After two years of planning, the wheels are in motion to create ‘The Rabbit Warren’, a floating venue for an artist-run festival coming to Charlottetown
After two years of planning, wheels are in motion to create a floating venue for an artist-run festival coming to Charlottetown
Nine architecture students from Dalhousie University have holed up in the former Canadian Coast Guard warehouse on the Charlottetown waterfront for the last 10 days with one goal in mind – to create plans for a floating venue.
Like scientists working in a cloistered laboratory, they have experimented with various building materials in their quest to design and build a floating pavilion that will be launched in the Charlottetown Harbour for Flotilla, a new artist-run festival Sept. 21-24.
Outside the warehouse, students Luca DiGregorio and Kamille Manoy are testing out models in a tank of water. After a successful launch, they use suction tubes to change water levels to explore how the crafts are affected by the changing tides.
“Our next step is to test weights to see how we will anchor them,” says DiGregorio.
A further and safer distance away, Makenzie Ramaden uses a blowtorch to apply white shrink-wrap over a triangular frame. After several tries he learns the best way to achieve his goal is by holding the flame directly under the frame. “This is fun,” he says. Watching the enthusiastic students troubleshoot the challenges created by the project impresses Josh Collins.
“One of the wonderful things about working with artists is they are process and context aware, so they have lots of questions. So the project itself is a way of exploring things,” says the architect who, with curator Zachary Gough, is lead for the project called “Rabbit Warren” being produced in partnership with the White Rabbit Festival in Economy, N.S. When finished, it will house 10 artists who are doing artist residencies during the festival.
Unlike building a structure on solid ground, there are different structural considerations.
“We’re asking questions like
‘what does it mean to be on the water in terms of how you deal with the forces of the wind and the movement of the tides,” says Collins.
There are also social considerations like how to create a sense of gathering and how to provide as much access to the water as possible. There are also environmental issues such as providing a sense of habitat as well as shade and protection from the wind. And, of course, there are the views.
“We’re interested in knowing what it will be like out there in the middle of the day or at sunset. Maybe it will light up at night.”
By the end of the 10day workshop, the team has created a pattern to work from.
“At this point, we’re thinking of bending metal pipes that we’ve strapped together (on an floating dock) and covering them with a material, perhaps shrink wrap, to create a sense of inclusion but also give transparency and light,” says Collins.
Using a template they have designed, students will prefabricate the structure that will get assembled in September on an existing dock system, provided by East Coast EZ Docks. The system will be in place for most of September to allow time for construction, the two-week residency, conference and tear down. EZ Docks will also handle installation, maintenance and removal.
Watching the experiments come to a positive conclusion pleases Becka Viau, Flotilla project manager.
“We’ve been working on this for two years and to get to this point is amazing. It’s a true testament to the hard work of the art community to have built the kind of relationships we have with municipality and the province for pulling off this totally awesome and necessary intervention with contemporary art,” she says.
“In the end, the pavilion will be a surprise because the whole process is a surprise. And that’s what makes it so much fun.”
Architecture student Makenzie Ramaden, left, uses a blowtorch to apply white shrink-wrap over a triangular frame. At right, Luca DiGregorio and Kamille Manoy test out models of the Rabbit Warren during a 10-day workshop in Charlottetown.
Project lead Josh Collins, left, looks at some of the models that students created for the Rabbit Warren, a floating venue that will be anchored at the Charlottetown Waterfront as part of Flotilla, a new festival running Sept. 21-14 in Charlottetown. From left are students Makenzie Ramaden, Natalie Steele and Minette Murphy. Missing from the photo is curator Zachary Gough.