotten:
Tales of the Disappearing Grain Elevators, Butala includes a description of the
elevator as, "a symbol...not just of a way to make a living, but of an entire
way of life" (McLachlan 2004, xiii). According to an exhibition developed by
the Royal Alberta Museum (2002-07) the grain elevator "was a source of local
pride".
THE LOSS OF AN ICON: THE CAUSE AND ITS SYMPTOMS
The progressive nature of our society and the agricultural industry
has led to the erasure of the original wood elevator. Rural communities no
longer are able to physically represent their economical prosperity through
the existence of the grain elevator. Communities are now recognized for the
numberofcommercialfranchiseserectedalongthemainhighwaythroughtown.
Relocation of industry outside of town limits, often along main transportation
corridors, has devastated many rural communities, economically and socially.
With an identity residing in the past, rural communities have begun to focus on
the revitalization of main street and other aspects of the community.
Unfortunately, the community level of economic success is no longer
echoed in the number of elevators along the railway line. The focus is on the
globalization of main transportation routes through town. With a dependency
on the automobile for transit and movement of people and goods, rural
communities are witnessing a shift from the main street to a main highway
lined with popular commercial franchises. According to Babuk (1983) in "Home
35
on a Different Range: A Short History of Canadian Prairie Architecture",
"[t]he new symbol of transportation has become so lost in its own image that
it creates blind uniformity and denies the prairie" (22).
With global interventions comes loss of local business and loyalty.
The loss of the elevator is not the main threat to most main streets and rural
communities. It is the shift in dependency to larger markets and a desire
for an identity on a global scale rather than a local. The transition has been
devastating to most rural communities. A few have survived merely due to the
geographical location of main urban transportation routes. The disappearance
of the elevators has often been to blame for the deterioration of main streets,
however the transition away from rail dependent transit and small-scale
farming is in fact the cause. One mass produced form has been replaced with
another. The unfortunate result has been an inability to cultivate new forms
of prairie identity for rural communities. For instance, it is difficult to make a
global franchise unique to a prairie town of 4000. The result is often a literal
translation of earlier forms, rather than an interpretation of the evolution of
significance.
MULTIPLE FORMS OF IDENTITY
A common occurrence in most rural communities has been the
establishment of a statue or town attraction. In some cases the statue
represents a local bird indigenous to the area, in others, the statue is a large
scale replica of a flower. Each symbol is meant to foster awareness and
distinguish one community from the next. The desire for a physical object
representing a visually recognizable form is a false and empty representation of
the community itself. However rural communities continue to feel compelled
to erect objects to distinguish themselves from others and establish a tourist
attraction for the region. For instance, the town of Barrhead erected a town
mascot, the Great Blue Heron, in response to a local bird which is "often
spotted along the shores of local lakes" (Town of Barrhead, 2006). A similar
event occurs in the urban context in terms of suburbia. Developers often label
a new residential development with a particular theme regardless of the given
context and landscape. The suburban community of Tuscany, located within
36
the north-west quadrant of Calgary, stands as a testament to the labelling of
residential developments, intended to generate a superficial identity for a
community. The distinction must be made between the form of identity, which
resides in the roadside tourist attraction or the implied theme of a suburban
community and the object (built form), which is engaged by the community
over time, resulting the evolution of an iconic form. The intention of the local
statue has forced an identity upon rural communities resulting in the inability
of that symbol to grow and evolve with a community. The presence of these
foreign objects evokes little from the history of its given context.
According to Benedikt (1991), "architecture is always "against" its
context, foreign to where it is, and im-position, a shift, brought, re-deployed
thing, still bearing the traces of exile and encampment" (50). The prairie
landscape was once empty of human intervention yet some how a beauty
emerged from the relationship cultivated between built form and landscape.
The grain elevator can be classified as the foreign entity Benedikt speaks of.
The distinction was made earlier between the roadside attraction and the
grain elevator, the difference lies in the original intention of the built form.
The roadside attraction ignores the holistic nature of identity and provides
a replication of some aspect of the community. Whereas the intention of
the elevator, as mentioned in previous text, was purely meant to provide
functional storage and distribution nodes along the Canadian railway network.
The relationship rural elevators cultivated with communities through an
association with economic, social and cultural milieu provided opportunity for
the evolution of an identity.
A QUESTION OF AUTHENTICITY
The identity of the Canadian prairies is vulnerable and fragile due to
the inability for communities to sustain a sense of place and tradition. It is
the lessons from past iconic structures and community spirit that should be
taken forward into the next generation of prairie structures. In "Home on a
different range: A short history of Canadian prairie architecture", Babuk (1983)
discusses a general application of style versus the emergence of an authentic
prairie style. The elevator over time became the icon of the prairies, while a
town mascot or statue has sustained physical presence without the cultivation
of an authentic relationship with place. According to Scruton (1994) vernacular
architecture is, "the architecture of the ordinary builder, the person with
neither pretension nor claim to genius, who has nevertheless availed himself
of patterns and principles" (15). With Scruton's (1994) perspective one can
begin to understand a certain authenticity, which is inherent to objects and
traditions rooted in a rural community.
