Two weeks ago while visiting Mikhail Miller in his studio at 809, he showed me this enormous greenhouse two doors down that I must have walked by many times before and never noticed. I knew right there that this was the space I wanted to bring into focus. It had intrigue and the materials to work with. The structure had arched ceilings that provided plenty of natural light, as well as having a concrete sub basement that felt like a mine shaft.
After negotiating the use of the space, John Webster the original builder and owner of the greenhouse stopped by and I learned that he would grow food all year round, piping in hot water from the house boiler. He would grow seedlings in the greenhouse and move them to a farm where they would grow to maturity and then get donated to charity. It became my focus to pay homage to a place that provided so much growth, and once again transform it into a lively environment before it’s demolition.
I felt a great kinship with Mr. Webster, because the greenhouse was built using as much recycled material as he could use, giving the structure an eclectic sensibility that reflected his personal touch. I set out on the challenge of collecting material limited to the greenhouse and surrounding neighbourhood, in the end building a relationship to materials that are specific to this particular place.
The process began with tearing up the existing structures (shelves/planters) and mining materials from the concrete underbelly in order to cache the usable material suitable for my needs. As I broke down the material my idea shifted into what it exists as now; a giant tree house that contains a mezzanine platform that opens up to the outside. The night when I cut a hole into the back wall I felt instantly more connected to the neighbouring houses, and when the platform was installed there was no hiding the fact that this mark drew new attention to the greenhouse.
The life of this greenhouse installation stems from the experience of growth and metaphorically symbolizes the inner workings of how a plant grows and how we might take example from this system, relating it to how we build our communities. As Wreck City progresses I see diverse approaches to to how one might see a bunch of old buildings, but to me Wreck City is a temporary surrogate of how we might see Calgary progressing. Our installations are intended to inject life back into the seemingly forgotten relics that unite us as Calgarians. In the final legs of the journey we will hope to see a sense of community emerging from our experimental neighbourhood, rebuilding with no standards and no rules. Making our city out of the wreckage of an old paradigm.
Materials: planter boards, dirt, discarded christmas trees, various materials found in the greenhouse.