Secondary Exploits

  Sustaining the Post-Industrial Landscape of

the Booth Street Complex Through Architectural Reuse & Salvage

Fall & Winter 2019 | M.Arch Thesis | Ottawa, CA

Abstract: The contemporary contexts of climate change and urbanization are two which can be characterized by unprecedented change, often accompanied by degradation of built, natural and political landscapes. As a viable solution, the existing architectural building stock provides a wealth of potential for helping to abate the impending crisis. To explore the possibility of sustaining both the integrity of the built environment and of cultural identity, this thesis investigates architectural reuse and salvage as a secondary exploit of resources ­— resources which are manifest as values and as materials readily found within existing fabrics. How can a post-industrial urban society capitalize on the potential of embodied material and societal wealth found within existing architecture? To respond to this question, the exploratory thesis work focused on Ottawa’s Booth Street Complex, its associated network of industrial research and development sites, as well as the materials which comprise both.

Occupied by the federal government’s Department of Mines and Natural Resources since its inception, Ottawa’s Booth Street Complex is a site which tells stories of local and national significance. Analysis of the complex reveals repercussive impacts onto the greater Canadian landscape, resulting in an increased magnitude of resource extraction as well as an increased presence of current industrial heritage. Through an examination of the status and evolution of a selection of associated sites, a model of cyclical existence is derived, which then informs the interpretation of the local architectural proposal.

A decline in growth of the federal research and development sector has lead to the vacation of numerous buildings within the Booth Street Complex. As a result, the process of federal property disposal is underway and a portion of the site is slated for redevelopment by Canada Lands Corporation. In reaction, this thesis proposes an impactful and sustainable interpretation of the entirety of the complex — one which maintains its value and promotes architectural and environmental longevity through appropriate treatment, reuse and salvage, proposing a model for encouraging the circular economy and for comprehensive interpretation.

Advisors: Dr. Mariana Esponda & Prof. Susan Ross

To view the thesis in its entirety, please click here.


Architectural conservation and reuse is capable of sustainably transitioning societal value as well as embodied energy into a medium of future benefit. With this harnessing notion as an optimistic ambition, the primary objective of this research and design based thesis is to craft a tri-scaled proposal for the Booth Street Complex and its associated industrial heritage landscape. The architectural subject of this work, and its increasingly controversial history provides the opportunity to make a bold statement about the future of Canadian extraction, the country’s historical strategies of territorialization as well as the federal government’s role in future environmental stewardship.

Early in the research phase of this thesis, a publication by Alex Ignatieff, titled ‘A Canadian Research Heritage, 75 years of federal government research in minerals, metals and fuels’ was discovered. The publication recounts the history of the Department of Natural Resources, with a focus on the evolution of the Mines Branch specifically. Following is the opening text from this publication: 

“The exploitation of mineral resources requires three distinct steps - geological exploration and mapping, mining and extraction ... and the processing and refining of these materials of geological origin. Their association with the geological environment and materials is retained until the degree of purification is reached where man-made products can be manufactured and used. Science and technology that parallel the three steps are used for the complete evaluation of a nation’s mineral resources and aids their rational exploitation.”

Can these three steps be used to evaluate and propose a secondary exploit of other resources? What then of re-exploitation?

This question ultimately informed the thesis question and thereafter the approach:

Can a contemporary and mainly urban society capitalize on the potential of embodied material and societal wealth via the secondary sourcing, extraction and processing of the presented resources in existing architectures?

Step 1: Sourcing via Exploration and Mapping
Step 2: Mining and Extraction
Step 3: Processing and Refining


Part I: Exploration and Mapping

By definition, exploration suggests the act of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it - for this reason, this first section contains research that is all encompassing and undertaken at a scale once removed from the site specificity of the Booth Street Complex.

Part 1 maps the connections between environmental sustainability and architectural conservation, between the federal government and resource extraction and between existing architecture and waste.

Of all of the rationales which support the reuse and active conservation of post-industrial architectures, one argument stands out as the most universally recognizable and likely to be supported within today’s environmental climate: a need for environmental stewardship.

The impact of the building and construction sector upon both greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of natural resources is staggeringly high. With respect to the associated land use and the required material extraction, this industry has the most significant impact of any sector by far.

The urgent and immediate need to reduce carbon emissions makes the reuse of all existing structures and architecture an imperative. The energy expenditure associated with the construction and the acquisition of new raw materials which comprise existing buildings, has already been spent within existing buildings - so why create a redundancy?

Secondary Exploits proposes an architectural intervention that retains existing material stature, minimizes construction and renovation waste and additionally contributes to the architectural stewardship narrative via rehabilitation, adaptive reuse and deconstruction.

Rehabilitation = The sensitive adaptation of an historic place or individual component for a continuing or compatible contemporary use.

Adaptive Reuse = Additions to a place, the introduction of new services, or a new use, or changes to safeguard a place, all of which should have a compatible use

Deconstruction = The selective dismantlement or removal of materials from buildings for primarily reuse or secondarily recycling


Part II: Development & Extraction

‘Development and Extraction’ is much more site-specific than its preceding Part 1. As the title of the section suggests, the work focuses on direct realities of the subject, rather than guiding frameworks. Formed from ‘Step 2’, the mining and extraction of resources metaphorically equates the culling and defining of value from the Booth Street Complex as well as its associated industrial landscape. Within this section, Chapters IV through VI study the greater industrial heritage landscape of Canada in detail, the history of the Booth Street Complex and the impending redevelopment plans.

During the post-war era, following an influx of technological advancements initiated by the research of the Geological Survey of Canada and the Federal Mines Branch, the sourcing, extracting and processing of Canada’s natural resources grew more attainable, resulting in its exploitation by both public and private industries. Historical industrial endeavors not only allowed for, but spurred nationwide settlement, growth in the national economy and capitalism, and ultimately lead to Canada’s development.

The reach of the knowledge and technological developments stemming from the Booth Street Complex can be observed through comparison of the site’s evolution with that of the extraction industry in Canada. For this reason, the dialogue between the greater, nationwide industrial research landscape and that of the complex is important and perhaps even indicative of the site’s future. Are the associated industrial sites undergoing similar transformations? How have they themselves evolved? What are their predicted futures?

Graphically organized around the nucleus of Canadian extraction, research and development — the Booth Street Complex — the radial matrix illustrates the auxiliary site’s location relative to the complex as well as its various degrees of infrastructural, connectivity and operational existence.

The matrix ranks the existence of: on site extraction, above-ground infrastructure, under-ground infrastructure, railway, on site processing, on site disposal, settlement, hydrological features and remediation. To do this, the ranking system employs: removed, operable or inoperable - each corresponding to a distinct fill - mirroring those found in the maps preceding auxiliary site maps.



Part III: Processing & Refining

Culminating in ‘Part 3: Processing and Refining’, this last section of the thesis is composed of the design work undertaken within ‘Step 3’ of the approach. The Chapters included here are titled: Macro, Mezzo and Micro to reflect the three scales of design: Landscape, Complex and Material. The architectural design is ultimately generated from a processing of information and from a refinement of space — both crafted and preexisting. The architectural proposals of this Chapter therefore represent the final step in secondary exploitation.

To view the thesis in its entirety, please click here.


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