Drawing and the Mediation of Contested Space
Might an unconventional use of architectural skills assist collaboration between university-based social and environmental scientists and Canadian First Nations communities? I will describe how one such collaboration effectively began with showing a Nuxalk Nation historian a drawing that -- although describing another place -- struck a chord with him. The drawing described an anecdote told by and about a Vancouver suburbanite’s guilty conscience connected with secreting away a growing collection of Native artifacts unearthed while gardening in the backyard. The historian perceived usefulness in drawing contentious subjects, drawings that tell stories about artifacts, events, practices and time. Visually describing conflict spurs debate in a community; debate is necessary and useful in consensus building. The drawings become a valued educational tool and historical document, especially within First Nations communities, given their historical perspective. Showing a man a drawing led to other drawing investigations but most importantly it led increased trust. Greater trust led to projects by my colleagues that range from health and education surveys and land utilization and forest management plans to intense governance consultation righting a bleak economic situation. Learning how and knowing what to draw are essential parts of the education and practice of architects. Embodied in drawing, the architect’s skills of representation and synthesis can have utility in the applied research of social and environmental scientists. In this context, the objective of drawing is not design, but is instead defined as a collaborative process unfolds.
Keywords: Architecture, Communications, Geography, Contested Space, University/Community Collaboration
Assistant Professor, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia