UBC Graduate Research

Rural Metabolism and the Future Small Town Shalagan, Brittany


Metabolism: The chemical process that occurs within a living organism necessary to maintain life. It is the function by which internal mechanisms navigate varying inputs and outputs of energy, material, and resources to achieve an optimal state in which to thrive. For a small community, metabolism is the capacity to self-organize and flourish, regardless of external realities that are uncertain, and at times, in disrepair. Grounded in the rural context, ‘Rural Metabolism’ challenges the critique that small, remote communities are becoming stagnant and obsolete in an increasingly urbanizing world. This project seeks to articulate a design process that engages with small communities. The approach emphasizes participation of designers in the community beyond traditional means of engagement workshops and site visits, borrowing from ethnographic research methods to illustrate the power of individual narrative and its role in the design process. Methods of engaging with the community of study, Quadra Island, will take various forms, through gathering and representing qualitative information, sharing resources and inquiries for evaluation and critique by locals, learning from the successes of other designers working in small communities, informal conversations, and presentations at local community events. The end goal is to celebrate individual identity and articulate its value in the collective image of a place. Ultimately, engaging in this process requires that designers working in small communities begin to occupy the role of the facilitator and communicator, enabling unlikely relationships between stakeholders and engaging locals in unlikely conversations. Ideally, this process will inspire a renewed attention to detail, locale, material, and craft, providing a language for locals to participate in the metabolic tendencies of their community and imagine new relationships with their built environment.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International