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This thesis is a critical cultural investigation into the meaning of wilderness. It is based on the premise that as a constructed, imaginary landscape wilderness is an expression of cultural impulses. It suggests that the longing for wilderness is a manifestation of cultural malaise, which indicates an uncomfortable relationship between contemporary civilization and its citizens. Poetic reviews of the definitions of nature and wilderness, as well as of Canada, which draw on a collage of sources, are used to explore the meaning of these ideas. Accompanying the text are several series of photographs which confront landscapes that exist around us and explore our relationship with the material environment. The sites include wilderness and conservation areas, the Don Valley, the Lesley Street Spit, suburban construction sites, piles of discarded dirt, various farm fields, and fragments of woodland bordering roads and highways. An extended foreword defines the wider context of this work: An essay regarding topic specifies that though this thesis aims to be sympathetic to environmental or sustainable interests, its main goal is to examine the cultural, affective desire for wilderness as space. An essay regarding place discusses the thesis’ connection to a specifically Canadian context. A third essay regarding method reviews the fragmented compositional method and intuitive manner of working used in the thesis, as well as the photographic method used for the images. And finally, an essay on tradition suggests that the thesis work, both in topic and method, engages a continuing tradition of Romanticism, which remains both relevant and meaningful. The aim of this thesis is to speculate on the value of wilderness in contemporary times, particularly in a Canadian context. The ambition is to gain insight into the forces at work in contemporary culture. The thesis also aspires to offer a fertile, even if ambiguous, vision of wilderness that could suggest how to better respond, as architects, to the impulses that feed the longing for this landscape.
Cite this work
Lisa Hirmer (2009). The Wilderness. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/4486