University of British Columbia (Courtney)



Aug '08 - May '09

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    Thesis Statement... Eviction... Living on a Postage Stamp...

    Courtney Healey Nov 12 '08 2

    1. Thesis research [GP1] is due in 25 days... feeling a bit all-over-the-place... can one make a project out of the following three words: POLYCHROMIC... POLYCHRONIC... POLYPHONIC... i have been repeating them to myself for three or four days now... trying to figure out how to create COHESION (my position on how to deal with the fragmentation of OUR POSTMODERN/POSTCRITICAL/POST/POST/POST CONDITION... cohesion: the linking structure of language, the words that give language meaning) out of the mixed-bag of found program, found buildings and a found community of stakeholders... some more words floating around in my head these days...


    a visual... can YOU guess all of the images... hmmm... i triple-dog-dare ya...


    some short quotes from recent readings off the top of my head:

    "all art has been contemporary"

    "Upon acceptance into the Artisan Market program you become not only a member of our Distillery family but you are also an Ambassador of The Distillery Historic District. As an Ambassador you are an important addition to our pedestrian village. Your friendly smiles and helpful presence adds to our community and enhances a visitor’s experience here at The Distillery. We will provide you with some literature about the Distillery, as well as a site map so that you can be better prepared to answer questions and provide directions to your customers."

    "a ruin is not a permanence"

    “Can the designer gain their identity through works of intervention in
    the existing city, but also be part of the anonymous continuity of alteration of the built fabric?”

    "the future is but the obsolete in reverse"

    “Institutions are the product of collective human decision making, once in place they also react back on their human components to limit them and control them, or, on the contrary, to set them in motion or accelerate their mutation.

    “respect the monumental buildings and places them into a new context”.

    “our regime has been selling us out for years. This summer I saw a village where they are selling the cobblestone streets, the original ones from the Middle Ages, to West Germany. Can you believe it? They’re selling our streets!”

    "One sees that in Berlin, We are surely poor, but nevertheless sexy.”

    "Know everything and then improvise"


    2. Part of my scatterbrained-ness comes from the fact that I was EVICTED from my apartment at the end of october because my building was sold and the new owners will be doing some "RENOVATIONS" - the big loophole in vancouver tenant's rights... if a landlord can prove that the units must be vacant to conduct the renovation work... a slippery definition at best... then tenants get 2-months notice, compensation for one-month's rent, and priority to return to the unit, post-work, at a shiny new price... its been in the papers alot lately, and a number of buildings are fighting vehemently... ones with tenants in place for 50+ years, with babies due on eviction day, etc etc etc... we all know these stories, they are not new, and every city has its share of loopholes, and if not, there's always shutting off utilities, not-repairing leaks and threatened violence...

    anyway, october 31 marked my 6th!!! move of 2008... (4 of them only included two giant suitcases, but still, i am so sick of it!) a brief photo essay of my most recent move... mid-semester... no fun...




    3. And the current living situation... sharing one room with my boyfriend and a bed that pulls out like a drawer from under the bathroom... its... well... intimate? thank god for studio... not gonna complain, its actually a great place... but two M.Arch thesis students in 300sqft makes for some tense moments...




    4. View out the window... take note of the roofs of the two houses in the foreground... far roof is part of the Mole Hill Historic Restoration project by local architects Hoston Bakker Boniface Hayden... wood shingles, brick chimney, wood windows... cute cute cute... but also somehow boring boring boring (excuse my judgment, staring at something all day and night breeds ambivalence)

    near roof is currently under "renovation" by an independent couple, not sure what their plans for it are, probably rental suites, but anyway... a few key comparisons to the "architect-designed" roofs of Mole Hill... Loos is rolling over in his grave... this chimney is also brick, but the bricks have been painted brick-red, the grout is painted white and the concrete topper is painted light grey (the colour of... you guessed it, concrete)... the roof shingles are some kind of asphalt and flat as pancakes, only they have this neat black shadow line on them so from the ground they appear about an inch or so thick... the windows are aluminum and painted the same brick-red as the brick chimney... this colour is also no-doubt from Vancouver's Heritage Colour Palette... anyway, you are free to come to your own conclusions... mostly i am finding the reno intensely hilarious and a daily reminder of how society could really give a crap about architecture, but also how much more interesting the whole Mole Hill thing might have been if it were all approached like this... oh the complexity and contradictions...



    5. Saturday was my birthday, a low-key... not-quite-30-yet-day, spent it fixing up a new-to-me Gitane roadbike from the 70s, went to the Observatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, and had a nice French dinner with my bf, CS...


    6. Tomorrow is the first day of my new p/t job with architect/public-artist/art planner Jill Anholt. I'm really excited to get into some fabrication and smaller scale work for a while, and to have a bit of a foil for all this thesis stuff... feels sort of lonely and burdensome at times... i like these schools that have something like a thesis-prep course, i had it when doing my BFA thesis, its was great for getting out of your own head and connecting with other people who were in the same boat as you and for forcing you to find a way to verbalize your thoughts much earlier on... as evidenced from this rambling babbling blog entry, we do not speak much during GP1 here at UBC...


    7. and FINALLY my revised "first stab" at a thesis statement from last week... be gentle... please...

    The work of the architect comprises a single layer or chapter in

    the life of any building. An architectural act on an existing structure can

    be seen as both an act of translation and an act of cohesion; it draws

    meaning from what is found and what came before, but through

    alteration and adaptation, creates new meaning for a present condition.

    The moment of architectural engagement marks a thickened increment of

    time, a point of transition, whether violent rupture or subtle shift, in a

    larger historical continuum. Temporal distance and the unyielding

    concept of progress imbue both the past and the future with false

    objectivity. A thick present can provide contextual clarity and complexity

    as well as a location from which to meaningfully engage past and future.

    Alteration contributes to the evolving identity and narrative of the

    built fabric, it engages in conversation, not only with historic styles and

    the concerns of past architects, but also with the dynamic social

    mechanisms of collective colloquial life. Through a close reading of the

    present condition, this project seeks to establish a new framework for

    social organization and cultural interaction, negotiating the formal

    obsolescence and material entropy of one Lower Manhattan block.


    p.s. lots of buzzwords, i know... Between 1968 and 1969 Czech writer, Milan Kundera, became obsessed with supervising and controlling the foreign translations of his novels, a process he likened to "chasing after hoards of words like a shepherd after flocks of wild sheep". A French editor friend told him to "forget the torture" and, instead, to write a dictionary of key words, problem words, words he loves...

    I'm working on a sort of glossary of the words i've been jotting down in notebooks, organizing into lists, reorganizing into more lists, forming the into sentences and ultimately expanding upon and weaving into a thesis statement. Hopefully, it will explain my particular understanding and usage of some of the more malleable words in the architects lexicon.

    this exercise also comes out of my last meeting with my professor, where we went over my draft outline and she basically turned the meeting into a pop-quiz... holding out my paper "what is the difference between collage and montage?" "what do you mean by post-structuralist theory" "how does a thickened present relate to the thick description from anthropology?" "what do you mean by institutions, megastructures and institutionalization?" "what is your criticism of the avant garde's attempt at the unity of art and life?" I have trouble understanding entropy, can you explain how you are using it to me?" "What are the implications of aesthetic as opposed to functional obsolescence, what is the difference between an obsolete building, obsolete architecture and an obsolete toaster?"

    still working on some of those answers...


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