UBC Graduate Research

Hotel Canada : Re-Imagining a National Narrative Chan, John 2021-05

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 HOTEL CANADA Re-Imagining a National Narrative          John Chan 2021           Thesis committee: Chad Manley and Tijana Vujosevic Mentor: John Bassi   ABSTRACT  Long ago, we diverged from one into many. Now from every corner of the world we converge, from many, back into one. Human civilization has reached a new evolutionary era. The concepts of nationality and identity, the understanding of which has been repeatedly shifting throughout history, are once again being redefined. At the cutting edge of this upheaval is the perplexing nation of Canada; a humble and unassuming nation that is nevertheless the heir to all of human history up to this point. Meanwhile in the realm of architecture, globalism and pluralism have opened up new potential for how the built environment can develop. Since time immemorial, architecture has been intrinsically linked with the development of collective identity. In Canada however, the identity represented through architecture, during a period of nation-building in the country’s formative years, strikes a starkly foreign contrast to the present reality. What is nationhood? What is authenticity? Do these concepts matter anymore? This thesis ruminates on architecture’s role in the construction of identity.    ii   TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract ………………………………………………………………………………….. i Table of Contents ……………………………………………………………………   ii Thesis Statement ……………………………………………………………………. iii   Preface: On Narrative ………………………………………………………………..   4 Imaginary Canada …….……………………………………………………………….. 10 The Hotel Story ………………………………………………………………………… 16 A New Hotel: The Site …….……………………………………………………….   29 A New Hotel: The Arrival ..………………………………………………………..   33 A New Hotel: Program and Sequence .………………………….…………..   35 Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………  48  iii   THESIS STATEMENT  As a quintessentially Canadian typology, the Canadian Hotel reinforces the identity of a pluralistic society through architectural communality and the liminal nature of its site and program.4   PREFACE: ON NARRATIVE  Narrative is the lifeblood of community. It surges out of time, out of space, nourishing the present with the past. It connects people with memories that they did not experience, yet remember, and stories that are not their own, yet recount. If these memories and stories become points of commonality between people, a sense of shared identity begins to crystalize around these points. Thus, narrative is also the quintessence of all human culture. The continuity that it forges grants a perceived legitimacy to culture, lifting it beyond time and space until it becomes more than just an inherited memory, but a living, evolving entity. 1  We humans are addicted to culture. We long to feel its warmth of kinship and belonging, and the cognitive safety of having a role and purpose in this world. Culture serves as a frame in which we can contextualize our lives, our beliefs and our place in history, and indeed the human mind is hardwired for contextualizing.              Narrative is distinct from historical truth. Often, truth has even been found inadequate as narrative, and is consequently remoulded in the course of being treated as such. A narrative that is effective does not need to be authentic, and a narrative that is authentic does not need to be  1 Culture as redefined by UNESCO at the International Round Table: ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage - Working Definitions’, Piedmont, Italy. 5  true. It only needs to be compelling enough to captivate people’s imaginations enough to take on a life of its own. One might imagine that whether or not a certain Byzantine bishop really deposited gifts down people’s chimneys, or whether the Yellow Thearch was really the progenitor of a fifth of the current world population,2 is secondary to the ideas that the narratives represented and the cultures rooted in them. As long as the narrative is malleable, so too is the culture it drives. Whoever controls the narrative, therefore, wields immense influence. This is something that has been acknowledged by civilizations throughout time and all over the world, where the custodian of narrative, be they Shaman, Scribe, Pontiff, Bard, (or, might one dare venture to say, Architect?) could often set the course for how culture would be preserved and perpetuated.  Perhaps the greatest gift of architecture is its ability to communicate narrative. It is appropriate in this case to refer to architecture by its most inclusive definition. That is, spacemaking through human alteration of the natural environment, from Mies van der Rohe’s two bricks to Bernard Rudofsky’s bent twigs.3 Since time immemorial, architecture has been inseparable from narrative, and hence from community. No doubt it was some powerfully unifying narrative that, when shared between scattered communities of Neolithic hunter-gatherers, compelled them to congregate at Göbekli Tepe to raise the earliest known permanent buildings, some twelve thousand years ago.4 Or, consider the sacred narrative behind the   2 i.e. Saint Nicholas and Huangdi. 3 Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964), 23.   4 Gens Notroff et al., “Gathering of the Dead? The Early Neolithic Sanctuaries of Gobeckli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey,” in Death Rituals and Social Order in the Ancient World: Death Shall Have No Dominion Here, ed. Colin Renfrew et al. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 72.  6   Narrative drove the creation of Göbekli Tepe, the oldest known building. (Photo from pinterest)            The remains of a sweat lodge. (pinterest).   