Piers, Bridges and Sheds: An architectural response to changing rural geographies and resortscapes (The case of Thornbury, Ontario)
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Mass tourism is a critical agent of change, with a proven capacity of forging new landscapes and thoroughly modifying the internal structure of a community. Thornbury, a rural settlement located in South-western Ontario, is on the brink of such shift: With the emergence of a new culture of tourism and the introduction of ‘upscale’ resort developments, its physical conditions are rapidly being reconfigured and the character of its social landscape is on the precipice of being irrevocably altered. These luxury vacation facilities occur in a dispersed fashion on the fringe – a condition which has not only initiated a radical modification and decentralization of social and economic activity, but has also resulted in the decline of traditional neighbourhood ties. Likewise, this occurrence has introduced an influx of newcomers who advance an identity and lifestyle clearly distinct from that of Thornbury’s quiet community of rural citizens and retirees. In this context, these newly arrived inhabitants soon become dwellers of “limited liability”– those who reside within a community, but do not identify with it – as Thornbury lacks the infrastructure and amenities to support potential exchanges and direct interest to the qualities of traditional civic life. As such, the thesis will examine the question of: What is the role of architecture in sustaining local identity in an altered social fabric? Or, more specifically, how can social relations in a transformed community be advanced through the use and design of public spaces? The work will attempt to outline the trajectory of urban change and understand the factors that account for present circumstances. The outcome of the research will generate a series of responsive designs that hinge upon the idea of uplifting ordinary landscapes and everyday ruralism. Essentially, the proposed strategy is one in which rurality is integral to the solution: Methods which harness rural assets and refashion them in a progressive manner will be utilized to inspire the formation of a new local culture while establishing an interface between opposing population segments. Overall, this study is intended to serve as a template to be used by communities in Ontario for mitigating the effects of changing rural geographies.