An Architecture of Belonging: Housing New Canadians
Yeung, Sandy Pui San
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For hundreds of years immigrants have been coming to Canada to start life afresh in hopes of a better future. Many choose Canada because they consider this country a peaceful, tolerant and welcoming place where people and institutions are open and supportive towards cultural diversity. This perception has led many newcomers to believe that with hard work and perseverance, they can in time achieve a fulfilling life. However, the reality of everyday life for many immigrants and their families has shown that significant challenges threaten the attainment of these goals. Research into the life of immigrants makes clear that not every newcomer is able to gain full inclusion in Canadian society. As well, not everyone arrives on equal footing. Many families arrive with few resources. These new Canadians need help not only to gain access to key necessities (i.e. housing, income, education and employment) but also to understand the countless and often perplexing new cultural experiences that await them. This group of newcomers become particularly vulnerable to falling into a downward spiral of poverty that can be difficult to escape. Considering the fact that finding a safe and satisfying home is a critical step in smooth transitioning, it becomes important to ask how the work of architects contributes to the well-being of immigrants attempting to settle and integrate into their newly chosen home. The thesis studies the potential of making settlement easier by proposing an architecture of belonging. The goal is to create a welcoming place for newcomers that supports both a robust communal life and responds to everyday needs. The positive momentum of inclusive community building further fosters a strong neighbourly bond among residents of all cultures and beliefs, which in turn strengthens the Canadian visions of multiculturalism. The thesis explores the design of a housing prototype that brings a neighbourhood house and housing development on the site of St. Christopher House in Toronto.