RECONSTRUCTING THE COMMONS

TEMPORARY LIVING INFRASTRUCTURE

BENHAM HARPER
MLA


Finding space within our urban centres is becoming increasingly difficult. Ageing infrastructure and spatial relationships are struggling to keep up with the increasing density and diversity of needs. The cultural idea of belonging is intertwined with one’s ability to afford owning or renting property. As the cost of living increases, belonging within this capitalistic paradigm is a privilege unattainable by many except the most affluent. Communities are broken apart, as residents choose between living in a place, or life savings. Looking for affordable solutions, vehicle dwelling is increasingly seen as a set of compromises people can live with. A small shelter with minimal infrastructure, surrounding urban amenities act as an extension of the home. Dispersed throughout the urban fabric, vehicle dweller’s live and camp, integrated invisibly within and paralleling the rotating schedules of a neighbourhood.

As our urban centres grow, edges are not as thick, empty spaces fewer and space shrinks for informal residents to exist. Reconstructing the Commons would provide an alternative way to belong to and participate within a community outside of the ownership model of property. Empowering sites of temporary occupation, a series of strategies are employed to structure spaces, accommodating and integrating nonrecreational campers into the larger community.

Using Squamish BC as a testcase, the recreational capital of Canada, is situated on the traditional grounds of the Squamish First Nation and acts as a microcosm representative of the region, as a seasonal influx of vehicle dwellers brings to light the tension between stationary and transient residents.

With a need for a new set of spatial relationship guidelines to manage and accommodate formal and informal residents, my project proposes a network of camping infrastructure to help manage the impact of nonrecreational campers and their environmental impacts, improving the long-term health of the valley. Recognizing that this is not an issue that can just be pushed out of sight and mind, an analysis of valley was conducted to determine the best sites in which to accommodate non-recreational camping. Building off of discovered gaps within current infrastructure, sites are picked based on their proximity to urban amenities, recreational elements, and identified greatest need. Divided into two systems, the Inner and Outer Commons, the gradient of needs from locals to long term visitors is addressed.

Supervisor: 
Patrick Condon







The Inner Commons is presented as a space for locals who participate within the community directly to find a place that welcomes them at night. Equipped with infrastructure to support them. A sense of privacy is created with the sites acting as pocket neighbourhoods of microhomes with communal infrastructure, integrated within the towns larger neighbourhoods.

A more rustic experience, the outer commons provides the essential infrastructure necessary to mitigate environmental impacts on the town’s edges. Serving visitors, it transforms forestry roads into linear campsites, formalizing space for campers along access roads within town. Clearly defined spatial edges help to localize use into areas already seeing the most impact.

Recognizing that a community is not a place or a thing but the people it is comprised of, this project formalizes inclusive space for alternative living strategies, making a more resilient community fabric.