A letter to a contractor stresses the urgency of a previously placed order for a hatch to be added to a roof. On an architectural plan, the hinges of a door have been reversed. Photographs show crowds of people, or an aerial view of a building. These fragments add up to an archive that attempts to answer a question: without the witness, how do we determine truth?
Several years ago, a 17-hour train trip brought me from Montreal to Moncton. I spent the next few weeks travelling the stony coasts of the Maritimes, wondering if I could squeeze in Newfoundland. But as Waterloo-based artist John Hofstetter recently told me, “you don’t ‘squeeze in’ Newfoundland.”
Fifteen years ago, the spaces behind the red-brick façade at 48 Ontario Street North were emptied out, and so they remain today. But a group called Friends of 48 Ontario is pushing to reanimate the 106-year-old structure, which was home to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 50 for half a century and is now owned by the City of Kitchener. To start, they’re opening it to the public during this year’s Doors Open event on Saturday September 17.
Follow the Grand River towards Lake Erie and you will find a bend in its waters encircling a significant place. From a nearby street, you can glimpse the building down a long driveway flanked by trees. The approach is leafy, and only upon emerging at its entrance is its grandiosity fully revealed: symmetry, neoclassical features, a cupola rising above the three-storey red brick façade. It’s one of fewer than a dozen former residential schools for indigenous children left standing in Canada, and it’s an hour’s drive from Kitchener-Waterloo in southeast Brantford.
under a fruitless tree, you
with the dying
whine of cicadas
the grass quivers,
stomach all tied up
…..against the earth
The ambiguity of nets, curtains, veils, drapes—means of concealing that can also reveal—permeates the large-scale works by Barbara Hobot currently on exhibit at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG). On the wall hangs a piece of faux leather vinyl cut and flared like a skirt; on the adjacent floor lies its aesthetic relative, partly draped over a wooden dowel.
The documentary remnants of these projects, built and unbuilt, locate these building typologies within the colonial agenda: whether carried out on the reserves to displace traditional ways of living on the land, or off the reserves, in the case of residential schools that were intended to indoctrinate children into Euro-Canadian customs.
Nestled amongst the 1920s homes of Westdale, a leafy neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario, is an outlier with a storied past. Hambly House, whose sweeping white form rounds a street corner not far from the Cootes Paradise wetland, seems to sail past the half-timbering, faux-stone cladding, and steeply pitched roofs of its neighbours. The streamline moderne gem, a rare example of the style in Ontario, was built in 1939 by local architect Edward Glass and named for its first owner, Jack Hambly. It recently received a thoughtful second-storey and rear addition by Hamilton firms DPAI and Toms + McNally Design.