Mayan observatory at Chichen Itza. (pinterest) 7  typology of the sweat lodge that sanctifies it beyond the sum of its simple construction. Or perhaps, the monumental civic centres inspired by the Mayans’ understanding of cosmic rhythm; an esoteric narrative which gave the few who understood it the power of godlike precognition, and with it the authority to coordinate the vital cycle of planting and harvesting.5 Our forebears recognized that the tangibility of architecture granted it an enormous communicative potential, and the key to that tangibility is architecture’s ability to appeal to all the senses. Consider the sacred proportions of a Khmer temple; or a waft of incense meandering through a hypostyle hall as columns fade into distant darkness; or the echo of a pipe organ reverberating in harmony with the frequencies of cold stone, wood, and the warm huddled bodies of the faithful; or the scent of damp moss and thatching wafting through a paper window with the muted autumn sunlight, as a pot of water gently bubbles inside a chashitsu. That, at least, is what architecture ought to strive for: communicating through experience. Without narrative, there can be no architecture.  The world of late continues to fill up with buildings of generic modernity on the path of converging towards a universal sameness. Cities grow bloated from junkspace (to borrow a term from Koolhaas) while a spatial purgatory of parking lots and strip malls oozes out of their peripheries. Let us consider junkspace. It does not necessarily mean there is an absence of narrative behind a design; all built spaces have one, and after all, we must have arrived at this point from somewhere. Even the most generic Suburban Mall (and the quintessential parking lot that accompanies it) may tell the story of how a civilization experiences the fallout from modernization,6 the commodification of everything, or the legacy of how Henry Ford achieved   5 Arthur Demarest, Ancient Maya (Cambridge: University Press, 2004) 192. 6 Rem Koolhaas, “Junkspace,” October 102 (2002): 175. 8   Spatial purgatory in suburban Calgary 9  the American Dream and ushered the world into the Age of the Private Automobile. There are no bad or good narratives, a narrative simply is. But within a space there are always at least two; that of the space itself, and that of its occupant - the outer and the inner. Without communion between the two, architecture is cold, hostile, or at best, inert. Architecture should not be prescriptive, especially in a pluralistic and democratic community. If we are to acknowledge the value of the individual, we must acknowledge the narrative that they bring with them. The architect can no longer simply be custodian of narrative, nor architecture the shrine of a narrative. If pluralism and democracy strive to maximize opportunities for the individual, then likewise should the architecture of such a society strive to incorporate its occupants on the scale of the individual. This of course cannot be achieved if a narrative is prescribed or if the occupants are treated as mere statistics or variables in a simulation. The outer narrative should seek to liberate the inner, not control it; to allow the occupant to realize their own narrative, not dictate one to them. In the end we must acknowledge that there is only so much that architecture can do, as it is one pillar of civilization out of many, but it is the architect’s calling to do what they can to the best of their ability.        10   Imaginary Canada  What does it mean to be Canadian? And why does it even matter? Perhaps the usual hackneyed tropes come to mind. Polite – apologetic – non-confrontational – cold – beaver – moose – maple – zamboni – blue lake and rocky shore. Convenient tropes like these are helpful when filling souvenir shops with trinkets, so tourists can think they’ve been here. It takes so much more thought and effort, when asked this question, to explain the bewildering tangle of narratives that constitute this nation today. Many of us enjoy the privilege of not having to agonize over the question of national identity, even settling into a sort of happy indifference. On the other hand, there are many others of us who are often forced to; those of us who, in our formative years, were ever persecuted for looking, talking, or acting differently; who were ever told to go back to a supposed land of origin that we may have never felt was true; who ever wondered why our families followed did things differently from what was preached to us as “the norm”; who ever felt alienated by popular media because we did not see ourselves represented in a way we could empathize with; who ever was convinced that the way to ward off this alienation was to exorcize our elders and their alien ways from our identity; who ever sank alone into dark depths under the oppressive weight of the question: “Where do I belong?”; who ever, perchance, managed to rise back up again, bolder and wiser than if we had never struggled against that question. It is absurd in this country that any narrative should have the 11  authority of “the norm”, or that any one person or organization should act as custodian of the official narrative. Canadian identity is in a state of transition, and those who are forced to question it are thus all the more integral to it. Even the very concept of country or nation is evolving. The one according to which the current geopolitical map is drawn was invented relatively recently.  In older times, national boundaries were understood in terms of recognizable geographic features; on this side of the Jordan people say shibbolet, on the other side sibbolet.7 Political sovereignty was likewise perceived of as not operating within a confine, but radiating outwards from centre to periphery. Even the Great Wall was not as contiguous or monolithic as its name may suggest.8 It was never considered a hard boundary that limited the Son of Heaven’s authority, which, though it waxed and waned throughout history, nominally extended over all of Earth. In the words of Benedict Anderson, for much of human history, borders were: “…porous and indistinct, and sovereignties faded imperceptibly into one another. Hence, paradoxically enough, the ease with which pre-modern empires and kingdoms were able to sustain their rule over immensely heterogeneous, and often not even contiguous, populations for long periods of time.”9 In contrast, the Canadian border was largely based on intangible concepts. Eratosthenes of Cyrene first imagined the world as a geodesic grid and preserved this   7 As recorded in the Tanakh, Book of Judges chapter 12. 