Model of Grand Bruit’s migrating landscape bound for Venice

Steve Bartlett
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Migration has traditionally taken people out of rural Newfoundland to places like Ontario or Alberta.

But for Marianna de Cola, it’s taking her to Venice.

She’s an aspiring architect from Ontario whose project on this province’s migration patterns will be part of Canada’s entry at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Architecture from August to November.

“I think probably what won the judges over was the story itself,” says de Cola, a designer at Kohn Partnership Architects in Toronto.

She became intimately familiar with Newfoundland’s historic and current migration patterns through her masters research.

That work took her to the south coast of the island numerous times and she was in Grand Bruit as the village was resettling in July 2010.

It was an emotional experience for her, as she walked around the community speaking with locals as they packed up their belongings.

“You don’t have to be a resident of these places to feel sad,” she says.

De Cola graduated with a masters in architecture from University of Waterloo last year and then turned  her research into an entry for “Migrating Landscapes,” a nation-wide competition exploring how migration has influenced Canadian architects 45 and under.

Her project was featured in a regional exhibit at Halifax in January and then at a national competition’s showing in Winnipeg.

The judges at the national competition recently selected her work for the Venice Biennale.

De Cola’s entry was comprised of a physical model and a video explanation.

Using wood, acrylic and other materials, it explored two possibilities using Grand Bruit and nearby Burgeo, the “anchor town,” as examples.

In an upper layer, both places are healthy. In a lower section, Grand Bruit has been resettled and is abandoned.

For the scenario where the communities are vibrant, de Cola proposed powering them with wave energy and establishing portable  research facilities.

She explained her goal was a model enabling communities to revive themselves, and also provide a graceful, impermanent, decline.

“The idea was that this flux in populations is inevitable and so it was my task to provide a flexible infrastructure to respond to this,” de Cola explained in an email followup to her interview with The Telegram.

As well, she thinks the project provokes conversation about new ways of providing energy, and focuses on rehabilitating the sea rather than destroying it.

De Cola says she felt a passion to tell others about Newfoundland’s resettlement and migration.

She believes it’s a story the rest of Canada doesn’t know, but has an interest in.

She says her research has resonated. She presented at a conference in Montreal last fall and aspects of her work  have been published.

And now her “Migrating Landscapes” model is one of 18 projects that will represent the country at the famed Venice Biennale.

De Cola will be going to Venice for the setup.

“I am very excited and honoured to be involved. I am very happy that I am telling the story of Newfoundland on an international stage.”

Asked what benefit her research might provide this province’s decision-makers, de Cola prefaces her response  by noting she considers herself an outsider, but one “still very connected to the story.”

She thinks government is doing a good job listening to people in its handling of a difficult situation that’s existed for decades.

“I would say though, that instead of focusing completely on oil alone, which ultimately will provide another boom and bust economy, perhaps we can think of a layered infrastructure that will become a part of the cultural landscape. One that can provide energy, perhaps in tandem with oil, and also revitalize the aquatic populations. Perhaps it isn’t too late.”




Organizations: Kohn Partnership Architects, Venice Biennale.De Cola, University of Waterloo

Geographic location: Grand Bruit, Newfoundland, Venice Ontario Canada Burgeo Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Bonita
    May 09, 2012 - 09:52

    I am a former resident of Grand Bruit and love to read any story that was written about it

    • Marianna
      July 04, 2012 - 13:45

      Bonita, I hope that the move went well! I miss the black lab named Molly who showed me around the entire of Grand Bruit :) All stories and photographs from Grand Bruit are so beautiful because the place and it's people are wonderful. Do you know if many go back?

  • Robert
    April 30, 2012 - 07:43

    Resettlement will always be compelling or at least until those who resettled pass away. But can it be much different then moving from Ireland to Newfoundland or Pakistan to Toronto? For the parents they see it as something they are doing for their children; for the parents it is with a very heavy heart that they leave home. I fancy the very fabric of Canada is that of a people who have "resettled" we should not be surprised that this topic has been so well received outside of Newfoundland.