With the loss of the grain elevator comes the harrowing task of
redefinition. Often regions have identifiable features, which distinctly separate
them from others. The vernacular of a region develops over time through
the reiteration of aesthetic style and cultural traditions. For instance, the east
coast is represented through small fishing villages laden with colourful out port
buildings. The reuse of structures as well as the adaptation of the east coast
vernacular in modern work has provided an opportunity for the identity of the
east to continue. The residential work of Brian Mac Kay-Lyons, an architect
in the Maritimes, is an epitome of pristine objects within the landscape.
Each project generates a strong and interdependent relationship with its
context. Careful attention is paid to the siting of each object within the rugged
landscape. Mac Kay-Lyons has adopted a select palette of materials in which
his firm generates architecture capable of signifying an historic narrative. On
the prairies, the wood granaries, original homesteads and elevators have been
neglected and demolished without the retention of particular aspects. A great
deal of significance is present in the materiality of historic prairie buildings. The
simple rectilinear forms and use of local materials are instantly recognizable.
Wardhaugh (2001) recognizes that "[sjocieties emerge with particular cultural
patterns, based upon the geography, economics, and politics of a place" (12).
According to Wardhaugh (2001) in Toward Defining the Prairies: Region,
Culture and History, the evolution of place occurs when "[sjocieties record
perceptions of a place...in visual imagery and structures, such as paintings and
photography, architectural...or written imagery...[tjhese images become active
agents further shaping perceptions of place" (12).
38
A STATIC FORM OF IDENTITY
I n Toward Defining the Prairies: Region, Culture and History, Wa rd haugh
(2001) references Friesen (1999) in relation to the potential consequence of
identifying with a static perception of place, "[o]ur perceptions of the past",
he claims, "may stand in the way of our seeing its' present reality clearly" (8).
Friesen (1999) brings to light the myth of perception. Communities in some
instances have found comfort in relying on the generalized perception of the
prairies. Although with neglect and a lack of intention to extract what they
can from the fading icons of the prairies a community's identity has grown
static, incapable of reconfiguring itself to reflect the past, present and future.
There is as much importance in the cultivation of identity as there is in the
definition of a region. In Toward Defining the Prairies: Region, Culture and
History, Friesen (2001) states, "history has borne heavily upon westerners and
has shaped community self-perception. Moreover, certain historical images
are now a source of confusion because westerners utilize inherited concepts in
circumstances where such notions no longer apply" (Wardhaugh, 14).
The rural wood elevator has become an historical image. The elevator
no longer reflects the economic prosperity, nor does the historical icon hold
the same cultural significance it once did. The local relationship between
people and place has been ruptured by the infiltration of advancements in the
agricultural industry, globalization and disconnect between generations. The
Canadian west can no longer be defined by the elevator, "[t]he West has come
to be defined by Calgary, Vancouver, by the Mountain Equipment Co-op and
Kananaskis and Whistler, by Starbucks and Second Cups" (Wardhaugh, 23).
Friesen (2001) uses the term 'nostalgia' to discuss the distorted perception
of history. According to Friesen (2001) nostalgia is, "a sentimental evocation
of some period of the past" (25). The emotional attachment residents and
visitors have of the prairies are misleading. Each vision is a personal investment
in the relationship between people and place. The perceptions are idealized
scenarios, which have become static rather than evolving.
"Architecture never
really defeats the
anonymous elements;
buildings gradually
age, decay, deteriorate
and more dramatically
succumb to sudden
economic and political
forces"
(Chapman et al 2007,13)
There is something
profoundly beautiful about
decaying architecture.
A weathered structure
possesses soul which new
architecture can only aspire
to. Built form pays witness
to life and all of its events.
In some manner this aura
becomes inscribed into the
decaying structure for all to
discover.
40
^mr-i'-mm
M O R T A L I T Y
THE
LOSS
OF
AN
ICON
Each project in Residue: Architecture as a Condition of Loss represents
an ode to an object previously erected in the landscape of Newcastle.
Chapman et al (2007) present what they have deemed "'imperfect acts of
architecture' which are the ephemeral by-products, the residue of a consumer
society where architecture is fast losing its capacity to speak of alternative
histories of cultural values and political beliefs" (17). According to Chapman et
al (2007) "[mjemory is the process wherein the past is recalled in the present.
This process typically involves two components - a phenomenological trigger
and the associated emotional or psychological response to this trigger" (21).
Architecture, as a catalyst for evoking memory, is discussed by Chapman et al
(2007) as "architectural forms and tectonics are assumed to have the ability to
control or shape the way in which memory is triggered" (21). The conceptual
projects presented by Chapman et al (2007) seem to encourage a new form
of historical preservation. The intention of this project is not to replicate the
lost built form but to echo the essence of the artifact. Within the projects
presented by Chapman et al (2008) extensive attention is paid to the detail of
the object and the significance it came to bear, positive or negative.
As previously discussed, the perception of place is evidently in
continuous flux, however 'memory' as discussed in relation to Bachelard by
Chapman et al (2007) is a static image. Chapman et al (2007) introduced the
concept of memory as defined by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space.
Bachelard presents the concept of memory as, "motionless and...more
securely fixed in space" (23). Therefore, Chapman et al (2007) declares that
" space, rather then time...provides the strongest connection between the
past and the present" (23). Chapman et al (2007) undoubtedly believe they
41
'^'^'^^fe.-^''
:
'' ^l]fe^|^^
can evoke memory through the re-iteration of a lost artifact. Architecture, in
relation to Chapman et al (2007) definition, has the ability to evoke a previous
emotional attachment and bring to life an historical narrative capable of
evolving to include new generations of experience and perceptions. Time in
terms of mortality is a variable, which can no longer be ignored in the context
of the prairies. The intention of this project is to embody the characteristics
of prairie architecture capable of igniting emotional attachments associated
with memory in association. The challenge arrives with the complex nature
regarding the perception of place and the vantage point in which to design.