8 Ian Volner, The Great Great Wall: Along the Borders of History from China to Mexico (New York: Abrams, 2019) 57. 9 Benedict Anderson, Imaginary Communities (Londong: Verso, 2006), 35. 12  Detail from Kunyu Wanguo Quantu, digitized at the University of Minnesota: This vaguely familiar landmass, labelled “Ka-Na-Ta,” is described as a land of “humped oxen” and “feral horses”. This map was printed in Beijing in 1602. Its primary creator was Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit employed at the Ming imperial court. Today, it is unusual for us to see Canada from this perspective.  Detail from Typus Orbis Terrarum, digitized at the Boston Public  Library: Abraham Ortellius’ 1570 atlas, printed in Antwerp, shows population centres and geographical boundaries, but no borders. At the time, the average Antwerpenaar would have distinguished countries by their geographic location relative to each other and by their languages, customs, and religion.   13  idea for posterity at the Library of Alexandria.10 Some twenty-one centuries later, British, American, and Russian diplomats gathered to use imaginary lines, as suggested by some ancient Greek, to draw more imaginary lines to delineate exactly where one country should end and the other begin.11 It was an expedient way to avoid further territorial dispute, but these imaginary lines ignored geographical logic and sliced through many existing communities. Canada is an Andersonian “Imagined Community” in the making. This country is real only because enough people agree that it should exist, and imagined it into existence. It is ironic that Anderson never once mentioned this country in his book, although it was probably because a country not known for having a particularly strong national spirit was not worth mentioning in a book about nationalism. After all, Canada had stood in Britain’s shadow with passive acceptance until 1982. Around the same time, a flurry of national reawakening stirred the popular consciousness, with new media productions, such as Canadian Vignettes from the National Film Board codifying many tropes of national identity, and Canadian content quotas, but this soon fizzled out under the hegemonic shadow of American media. And to this day the remnants of empire overshadow us, atrophied but still powerfully symbolic. Take for instance the monarchy, which most of us regard with indifference, yet is firmly entrenched in our constitution; like an old tattoo that we got when we were young and stupid, and that we would prefer to forget about.  It is perhaps not the most cheerful narrative that we have inherited; that of imaginary lines being drawn over appropriated land. But again, no narrative is intrinsically bad or good, a  10 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8th ed., s.v. “Longtitude and Latitude.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009. 11 The Convention of London was signed in 1818, and Treaty of St. Petersburg in 1825. The former designated a border roughly along the 49th parallel north, and the latter roughly along the 141st meridian west.    14  narrative simply is. So, let us own this narrative. Canada is unique among nations for the open-endedness of its identity and the endless possibilities in which narratives from every corner of this Pale Blue Dot can interweave, and new narratives be written and re-written. This is unprecedented in history, and yet so often we fail to appreciate how special we are. We are the culmination of all of human cultural evolution up to this today. An ephemeral identity is not such a bad thing after all – it is liberating. We are so much more than British, French, and Indigenous; that chapter has run its course and a new one has begun. We got to this point through a painful journey, strewn with the bones of Indigenous peoples – and of the British and French who tore at each others’ throats – and of Chinese labourers blown to shreds – and of the dead of both world wars – and the tears of families torn asunder – and so many others. No narrative should have more weight than any other in this country. There should be no longer any West, or any East, but only North. We are but mere droplets in a continuous river of narrative. Civilizations rise, linger, and fade, as they have throughout the Anthropocene. Yet none of them every truly die, as no civilization can achieve anything without building upon the legacy of those who came before. We are all on the same journey together, and when viewed at this scale, the differences we tend to obsess about are absurdly irrelevant.         15                   16   The Hotel Story   The railway hotel is as ubiquitous a sight in Canadian cities as the cathedral is in Europe. From the late 19th to mid 20th century, these hotels dominated civic and cultural life wherever they were built, serving – as the authorities behind them had hoped – to place Canada on the world map through sheer stylishness and marketing power. Wherever they were built, the hotels dwarfed every building in their vicinity and dominated skylines for decades. This was often incongruent with the small and as-yet undeveloped settlements in the interior of the continent, as observed by a New York journalist passing through Calgary in 1915:  “The only thing in Calgary worth looking at or being interested in is the hotel. It is called the Palliser and its ten magnificent stories rise above the surrounding hovels and shacks and homely frontier town like a Grecian statue on a calm flat. It seems incredible that it could be there after you once step out and look at Calgary.”12 If the railroad was the artery of the country, the hotels were its hearts, pumping the lifeblood of tourists, settlers, and capital through the hinterland and laying the foundation for its future development. By 1930, every Canadian city had at least one, as did a few remote scenic locations. This was also the period when the British Empire was at its zenith, and European   12 Barbara Chisholm et al., Castles of the North: Canada’s Grand Hotels (Toronto: Lynx Images, 2001), 235. 