HTC Talks: Jason Nguyen: Stages, Flakes, and the Architecture of Cod: Coastal Ecologies and Infrastructure in the Colony of Avalon, c. 1621


Stages, Flakes, and the Architecture of Cod: Coastal Ecologies and Infrastructure in the Colony of Avalon, c. 1621


This talk looks at the coastal infrastructure from the English settlement of Ferryland, Newfoundland during the seventeenth century. It explores how the construction of fishing vessels, stages, and flakes at and across the shoreline abetted the commercialization of the global cod market while also transforming the coastal ecology of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the underwater plateaus that provided shallow feeding conditions for underwater life, made the sea shelf one of the richest fishing regions in the world. On a global scale, the extraction and preservation of cod supported the expanding diet and political economy of the early modern imperial state. On a local scale, the construction of infrastructure along the shoreline intruded on the littoral ecosystem and impelled the relocation of the native Beothuk inhabitants to the island’s interior, thereby highlighting the genocidal ramifications of European coastal development. How might one conceptualize the logistical architecture of the Newfoundland fisheries as both a spatial node within a global network of trade as well as a material intrusion into the ecology of the North Atlantic coastline?


This work stems from a new line of research on European-supported entrepôts in Asia, Africa, and the Americas as they relate to shipping networks and the formalization of the stock exchanges in Amsterdam and London. The project ties these complexes to contemporaneous technologies in cartography and navigation, corporate institutions of trade, coastal and marine ecologies, and the deterritorialization of Indigenous seascapes in the development of global capitalism and empire. 





Jason Nguyen is an Assistant Professor at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. He is an historian of architecture, landscape, and urban planning in the early modern world, with particular interests in the relationship between architecture and commerce, the history of science and technology, and environmental history and theory. He is completing the manuscript for his first book, Theory & Expertise: Architectural Practice in Old Regime France. The project charts the professionalization of the architectural trade during the long seventeenth century in France. It examines how, in the wake of the state’s centralization of building practice, architects consciously engaged the modern sciences, law, and real estate in an effort to claim expertise over the craftspeople and contractors who until then managed construction. The book outlines how the effort to codify a legal category of expertise that was rooted in labor, project financing, and property development contributed to the social reframing of the architect within an emergent civil society.

Nguyen’s writing has appeared in the journals Grey RoomJournal 18Journal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansThe Journal of ArchitectureLivraisons d’histoire de l’architecture, and Oxford Art Journal. His research has been supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Southern California, and the Getty Research Institute. Prior to his scholarly career, he practiced architecture at Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates in Philadelphia.