Previously, a distinction was made between the relationship of residents
and that of visitors. Chapman et al (2007) provides further distinction between
generations of residents who have physically engaged with an historical object
versus younger generations who have merely been introduced to the subject
matter through historical narrative or visual record. According to Chapman
et al (2007) "for the vast majority of people born after...events took place,
neither of these memorials conjure a 'real' memory rather they construct a
learned or subliminally appreciated memory" (25). The mortality of built form
is inevitable; therefore, new structures must embody the essence of the past
while providingopportunityforthe future. Architecture isatemporal installation
in the landscape. The implications of time, aesthetic taste and neglect have
resulted in societies looking toward the future without any foundation of
where we have evolved. Architecture has a duty to span generations without
neglecting the past, present or future. According to Scruton (1979):
A building is essentially a public object to be looked at, lived in and walked
past at all times, in all conditions...[t]he observer is not normally putting
himself in a special frame of mind when he passes or even when he
enters a building, nor does he regard it, as he might a book, a painting or
a sculpture, as an object of private and personal attention (189).
An icon's meaning does not evolve in the minds of all inhabitants. An identity
is merely a snapshot of a specific era and relationship between people and
place, similar to a memory.
Interaction between generations is pivotal to the survival of our rural
communities and the life of our rural roots. We may appreciate the past and
mourn the loss of physical entities such as the elevators, but when we are left
with nothing to engage with, we have no foundation on which to evolve.
42
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SITE
A N A L Y S I S
The intention of the following site analysis is to formulate an
understanding of the social, economic, and cultural identity of the community
of Barrhead. An holistic view of the community provides a strong foundation
for the development of social and economic sectors within the community.
The community is viewed through regional, local and historic perspectives.
A variety of areas have been explored including settlement patterns, land
ownership, economic trends, transportation methods, local demographics,
growth and decay.
44
u
RESIDENTIAL
AREA
COMMUNITY
AREA
INDUSTRIAL
AREA
C O M M ERCIAL
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OF B A R R H EAD
45
HISTORY
OF
SETTLEMENT
The evolution of town settlement stands as a testament of an economic
era of prosperity and hardship on the Canadian prairies. Following the
improvement of secondary highways across the province originally established
along the provincial surveyor's grid, the settlement of Barrhead shifted in
direction following the north-south axis rather than the railway corridor. The
following exercise revealed the breakdown of a consistent town plan. The
emergence of sporadic residential and industrial developments has eroded the
cohesive nature and accessibility of the rural community environment.
46
1927-1930
1979 -1990
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1950
The following section provides a brief overview of three main
transportation and economic hubs within the community of Barrhead. The
later section presents a visual understanding of the surrounding context found
within the County of Barrhead.
51
5 0 T H
LU t d t J t i t d
52
STREET
The main commercial core of the community resides between 49th
avenue to 51st street. The greatest density of retail and commerce services
exist on 50th street. The residents of Barrhead have relied on a stable economic
centre since the re-settlement in 1927. The street includes public and private
services including of a local bakery, flower shops, drug stores, hardware stores,
banks, restaurants, and additional retail outlets. The scale of main street is
low lying, mainly 1-2 storey structures. A few smaller scale buildings remain
including a residence once erected for a store owner. Over the years the staple
family businesses have been a mainstay while a few have shifted to alternative
locations along main or converted to new business strategies. There are a
few empty lots along main which have often been utilized for community
activities, including pancake breakfasts and location of the annual Christmas
tree. The town's main street has seen its share of hardship including the shift
towards a commercial development along Highway 33. Barrhead's main street
has continued to be a stable reliable commercial corridor for the residents
reflecting the viability and resiliency of the rural community.
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Barrhead's 50th avenue resides parallel to the railway corridor in the
south-west quadrant of town, as shown in the figure on the left. The street
has undergone many transitions over the years and has always been secondary
to 50th street. The street consisted of a variety of businesses over the years
including retail and light industrial. A few original buildings remain, once
automotive garages and now retail outlets. The town office was relocated to
50th avenue within the past few years. Minimal development has occurred on
the railway side (south side) of the street. A small strip mall along 50th avenue
physically blocked 50th street. The structure has been ill maintained and acts
as a wall to the residential development south of main. A privately owned
hotel established in 1927 still resides on the corner of 50th Street and 50th
Avenue. A two storey wooden structure exists on 50th avenue, west of main.
The historic structure, as seen in the figure below, is home to a family owned
mill work business. Few of these structures remain. The unfortunate fate of
most older decaying buildings is often removal.
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The main secondary transportation route through Barrhead, highway 33,
runs along a north-south axis in relation to the surveyor's grid. The route has proven
to be a catalyst for change in the community. A number of community services in
addition to retail chains have relocated along the main transportation route. The
highway through town is not a traditional high velocity automobile corridor. The route
has been expanded to include additional lanes yet retains a maximum of 50 km/h
speed limit. There are select areas for pedestrian crossing with additional needed.
