UBC Graduate Research

Against the Ultimate Spinach Birch, Patrick William Leslie


Scattered throughout the Strait of Georgia, which separates Vancouver Island from mainland British Columbia, are the province’s Gulf Islands. These are sites of extreme endemism and cultural diversity. One such place, at the northern end of this fragmented chain, is Hornby Island. A longstanding arts hub initially characterized by the creative energies of draft dodgers, counter culturalists and hippie intelligentsia who flocked to the island in the ’60s. Part rebellion, part escapist reformation, Hornby Island’s arts culture stands apart from others in the Gulf Islands in that it encompasses both the traditional fine arts and numerous unorthodox architectural explorations. Yet, today the island’s popularity as a tourist destination and the ever-increasing ease of access to its shores risks overtaking the memory and methods of the people who helped develop it. As established artisans age and pass on; and property values continue to rise, limiting entry for their successors, a void begins to grow that risks the erosion of localized cultural and craft memory in its vital role as a touchstone of this rural community. In an effort to contravene such a decline this project proposes a series of speculative design interventions intimately informed by local cultural practices and material ecologies. These constructs positing that the preservation of craft knowledge and freedom of action on the island is as much about one’s agency in the creation of their space as it is in the creation of their art.

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