An Index of Groundworks and Bearings: Architectural lessons on foundation building in Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory
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The foundation mediates the relationship between a building and the land. It is a connection that is particularly challenging to ground in frozen soils. Bridging the Arctic Circle in the Northern Yukon, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation traditional territory is situated between overlapping realities of the North and the South. The lives and knowledge of the peoples who have inhabited this place for millennia are entangled with a shifting land, one that experiences both changing seasons and increasing warming trends. Distanced professional ‘experts’ also engage these critical issues of environmental change through research and design. Within this dynamic context, holes exist in the dominant, arborescent decision-making models for foundation systems framing design as a problem, with solutions that privilege techno-scientific knowledge. This thesis is a constellation of work informed by architectural research, conversations, and time spent over the course of two summer seasons in Old Crow, Yukon, and my experience out on the land with local citizens who live close to it. Written from the position of a ‘not-knower’ – a visiting student of architecture and the land – this thesis offers a series of questions, attunements, and prompts for the designer. The work culminates in an index of annotated deep sections that detail the reciprocal relationships between what is above and below the ground’s surface. An Index of Groundworks and Bearings suggests a deeper reading of the foundation as a site of dialogue between buildings, the hands and minds that build, and the land. These exchanges, both voiced and silent, involve multiple ways of knowing and relating to the land. The index is a non-comprehensive illustrated inventory of foundations encountered in this region that float above the shifting ground or search for stasis deep below grade. It explores a multiscalar meshwork of projected abstractions and foundational relationships with the land that architecture might build on. Ultimately, the intention of this thesis is to open the visiting architect’s awareness of different ways to touch the land, while questioning the foundations of architectural practice itself.
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Katherine Kovalcik (2018). An Index of Groundworks and Bearings: Architectural lessons on foundation building in Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13197