Situated on the Bonavista Peninsula approximately four hours from St. John’s, Bonavista is one of Newfoundland’s oldest communities. When John Cabot first spotted land on his voyage from England in 1497, he reportedly said “O Buon Vista” (“Oh, Happy Sight!”), giving the Bonavista Peninsula its name. Bonavista developed as a major commercial fishing site, as part of the salt fish trade and later as home to a Fishery Products International factory. While the decline of the cod fishery in the 1990s had a great effect on the population and economy of the entire region, Bonavista has retained a strong local economy and is a hub for regional services. The vibrant cultural landscape features the largest number of heritage structures in the province, outside St. John’s.

Bonavista is currently faced with the unique challenge of being a growing rural outport. The mix of artistic, entrepreneurial and industrial opportunities offer a strong appeal to both new and former residents. The Town has identified some distinct design challenges to incorporate growth and change into the vibrant cultural heritage of the area. Our 2017 Culture of Outports project brings together 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects, Assembly’s Wandering Pavilion, a team of ERA staff and Ryerson University students with backgrounds in architecture, building science and urban planning to tackle these challenges:

  1. What form should infill take in Bonavista? How could new industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings be integrated into Bonavista’s townscape (i.e., location, scale, building form) without creating a false sense of history and allowing new buildings to be recognizable as contemporary?
  2. Traditional building science in Bonavista is based on a wooden system. Investigate how this type of construction can adapt to modern day living and our extreme weather conditions?
  3. Recently Bonavista has seen a large increase of visitors in the summer, but the infrastructure isn’t always adequate for this flow of people. Consider the design of roads and wayfinding to address issues of traffic, parking, sightseeing and finding destinations.
  4. Sheds and outbuildings are an important part of Bonavista’s built heritage, but are increasingly being replaced with ready-made options from retailers like Canadian Tire. Could there be there a ‘kit of parts’ for sheds that speaks to vernacular building styles?


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