17            Above: Winnipeg, circa 1930. Below: Calgary, circa 1939.          18          Above: Vancouver, circa 1940. Below: Regina, circa 1930.         19  cultural hegemony was taken for granted. Canada, it was decided, should be a projection of authentic Old-World refinement and dignity, in contrast with what was considered boorish imitations of such that were to be found south of 49. These hotels served as outposts of civilization from which radiated the aura of an imagined national identity, and the Railway Gothic style developed for this typology embodied a narrative constructed by the Canadian authorities to promote what they believed this identity ought to be.   In conjunction with the transcontinental railroad, the hotels were part of a conscious effort by the Canadian government to promote a sense of unity from sea to sea and consolidate the territorial claims of a fledgling country. John A. Macdonald took office as head of a new semi-independent government in 1867 and was almost immediately confronted with challenges to its authority. In the Red River Rebellion of 1869, the Métis proclaimed their own provisional government. Meanwhile, the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish Republican organization based in the United States, invaded the eastern provinces, and in the unruly west, American whiskey traders terrorized the Indigenous population with impunity.13 Although these challenges were eventually crushed with the aid of superior firepower, it was clear to Macdonald that national sovereignty was quite fragile. With the admittance of British Columbia into Canada in 1871, the country consisted of two populous coasts precariously linked by an insurmountably vast and lawless hinterland. Ever the proud British loyalist, Macdonald’s dream was to build a transcontinental British nation that would rival the United States; and to achieve this dream, he insisted that a railway was necessary. It would open up the interior for settlement and economic development,   13 Pierre Berton, The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881 (Toronto: Anchor Canada, 1970), 36. 20    impede American expansion, and act as a “spine of empire” connecting the British Metropole with the Pacific, and from thence, the Orient.14 It was with the promise of a railway that Macdonald managed to convince the colonial government of British Columbia into joining the Canadian Confederation. The only other routes to their homeland were epic sea voyages eastward through the Northwest Passage or westward halfway around the world. One could imagine they must have felt uncomfortably distant from civilization, especially since they were outnumbered by the Chinese and Indigenous peoples.15  14 Ibid., 7. 15 Ibid., 189. 21  Fourteen years later, the monumental endeavour was complete. It had cost an undocumented number of thanklessly sacrificed lives, but a promising new future seemed secure for the young country. Yet, the railroad itself was only the groundwork. For the railroad to fulfill its intended purpose, there needed to be enough travellers. William Cornelius Van Horne, vice-president and general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway recognized the potential for tourism to stimulate traffic. In this case, the target audience was the emerging middle and upper classes of Europe and America. The affluence and leaps in transportation technology brought by pax Britannica meant that an unprecedented number of people could enjoy vacations, and even when on a distant continent, they could enjoy adventure with the peace of mind that a welcoming and protective British presence was never far away. The tourists themselves, however, could not be attracted to the intimidatingly remote wilderness unless suitable accommodations were provided along the way. Van Horne also had a talent for architecture. In the days before the profession was legally protected, Van Horne’s position allowed him to  dabble in his side interest, and he was instrumental in determining the final design even when full-time architects were employed. As summarized by his biographer, “The company’s charter permitted it to operate hotels, and Van Horne now began to realize a long-held dream by starting a system of picturesque hotels commanding the choicest views in the Rockies and Selkirks. He found recreation in sketching, suggesting, or modifying the elevations and plans of these structures.”16  16 Walter Vaughan, The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne (New York: Century, 1920), 151.  22    Taken from the promotional pamphlet “Yoho Valley in the Canadian Rockies and the glaciers of the Selkirks”, 1903, p. 4 and p. 20. These early chalet-style hotels were based on the vernacular of the Alps, which the Canadian mountains were thought of as the New World counterpart.   23  Thus the process of nation-building proceeded with the construction of this system of hotels. The first railway hotels were small lodges, designed by architect Thomas Sorby, placed at scenic locations in the Columbia and Rocky Mountains, intended to replace the dining cars which were too heavy to haul into higher elevations. These were Mt. Stephen House at Field, the Fraser Canyon Hotel at North Bend, and the Glacier House at Illecillewaet Glacier, built in 1886. They were followed soon after by the first incarnation of the Banff Springs Hotel, capitalizing on the newly discovered Banff Hot Springs. Within a 19th century European schema, the imagery of mountains, glaciers, lakes, and picturesque wilderness was popularly associated with the Alps, just as the same imagery today is popularly associated with Canada – thanks to the legacy created by these hotels. Accordingly, these alpine hotels were designed based on the Heimatstil aesthetic which had emerged from German Romanticism. During the late 1800’s, the German-speaking world was also preoccupied with constructing a national identity for itself, drawing on folklore and rural traditions to inspire a unified German nationalism that had never existed before.17  Transplanted to the Canadian Alps, the elements of Heimatstil were driven by necessity as well, because carved wood beams, steep eaves with prominent shingles, and ruggedized stone were well-suited for the environment. The first Springs Hotel also mirrored the use of this aesthetic in Europe, where spa facilities were designed this way to avoid association  with the medical horror of a sanatorium.  