The location of public amenities such as the provincial office, distance learning centre
and senior drop-in-centre along highway 33 have proven devastating to cohesiveness
of the community. The accessibility of these amenities due to location have been
problematic for the older demographic without access to personal transportation.
Highway 33 has become the main artery of activity through town. The transportation
route provides opportunity as well as constraints for the redevelopment of the railway
corridor.
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The prairie landscape has witnessed a changing skyline once laden with
wooden structures now has evolved to include pre manufactured structures.
The difference is distinct. The modern structures do not exude the same
relationship with the landscape as the wooden structures have established.
Time will reveal whether the new buildings are capable of fostering the deep,
meaningful connection established between people and place in the era of the
elevator.
T HSE
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The preservation of a few
wooden prairie structures
can be witnessed within
the county. The meaning
associated with these
historic structures will
remain long past the
physical disappearance of
these beautiful structures.
59
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ID
PRAIRIE
A R C H I T E C T U R E
Over the past century the prairie has witnessed the evolution of many
interpretations of prairie architecture. A multitude of forms exist which have
cultivated a relationship with the unforgiving prairie landscape. The majority
of forms are wooden structures ranging in scale from small wooden granaries
to the monolithic elevator, all with common characteristics. Evident in each
form of prairie architecture is the simplicity of form, repetition of form and
functionality of form. The following presents a variety of studies undertaken
in an attempt to grasp the essence of prairie architecture.
61
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1952
65
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An aerial photograph of
the region provides an
overall vantage point of
the town and the selected
site for development. The
surveyor's grid is visible
through the highway
system which divides the
town into four quadrants.
The focus of the project
is within the south-west
quadrant.
66
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The selected site is located within the town of Barrhead, 110 km northwest of the city of Edmonton. Originally the site was developed as a railway
corridor in 1927 for connection to the existing Northern Alberta Railway
line from Busby. As noted in previous text, the original settlement site for
the community of Barrhead was 3 kilometers north of where the town now
resides. The site was a pivotal element in the formation of a new settlement.
The corridor, once a hub of social and economic activity, is now vacant and
scarred, existing as a reminder of a past era. The site is a physical testament to
an era of life which is no longer viable. The intention of redevelopment within
the railway corridor is reconnection. An integration of social, economic, and
cultural elements intended to foster relationships within the community.
67
s
OPPORTUNITIES
C O N S T R A I NTS
PUBLIC
EDGES
O Population
4,300
4,250
OPPORTUNITIES
+
CONSTRAINTS
The selected site provides an assortment of opportunities for growth
in addition to a variety of challenges to overcome. A few key elements stand
out as opportunities for a development plan, including the two remaining
wooden rural elevators. An existing historic building residing along 50th Street
is also considered an artifact presenting an opportunity for an interpretation of
the past. The existing settlement pattern of the south-west quadrant of town
provides an abundance of opportunity to physically reconnect the two section
of town and rid the community of stagnant space.
An existing concrete block strip mall residing along 50th Avenue
currently severs any connection main street has with the site and residential
development to the south. The mall restricts visual and physical access to the
rest of the community. The three main transportation routes pose both as
advantages and disadvantages for the redevelopment of the railway corridor.
The main street corridor, 50th Street, has provided a stable hub of economic
and social activity for the community over the past several generations. Due
to the proximity of highway 33, some business has been relocated to the
periphery of the main transportation route through town rather than the
community's main street. Highway 33 poses the most threat to the intention
of a redevelopment strategy.
4,200
4,150
4,100
population between 1 9 9 1 - 2 0 0 8 (Data Source: Alberta First 2009, 10))
Population Demographic
600
150
The town and county of Barrhead's population presents challenges
similar to most rural communities of a similar age. The aging population
provides opportunity to bring settlement to the site as well as the creation
of new employment and volunteer opportunities through the development
of different social and economic strategies. A minimal percentage of the
population of Barrhead has obtained any post-secondary education. The
opportunity is apparent to provide alternatives for residents desiring a form of
post-secondary education without having to leave the community.
1996
O
2001
population demographic (Data Source: Alberta First 2009,11)
69
SITE
STRATEGIES
RECONNECTION OF FRAGMENTED SECTIONS OF
SOUTH-WEST QUADRANT OF TOWN
VISUAL PRESERVATION OF RAILWAY LINE CORRIDOR
TRANSITIONAL ZONING FROM RESIDENTIAL TO
COMMERCIAL CORE
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITY FOR PRESERVATION OF
ELEVATORS
DEVELOP A COMMUNITY HUB, A TOWN SQUARE
ESTABLISH ADULT LIVING AND ASSISTED LIVING
DEVELOPMENTS FOR THE AGING DEMOGRAPHIC
PROVIDE SERVICES, EMPLOYMENT AND VOLUNTEER
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED
POPULATION ON SITE
CONNECT REDEVELOPED CORRIDOR TO THE REST OF
TOWN TO INCREASE WALKABILITY
ADDRESS NEEDS OF RESIDENTS OF TOWN AND
COUNTY
RECOGNIZE THE PAST WHILE PROVIDING
OPPORTUNITY FOR A FUTURE
ESTABLISH A VESSEL FOR THE CULTIVATION OF
PEOPLE AND PLACE
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i«MiiiPBiB«||
O P M E N T
The existing town walking
trail network was examined
in order to ensure the
redevelopment strategy
ensured continuity
in walkability. The
dashed line follows the
decommissioned 'Y'
railway line and provides
an opportunity to connect
existing residential areas
with new developments.
