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Jul 1 2022 Film /

TSA Playlist | July: Water

Water: it’s all around us. It is the essential building block of life and the ever present force that shapes our environment. Water is so powerful and ever-present, that we often work hard to contain and shape it to our will: we detail our buildings to keep water out, channel and carve the earth to bring water to places that are parched, and dam its natural paths to power our way of life. Yet despite all this, water is something often taken for granted.

This month’s playlist takes a deep dive into the theme of water with documentaries, films and shorts exploring the relationship between this essential liquid and our built environment. How do we shape water, and, in turn, how does it shape us?

As always we have included stories from around the world and right here from home. So sit back, grab a glass of water, and enjoy this month’s TSA Playlist: Water!


2013 | 100 min | Trailer

This Canadian documentary brings together diverse stories from around the globe on the theme of our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of our use. Focusing on the ever-growing number of spots where humans have permanently altered their environment, the film features narration from a Native guardian of Canada’s Stikine River Watershed and from one of the few residents left in Lone Pine, where the water of Owens Dry Lake was long ago redirected to Los Angeles.

Watch it on Hoopla


Walking on Water: The High Stakes of Large Scale Art
2019 | 100 min | Trailer

Walking on Water delves into the creative mind of Christo, a visual artist responsible for numerous monumental art installations around the world. In this film, we are brought along the design and construction process of the 2016 “The Floating Piers”, a 70,000 square meter yellow fabric covered floating installation at Lake Iseo, Italy. The film details the challenges that were overcome in preparing for the installation, painting a portrait of the people involved in making reality one of the greatest art installations of the decade.

Watch it on Kanopy



Accidental Wilderness: The Leslie Street Spit
2020 | 44 min | Trailer

This documentary from The Nature of Things tells the surprising story of an unusual Canadian wilderness. Tommy Thompson park, also known as The Leslie Street Spit, is a hidden natural world right at the heart of Canada’s biggest urban centre. Where steel rebar and concrete protrude from the water, there are hints to its secret past – the story of a breakwater built out of industrial waste, long since reclaimed by nature. In this film, we uncover how the community fought hard to preserve this landscape, ensuring a flourishing urban wilderness for generations of Torontonians to enjoy.

Watch it on YouTube



Architecture is a Special Effects Machine
2008 | 19 min

Architect Liz Diller presents her firm’s most creative work from the 80s, which challenges conventional assumptions about space and how we are blinded by its familiarity. In this TED Talk, Diller describes the process behind the design of the firm’s award-winning Blur Building, which dissolves a physical building into a creation of mist, putting special emphasis on the tactile sensory experience.

Watch it on YouTube



Blue Gold: World Water Wars
2009 | 90 min | Trailer

A film by prolific Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, Our People Will Be Healed provides a glimpse of what action-driven decolonization looks like in the Norway House Cree Nation, one of Manitoba’s largest First Nation communities. The film documents the work happening at the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre, a school built upon the remains of a residential school, where teachers and staff are ensuring that Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture are preserved and passed down for generations to come.

Watch it on Kanopy



Now Is The Time
2019 | 16 min | Trailer

“Every building in the city – the sidewalks – I bet has some DNA of our people from back home, because in order for you to make cement and concrete, you have to use water.”

– Daryl Redsky, former combat engineer and community leader, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

Freedom Road: Context, the first episode of a series of short films, establishes the connection between the city of Winnipeg and the source of its freshwater 150 km to the east, called Shoal Lake. We are guided by community leader Daryl Redsky as he details how the Anishinaabe community of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has suffered since the aqueduct was built more than 100 years ago, and learn about the battles fought to build a road that would finally reconnect them to the mainland – Freedom Road.

The Freedom Road series tells the story of this road’s construction and the brighter future it represents for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation through community members’ personal stories. Throughout it all, water remains a continuing theme in tales of dangerous winter ice crossings and perpetual boil-water advisories, its story running parallel with that of the road.

Watch it on the NFB



Global News: RC Harris Water Treatment Plant
2019 | 3 min 

Toronto’s largest collection of Art Deco buildings is The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, which was named after Toronto’s former Commissioner of Public Works from 1912 to 1945. This “palace of purification” is a National Historic Engineering site, within a unique landscape setting on top of a large hill looking over the waterfront and stretches of green space that the residents in the Beaches neighbourhood have cherished for many years.  

Join Global News’ Melanie Zettler on YYZ Why? as she tours the plant to understand why such an ornate series of buildings was created for the sole purpose of treating the city’s water. 

Watch it on Global News



About the TSA Playlist

The TSA Playlist is a monthly curated list of free online films touching upon issues of architecture, the built environment, and design. Our thematic lists do more than just entertain; they inspire us, enrich us, and challenge our perspectives helping bring the conversation of the built environment to new audiences and encourage conversation and debate.

Have a suggestion of a film or theme you would like to see featured? Let us know at tsa@torontosocietyofarchitects.ca

Be sure to also check out the past editions of the TSA Playlist.