We see Vanier as a script for a potential city. This is why we speak of the city in Vanier 2017, Vanier 2025, Vanier 2050. Not a ridiculous timeline. Many may consider Ottawa beyond new distinctive forms, this I would suggest is a little myopic. A quarter so close to Downtown with its own francophone legacy and tight-knit community offers more than an unusual opportunity. What is that opportunity – it is not just contained in words like development, business initiative, revitalization; these are all useful but limited if the bigger picture is not grasped.
The shape of Vanier is now we can say waiting for the dramaturgs? But who are the dramaturgs? We could list them out: investment bankers, developers, politicians, NGOs, community associations, charity organizations, students, local stakeholders, business initiative groups, beautification groups, and so on. All of these are important – but just as important are the homeless, the refugees, the momentarily unfortunate ones, the sex workers, the police, the paramedics, and of course the immigrants.
Is there a case for a much tighter, high density but more compact urban housing forms promoting community and neighbourhood – even a European model of tighter knit dense landscape-forming housing models, perhaps a little like Holland & France or England and Finland – where tower developments play a part but the existing scales of the neighbourhood are enhanced by new contemporary hybrid models of housing. Is there an urban potential in Vanier that can be separate yet part of Ottawa – is this a political separation or an essential cultural one? Or merely a seductive naivety? Could Vanier take this on for future development? If Northrop Frye was right, we would need new courage to upset the mentally garrisoned city of Ottawa that through a geography and politics threatens to swallow all local and regional difference in the name of a questionable unity. If Vanier deserves more than what is currently available, how do we approach this, all of us?
Let us not only attack the minds of those who wish for more for this capital, for those like these students who may not opt to stay in this city, who head for other cities that offer more than the sense of predictability in Ottawa. Students say: “Ottawa – wake up, smell the coffee.” I think they are right. But what is that potential? What if Vanier became a siedlung, a city in the city? Siedlung is the German word for a settlement, it can be an estate or a development. The concept was used by the Modernists in the 1920s to demonstrate what potential new architecture and design could offer the residents of a city.
Written by: Professor Roger Connah [28.9.2015]
For Exhibition Part 1: https://archiblog22.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/baklava-beach-exhibition-part-1/
For Exhibition Part 2: https://archiblog22.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/baklava-beach-exhibition-part-2/
For Baklava Beach’s Dirty Realism: https://archiblog22.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/4th-year-studio-housing-script/