Ryerson students spent eight days building this structure in Newfoundland. Photos courtesy Alana Young

Constructing communities

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By Olivia McLeod

A group of six Ryerson architecture students were chosen to participate in a unique and unifying project over reading week. The group travelled to Botwood, N.L.

to create a structure for the town’s heritage park at a Second World War airplane base.

The build was initiated through Culture of Outports – a project associated with ERA Architects in Toronto. For the past four years, they have annually travelled around Newfoundland to conserve cultural heritage through architecture. Three of these developments have been with Ryerson.

“I think our partnership [with Ryerson] works really well because there is that opportunity to work here together in Toronto and do work and planning before we go out together to the east coast,” Alana Young, project coordinator, said.

The structure itself sits on the foundation of an old weather station on a pathway to Killick Island

– Botwood’s prime tourist spot and nature trail.

“The continued story heard from people was they wanted to see something on that roadway going to the island,” said Scott Sceviour, deputy mayor of Botwood.

“We had some benches there for rest areas, but people wanted to see something there so that’s where [the idea] was born.” The structure is essentially a wooden-planked box with a sloped roof. There are rectangular cutouts in the walls that align with historic plane crash sights in the surrounding area. Because of this, Young calls it the “viewfinder.” Typically, a project like this would take two weeks to finish, but because of the students’ schedules it became a “compressed eight-day adventure.”

“Everybody was just great and supportive. It’s almost like you ask everyone to suspend their disbelief for a few days and just kind of get on this rollercoaster with you and see where it goes,” Young said.

Without the community, Young said the project wouldn’t exist. Because of very cold weather conditions, the entire structure had to be built inside of the town’s fire hall and then transported by trucks to the site. They provided the tools, experienced labour and even the team’s meals, along with endless support, hospitality and help.

Students said the experience of bringing a design to life is like no other experience they’ve had so far.

“Actually getting to build it and

[getting] a community involved and [having] real feedback from people who are going to use the space is really valuable,” Kate Gonashvili, a fourth-year architecture student, said.

Young said because of this project’s success, they are going to continue working with Botwood in the future.

“We have ideas as far as next steps and what they can do and they’re really engaged so that’s exactly the kind of community you want to work with.”

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