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Past Research

Sustainability and energy conservation:
Logy Bay, Newfoundland (1978-1980)

Greenhouse under construction, 1979

This research involved the design and construction of the first passive solar house in Newfoundland in collaboration with Professor John Evans, Ph.D. (Biology Department: Memorial University of Newfoundland). Many aspects of sustainability and energy conservation were investigated, including insulation and air-tightness, solar orientation and fenestration, graywater recycling, modification of the building envelope using an attached two-storey greenhouse for food production, custom wood-fuel heater design, a custom made air-to-air heat exchanger, and a site-built composting toilet.

R. Mellin and J. Evans: “Energy Efficient Residential Design”, Logy Bay, Newfoundland (Newfoundland Energy Efficient Housing Conference Proceedings, 1979).

R. Mellin and J. Evans: “The Newfoundland Greenhome”: 1979 National Conference, The Solar Energy Society of Canada, 79-38 (a).

R. Mellin and J. Evans: “The Newfoundland Greenhome”: Energy Efficient Design for a Cold, Foggy Climate,” 1980 Proceedings: 5’Th National Passive Solar Energy Conference, 1527-1561.

Site and Services Project Case Study:
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (1983-4)

Click to enlarge A study of the Bhadreshwar Site and Services housing project (Gujarat Housing Authority) located near the airport in Ahmedabad. This project was in the early stages of development, and fieldwork was done with the sponsorship of a Clifford Wong scholarship (McGill University), B. V. Doshi’s architectural office, and the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation.

Houses under construction in 1983

R. Mellin, “Site and Services Housing Case Study: Ahmedabad, India,” in Open House International, Volume 9, No. 1, 1984, pages 4-13.

R. Mellin, with W. Rybczynski and V. Bhatt, “Low Income Urban Shelter Alternatives,” in Open House International, Volume 9, No. 1, 1984, pages 4-13.

The Ryan Premises:
Bonavista, Newfoundland (1992)

The Ryan Premises

A study of the buildings and cultural landscape of the Ryan Premises in Bonavista (National Historic Site) for the Canadian Parks Service. The Ryan Premises are one of the last, large traditional mercantile premises for the processing of salt cod and the provision of supplies to fishermen in outport Newfoundland. The buildings were subsequently restored by the Canadian Parks Service to commemorate the inshore fishery. This project required many oral history interviews, the transcription and editing of interviews, the written and graphic analysis of building use, structures, materials, and artifacts, the identification and interpretation of landscape features, and the documentation of changes made over time.

This report is available through the Canadian Parks service in six volumes: Oral History Report (Vols. I, II, III), Cultural Landscape Report, Structural Report, and Building Supplies Report): Robert Mellin, author.

CMHC External Research Grant:
St. John’s, NL (1993-1995)

View of Prescott Street in the East End of St. John's

In St. John’s, the present planning code tends to exclude aspects of town planning and habitat that can contribute to the making of memorable places to live. Unfortunately, this is especially evident in the large, new housing developments in the suburban areas of the city that are planned according to “the code”. This study identifies planning, architectural, and urban design aspects of existing, historic neighbourhoods that can contribute to the character, diversity, and vitality of new residential neighbourhoods. For this research, three-dimensional computer models were constructed of existing houses and neighbourhoods. House type and neighbourhood type affordability was analyzed using the Bertaud Model equations. An attempt was made to make the material presented accessible to persons who are not able to understand the three-dimensional implications of planning regulations.

R. Mellin: “A City of Towns: Alternatives for the Planning and Design of Housing in St. John’s, Newfoundland,” External Research Program, CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), Ottawa, (file no. 6585-M108; CIDN 1095 0200001).

R. Mellin: “Vernacular Architecture and Urban Design: A Strategy for Place-Making in St. John’s, Newfoundland,” in Vernacular Architecture, Canadian Folklore Canadien (Journal), Volume 17, No. 2, 1995, pages 125-138.

Urban Design in St. John's, Newfoundland (The Evening Telegram, March 19, 2000).

Heritage Conservation in St. John's, Newfoundland (The Evening Telegram, March 26, 2000).

“The Destruction of Urban and Architectural Character in St. John’s, Newfoundland,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada (SSAC), Volume 28, no. 3, 4, 2003.

Vernacular architecture and urban form of St. Pierre, St. Pierre, France

ArchiCAD model of the timber frame of the Gendarmerie, St. Pierre

Prospectus Article and Digital Models (urban form and history, documentation of the constabulary building): 2003 Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) Conference Prospectus, St. Pierre et Miquelon (France), research on vernacular architecture, townscape, and restoration consulting work in St. Pierre.

Conference Paper: “Automobile Husbandry in St. Pierre (France) and St. John’s (Newfoundland),” Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) Annual Conference, St. Pierre (France), 2003.

Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland (1987-2003)

Greene's Point and Bryan house detail in Tilting
Root cellars in Tilting

In this study of the architecture and material culture of one small community on Fogo Island, the shift from folk to popular culture is explored. Settlement form, folk houses, popular houses, additions to houses, furniture, and outbuildings are described by means of drawings, photographs, and interviews with the residents of the community. Drawings are used as an interpretive tool in a search for correspondences between the process of making (construction) and the architectural details. Fundamental changes in values have taken place in Tilting, and these are especially evident in popular house form and in the recent decline of visiting, animal husbandry, family neighbourhoods, furniture making, and mat making. For this research, the author lived in the community of Tilting for one year and returned many times in subsequent years for further interviewing and documentation. Materials gathered during fieldwork include black and white photographs, colour slides, many tape recordings of interviews with residents of the community (these document such subjects as house construction practices, the use of space in the home, the use of artifacts in the home, house moving, agriculture, animal husbandry, equipment and methods used in the fishery), transcriptions of tapes, maps analyzing the use of open space and the surrounding countryside (agriculture, trap berths for fishing, animal husbandry), field measurements of each house in the community with notes on relevant architectural details, detailed measured drawings for selected houses in the community, maps identifying the ownership of all gardens, maps documenting the practice of house moving, and aerial photographs that are analyzed to show changes over time. This research was initially supported by a CMHC Scholarship and subsequently by the HFNL and McGill University.

Tilting book cover

R. Mellin: Tilting: House Launching, Slide Hauling, Potato Trenching, and Other Tales from a Newfoundland Fishing Village (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003).

R. Mellin: “Interpreting Architecture in the Folk Context”, paper in the proceedings of the International Research Symposium on Architecture and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1992, pages 350-356.

Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture, Oxford University Press: various articles by R. Mellin on Newfoundland’s vernacular architecture, with structures from Tilting.

Heritage Magazine: “Fogo Island: Last Chance for Authentic Outport Culture” (1999).

The Architecture and Material Culture of Tilting, Newfoundland, in Canadian Journal of Irish Studies Vol. 26 No. 2 (2001).

Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2.