17 Kai K. Gutschow, “Schultze-Naumburg’s Heimatstil: A Nationalist Conflict of Tradition and Modernity,” in Tradition, Nationalism, and The Creation of Image, ed. Kai K. Gutschow et al. (Berkeley: University of California, 1992), 7. 24  Van Horne, however, aspired to increasingly grand scale, and the rustic spirit of Heimatstil did not lend itself well to scaling up. There had to be a more robust architectural language. The answer presented itself when the American architect Bruce Price submitted his design for the Windsor Station in Montreal. Upon its completion in 1889, Van Horne put up a sign with six-foot-high letters, proclaiming: “Beats all Creation – the New C.P.R. Station!”18 It was a sturdy stone and masonry building designed in the Romanesque Revival style. This, Van Horne decided, was to be the basis of future hotels, and in 1892 he entrusted Bruce Price with the design of the Château Frontenac in Quebec City. While Price was the primary architect, the character of the hotel was unquestionably influenced by Van Horne. He insisted that the design, though based on French châteaux of the Loire Valley, should nevertheless retain a certain austerity and ruggedness appropriate to his conception of “northerness”; there should be none of the rich ornamentation or detail that characterized the Renaissance and Baroque styles of his precedents. The choice of Loire Valley châteaux (which were historically seasonal escapes for the French monarch) as precedent, was in line with the Gothic Revivalist trend. The Gothic, or re-interpretation thereof, rose to popularity along with Romanticism, when idealized folklore of the middle ages became popular. Romanticists began to appreciate the picturesque character of ruins – “picturesque” becoming a popular aesthetic trend – and the Gothic represented a timeless link with the past, a simpler and more noble age of chivalry and piety. Combined with new technology such as iron framing and industrialized production of building components, the Gothic style could be built at scales and heights that medieval engineers could never have  18 Harold D. Kalman, The Railway Hotel and the Development of the Château Style in Canada (Victoria: University of Victoria, 1968), 8. 25  imagined. The Gothic Revival movement had begun in England in the previous century, so the aesthetic, with its English roots and French inspiration, could be framed as a representation of Canada’s hybrid national spirit. Thus emerged the Canadian Railway Gothic style. The completed Château Frontenac loomed over the city like a feudal castle, perched picturesquely above old fortifications on a hill. True to its Gothic and Romanticist character it had the effect of implying there was a longer history behind it than in reality, as if the city had developed around a feudal manor like in the castle-towns of Europe. It was intended to be a first impression for passengers on ships from Europe entering the Saint Lawrence river, like the Statue of Liberty except representing an idealized vision of monarchist tradition. The robust stone walls, steep eaves, trapezoidal roof profile, soaring towers topped with cones, and triangular dormers were easily recognizable features of this aesthetic. The interior also set a precedent for later hotels that would imitate this style; there were included a collection of “theme rooms”. There was the orientalist Chinese Suite, which symbolized the hotel as the first stop for visitors crossing the continent en-route to the Orient. There was the rustic Habitant Suite, which paid tribute to early French settlers. There was the pragmatic Dutch Suite, which although the official narrative was that it paid tribute to Dutch shareholders of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was likely Van Horne’s  way of celebrating his own ancestry. Van Horne was completely enamoured with this hotel, and was prepared to build replicas of it across the continent. The Place Viger in Montreal, Empress Hotel in Victoria, third Hotel Vancouver (after its humbler predecessors were prematurely demolished), Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina, Fort Garry Hotel in Winnepeg, Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, and Banff Springs Hotel (after the earlier wooden chalet-style building burned down in 1926) eventually continued this aesthetic tradition, lasting 26   Above: Château Frontenac, photo by George A. Driscoll (Centre de Québec et de Chaudière-Appalache des Archives nationales du Québec) Bottom: Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France. Photo from pinterest.   Gothic Revivalism took advantage of iron framing to interpret the Gothic style at a scale that medieval engineers could never have imagined.      27  long after Van Horne’s death in 1915. The Railway Gothic was seen as being officially adopted by the government as a national style when during the 1927 rebuilding of Parliament Hill, the Ministry of Public Works insisted on the application of this aesthetic. It was “seemingly in character with a Northern country”.19 At the same time, it was easily distinguishable from the style of American governmental buildings, which were neoclassical in character and had connotations of Greco-Roman republicanism, which the British wanted to avoid. This trend culminated in the gargantuan Royal York Hotel in Toronto, which opened in 1929 and was advertised as “The Tallest Building in the British Empire.” By this time however, the economy was in dire straits and when the full brunt of the Great Depression hit, the Railway Gothic came to be seen as wasteful extravagance and no further buildings were ever again built in this style. The last CPR hotel completed was the Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, which in comparison was extremely austere and modernist in nature. Yet, the railway hotel typology had already become embedded within the popular consciousness. As the largest buildings in the country, any public occasion of importance would take place at the hotels. They were often used as secondary town halls, around which the public could gather to receive important declarations such as New Years countdowns, or the end of both world wars. Notably, the early plans for D-Day were discussed at the Château Frontenac, which was temporarily transformed into a stronghold for the Allied forces, a safe distance away from the action.20 Foreign dignitaries would also be invariably housed in these hotels, which were presented as the best and most authentic experience that Canada could offer.                                                                                                