RE-CONFIGURATION OF THE SHIPARD AT LEVIE, QUEBEC
Master of Architecture Thesis
Davie Shipyards, steeped in a rich history of significant expansions, is poised for yet another transformative phase. The inevitability of major developments is underscored by the shipyard's adaptability to evolving demands. While such expansions are infrequent, the upcoming Leviathan project, a groundbreaking 451m-long vessel set for launch in 2025, marks the shipyard's bicentennial milestone.
Project site at Levie, Quebec
The Leviathan's construction triggers a comprehensive overhaul, beginning with the creation of the Leviathan Dry Dock. This central facility realignment optimizes production efficiency and garners public attention. To accommodate the influx of visitors, existing industrial infrastructure will be repurposed, ensuring economic savings and preserving the shipyard's aesthetic.
The ambitious project necessitates radical expansions across various facilities, including the panel line building, production complex, paint shop, electrical complex, carpentry building, offices, and parking. Earth relocation and expansion efforts are underway, exemplifying Davie Shipyards' commitment to not only tackling colossal projects but also staying ahead in a dynamic maritime landscape. The Leviathan's gradual realization will captivate public interest and serve as a testament to the shipyard's enduring legacy.
This project seeks to use the construction of this Leviathan, not only to expose future possibilities, but also to reveal latent meaning that already exists in the current shipyard; therefore representing both past and future.
Here we see the major configuration of the ship, and the reconfiguration of the shipyard; an ambiguity between what is being assembled and what is being disassembled. Moving cranes are both the product of choreographed movement and the instrument of choreography; they are both moving objects and objects themselves being moved. As people walk beneath these structures, as they move through, ascend up, or descend down, they experience parallax. E. J. Gibson speaks of motion parallax as the visual phenomenon whereby an apparent displacement of objects occurs when the point of observation changes.
The effect of parallax creates a heightened sense of one’s own movement, which once again shifts the automatic processes of the body schema into the conscious realm of the body image. Visitors move through the cranes on elevated pathways. Escalators carry them upward and down. This allows the individual to experience moving parallax without actually moving a muscle. Remembering that the cranes are also moving, a unique sensation is experienced. It is the same phenomenon as sitting on a train about to depart. The neighboring train begins to move, but for a moment it is uncertain whether it your train or the other train that is in motion. In the case of the crane and the escalator, a slow ballet unfolds, with the visitor positioned at the center. As the Leviathan’s construction accelerates, this slow ballet transforms into a maelstrom of moving parts. Sounds blast, crack, and screech from every direction. Objects advance and recede. Sparks fly through the air as metal melts and steel is cut.
We see heightened moments of parallax in the slipways. As Ships are constructed overhead, people travel underneath. They travel through the ‘cradle’ that supports the ship – a chaotic forest of steel and wood, that frames views and stops the ship from plunging into the sea.
Giant warehouses store pieces of ships: propellers, engines, thrusters, and more. These beautifully designed objects are scattered across an open floor. Parallax is experienced as the individual navigates through this non-linear spatial field. The various artifacts become framing elements for other artifacts, which continuously position and reposition themselves in the viewer’s perceptual field.
It becomes a place of exhibition where visitors can admire these sublime objects. This is a very particular type of museum. Typically museums are filled with artifacts of the past. Yet these artifacts are of a life that has not yet been lived and therefore emanate a force of anticipation and potentiality. For eventually they will be integrated with a ship and move out into the world.
Slipway for the construction of the Leviathan
Along the Eastern shore, there are copious amounts of debris; components and parts of ships that have been disassembled for one reason or another. In the last decade, funding for a major commission at the Davie Shipyards fell through. The project was nearing completion so, rather than discarding it completely, the ship was disassembled, stored along the water, and await another commission in which they can have a second life. Other pieces have been too damaged from years of rust and water enveloping its base.
Floating Path, leading to Observation Tower
A former piece of a ship, now transformed into an apparatus for viewing. A long wooden pathway leads outward from the tree line. It is fastened on an adjustable track, so that it may rise and lower with the high and low tide. During high tide people walk on this floating platform, changing their muscular relationship to the ground. Consciousness is directed towards the task at hand, so that the individual does not slip and fall into the shallow water.
Worker Suspended on side of Ship
Slipways for ship construction
This giant truck is custom-made for transporting great mass. It moves colossal heaps of earth - carving out space for the newest dry dock and transporting it to the East, to extend the shore. Throughout the construction of the Leviathan it moves the ship, piece by piece, across the site. Finally the truck transports the visitors across the shipyard, allowing them to witness the berth of the Leviathan - the moment when the creation hits the water for the first time, thus being born into the liquid world in which it will live out its life.
The berthing of a ship is the first moment when it hits the water – transitioning from the land to the world in which it will truly live. It is a transcendental moment where the force of buoyancy overcomes such a heavy mass. Historically, the berthing of the ship has carried tremendous cultural significance. A single ship can have a visible impact on the livelihood of an entire maritime city. The berth of a great ship is analogous to an important person being born into the world; one that will change the lives of many others. On the day of the berthing, the entire city gathers to celebrate this important moment.
Water gushes into the dry dock, cascades downward, and surrounds the great ship. Turbulent waves lash against the steel hull. Gravity is pinned against buoyancy and begins to lift this massive weight. The Leviathan is Born.
Water Pouring into the Dry Dock
The Leviathan Being Lifted with Water
With the departure of the Leviathan, a presence of absence remains. For emptiness is not nothingness. Our view of the distant ship on the horizon is filled with mental retention of what was. As we stare into the vacuous landscape, our perceptual field struggles to make sense of an under-abundance of information. Overdependence on retinal vision is relinquished, which allows for other sensory systems to emerge at the forefront of perception.
Current and Future Shipyard Masterplan
Observation Tower in the Distance
Pallasmaa writes in depth about the seductive nature of dim light and shadow. Whether through darkness, mist, or empty space, the core concept is to weaken the retinal vision of the eye. This makes spatial interpretation an act of intuition, whereby the prenoetic creative capacities of the individual are engaged. The empty and boundless landscape becomes a blank canvas on which the mind projects its most sublime imagination. And by suppressing our ability to see, our imagination is engaged – completing what our eyes cannot. As the Leviathan disappears beyond the horizon, sounds emerge; cranes move, machines cut and drill; and the process begins again.