The Architecture of Upheaval: These Powerful Drawings Visualize the Fragmented Experience of Migrants

By including rich examples of international architecture and design into his drawings, Wakelin depicts an urban tapestry that has been greatly enriched by diversity.

Pat Finn Pat Finn

Evan Wakelin, an architecture student at the University of Toronto, has put on an exhibition that has people talking. In a series of unique drawings he completed as an academic project, Wakelin explores the lives of Toronto’s migrants, integrating depictions of the kinds of residences they inhabit in their adopted city with those they leave behind.

“The drawings illustrate hypothetical migrations to the city, whereby the original home of the migrant is layered with their current home within the city of Toronto,” explained Wakelin in a paper that accompanied the exhibition. “This intersection of past and present, over different geographical locations, describes a divided identity where the sense of belonging and sentiment exist somewhere in between.”

Each drawing contains a standard-issue Toronto home interspersed with a representative home from another city such as Damascus, Mumbai or Birmingham. The combination of colored and grayscale segments indicates the diversity of experience migrants bring to their adopted cities.

“The drawings suggest not only an intersection of architecture, but one of climate, sound, smell and taction,” said Wakelin. “The end result is a structure that bridges this fragmentation, a unified sense of home, which can exist only within the human mind.”

By including rich examples of international architecture and design into his drawings, Wakelin depicts an urban tapestry that has been greatly enriched by diversity. However, the fact that the houses are quite literally “divided” in these drawings might represent another side of the story, which is that immigration can be a difficult experience for migrants, especially those who are not made to feel welcome in their adopted cities.

For the title of his project, Wakelin chose the German word Sehnsucht, which refers to a nostalgic yearning for something that has been lost. “As people move from one city to the next, they leave behind friends, family and experiences,” Wakelin explained. “However, they remain connected to these places through memory, correspondence and revisitation.”

With globalization, populations move more fluidly than ever. Wakelin’s project is an attempt to empathize with the immigrant experience. Hopefully the project can help foster a dialogue between native Torontonians and recent arrivals.

Images via Dezeen

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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