Two Canadian undergraduate students, Claire Lubell and Virginia Fernandez receive high praise and win 2nd prize in the CLU Foundation contest. The project entitled Buoyant Light unveils a community that is often left to itself: the Nordic region. The illustrated idea combines the human and his environment, demonstrating an excellent example of humanity. The jury would like to congratulate Miss Lubell and Fernandez for the efforts they put into their theoretical and technical research.
Claire and Virginia tell us about your background?
Claire: I’m 24 years old and currently completing my final semester of an undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture. Previously I studied at l’Université de Montréal and University of Alberta, each for one year. In the last 5 years I have worked in architecture offices and participated in studios in Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and South Africa. My interests in architecture lie in its more broad ability to address complex social, economic and political issues, rather than its specific role as a practice of object making. I am particularly interested in how the traditional formality of the built form can be reconsidered in contexts where informality in urban development is an autonomous force.
Virginia: I’m 25 years old and am also finishing my last semester of undergraduate studies in Architecture at the University of Waterloo and previously studied in Venezuela. Because of the co-op program at the school I have had the opportunity to work in many places over the last five years including Toronto, Austria and Venezuela. My interest in architecture resides in its power as a concrete medium in which other less tangible economic, political and cultural forces are materialized. As a designer I am interested in context, both physical and notional, as a source of knowledge and invention
What interests you about industrial design?
We are not specifically industrial designers. In studying architecture we have the opportunity to address design on a wide scale ranging from singular objects to large urban/infrastructural proposals. In the case of Buoyant Light, we decided that the questions we wanted to explore were best addressed with a highly articulated object which could respond in a softer way to the human scale, climate and scale of the Arctic landscape.
How would you define your style? What differentiates you from others?
For us it is not so much a question of style as a one of process. We generally approach projects with research into conditions, be they physical or anthropological, related to the context in question. Based on this research we identify a problem that can be addressed with a simple intervention in the site. In doing this we develop projects that have the freedom to be highly imaginative because they are simultaneously grounded in a framework of rigorous research.
What motivated you to enter the CLU Competition?
The theme “Light it for Humanity” motivated us to submit Buoyant Light. We had developed the project in 2010 and beyond its technical aspirations and response to climate, its potential role within a community is most important to us. We think the proposal’s strength resides in its potential to be a meaningful part of the seasonal cycles and social gatherings of communities in northern Canada. For this reason we felt that the CLU Competition very directly addressed the aspects of Buoyant Light which we feel the most strongly about.
What does your 2nd prize standing at the CLU Foundation contest represent for you?
It is important to us that Buoyant Light has received recognition in a Canadian competition, because we feel that a sensible and innovative development in the arctic, both culturally and ecologically, is of fundamental importance to Canada’s future economic, environmental and political sustainability. As designers we hope that our profession will be able to contribute to the urban and infrastructural development of the arctic in the future.
How did your idea for the “Buoyant Light” project come about and evolve?
We participated in a studio in fall 2009 at Waterloo Architecture entitled Frozen Cities/Liquid Networks which focused on the development of the Canadian Arctic as a consequence of global warming and the melting of the polar ice cap and in relationship to the development of shipping networks and infrastructure. This studio introduced us to the communities in this vast region and their vulnerability both to climate change, upon which day to day life depends, and to growing international political and economic interest for shipping and resource extraction.
Having completed this studio, we decided to address the Arctic from a different angle, one which focused on smaller scale interventions within the landscape and the role of light as a constant in a climate where all other cycles are changing dramatically. We also saw a potential connection between the need for more widespread data collection for the region, and the relationship of communities to sea ice for hunting and traveling.
How would you feel if your “Buoyant Light” solution became a reality and was achievable?
Although speculative, Buoyant Light proposes a simple object that we feel is a very tangible and achievable idea and our final goal is to continue developing the project. As students, having the opportunity to address and resolve some of the technical issues would be a great experience and it would allow us to truly imagine the project implemented in a community, how it would be received and what its potential benefits and problems would be. Neither of us have had the opportunity to travel to northern Canada which we believe is necessary if we continue to work on Buoyant Light and other projects in the arctic.
How would it change that environment?
Buoyant Light would offer a solution we think would be of vital help to the community in terms of safety and quality of life, while at the same time offering researchers data that could help understand global warming and its consequences in the Canadian arctic. Inside the community Buoyant Light would enhance spaces for gathering, offer clean energy and most importantly a safe environment particularly in relation to seasonal traveling and hunting on ice. Imagining its potential implementation through the Arctic, Buoyant Light would create a soft network that could prompt points of connections between remote communities.
What’s the most important thing that you have learned by doing this project?
We have learnt the value of very thorough research into particular conditions and technical innovations. Without this knowledge, Buoyant Light would remain a highly speculative proposal for a context which needs practical solutions. With it, the project has developed into one with a certain level of rigor and depth which allows it to retain relevancy and a poetic character simultaneously.
Is it the first time you worked together on a project?
We’ve collaborated many times on academic work throughout our degree at Waterloo but this is the first time we developed a project independently together.
What do you think of urban lighting in the future?
Along with service distribution and location of public and social amenities, lighting should be one of the fundamental infrastructures in urban development. Lighting design has the versatility to give shape to paths of circulation and public space, as well as address sustainability and safety within communities. As designers continue to be involved in new city design as well as redevelopment projects in both the developed and developing world, light will hopefully become increasingly relevant in providing quality of life in urban settlements regardless of context.
Where do you see yourselves professionally in ten years?
Given that we have a great deal more exploring to do it’s impossible to say where we will be in 10 years. We both plan to pursue work and graduate studies in the coming years and this will no doubt give shape to the trajectories we take.