72
REDEVELOPMENT
STRATEGY
A renewal strategy has been developed in response to the physical
bifurcation of north and south sections of the community of Barrhead
resulting from the loss of the railway line and two elevators. The large site
resides perpendicular to Barrhead's main street and the secondary highway,
which separates the east and west sections of town. After assessing the site
and its surrounding context, in addition to reviewing the settlement pattern
and history of Barrhead, select artifacts revealed themselves, reinforcing the
importance of the site and its potential. An assessment of existing buildings
in terms of services, education, social, cultural and economic sectors revealed
a few gaps, which are addressed by the redevelopment strategy. A major
element missing within the community of Barrhead is a formal community
hub. Most of the rural communities surrounding the town have their own
community hall. Individual needs are met with current facilities such as the
arena and the senior's drop-in-centre. The town as well as the county do not
have a facility which provides opportunity for generations to interact. The
redevelopment plan for the original railway site brings an array of necessities to
fruition including the issue of senior living. The plan addresses social, cultural,
economic, environmental, and historical issues. The redevelopment strategy is
holistic in its approach for reintegration. The pre-existing conditions found on
the site, specifically the two remaining wood elevators and the empty railway
corridor, are opportunities for engagement for the renewal plan.
73
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The conceptual site plan to
the right provides insight
into the process undertaken
to address the needs of the
community of Barrhead and
surrounding county Two public
buildings flank the east and
west edges These structures
act as book ends to the internal
reconnection of the mam street
area and southern section of
town
74
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- —
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T#
A M M E
EXISTING BUILDINGS
REGIONAL MUSEUM - PROVIDING EXHIBITION SPACE FOR A VARIETY OF COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES
ARTIFACTS - HISTORIC BUILDINGS OF THE COMMUNITY INCLUDING GRAIN ELEVATORS AND MILL WORK BUSINESS
EXISTING LAWYERS OFFICE - CONSTRUCTED TO PAY HOMAGE TO THE ORIGINAL RAILWAY STATION BUILT IN 1927
ADULT LIVING DWELLINGS - SEMI-DETACHED DWELLINGS WITHOUT GARAGES, INTEGRATED TO PROVIDE CHOICE FOR THE AGING
DEMOGRAPHIC OF BARRHEAD
ADULT LIVING DWELLINGS - CONDOMINIUM STYLE DWELLINGS, INTEGRATED TO PROVIDE CHOICE FOR THE AGING DEMOGRAPHIC OF
BARRHEAD
CHILDCARE FACILITY - PROVIDE SERVICES AND EMPLOYMENT FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS
PUBLIC PARK - FOR RESIDENTS ON SITE AND SURROUNDING AREA
ADULT LIVING DWELLINGS - SEMI-DETACHED DWELLINGS INCLUDING GARAGE, INTEGRATED TO PROVIDE CHOICE FOR THE AGING
DEMOGRAPHIC OF BARRHEAD
COMMERCIAL STRIPS - ALONG 50TH AVENUE AND OTHER MAIN ROUTES THROUGHOUT THE SITE, COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES
HAVE BEEN INTEGRATED TO COMPENSATE FOR THE EXISTING SPACE REMOVED
PUBLIC HOCKEY RINK + CAFE - INTEGRATED IN THE HEART OF TOWN, GENERATING ACTIVITY THROUGHOUT THE DAY & SEASONS
THE TOWN SQUARE - ENCOMPASSES ONE OF THE EXISTING ELEVATORS AT THE SOUTH END OF 50TH STREET
POST-SECONDARY FACILITY - INTENDED TO BRING A VARIETY OF CHOICE REGARDING POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION TO THE
COMMUNITY
HERITAGE PLACE - INTENDED TO PROVIDE MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACES, INCLUDING A LIBRARY, THEATRE, CAFE, EXHIBITION SPACE,
ETC. IN AN ATTEMPT TO ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF THE TOWN AND THE COUNTY POPULATION
£ £ A V M H 91 H
00
E
The DESIGN FRAMEWORK for heritage place was generated through an
understanding of the evolution of prairie architecture. From this exploration,
three elements emerged:
FUNCTION
The concept of function has been manifested through a series of primary as
well as secondary uses, addressing the variety of needs a community of this
scale requires. The internal and external resolution of these primary functions
reflects the overall language of solids and voids, with visual fluidity throughout
the building.
FORM
The concept of form has been explored through the interpretation of materiality
and scale of historic prairie structures. Shifts in materiality and scale indicate
to the occupant a change in function and use. The historical prairie forms
such as the grain shed and the elevator have been interpreted rather than
replicated. The abstracted forms reflect the advancements in building science
and the prairie way of life while maintaining a connection to the past through
materiality, scale and repetition.
REPETITION
The use of repetition in this design is intended to amplify the distinction
between forms, as well as function. The diversity in form is enhanced through
the use of iteration, providing the occupant with a level of legibility internally
and externally.
