To offer the Kollectif readership the most objective view about the issues at the McGill School of Architecture since Michael Jemtrud’s surprise resignation early this summer, I’ve asked newly appointed Director, Professor Annmarie Adams, to address you a few words on her new mandate.
Martin Houle, architect
Director-founder of Kollectif
« In July I was honoured by the Faculty of Engineering and invited to serve as Director of the School of Architecture at McGill University, where I have taught for more than two decades. I look forward to working closely with students and colleagues across the university over the next three years to build on the school’s strengths and also to some forge exciting new initiatives.
In a nutshell, I bring to the position a passion for research and a strong commitment to pluralistic, interdisciplinary teaching in architecture. As is well known, our school has a long tradition of research-based, post-professional education. This provides a unique environment for all four of our degree programs, offering students in a studio-centric curriculum a rich menu of specialized seminars tied to ongoing, funded research projects. My plan is to strengthen this link between funded research and professional education by further harmonizing our post-professional and professional programs, a project that was extremely important to my predecessor Professor Michael Jemtrud who laid its groundwork extremely effectively.
In addition to its impact on teaching, our school’s stellar record of attracting external research funding has also boosted our high-tech infrastructure. Both FARMM (Facility for Architectural Research in Media and Mediation) and LIPHE (Laboratory for Integrated Prototyping and Hybrid Environments) provide the school with state-of-the art networking, simulation, imaging, and fabrication capabilities thanks to generous grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation awarded to Professors Michael Jemtrud and Aaron Sprecher. Humanities-based projects in the school are funded by SSHRC, CIHR, and a host of other agencies, creating a buzz of creative juxtapositions.
My own doctoral studies were deeply enriched by a similar, hybrid context – I studied architecture and then architectural history within the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley – and I want students at McGill University to have the same extraordinary experience. As a teacher I firmly believe that history education offers architects-in-formation a strong platform for learning how to ask innovative questions, formulate strong positions, solve problems, grapple with ethical dilemmas, communicate clearly and of course read prolifically.
As an administrator, pluralism in architectural education means a continuing embrace of a broad-based faculty complement, with multiple voices speaking simultaneously. As a champion of women in architecture – I co-authored a book on Canadian women architects about a decade ago–I am proud to be the first woman Director of the School of Architecture. I am also delighted that Dr. Ipek Tureli will join the faculty in January 2012. She brings to the school an expertise in non-western cities, particularly Istanbul, and an award-winning teaching portfolio. Spread the word; we are advertising for yet another new colleague to teach design: www.mcgill.ca/architecture/profsearch
A plurality of approaches to the built environment informs my research too, which thrives on the tensions between architectural practices and the production of traditional, humanities-based publications. My research embraces ordinary, sometimes nearly invisible building typologies, inspired broadly by a sub-field of architectural history known as Cultural Landscape Studies. While many architectural researchers see buildings as reflections of society’s priorities or cultural values, my position is that architecture actually empowers our decisions and situations. Most of my work, in fact, is about how hospitals and houses serve as powerful sites of resistance to society’s expectations. In basic terms it means that architecture doesn’t just passively illustrate our world, it actively shapes us.
I am a strong advocate of student participation in university decision-making and am therefore pleased that the graduate students have already formed a new association, to ensure representation on a number of our key committees: GASA-McGill, the Graduate Architecture Student Association. Congratulations to Ph.D. student Olaf Recktenwald, GASA’s newly elected president. The strong role of the Architecture Students Association (ASA) also continues under President Alexandre Lapierre.
Indeed, we have a very exciting year planned for 2011-2012, extending these traditions of pedagogical diversity and student participation. Michael Wen-Sen Su is with us now as the Sheff Visiting Professor. Next month we will celebrate the publication of Professor Robert Mellin’s new book, Newfoundland Modern. Professor Aaron Sprecher has planned an outstanding public lecture series for the fall, whose highlight is Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne on October 27 as the David Azrieli lecturer. A unique aspect of the new series is Architecture Talks, an informal hour the afternoon before or morning after the lecture in which a handful of students have the chance to chat with the lecturer in a small-group setting. The Architecture Talks session with Chicago-based architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang on September 26 was a huge success, orchestrated entirely by students.
The opportunity to serve as Director of a School I know well and care about deeply is both unexpected and welcome. I bring to the position a profound respect for my colleagues and for the history of the School. I am also grateful for the network of students, graduates, and architects in Montreal and across Quebec, Canada, and North America who want our school to continue to thrive and prosper.
Annmarie Adams, PhD, William C Macdonald Professor