19 Ibid., 31 20 Chisholm et al., 139. 28  By tracing the sources of inspiration behind the architecture of these hotels, it becomes evident that their design aspired to a form of multiculturalism. That is, that Canadian identity would be concocted from a judicious selection of European identities. In the process of marketing the country to settlers, investors, and tourists, the Railway Gothic invented a heritage that was embraced as representative of the country at the time, but which engenders feelings of irrelevance to the citizen of today. We do not gaze up at these castles and take pride in the achievement of our ancestors, because for many of us, the story told be these hotels is one that would never have welcomed us here in the first place. Aesthetic merits aside, these hotels are a fairy-tale that even to this day, as popular tourist destinations in their own right, continue to present an imposed narrative of who we supposedly are.             29    A New Hotel: The Site  What if I were to re-appropriate this hotel narrative? What if I were to re-examine the 19th century concept of the Hotel as an embodiment of Canadianess, but from a 21st century perspective?  First let’s choose a site. For how incredibly vast this country is, most of us will likely remain within one small strip of it at the south for our whole lives, all the while aspiring to travel somewhere on the other side of the planet.  Gone are the days when destinations like Banff or Lake Louise were thought of as the remote north. No longer limited by the railway system, we can reach much farther than that. There are so many overlooked places of unique beauty within our own borders, but by far the most underrated destination is the arctic.  The themes of remoteness, tourism, and Hotel as Outpost will be revisited. As interest in the arctic continues to grow, tourism is projected to play an increasing role in Canada’s arctic economy.21 At the present, the main obstacle to tourism is a lack of transportation infrastructure. This means that in order to access many remote locations, tourists have to pay steep fees for charter planes, floatplanes, and private guides. Realistically, the expenses required for an arctic vacation would limit a hotel’s clientele to the economically privileged. My route of inquiry is not interested in creating a business model, however; I am designing this hotel as a   21 John Snyder and Bernard Stonehouse, Prospects for Polar Tourism (Cambridge: CAB International, 2007), 104. 30   speculative meditation on Canadian identity and its spatial representation, with the assumption that its clientele would be the everyday citizen.  Here is Bathurst Inlet, a region in Nunavut. Quite north but not too north; for perspective, it is only about halfway between Vancouver and the northernmost boundary of Canada. If we are to embrace the idea of the “imaginary community” that is Canada, then the Far North is also a part of our home. Yet, 72 percent of the population is concentrated within 150 kilometres of the southern border with the United States, and 70.0% live south of the 49th parallel. Canada is the second-largest country in the world by total area, but the overwhelming majority of this is uninhabited. We are like a tiny house with an unimaginably vast backyard. To most people in this country, the North is a place more foreign than somewhere on the opposite side of the globe. There is so much beauty and adventure to be found in our own country, yet most people would prefer to seek to the same on another  31                   32  continent. Developing tourism in the North is one way of embracing it and giving it the recognition that it deserves as part of our home. A region of great scenic beauty, Bathurst Inlet it is a relatively temperate oasis in the barren tundra. It sits just above the arctic circle. Aside from the natural beauty, I selected this site because it already has interesting conditions of tourist traffic that I could explore. The main point of arrival is the settlement of Qingaut, a former Hudson’s Bay company trading post and Roman Catholic mission. Since the departure of the Company and the missionaries, the settlement no longer has any permanent residents. The existing infrastructure has since been repurposed for the Bathurst Inlet Lodge, an existing guesthouse. Most visitors arrive on the nearby airstrip from Yellowknife.  Roughly 40 kilometres to the northwest is Wilberforce falls.  A dramatic canyon carved into an idyllic landscape of rolling hills, it is a popular destination for canoers. A typical itinerary involves starting off from Yellowknife, then undertaking a week-long journey down the Hood river before reaching Wilberforce Falls.  Afterwards, the canoers would portage about 12 km east towards an unnamed cove, and camp on the shore while waiting for a chartered barge or floatplane to pick them up. Wilberforce Falls is also a popular destination for visitors staying at Qingaut.  Visitors could spend a day hiking or boating there and camp by the fall. Let’s imagine that my hotel is located on the shore here, at the junction of these different paths.    