79
HERITAGE
PLAC
The intention of the community structure is not to replicate a monument
to the fallen elevators and icons of a past era. The design is intended to emulate
the essence of a series of essential elements working together to cultivate a
place of interaction and evolution of a new perception of place. The structure
is a synergy of parts addressing various economic, social, political and cultural
issues present in the given context. As previously discussed a new construct
does not have the ability to present instantaneous meaning or identity, however
the intention is for the synthesis of elements to inherently hold the potential
for the evolution of meaning. The community hub requires the engagement
of the community to cultivate meaning. The rhythms and texture of prairie
architecture provides an enormous vocabulary of familiarity. The simplicity
of prairie architecture in combination with its scale and repetitive nature of
form provides opportunities for interpretation. The relationship between each
element of built form on the prairies demonstrates the functional process the
agricultural industry requires. The elevator, field, farmer and grain shed were
all necessary for the process of cultivation and harvesting to occur. Repetition,
simplicity of form and overall functionality are key elements inherent to prairies
structures and the foundation of the community hub design.
As noted before, the community hub has been sited along prominently
public edges and acts as a buffer for the internal redevelopment scheme. As
an anchor the community hub provides a stable place for social interaction
between generations. The siting of the structure has been aligned to maintain
a connection with the original railway corridor. The parti diagrams (refer to
illustrations on Page 79) depict the synergy of a system of parts which work
80
together to provide opportunity for community investment. Grain terminals
and farm operations provide precedents for a variety of elements working
together. The series of parts are achieved through the repetition of form. A
language is established between solid and void.
The relationship between solid and void is exemplified by use of
transparent and solid materials. The transparent areas of the plan act as
connective tissue between the defined objects. The permeability of the
plan generates relationships internally between objects in addition to the
surrounding environment. The building is situated in a very prominently public
site where flows of pedestrian and vehicular traffic are in constant flux. The
orientation of the building acts as a gateway, visually and physically to the
redeveloped railway corridor. The challenge with locating the structure along
multiple public edges is to avoid the creation of a rear side of the building. Each
elevation much address the needs of the adjacent zone including, a secondary
highway, pedestrian edge, residential area and light industrial zone.
The internal and external resolution of the building and site continue
to push the concept of solid and void with visual fluidity throughout the
structure. The intention of the community hub was to stitch together two
areas of town to regenerate a connection for development. An existing strip
mall has maintained a physical barricade between both sides of the tracks. The
community hub resembles an anchor while providing ample permeability for
pedestrians and inhabitants alike. A public park has been integrated an amenity
which was demolished north of the site. The park provides ample space for
a variety of community events, public or private. In addition to open space, a
community garden area has been integrated to provide a serene environment
for inhabitants of the library as well as opportunity for local residents. Public
washrooms and a canteen space have been included within the park area. A
shelter belt, similar to the common prairie strategy, buffers the park space
from the vehicular traffic to the east of the site.
In proceeding text, the community hub and public park will be
referred to as 'heritage place'. The title encompasses the purpose of a large
scale building within a small rural community. The structure is intended to
serve not only the town but the county as well. The title of community centre
does not encompass the variety of functions 'heritage place' provides for the
community of Barrhead.
81
P R O G R A M M E
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EARLY PROGRAMME STUDY
The adjacent diagram was
created to examine the following
aspects of the plan:
Repetition
Connectivity
Functionality
Diversity
Public/Private Space
Served/Servant Space
Edge Conditions
82
intg. rm wr
library
it.iif
ihtMlte
^pine
c.ifc
Litrhen
COUNTY LIBRARY
LECTURE ROOMS
INTENDED TO RELIEVE THE PRESSURES FROM THE EXISTING LIBRARY
SMALL MULTI-PURPOSE ROOMS FOR GATHERINGS, PUBLIC MEETINGS, EXHIBITIONS
CONNECTED TO THE PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
MAIN AUDITORIUM
CIRCULATION
INTENDED TO GENERATE PUBLIC AWARENESS FOR THE ACTIVE ARTS COMMUNITY
PROVIDING AMPLE SPACE AND STORAGE FOR A LARGER PUBLIC FACILITY
BOARDROOMS
LARGE LECTURE HALL
INTENDED FOR FORMAL PUBLIC AND PRIVATE MEETINGS
NON-FIXED SEATING INTENDED FOR TOWN HALL MEETINGS, GALLERY
EXHIBITIONS AND PRIVATE FUNCTIONS
LEISURE AREA
PROVIDE AMPLE SPACE FOR THE COFFEE CROWD, RESIDENTS AND VISITORS
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
INTENDED TO PROVIDE TOURIST INFORMATION, PUBLIC NOTICES, ETC.
CAFE
RURAL DINER TO APPEAL TO BOTH THE RESIDENT AND VISITOR
GARDEN AREA
READING AND LEISURE SPACE WITH A VIEW OF THE COMMUNITY GARDEN
CIRCULATION CORE
READING ROOMS
PROVIDING ORIENTATION TO ADJACENT SPACES AND ACTING AS A MEETING SPACE
PROVIDING AN ALTERNATIVE FORM FOR MEETINGS, GATHERINGS, STUDY
COMMUNITY GARDEN - AVAILABLE FOR RESIDENTS
CHILDREN'S AREA
A SEPARATE ENVIRONMENT INTENDED TO NURTURE THE LOVE OF READING
AT AN EARLY AGE
PUBLIC WASHROOMS + CANTEEN BUILDING
OUTDOOR FACILITY FOR COMMUNITY
83
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M A T E R I A L I T Y
The material palette for heritage place evolved from an analysis of
prairie architecture. Rather than introduce an array of modern materials,
modern techniques are used to showcase the beauty and simplicity of wood
and steel. The primary structure of the building consists of glulam beam
and columns to make reference to the internal structure of grain elevators.
