Ghost 5
On the Fringes of the Empire, 2003
Kenneth Frampton

This improbable structure was erected by 19 students in the space of two weeks under the joint leadership of MacKay-Lyons and Mac Lean. The point of departure seems to have been little more than a conceptual sketch by MacKay-Lyons, on the basis of which the students then developed and realized the work; the first week being spent on evolving the joints and the second being dedicated to construction. With the exception of power tools and a backhoe that was necessary for embedding the poles into the ground, the whole event was an exercise in pre-machine-age ingenuity, a literal barn-raising employing a block and tackle for hoisting the roof beams.

What may we now read into the quasi-permanent existence of this structure as it stands alone and unattended before the sea? In the first place perhaps we should think of it as something more than a structure. In fact it could be said that its ultimate function is to serve as a landscape marker; as a kind of sky-sign that echoes in its diaphanous form the equally planar outline of the recently completed Messenger House, designed by MacKay-Lyons; a building which now crowns the crest of a greensward running down to the cliff edge site of the “ghost.” The resultant space spanning between these structures suggests all sorts of uncharted possibilities for the future and this is perhaps the ultimate intention behind the gesture; the evocation of an agricultural hamlet that once stood on this high ground before the sea.

One is reminded by all of this of another self-conscious seafront settlement totally isolated by design from the ideological outreach of the equally Anglo-American imperialism. I have in mind the Open City of Ritoque, in Chile; Alberto Cruz’s utopian sand-dune settlement of Amerida that sets itself up in self-conscious opposition to the gringo culture of the north. Surely we are quite removed from this reference in Halifax but possibly not so far as one might imagine, for the spirit lying behind this northern “ghost” runs wide and deep. There is a cultural undertow here that not so incidentally recalls the lost culture of the Acadians, brutally expelled from these shores by the British in 1755. This is still perhaps then the mythic stuff of which, despite our globalized world, some kind of cultural resistance may yet be enjoined.