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Ojibwa Embassy

Part 2 Project 1998
Roberto da Silva Ribeiro
University of Toronto Toronto Canada
The Metaphysics of Interconnectedness

Architecture becomes the vehicle for the embodiment of Aboriginal metaphysics, of stepping outside representation by pursuing a spiritual knowledge within the material as presence of something greater than the self.

As opposed to Western perception of reality, which is grounded in representation, it is the intangibles which have primacy in the Aboriginal worldview. The material world is simultaneously spiritual, and that spirituality is manifested in the material. Access to spirit, to feeling and to meaning, however, is by way of the metaphorical qualities of the actual world.

"If the wind is a person, no place can be considered empty."
Ruth B. Phillips

The understanding of Aboriginal art as performance--as re-lived experience--informs the architectural process and methodology of evoking an awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings. In other words, the architecture incorporates the natural manifestations of non-ordinary reality--the hidden world. Both its life and visual metaphors are rendered tangible within an architecture that is experienced as a living being. The grid signifies the structure of this being and conveys the spatial awareness of interconnectedness with all beings at an alternate level of consciousness.

The project incorporates this manner of perception through the design of an embassy in Winnipeg, Canada for the Ojibwa aboriginal people of the Great Lakes region of North America.

Roberto da Silva Ribeiro

Feeling the sound of the drums. The matrix of the Cartesian grid is the structure of reference to a world the aboriginals now find themselves inhabiting. But rather than be seen as a debilitating intervention, it serves as a three-dimensional "dream catcher" in which to site the spaces and objects of the aboriginal embassy. The concept of "interconnectedness" is one of respect for both humanity and nature. "Embassy" is significant in its politicization, but is not necessarily about territoriality in that the land is not to be owned but to be shared by all the people. Research into Ojibway practice and ritual has identified a range of materials, of colours, of emotions, and of spirits. These can now become the principles for the making of a building, transformable into the syntax of a new architecture. Nature is a continually evolving and eroding condition, a condition to which those who dwell within it must respond. The constructed, now abandoned, urban fabric of the turn-of-the-century warehouses in Winnipeg is host to occupation.

The specific investigations and potentials of composite wall sections -- clearly using materials for their inherent qualities of both structure and enclosure -- promise an architecture rich in emotive spirit, referenced in history, and rooted in the land. It also suggests a future imbued with a sensitivity which has all but been lost. The work evokes the process of construction, pushing materials to their limit. Drawings, in particular large scale sections of specific conditions, further develop the programmatic occupations. But it is the spaces of assembly, the places of the "Ghost Dancers," the thresholds of transition that evoke the plaintive chants of the shaman recombining the elements. The personal and the collective, selected for each medicine bag. The building is a register for the memories of both past and future; it does not scar the earth, it communes with and is in harmony with nature. The eagle lands to mark the circle with its talon and then takes flight. The work of thesis moves beyond its specific thematic origins and begins to demonstrate a compositional strategy to be pursued throughout a career and practice.

-- David Lieberman

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