Post-Petropolis: Alberta after Oil Boom

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Axonometric, Monochromatic, Students

Post-Petropolis: Alberta after Oil Boom

Ali Navid 


Post-Petropolis is the story of conflicting natural and artificial landscapes; a speculative and theoretical proposal that explores today’s immense rate of consumption, our precipitous abuse of the landscape, and the planet’s scarce resources. The context is Alberta after the Oil Boom. What will we be doing, imagining and designing after this orgy of production and immorality? What should be done with all the industrial carcasses and disfigured land left behind once the industries have exhausted the land? Post-Petropolis questions whether it is possible to heal the colossal land scars caused by Oil Sand production with an architectural strategy that envisions the post-oil future of Alberta.

Post-Petropolis is a fairy tale that tells the story of land, in a twelve-part fabular manifesto. Each fantasy finds its rationale with surreal and dystopian implications. An absurd ecological assault re-purposes the exhausted lands and glorifies the current irrational state of Alberta. This fairy tale is based on the belief that architecture with its visual capacity to comprehend space, people and time can provoke an alternative constituency and promote any utopian ideal.



Surprising, speculative and vibrant fictional ideas act as a critique suggesting how an expanded architecture can influence the future. The first six dystopic drawings present as counter-factual proposals for the dynamic and fluxing fabric of the Oil Sand industry in Alberta; the final six utopian drawings provide enviro-conscience archetypes seen through different lenses.

To talk of remedies is perhaps naïve. In response to the current ecological paradigm, Post-Petropolis proposes a muted fiction pro tem. Irrespective of how real the techno-science behind each scenario appears, none of the six fictional acts provides any concrete solution. The final drawings examine and interrogate possible futures; the fabricated mythology and cynical humour in the six archetypes explore how consumers ‘narrate’ the Earth. The highlighted values in each act are left for the reader to draw their own conclusion.

2-Transient Wetlands Territories

This fairy tale carefully blends critical fiction with reality, and raises dialectical issues of diversity against convergence, responsibility against irresponsibility and ethics against aesthetics. The twelve-part fabular manifesto is an activist architectural project that postulates a visual dimension to the current environmental dilemma surrounding the Oil Sands in Canada. Consequently, as a theoretical architectural fantasy it aims to create a new prehensile reality for Alberta after the oil boom.


A land, once supporting potato and dairy farms has transformed into super-sized industrial oil sand factories pumping and dumping synthetic crude to the United States. Since the oil bust in 2050, the landscape has transformed again into a monumental tourist destination for delirious and acidic experiences.

Toxic Tourism -II


Suburbia is a mobile ground on the quest to establish a new region, with ephemeral edifice. It is a territory of roads and monster trucks escaping the urban zone of the Petropolis. Parents have made these regions into new monster pastoral’ countryside on wheels.

Suberbia- II-small lines


The neon City is a self-reflecting territory made of an intricate maze, a network of oil and gas refineries, and a new land where illegal consumption is authorized. This senseless territory offers a hidden feast of drugs, sex and fantasy, within an infinite network of pipes, storage tanks, and spiral stairs. Here, visitors experience the disconnected autonomous moment of time being at the mercy of great white north. In this new Alberta, the economy of survival is found in prostitution. Carbon lust is a platform for a Dionysian bacchanalia of surplus.

Neon City-II


Yellow Shrine relies on the strong foreign worker program to build the wonderful shrines and keep the spirit of the gods and goddesses alive through the collection of offerings and holy sacrifices. worshippers offer jars of dirt as indulgences. This new territory of religious ground is a key element in providing good fortune and spiritual support for all. Yellow Shrines establish a new religious journey which brings hope and faith to New Alberta.

Yellow Shrine- II


By 2055, the New Alliance territory had been effectively transformed into a state of disuse. The oil industries CAT walks is now populated with facades that represent various political parties that have cleansed the contaminated landscape of the oil and gas industries from 2016.  The lucrative political campaign process of remediation is exhibited by department of factual certainty as a symphony of facades that has re-mediated and transformed the landscape into a performance of truth, reality and personality contest. The parties’ banners and flags move in unison to broadcast their presence in the field and reach out to their constituency for support.

3-New Alliance Territory


This territory is a unique educational region, rich in diversity, collaboration, and scholarship through design. Here, students explore today’s most creative design approaches, with an international faculty prominent across the field. The architecture faculty de-schools each and every student and provides them with a range of design investigations, expands their knowledge, and confronts them with challenges of the contemporary built environment. Upon graduation they will be exported overseas for international markets. Alberta’s only means of survival were the Chicago Boys and their new economic theory of tutelage.

4-Pedgogic Territory


Who influences you graphically?

Edward Burtynsky, Garth Lenz and Louis Helbig – Aerial Photographers.

Paradoxically, the captivating photographic work of these photographers were the initial inspiration for the thesis topic and proposed critical landscape.  However, the potentially contradictory graphic choice for the drawings was inspired by MAP office Gutirrez + Portefaix. “MAP Office is a multidisciplinary platform devised by Laurent Gutierrez (1966, Casablanca, Morocco) and Valérie Portefaix (1969, Saint-Étienne, France). This duo of artists has been based in Hong Kong since 1996, working on physical and imaginary territories using varied means of expression.” (

What dictated the choice of a monochromatic palette?

Considering this an absolutely devastated landscape the monochromatic palette was not only the obvious

way to treat the narrative but adds clarity to the nuances that could be sequentially achieved, from drawing to drawing.

1-Homogenous Territory

How does the graphic language of the images relate back to the proposal?

The axonometric world offers a child-like perception of detail and wonder and allows unsettling observation of unimaginable god-like details. The axonometric drawings are significant in their duplicity; the cleanliness and gallery aesthetic of the panels makes them a political argument that stand to question the chaotic irreversible destruction of land by the oil industries.

How could the proposal be formatted as to reinforce the notion of manifesto/ fairytale?

It is not hard to imagine where we are going if we continue planning, producing and consuming in the same vein. In fact, these fairy-tales are an attempt to invade and interrogate the future of petroleum-dependent regions such as northern Alberta that are trapped in the perpetual darkness of short-term planning. This phantasmagoria -though fictional, plays to unsettle itself. It steers the frightening spirit in Alberta into another reality. Beyond the imaginary this fictional narrative geography invites new ecologies of hope.


To what extent do you agree with the notion of the axonometric as the most complete form of drawing? 

The axonometric projections suggest a purity, an unending canvas if you like, opening up this non-linear narrative. We might speak of abuse. Alberta is presented with a certain level of cleanliness through an excessive (ab) use of architectural representation. This suggests the exasperating but no less challenging aspirations to find ‘another’ order in the current chaotic orgy of production and chance. The immortality of an abused line!

In search of sad oil - II


Ali is an a Jr. Intern Architect at Perkins+Will&’ s Ottawa office. He graduated from the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism at Carleton University with a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Master of Architecture, both with distinction.

He has  recently received the 2016 Azrieli Scholar Award for Excellent Thesis, for his thesis project, titled: Post-Petropolis: Alberta after the Oil Boom. While completing his graduate studies, he was a Teaching Assistant for the Architectural Technology class and a Research Assistant for director of the Azrieli School of Architecture Urbanism. In the winter of 2015, Ali completed a four-month Directed Studies Abroad program in Lisbon, Portugal under the directorship of Diogo Lopes and Patrícia Barbas.  Before studying in Architecture, Ali completed an Advanced Diploma in Civil Engineering Technology from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.

Outside of his academic achievements, he has taken part in various architectural competitions and architectural installations; and outside of his professional interests, he plays soccer, reads poetry and enjoys architectural fantasy.


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