Woven textiles in many cultures serve as markers of identity, lineage, and environment, among others. Similarly, totem poles, for the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, are commemorative monuments of history, ancestry and people. With these cultural objects, along with sentiments on the spirit of the “old” Regent Park (shared by residents of the neighbourhood and tenants of Daniels Spectrum) as inspiration, my goal was to interpret a visual “fabric” of the community— as an homage to its people and its past, and a reminder to visitors and new residents of what came before.
Nestled within a grid structure modeled after the map of Regent Park (from Gerard to Queen, Parliament to River), motifs inspired by traditional textiles, beadwork and architectural details native to the cultures from which past and current residents hail, intersect with lines and symbols representing elements of the area’s landscape and original architecture. Shapes recalling the grillwork in an Islamic Indian temple and the geometric forms of West African mud cloth sit alongside lines depicting the rows of bricks and windows in a Regent Park high-rise. Embroidery from a Bangladeshi quilt evokes the chain link fences bordering the ice rinks and basketball courts that served as social meeting points for the youth of the community. Rows of tiny “shells” inspired by Anishinaabek wampum belts, form the shapes of the iconic “dog-bones” and “barbells” of the low-rise buildings seen from above, while stylized flowers inspired by a Vietnamese floral motif reference the neighbourhood’s community gardens and the numerous trees that had once populated the “garden city.”
In the same way that traditional textiles tell the story of their makers’ surroundings, these familiar elements, abstracted and intertwined, aim to serve as a reflection of spaces once inhabited and honour the stories embedded within them.