The integration of steel in the form of connection plates provides a modern
interpretation of post and beam construction. The main exterior envelope
is composed of wood cladding with the introduction of corrugated steel
in select locations. A language of solid and void is achieved through the
relationship of wood and glazing. All glazing units have been designed to
make reference to historic units discovered during the site analysis phase.
The central spine providing orientation internally and externally also acts as a
beacon for the community. The large horizontal roof line reflects the simplicity
of the prairies while reflecting the texture of the landscape through the
introduction of an extensive green roof system. There is a quality associated
with prairie architecture that evolves from the textures of its materials.
The building's material palette captures the essence of prairie
architecture through a contemporary lens with the use of regional materials
which have been used for generations. Even though local materials consisting
of wood and steel become weathered over time the patina begins to tell a
story of the relationship between landscape and built form.
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REFLECTION
The evolution of the rural elevator demonstrates the
unpredictable, yet beautiful relationships cultivated between built
form, landscape and people. In deconstructing the life of a prairie icon,
I now recognize the ability for built form and meaning to transcend
generations. The project was intended to provide an alternative form
of preservation for rural communities grappling with the loss of a
way of life. I feel this project presents an alternative approach for
reconnecting people and place for generations to come. Throughout
the process it was important to retain an essence of the community
while addressing issues of scale, adaptability and familiarity. I feel the
project presents a viable and holistic redevelopment strategy for the
community of Barrhead and stands as a model for others.
The journey has been both challenging and rewarding and
therefore inspiring. The search for a greater understanding involving
the manifestation of meaning will be a path I continue to pursue.
Looking forward, I take with me the importance of recognizing the
history and evolution of place. I now recognize that embracing history
is not about replication, rather understanding the process. The history
of place provides a foundation on which we continue to evolve,
establishing a continuum.
In researching this project, I have come to recognize the
different perspectives and values associated with the prairie landscape.
Each has contributed to the significance of the rural elevator and
therefore, I am proud to present my interpretation here.
PRECEDENTS
APPENDIX
A
From a distance the elevator has been seemingly placed upon the
prairie landscape rather than emerging from the cultivation of land. Select
firms from the east and west coasts of Canada with contrasting design
frameworks prompts an investigation into the process to which each begins
to invest in a given context. Patkau Architects has established a process
of design with the intention of weaving architecture and context together.
The result has been context specific solutions celebrating the essence of a
particular place.
The contrast can be made between Patkau Architects and MacKayLyons Sweetapple Architects, both coastal designers.
MacKay-Lyons
Sweetapple has developed a vernacular palette of materials and historical
references developing architecture as an object placed within the landscape
of the east coast. MacKay-Lyons work visually reflects an era of building
where the landscape dominated the decisions made by local builders.
Patkau Architects have presented a diverse design methodology where
architecture becomes part of the landscape, respecting what was there, but
ensuring the emergence of a unique interpretation for the given context.
For example, Seabird Island School was designed and constructed through a
120
partnership between Patkau Architects and Seabird Island band. According
to Patkau Architects (2009) the "band believes that the first purpose of their
educational program is to foster the aboriginal culture of the Salish people
of the Pacific Northwest" (Patkau, 2009). The conventional school program
is significantly influenced by local values. A lesson can be learned from the
Seabird Island school project. The idea that education is meant to nurture
a culture, not be stagnant and ignorant towards a sense of place that has
emerged over generations. The work of Barry Johns, an architect of the
prairies represents a literal translation of the prairie vernacular. The form of
grain sheds, elevators and corrugated granaries can been identified in a few
of Johns projects. In particular, the Duclos School (1989-1992) in Bonnyville
represents the idea of the functioning farm. Each element contributes to the
function of the whole.
The intention behind the review of select firms was to provide a
foundation to which the project could begin to examine the phenomenon
of place. Each precedent provides a diverse process for approaching the
relationship between people and place. Selections of each process have
been experimented with in the evolution of this project.
PATKAU
ARCHITECTS
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121
-
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*
B I B L I O G R A P H Y
Alberta First.com Ltd. 2006. "Barrhead". Alberta First.com Ltd., 2010.
http://www.albertafirst.com/profiles/statspack/20382.html (accessed January 20, 2010).
Babuk, Darrel. 1983. "Home on a different range: a short history of Canadian prairie architecture". Crit 13: 18-22.
Baniassad, Essy, Ed. 2000. Barry Johns Architects. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Tuns Press.
Barrhead History Book Committee. 1978. The golden years. Barrhead, Alberta: Barrhead History Book Committee.
Becher, B., and Becher, H. 2006. Grain elevators. Cambridge, Mass.; London, England: MIT Press.
Benedikt, Michael. 1991. Deconstruction the Kimbell: an essay on meaning and architecture. New York: Lumen Books, 1991.
Death of a Skyline. Directed by Bryan Smith. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 2003. DVD.
Dunford, Les. "The end of an era." Town and Country, March 2, 2009, 6B.
Friesen, Gerald. 1987. The Canadian prairies, a history. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Government of Alberta. 2005. "Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator", Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch.
https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Details.aspx?DeptlD=l&ObjectlD=4665-1336 (accessed January 20, 2010).
Mahar-Keplinger, L. 1993. Grain elevators. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
McDonnell, Greg. 1998. Wheat kings: vanishing landmarks of the Canadian prairies. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mils Press.
