To Experience a Place: Architecture, Nature, and the Seasons of Life

This thesis will explore the relationship between architecture and the phenomenological conditions of experience within nature in the context of the Interlake region; specifically, the rural municipality of Gimli Manitoba’s Spruce Sands / Bay Heights community. Gimli – the largest Icelandic settlement outside of Iceland – according to Norse Mythology, is the title of the most beautiful place in the gods’ realm, Asgard. This beauty’s translation onto Manitoba’s rural municipality of Gimli could be said to arise from the land’s experiential appeal. It is characterized as a place to sense local forestry, trails, beaches, and lake Winnipeg. From swimming, to camping and ice fishing, this environment has been home to generations of individuals and families experiencing this land’s qualities throughout the seasons. The study of particular experiences of place: flora and fauna, materiality, tectonic language, socio-cultural history and context via mapping, photography, literature and site exploration, could translate into the creation of an architecture that celebrates experience over prescription.     Though, the accessibility of such senses and experiences must be questioned, as Gimli and its surrounds is a known retirement community. Namely, Gimli hosts several types of retirement living opportunities that include independent living, assisted living and personal care homes. Examples include Rotary Towers, Betel Home and Newhaven Lodge. These institutional or condominium-style dwellings however necessary appear isolated from their natural context. They exist as objective independent structures that have largely inadequate or non-existent connections to the natural environment and the prime experiential qualities of the local context or place. The search for an architecture that relates to its context – forming a relationship with the land and its people – intends to culminate in the development of an accessible inhabitation project for retired individuals that will explore the potential of the experiential qualities of place, as it pertains to the mergence of architecture and site.

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