33   A New Hotel: The Arrival   Following the route of the portagers, we arrive at a liminal space between land, sea, and sky. As we approach the westward entrance of the building, we see the dull glint of copper. We are reminded of stories about the people who came to this place a thousand years ago, searching for this precious element. It enabled them to improve their tools and empowered them to survive where many before them died and were forgotten.       34   On the other hand, if we follow the sea route, we arrive underneath the building, on the eastward side. We steer towards a ramp leading up from the rocky shore. The sea is the lifeline of the north. It was only because of the sea that people have managed to survive here this long. It is both a pantry and a highway. Oftentimes, piers are the only reliable thing connecting remote communities together, and piers will retain this vital role for the foreseeable future. With no roads and an extremely sparse population, settling and living, much less building, becomes exponentially more difficult the farther away you get from the sea.     35   A New Hotel: Program & Sequence  Both entrances lead into the same reception area, which is connected to a space for storing canoes. There is other program on this ground level too, but we cannot access that deeply into the building just yet. After a friendly welcome from the staff, we check in and make our way over to this stairwell, and from there to the second floor. Stepping out of the stairwell, we begin to get a better sense of where we are. A window looks down into the reception area that we just left, and into the landscape beyond. It provides those in the reception area with a glimpse into the hearth of the open kitchen, a glimpse of hospitality after an arduous journey. The alignment of the entrance and the hearth, as well as the experience of the entryway, reminiscent of a tunnel, is in fact abstracted from historical arctic vernacular buildings. In an igloo, the entry tunnel prevents wind from infiltrating into the living space, while the hearth acts as a barrier of warmth between interior and exterior.  36   37   38   39  Let’s make our way to our rooms. The rooms are arranged in a block down the centre of the building, nested within an interstitial space. This block is porous, however. There are a series of perpendicular punctures that run through the entire width of the block, creating a porosity for human traffic, as well as letting light from this generous south facing window right pass right into the heart of the building.  The rooms are arranged into clusters, creating a series of interior condominiums. Each cluster contains one family-sized unit with a private washroom on the first floor, and on the floor above, two single-bed rooms and three double-bed rooms, sharing two washrooms. We have to remember that not all residents of the hotel are visitors. If we use the existing guest house at Qingaut as a metric for comparison, then this hotel should provide housing to the staff that work there along with their families, local hunters stopping over on their seasonal journey between Cambridge bay and Bathurst inlet, and environmental researchers. The porosity of these interior condominiums fosters an environment where interactions can occur between short-term residents, long-term residents, and locals.  40           41   Moving onwards past the rooms, the interstitial space flows into the end of the building and opens up into a large open lounge area looking out onto the sea. Now let’s follow this staircase up to the third floor.  We make our way back through the interior condominiums. This is the floor where the short-term residents live in either single or double bedrooms. The rooms have windows looking out into the interstitial space below. All rooms have windows looking out into the interstitial space except for the rooms nestled right in the centre of the building. These are equipped with south-angled skylights, which hearkens back to the traditional construction of an igloo, in which the only window was a pane of translucent ice on the south side of the dome. Moving past the rooms we reach the solarium, that overlooks the gardens and the kitchen. A quieter, perhaps more introspective gathering space compared to the bar and lounge on the main floor. Here we catch a glimpse of the hydroponic gardens below. We can also experience something unique to 42  this latitude. Under the light of the midnight sun, the reading room is illuminated for 24 hours a day at the height of summer. Let’s move back down these stairs to the second floor.  The dining room features an open kitchen at its centre. Here in this environment we will most certainly be dining on food that we may have never encountered before. The porosity of this space invites us to connect further with that experience as we watch the food being prepared before our eyes. Moving past the dining room we descend a series of ramps that take us on a meandering path through the hydroponic gardens. A recurring problem in Nunavut is the exorbitant cost of fruits and vegetables, as they cannot readily be grown locally. Even the soil needed to grow food in greenhouses need to be imported. In recent times, hydroponics greenhouses have emerged as an increasingly widespread response to this problem. These ramps eventually take us back to the ground level. Here we find the shower facilities and the sauna. I became interested in the concept of a sauna for two reasons: The highly egalitarian experience of the sauna ritual, and the concept of nestled heat, which we will get to in a moment. The sauna ritual begins with a warm shower. We then proceed into the sauna room itself. These doors open into the frigidarium, to borrow a term from roman bath house typology. The culmination of the experience involves quenching ourselves in a pool of ice-cold water here, whereupon our pores contract, sealing the heat we absorbed into our bodies. A much-needed recuperation after the long journey to the arctic. The showers are arranged in a row, with windows looking out onto a crevasse the stretches all the way up to the solarium. We watch as the water runs off our bodies into the crevasse. In front of us, soft sunlight filters through the vines growing from a wall of hydroponics. The same water that we are showering with will be passed through a grey water treatment system behind this wall, feeding the plants that will in 43  turn feed us. Throughout this project I have sought out moments of porosity and interconnectivity such as this because I believe it is symbolic of present-day Canadian society. It is this symbology that I wanted to encode within the DNA of this building, a building that simultaneously provides a barrier sealing off the environment outside while allowing porosity in its interior spaces.  