The Mongrel Approach
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Cities are concentrations of diverse populations that undergo continual transformation over time. This thesis deals with the question, how does the individual make place in a constantly changing environment? The entry point for this study was looking at neglected places in urban environments. I looked specifically at the Don River Valley in Toronto, Ontario and how it has developed as an open-ended and complex system. The site research is presented through a series of stories describing specific events or places in the Don Valley that have taken place over the past 200 years. This thesis offers a mongrel approach to design for a site within the Don Valley. “The Mongrel Approach” is an opportunistic way of building that is committed to survival and open as to how this can be achieved. The design proposes a series of intimate yet public infrastructural devices; a toilet, water fountain, shelter and bridge that are presented in a set of hand drawings as well as through an “Explanatory Tale.” A magpie narrates this short story, which is part true, part fiction and part wishful thinking. As the earth’s population becomes more urban than rural and increasingly mobile, contemporary cities are becoming home to a diverse range of individuals with complex and layered identities. The Mongrel Approach offers a way of building that can handle difference and contradiction and accommodate incongruous or inharmonious parts. It positions the designer as a conjurer or first mover. This thesis proposes Mongrel buildings that respond to change by transforming slowly and incrementally over time with the involvement of multiple authors; but at each moment, a register of time and human ritual.