Carleton University
Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism

Thesis Seminar

Charles-Etienne Dery
Fiki Falola
Michele Gagnon
Sophie Ganan Gavela
Shelby Hagerman
Shaylyn Kelly
Jake Nogy
Kristen Oyama
Robin Papp
Rehab Salama
Joel Tremblay
Brooke Zacharuk

Design Studio

Dana AdamusBasi BasseyJessica BabeColton ChehowyJimmy EarMary Hanna Hailey McGuireIsabel Serna-MollEilidh SutherlandBrandon Todd

Tank Worlds are architectural environmental models completed by students in two courses taught by Associate Professor Lisa Moffitt at Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism: a thesis seminar titled ‘Miniaturising the Gigantic’ and a fourth year undergraduate studio titled ‘Tank Worlds: Hamilton Harbour‘. The two courses had differing structures and goals, but they shared a common mode of exploration: the construction of physical models within tanks of water. Tanks of water offer spaces of speculation about immersion in atmospheric and hydrological environments, engaging with the questions of scale, time, and materiality. They combine traditions of engineering experimentation within tanks of water to test principles of building ventilation with theoretical ideas of ‘worlding,’ or designing microcosms as devices of future-speculation.

Dredge Containment Facility at Randel Reef, Hamilton Harbour. Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Design Studio
Tank Worlds: Hamilton Harbour

Students: Dana Adamus, Basi Bassey, Jessica Babe, Colton Chehowy, Jimmy Ear, Mary Hanna, Hailey McGuire, Isabel Serna Moll, Eilidh Sutherland, Brandon Todd

Hamilton harbour is a so-called ‘ecological dead-zone’ of floating coal-tar blobs, soils contaminated with heavy metals, and a skyline of active polluting smokestacks. In 1987, the area adjacent to the Stelco steel mills was designated as one of Canada’s twelve Great Lakes  ‘Areas of Concern’ by Canada’s Ministry of Environment. It is the largest site of freshwater sediment contamination in Canada and is currently undergoing a large-scale civil engineering dredging containment project intended to sequester and eventually cap contaminants. 

Using tank-world models, mappings reliant on satellite imagery, and video, students designed an alternate, possible future for a portion of the Hamilton harbour. In the tanks, water represented both water and air; ground was constructed within and upon this shifting medium. Oil, dye, sand, and other particulates simulated airborne pollutants as well as contaminated soil and sediment. Architectural models / instruments/ infrastructures made of plexiglass, steel, plaster, and other materials were suspended within, rest upon, or sank into this fluid environment. Components dredged, contained, filtered, and sequestered contaminants, acting as instruments, infrastructures, and architectures of remediation, tending and caring for the site as it recovers over time. Completed Winter 2021, the studio foregrounded working materially to offset the digital monotony of online learning.  

With thanks to all of our course guests for contributing to this conversation: Tiago Torres-Campos, Dr. Liam Ross, Jane Hutton, Piper Bernbaum, Anaïs Chanon, Dr. Gail Krantzberg, Suzanne Ewing, and Dr. Ozayr Saloojee.