Located outside in the Giardini for the first time in the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition since 1980, the outdoor project in the Giardini presents an interactive landscape intervention (built into the ground of a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that reveals Canada’s global presence as preeminent extractive nation to the world. Through a unique audiovisual experience, EXTRAC-TION explores the scales, states, and systems of resource extraction, bringing to the surface its historical depths, as well as its political, ecological, and territorial dimensions.
At a scale of 1:1 billion, the geological map of the world reveals planetary scales of operation for the largest resource extraction nation on the planet whose foreign policy is borne from legacies as colony, as confederation, as country, and now, as global resource empire. In its divine, legal power to separate surface rights from mineral rights, the royal domain of the government —the Crown— exercises supreme authority over 95% of its territory making it the biggest landlord in the world. Not surprisingly, its coat-of-arms, commonwealth, constitution, even its parliament building look practically the same; it shares the same Head of State—Queen Eliza-beth II. As the last remaining royal monarchy in the Americas, Can-ada is the brainchild of Queen Victoria, the most powerful woman in the history of the world, who grew the British Empire to unprecedented magnitude in late 19th century.
Home to over 75% of the planet’s prospecting and mining companies thanks to the Toronto Stock Ex-change, nearly half of the 20,000 mining projects in the world shape the global image of Can-ada’s vast underground states of mineral wealth that edify the power of the Crown shining on the surface of the State. At 1 part per billion, the gold ore lining open pit mines not only face the sky, it opens a lens on the paper world of lands, leases, and laws, as well as the material world of mines, minerals, and markets, and the grounded world of territorial lands, languages, lives.
If extraction has defined Canada for the past 800 years since the British Magna Carta—then exchange will revolutionize its future in the 21st century onwards. Marking Canada’s 150th Year of Confederation, the quintessential, territorial instrument of exploration, excavation, and extraction—the survey stake—will be driven into the heart of empires, under the Pines and Planes, at the junction of the UK, France, and Canada Pavilions in the Giardini of la Biennale. Exposing the tensions, frictions, and resistances between map and territory, this counter-monument forged in pure gold was then gifted to the Sovereign in a declarative gesture of retrocession and independence, at the close of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition. Retroactively, 800 years of empire building unfold below grade in a short film of 800 images from 800 contributors in 800 seconds.
By miniaturizing this extensive history in a personal experience, this inverted territorial intervention magnifies territorial realities at a scale of 1:1 to elicit a deeper discourse on the complex ecologies and vast geopolitics of resource extraction in territories that cover more than 80% of the planet’s surface and where more than 1 billion indigenous people live. Disentangling and reconfiguring synergies between life, law, and land, a manifesto of resource urbanism reimagines the surface of the state towards the 22nd century.
Project Name: EXTRACTION
Entrant Office Name: OPSYS / Landscape Infrastructure Lab
Role of the Project Entrant: Curator & Designer
Website: opsys.net (office website),
EXTRACTION (project website), extraction.ca (project background),
“A Walk in the Park of Empires” (design concept),
“Curator explains Extraction” (curator’s description)
Other Designers involved in the Design of Landscape:
Lead Design Team: OPSYS–Zannah Matson/Chris Alton/Hernán Bianchi-Benguria/Tiffany Kaewen Dang/Hamed Bukhamseen/Sam Gillis
Concept & Design Collaborator: ACFN–Eriel Deranger
Ecological Collaborator: Ecological Design Lab–Nina-Marie Lister
Collaborating Designers: RVTR–Geoff Thün/Kathy Velikov/Colin Ripley
Gold Stake Designer & Fabricator: Hume Atelier–Kevin & Genevieve Hume
Graphic Design: Blackwell Studio
Industrial Designer & Fabricator: Beites & Co.–Steven Beites
Regional Architect: Alessandra Lai
Mineral Material Supplier: IGEA S.P.A. Massimo Benedetti/Michele Caria
Film Audio & Video: Jacob Moginot
Concept Video: Pedro Aparicio, Boram Lee
Copy Editor: Irene Chin,
Project Interpreters: Olga Semenovych, Emanuela Innelli, Aya Abdallah, Natalia Woldarsky Meneses, Chella Jade Strong
Project Location (Street, City, Country): 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale (Giardini, Venice, ITALY)
Design Year 2015-2016
Year Built 2016