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Addicted Body Politic

Of the multiple institutions catering to the drug using population of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, few are comprised of drug users advocate for themselves.

A new headquarters for The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users creates an institution and space that engenders self-organisation and self-governance while still dealing with the health and social issues endemic to this population.

Filling in the alley side of the existing building allows for an expansion of space and program. Intersecting volumes lift off the ground, culminating in a plane roof protecting the alley. Inside, street and alley circulatory rhythms add a sense of familiarity to the building.

My research into Vancouver's Downtown Eastside was based on an investigation of the institutions that cater to the area population. Looking at the programs, people and their interactions fostered an understanding of the intersection between the mandate of the organisations and architectural considerations.

Following this analysis, I turned to the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users as an exemplar of an institution with tremendous growth opportunity. Borne from a critical public health epidemic of 1997, VANDU has evolved to an advocacy group of and for intravenous drug users. After a decade, the organisation is a crossroads as questions of expansion in program and reach come to the fore.

Parallel to these explorations, readings of Deleuze and Guattari's notion of the Body Without Organs as well as Foucault's ideas on Biopolitics informed my understanding of the forces surrounding the drug using population of the Downtown Eastside.

While based in Toronto during my Masters of Architecture degree, I made frequent trips to Vancouver to enhance my thesis research. This resulted in countless interviews with advocates and drug users, as well as visits and access to the institutions in the area.

Here is a selection of photographs from my stays in Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside and the current Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users building.

VANDU from the Patricia Hotel

VANDU from the Alleyway

VANDU Interior

Alley Elevation

Street Elevation

Section 1

Section 2

Plans - Levels 1 and 2

Plans - Level 3 and Roof

Original Building - A New VANDU

Sectional Model

Model [detail]

Model [detail]

Model [detail]

Model [detail]

Master of Architecture Thesis Defense - December 17, 2009