Fionn Byrne. RECLAMATION IN PROGRESS the potential of waste: form and function of sand without oil, 2014. Concept drawing.

RECLAMATION IN PROGRESS – the potential of waste: form and function of sand without oil

Fionn Byrne

January 24–June 7, 2015



Oil sands mine development has disturbed 47,832 hectares of Canadian boreal forest. Only 0.2% of this land has been certified as reclaimed.

Reclamation is the final step mining companies are required to complete before mine closure. Defined in Alberta as the “stabilization, contouring, maintenance, conditioning or reconstruction of the surface of land,” reclamation is an essential component of responsible oil sands development. How will this new reclaimed landscape be designed? What habitats, ecologies and species will be prioritized?

Will efforts be made to return the land to a pre-extraction state? Or will we be able to see, beyond the environmental destruction, our positive role as designers and, in doing so, allow ourselves to understand the oils sands as a vast human-designed ecosystem?

In this site of intervention, sand will dominate as the foundation of future ecologies.



Fionn Byrne is a full-time instructor, teaching both landscape and building architecture students at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge. He holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Toronto, where he also completed his Bachelor of Physical Education and Health. His research and design interests depart from the convergence of technology and ecology; he is most intrigued by how velocity and information interact with biological systems. Byrne’s research on the oil sands explores the zone between the positive direction of ecological productivity and the human extractive forces towards greater entropy; questioning the assignment of moral values to the flow of energy.


Fionn Byrne
With special thanks to Kyle Xuekun Yang, Sheridan Nurseries, and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation.

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