Lightness is a collaborative submission for the Canadian Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale initiated and led by Toronto-based Ja Architecture Studio. The exhibition proposes an exploration of the historical and contemporary alignments of light wood frame construction to broader national issues such as ecology, regionalism, colonisation and settlement. By examining Canada through the lens of this specific construction method, latent relationships between Canadian architecture and Canadian culture on the whole come to the forefront. For example, what is the relationship between light wood framing and of immigrants who enter Canada seeking work? How did light wood framing affect colonization? How has light wood framing contributed to our national identity or brand? Indeed, Canadian history, ecology, economy, and culture can be read via a cross section of this building method.
Architecture in Canada has had a paradoxical relationship to light wood framing. Its simplicity, flexibility and affordability enable architects to conceive spaces of considerable formal imagination, yet these same characteristics have instead placed light wood framing primarily outside the disciplinary boundaries of architecture and instead within the realm of building. Within this paradox lies the most refreshing potential of this exhibition; How can we explore the boundaries of the architectural imagination through use of this simple technique?
The proposed exhibition centers around 13 large scale architectural models designed by architects from each province and territory. These models utilize the archaeological technique of ‘boring’ to remove a columnar sample of an existing or hypothetical architectural work. These samples could be taken from exemplary historic buildings, original compositions that exploit the architectural potentials of the tectonic, or conceptual pieces that artistically explore the constructional system. In each instance the provincial or territorial architects is tasked with authoring a work that speaks to a critical topic specific to the region. This collection of thought provoking, expressive models will form a series of tectonic essays describing light wood framing across Canada.
Lightness will conclude with a publication that combines the team’s collective research and presents it as a history of Canada viewed through the lense of the light wood frame. Given that the models will be compact and non site-specific they could also potentially return to Canada for further exhibition following the Biennale.