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Title: Camps of listening: speculating visceral forms of ecological awareness at resource extraction sites through an acoustically attentive architecture
Authors: Veillette, Miguel
Issue Date: 13-Apr-2021
Abstract: Urgently prompted by the climate crisis, the discourse around environmental action is spearheaded by technological innovation, which promises futures of optimized mechanics and reduced carbon emissions. However, denying technology’s ecological purview beyond efficiency overlooks its untapped potential in acquainting humans to ecological thinking, “a practice and a process of becoming fully aware of how human beings are connected with other beings.” 1 Technology’s capacity to behave organismically and autonomously make it capable of dissolving categorical thinking towards nature. In an attempt to envision a future of sustainable human existence, this thesis reimagines technology as an agent of visceral ecological thinking through its architectural integration. The mobile work camps of the Athabasca oil sand mines are at the site of this architectural speculation. The series of bitumen mines, together forming the world’s largest industrial landscape, house over 30,000 workers in fly-in-fly-out camps. Here, technology leverages the human’s destructive capacity towards the environment to a geological scale. This thesis redefines the work camp as a tool in augmenting the oil worker’s capacity to think and act ecologically. The design is speculated within the Frontier Project, one of the largest bitumen mines ever proposed for construction. In the face of vast public opposition, the application process for the 290 square-kilometer project was terminated in 2020 after over a decade of planning Frontier’s outcome symbolizes the conflict between Canada’s resource economy, its goal of negating carbon emissions and the urgent need to acknowledge the value of land for indigenous peoples and for all life on Earth. This thesis enters the conversation around this conflict using speculative design to critique attitudes towards resource extraction and to provoke thinking around ecology, labour, democracy and technology. The intention is not to push the undertaking of the Frontier Project nor to propose a pragmatic alternative to current workforce housing. The speculative design posits an alternate reality wherein workers monitor the ecological impacts of the mine in visceral and intimate ways enabled by architecture. Acoustic technology integrated in the building envelope renders the camp transparent to the surrounding soundscape, creating an interior space of passive ecological analysis and intimacy with nonhuman entities of the site. The heightened soundscape condition inside the camp facilitates ecoacoustic analysis and serves as an ecopsychological means of inquiry and relaxation. The design speculates the democratization Frontier’s managerial structure, assigning workers regulatory capacities, ultimately cultivating their roles as constituents of ecology and industry. In treating ecological awareness as the recognition of ecological interconnectedness rather than the anxious realization of ecological peril and anthropogenic guilt, new possibilities in worker and ecosystem wellbeing are made possible.
Appears in Collections:Architecture - Master's Theses
Master's Theses

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