Roost  Roost: A Landscape Becoming
Toronto, Ontario
[la] OAA HQ Landscape Design  Competition submission
0.5 ha | 1.25 acres

Team Hickory
Project Team large [medium] design office in collaboration with Office of Adrian Phiffer
Nadia Cannataro, Francesco Martire, Adrian Phiffer
Civil LEA Consulting Ltd.

Roost, Roost brings the landscape and its related ecologies into the foreground. The proposal alters the positioning of the existing narrative from operating on top of a landscape to operating in a landscape.

The result, a significant shift away from a manicured pseudo landscape, primarily characterized by ornament, to a productive landscape - a landscape with agency - mobilizing its internal ecological engine: always moving, in a constant state of flux, an infinite collection of possibilities, an indeterminate end… always becoming.

Our proposal brings into light a project of inclusion and co-habitation where the distinction between natural history and human history is collapsed into one being. The creation of bird habitat is a primary vector for the project, along with other vectors that include insects and humans. Hence, the space becomes inclusive not simply for humans but also for a multi-tiered ecological group of birds, vegetation, and insects. 

The current reading of the OAA Headquarters is that of an object, a “supremely modern” icon hovering over top of a controlled, highly manicured, representational landscape. Roost  Roost subverts this narrative and transitions the building from the observed to the observer. Its panoramic wrap around glazing allows for full view of the environment now surrounding it. The building becomes an observatory bringing an immediacy to the new landscape and ecosystem. The proposal further extends the idea of public education and the role the OAA aspires to play in enhancing the understanding of the environment.

The project’s formal expression is a thick carpet of meadow with a series of points organized within a grid on the site. The grid is derived from the building becoming a conceptual extension of the existing structure. The grid equalizes the front and the back of the building, as the points perform similarly across the site. The points of the grid are defined by either an ecological tower or by a clustering of Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides. The ecological towers are thin membered circular truss-like columns extending to a height of 15 metres and reaching to the height of the building. Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is planted at their base with the structure serving as the armature for its climbing habit. The ecological towers serve as the art component. They represent the productive friction of the architectural versus the natural. They are the measure by which one can read the reconciliation of architecture with landscape, the rephrasing of the dialogue between built form and natural processes. They provide opportunities for bird habitat on their own and the armature for the ever-climbing Virginia Creeper further intensifying the density of occupation by birds. It is at once iconography and performative habitat. While their origin is architectural, their state of becoming, assist in vegetation growth and create a source of nutrients and opportunities for additional habitat for non-human species. They are ecological collectors in an organized framework creating a mechanism for understanding a complex and dynamic ecosystem. The points created by the groupings of trembling aspen are core samples of a forest, a natural fragment participating in an imposed framework. Both the ecological towers and the Aspen clusters participate as equals in the grid; however, each contributes differently to the conversation of contemporary landscape practice. One is a fundamental element within an architectural construct which becomes the incubator for ecological vectors that shift its identity. The other is a landscape configured into and organized by an architectural principle. Each one is contributing to promote a haven for various bird species along with insects and butterflies. 

The meadow, planted with a multitude of native flowering perennials and tall grasses is a neutralizing context for the grid. It is a thick layer both supporting and attracting flora and fauna with a seemingly indeterminate arrangement of possibilities in colour, texture, and habitat. It is an absorptive blanket contributing to the renewed stormwater management strategy for the site.  It is an everchanging array of colours throughout the seasons and is highly expressive when layered with snow. It is self-propelled by its internal ecological engine, always in a state of flux never achieving stasis.

Our stormwater management strategy conceptualizes the surface of the site as a sponge absorbing the majority of stormwater and reducing the amount of surface runoff. Part pervious paving in the form of gravel (driveway, parking, and entry pathway) and part meadow (vegetated areas), the site becomes an organism working in sync with the environment at large.

Roost  Roost immerses a variety of species within a robust and rich ecological territory initiated by the ambition of creating a haven for birds. The project aims to heal our relationship with the land, return agency to natural systems and provide a space of inclusion for all species.

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