Since the winter of 2007, the Harvest Moon Society has collaborated with the Department of Architecture at the University of Manitoba, which has offered an undergraduate- and graduate-level architecture design studio program right in Clearwater, MB.
In the words of U of M professor and instructor of the studio program, Lancelot Coar, “this studio program has been run in collaboration with the Harvest Moon Society, intersecting with, and being inspired by their visions and ideas for cultivating a sustainable community through outreach and educational initiatives with the good folks of Clearwater.”
View the full article summarizing the 2009 studio program in the Summer 2010 edition of “The Moon Report”.
The current trend of the building industry to move towards “sustainable” construction practices is an important step towards achieving a meaningful and balanced relationship with the environment. However, the focus of this movement is based on new architecture and construction projects currently being developed. What is not being discussed is the hidden potential within the vast majority of the existing buildings in our urban and rural landscapes.
In rural Canada, there are a great abundance of abandoned buildings, left behind in the wake of industrialized agricultural practices that have steadily depopulated farming communities over the last several decades. The buildings that have no further use are most often left to decompose in the weather or burned, and then buried or sent to a landfill.
From Old to New
In the fall of 2007, an architecture studio at the University of Manitoba, led by Professor Lancelot Coar, worked with the rural farming community of Clearwater, Manitoba and a non-profit organization, the Harvest Moon Society, to test the ability of abandoned buildings to provide material to promote new architecture.
In this studio, fourteen undergraduate and masters level students worked closely with both groups in Clearwater and deconstructed a 106 year-old one-room-schoolhouse that had been abandoned for over fifty-years. The material from this building proved to be valuable ‘old growth’ lumber, rich in colour, strength and sizes. This lumber saved from the building served to provide the material for three new projects aimed at helping serve this 68-person farming community.
Two projects were designed and built on the newly developed interpretive trail in Clearwater — a thirty-foot long pedestrian bridge and a lookout platform that overlooks the stunning Pembina Valley Watershed. The third project was the development of a community resource centre located in the Harvest Moon Centre. This room now provides opportunities for the farming community, the Harvest Moon Society, and visiting groups to engage and learn from each other.
The impact of this project has been overwhelming to the community of Clearwater as well as the vision of the Harvest Moon Society. The lessons gained in working with inspiring and visionary clients, and real sites and materials, have served to give a deeply meaningful lesson to the students seeking to find the role architecture can play on supporting sustainable practices in building and developing communities.
Because of the impact this project has had on Clearwater and the surrounding communities, the Harvest Moon Society has nominated the University of Manitoba – Faculty of Architecture – for a Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award. This project was also awarded a grant by the Waste Reduction and Pollution Prevention fund offered by the Manitoba Conservation.
In 2011 Professor Coar lead a new studio group to Clearwater, working to deconstruct a century-old barn to provide material for new structures to be designed by the students for Clearwater.