McLachlan, Elizabeth. 2004. Gone but not forgotten: tales of the disappearing grain elevators. Edmonton: NeWest Press.
Northwest Historical Society. 1989. Links with the past. Bloomsbury, Alberta: Northwest Historical Society.
122
Chapman, M. et. al. 2007. Residue: architecture as a condition of loss. Melbourne, Australia: RMIT University Press.
Patkau Architects. 2006. Patkau architects. New York: Monacelli Press.
Patkau Architects, Inc. 2009. Patkau Architects.
http://www.patkau.ca/. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Pearson, Jim A. 2005. Vanishing sentinels: the remaining grain elevators of Alberta and British Columbia. Delia, Alta.: J.A. Pearson.
Quantrill, Malcolm. 2005. Plain modern: the architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons. Chicago: Princeton Architectural Press.
Royal Alberta Museum. 2008. "Grain elevators: A sense of place."
http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/vexhibit/elevator/place.htm. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Scruton, Roger. 1979. The aesthetics of architecture. London: Methuen.
Scruton, Roger. 1994. The classical vernacular: Architectural principles in an age of nihilism. Manchester: Carcanet Press Limited.
Soles, Joshua. 2006. Changing horizons: grain elevators of Alberta. Calgary: Southern Prairie Publishing.
Town of Barrhead. 2006. Town of Barrhead: beautiful location, beautiful opportunities.
http://www.barrhead.ca/. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Wardhaugh, Robert (Ed). 2001. Toward defining the prairies: Region, culture and history. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.
Wetherell, Donald G. 1995. Town life: Main street and the evolution of small town Alberta, 1880-1947. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press: Alberta
Community Development.
Western Archrib: Structural Wood Systems. "Westlam." Western Archrib.
http://www.westernarchrib.com/products/westlam.html (accessed January 20, 2010).
Sources for Timeline:
Alberta First.com Ltd. 2006. "Barrhead." Alberta First.com Ltd., 2010.
http://www.albertafirst.com/profiles/statspack/20382.html (accessed January 20, 2010).
Barrhead History Book Committee. 1978. The golden years. Barrhead, Alberta: Barrhead History Book Committee.
Town of Barrhead. 2006. Town of Barrhead: beautiful location, beautiful opportunities.
http://www.barrhead.ca/. (accessed January 20, 2010).
123
CREDITS
Figure 1
Figure 13
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 2
Town of Barrhead 2006. http://www.barrhead.ca/mdex.php7page_
ID=48&search=history (accessed May 2009).
Figure 3
Ibid.
Figure 15
Williams, Munro 2000. "Barrhead" http://www.gramelevators.ca/gallery/
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 4
showphoto.php ? photo=6116 (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 16
Government of Alberta, Municipal Affairs 1995-2009. "Location Map".
http://www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca/cfml/MunicipalProfiles/maps/
MunicipalDistnct/BarrheadCntyll.pdf. (accessed September 6, 2009).
Figure 5
Pickrell, Lamar. 1958.
Figure 17
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 18
Mahar-Kephnger, L 1993 Gram elevators. New York. Princeton Architectural Press, 53
Figure 6
Ibid.
Figure 19
Town of Barrhead. 2001.
Figure 7
Ibid.
Figure 20
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 8
Ibid.
Figure 21
Ibid.
Figure 9
Ibid
Figure 22
Mahar-Kephnger, L 1993. Grain elevators. New York. Princeton Architectural Press, 21
Figure 10
Ibid, 14
Figure 11
Ibid 18.
Figure 12
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
124
Ibid.
Figure 14
Base Map SourceTown of Barrhead. 2006. www barrhead.ca. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 23
Barrhead History Book Committee. 1978. The golden years. Barrhead, AlbertaBarrhead History Book Committee, 38.
Figure 24
Ibid, 12.
Figure 38
Figure 25
Ibid, 26.
Figure 26
Ibid, 23.
Figure 27
Ibid, 37.
Figure 28
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 29
Ibid.
Figure 30
Ibid.
Figure 31
Town of Barrhead. 2006. "Barrhead Centennial Museum".
http://www.barrhead.ca/index.php?page_ID=50 (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 32
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 33
Ibid.
Figure 34
Ibid.
Figure 35
Ibid.
Figure 36
Ibid.
Figure 37
Ibid.
Ibid.
Figure 39
Ibid.
Figure 40
Town of Barrhead. 2001. Aerial Photo, http://www.barrhead.ca/index.php7page_
ID=50 (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 41
Town of Barrhead. 2006. "Walking Trail Map", http://www.barrhead.ca/index.
php?page_ID=59 (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 42
Western Archrib: Structural Wood Systems. "Westlam Beams". http://www.
westernarchrib.com/products/westlam.html. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 43
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 44
Darke, Rick. 2010. Scripps Network, LLC. "Dallas Blues" in October, http://www.hgtv.
com/landscaping/great-grasses/index.html. (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 45
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Figure 46
Patkau Architects, Inc. 2009. httpY/www.patkau.ca/ (accessed January 20, 2010).
Figure 47
Photo Credit: James Dow
Baniassad, Essy, Ed. 2000. Barry Johns Architects. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Tuns Press, 50.
Figure 48
Hillman-Healey, C. 2009.
Photo of "Sliding House" by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects.
125
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