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Title: The potential of architecture to address homelessness in Northern Ontario
Authors: Baziw, Christopher
Keywords: Community;Northern Ontario;homelessness;social infrastructure;housing;stigma
Issue Date: 8-Apr-2020
Abstract: What is architecture’s potential to address homelessness in northern Ontario? This question came from a personal experience: volunteering in a soup kitchen in downtown Sudbury throughout my studies at Laurentian University. This experience, over the last six years, has permeated through my architectural education. Homelessness is a complex phenomenon that architecture alone is unable to solve; nonetheless, architecture does have the potential to facilitate responses to homelessness in collaboration with other professions on interdisciplinary teams. Attitudes against those living in extreme poverty, historically categorizing those ‘undeserving’ of assistance, can be seen today in the physical, social, and legal realms of the built environment. There is not one, but many, common experiences of homelessness. The current literature provides a definition of homelessness as the exclusion from the physical, social, or legal domains of ‘home’. This definition portrays homelessness as a spectrum dependent on exclusion. Hostile architecture and the selective enforcement of municipal by-laws are contemporary examples of exclusion that penalize those experiencing homelessness. These examples can be mapped in Sudbury, Ontario, to demonstrate how specific architectural elements are spatially connected to areas of high contact between housed and homeless individuals. These contact zones, when designed improperly, can ignite prejudice and lead to conflict, ultimately reinforcing stigma. Meanwhile, the theory of intergroup contact postulates that contact between out-groups and in-groups also carries the potential to mitigate stigma and prejudice under prescribed conditions. The physical mediation of these conflict zones is tested in downtown Sudbury through two installations where the nuances of this process are observed, documented, and applied to the full building scale. The process of designing a fullscale building proposal includes an indepth site analysis to understand the local sociodemographics of homelessness and where a site could best be located. Upon site selection, programs are analysed using a needs assessment through the secondary analysis of transcribed interviews of individuals experiencing homelessness. The needs expressed by people with lived experience are cross-referenced with the existing services in Sudbury to propose new programs to fill the service gaps in the city. A process is then developed whereby a phased introduction of the project brings together relevant stakeholders, leverages their connections in project planning, creates an interface for meaningful community engagement, and develops the site in phases to avoid gentrification. The architecture is described as a mediator of the physical, social, and legal dimensions of both the site and individuals’ experiences of homelessness. Visioning is explored by how it may be inhabited by both those who are housed and experiencing homelessness, including those who have exited homelessness and secured housing. Finally, a future is imagined whereby individuals can find sustainable exits from homelessness. The continued life of the building demonstrates how it has been designed to meet the needs of its residents and not any one particular circumstance. The contribution of this work is the development of a new mode of practicing architecture that is fundamentally interdisciplinary, allowing physical buildings to maximize their positive effect on the life in and around them
Appears in Collections:Architecture - Master's Theses
Master's Theses

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