We can see this manifesting in the section. Spaces are nestled within other spaces. The sauna and the hearth form a core of heat at the very heart of the building, and radiating outwards are layers, both physical layers and layers of program that encapsulate this core.             44       45                   46                   47  A question that I have long pondered is, at what point does an innovation become a vernacular? Architecture, or at least architecture in its broadest conceptual understanding, has had a deep connection with nation-building since the dawn of civilization. The question of an arctic vernacular has intrigued designers for decades. Leading up to the establishment of Nunavut as a territory in 1999, northern design work has struggled with balancing between celebrating the local versus the logistical realities of the environment. A common feature of the contemporary arctic vernacular can be seen by looking at the foundations. Unless the right precautions are taken, the simple act of living inside the building could raise the temperature of the permafrost above melting point. At this point, the ground begins to literally melt away from underneath the building. In this case, the situation is remedied by lifting the entire building off the ground using thermosiphon piles. This approach has already been ingrained within the public perception of an arctic vernacular, but what about the narrative that existed long before? How do we reconcile these polarities, of small, impermanent structures built of locally scavenged material and hugging the ground, versus large sedentary structures built of materials dropped off by a barge, and floating above the ground? In a quintessentially Canadian manner, there are never straightforward answers to questions like these. Perhaps it would even “Un-Canadian” to have straightforward answers, so nebulous is our social fabric and I have merely looked at a tiny corner in this project. However, I have approached this matter by exploring ways of abstraction. The arctic does not discriminate on who it kills and who it spares, and humanity has always hung very tenuously onto survival in this environment. Yet it is simply human nature to persist in surviving against all odds, and in my case, I have embraced the idea of an arctic hotel as an outpost, but older vernacular elements are implicit in this design. Take for instance the entry 48  sequence of moving through a sheltered tunnel, or the alignment of the entrance with the kitchen, the nesting of spaces within each other, these are all abstractions taken from the impermanent dwellings of the old north. I believe that when we frame vernacular elements as necessary adaptations that humans have made to survive in particular environment using the best of what was available to them, rather than thinking of vernacular as anthropological artifacts relating to a specific culture, we begin to understand how absurd it is that culture should set us apart, when in the end culture itself is a construct.         I love unfinished things,  the bookmark set between closed pages,  the field that waits for seed, Canada  is a place like that,  a history incomplete,  a traveler turning around and wondering  at the distance gone, the distance yet to go.  What was there, Canada?  --Richard Harrison, “O Canada – A Prelude”   49   Bibliography  Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.  Berry, John W., & Feng Hou. “Multiple belongings and psychological well-being among immigrants and the second generation in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 51(3), 2019, pp. 159–170  Berton, Pierre. The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 1970.  Chisholm, Barbara, Frances Backhouse, Ray Djuff, John Lindsay, David MacFarlane, France Pratte, Terry Reksten, Harry M. Sanders, Robert W. Sandford, Adrian Waller, and William Weintraub. Castles of the North: Canada’s Grand Hotels. Toronto: Lynx Images, 2001.  Demarest, Arthur. Ancient Maya: Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization. Cambridge: University Press, 2004.  Gutschow, Kai K., John Maciuika, Sylviane Leprun, Susan Slymovics. Tradition, Nationalism, and The Creation of Image. Berkeley: University of California, 1992.   Kalman, Harold. The Railway Hotels and the Development of the Château Style in Canada. Victoria: University of Victoria, 1968.  Knowles, Valerie. Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2006. Revised edition. Toronto: Tonawanda, 2007.   Koolhaas, Rem. "Junkspace." October, vol. 100, 2002, pp. 175-190.  50  Notroff, Gens, Oliver Dietrich, and Klaus Schmidt. “Gathering of the Dead? The Early Neolithic Sanctuaries of Gobeckli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey.” In Death Rituals and Social Order in the Ancient World: Death Shall Have No Dominion Here, edited by Colin Renfrew, Michael J. Boyd, and Iain Morley, 65-79. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.  Rudofsky, Bernard. Architecture Without Architects. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964.   Sheppard, Lola and Mason White. Many Norths: Spatial Practice in a Polar Territory. New York: Actar Publishers, 2017.  Snyder, John and Bernard Stonehouse. Prospects for Polar Tourism. Cambridge: CAB International, 2007.  Vaughan, Walter. The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne. New York: Century, 1920.  Volner, Ian. The Great Great Wall: Along the Borders of History from China to Mexico. New York: Abrams, 2019.  White, Ed. “Early American Nations as Imagined Communities.” American Quarterly 56(1), 2004, pp. 49-81.  


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