Collaboration - The Canary and its Shadow

The Canary and its Shadow
Architecture project about narrative, mapping, surveillance, coexistent spaces, dynamic boundaries, underground life, new york

Kerstin Nigsch and Adam Somlai-Fischer. Emerging Urbanities, KTH-A. teachers: Ana Betancour and Peter Hasdell
2001 Spring

Project website:

In the last centuries, coal miners used to take canaries down the caverns. If a canary died, they were alerted to leave. The birds tested the environment.

Restaurants, bars, galleries take this task in the urban context . They explore the unused spaces far before others. Some die, some succeed. They show us if the atmosphere is livable or not.

Manhattan waterfront New York, the abandoned buildings of the former meat packing district allow the existence of an incredible underground glow today, whereas the waterfront itself is still uninhabited and endangered by the out of scale plans of a park. Our aim is to design an architecture that allows that the glow of this underground life can reach the waterfront, to ignite life.

Shadow play
dancing stars around the characters show the visibility range limited by the density of the pillars. They create the dynamic boundaries of the functions. The more one function glows the more it reduces the space the others share. Secret functions create less glow than public ones. Hidden functions can exist in the shadow of others, distance is kept by mutual respect.

Differentscenarios are shown, for the dynamic nature of the design doesn't allow non-timebased sections, drawings...

The use the knowledge of the existing glow, we have introduced the 'character oriented design', where a set of fictional individuals - likely to be existing in the meatmarket today - are defined and carefully described.

Click on the canary logo to start the cartoon

Quicktime film showing the proposed atmosphere:
Low quality, 2.6Mbytes
High quality, 8.9Mbytes

A cartoon is narrating the various explorations and creative use of the proposed space. The characters are mapped how they find their ways in the space, how they overlap in using it, how they coexist in time.

Stills from the cartoon