Mackenzie Place 2013—2018 is a series of images of the unique seventeen-story tower apartment—located far from its usual urban context—that presides over the center of the small near-arctic town of Hay River (Xátł’odehchee) in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Officially named “Alexander Mackenzie Place” after the explorer but informally known as “the High Rise,” the tower was completed in 1975 to house workers for the controversial (and ultimately cancelled) Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Never filled to capacity, and empty since a major fire in 2019, this relic of colonial resource extraction was home to newcomers to Hay River for nearly fifty years, whether Indigenous (Dene, Inuvialuit, Cree, Métis), immigrant, or settler. Since the fire, new owners from “down south” have promised renovations, citing urgent and growing housing needs, but, as of March 2023, no work has begun. Locals are quick to try to divert attention from the building, stating that the tower is not characteristic of Hay River. Yet the tower is omnipresent, both visually and in the narratives of residents and visitors alike; it is the hub of “the Hub of the North.”
Developed as process work during the creation of Mackenzie Place, these images use conventional documentary methods to reinforce the tower’s outsized influence, both in the town and in my work. They reveal the tower as it is experienced on the ground: simultaneously omnipresent and ignored, a monument that nobody asked for.