Call for Papers: Layered Histories

Image courtesy of JSSAC
Image courtesy of JSSAC

The Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada is now accepting paper proposals for its 43rd annual conference, Layered Histories, which will be held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, May 24-27, 2017.

Researchers, young researchers, professionals and students interested can submit a proposal by sending an abstract of not more than 250 words, accompanied by a one-page CV, to: Please indicate which session from the following list your proposal addresses, and send a copy of your e-mail to the session chair.

Paper proposals will be assessed by a scientific committee including session chairs and members of the Society. Articles building on the papers presented can also be submitted for publication in the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada. Depending on available funds, financial support for the travel expenses of students may be provided following the conference. Please send submissions no later than February 24, 2017.

Session 1 | Alternative Modernities
Chair: Bojana Videkanic

In light of the temporal emphasis of the conference as a whole, this session will investigate the idea of Canadian built environment in the context of “alternative modernities,” a term that defines Modernism not as a monolithic discourse, but as multiple aesthetic, cultural, and political ways of engaging with/or countering mainstream Western modernist narratives. In other words, how do constructed spaces/buildings in Canada run parallel to, or otherwise disrupt or complicate, dominant notions of Modernism in the twentieth century? Papers might explore the phenomena of revival or retro, utopias/dystopias/heterotopias, or indigenous interventions into architecture.

Session 2 | Canadian Identities: 150 Years of Nation Building(s)
Chairs: Loryssa Quattrociocchi and Kristie Dubé and

This year, Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation. To celebrate this momentous event, communities and organizations are uniting to examine our past and present, to consider plans for the future, and to try to define Canadian national identity. As a nation, Canada has always been a land of many voices, and thus of many identities; a fact that was formally recognized by parliament as multiculturalism some fifty years ago. Since then, we have become increasingly aware that Canadian identity is, in fact, plural and shaped by the aspirations of our culturally diverse inhabitants. As Canada’s built environment has the fabric of our diverse national identities embedded in it, it is a useful source of information concerning Canadian national identities.

From the nineteenth-century Gothic Revival churches of Joseph Connolly (1840-1904) that are reminiscent of Irish architectural traditions, to the French roots displayed in Metis land divisions in the Saint Laurent region of Saskatchewan, our built environment embodies the cultural and historical traits of various groups. An examination of Canadian identity through its built environment is thus an important part of the larger discourse around the 150th anniversary. For this session, we invite submissions that explore this theme of the built environment as a manifestation of Canada’s multicultural identities. Submissions are welcomed that highlight significant monuments, structures, or cultural landscapes that have contributed to Canada’s built heritage both pre- and post-1867, and at the municipal, provincial, or national levels.

Session 3 | Colonial Entanglements
Chairs: Emily Turner and Magdalena Milosz and

As a marker within territory, architecture stakes a claim over that territory on behalf of those who design and build. In Canada, this dynamic inscribed imperial, colonial and religious powers onto the land prior to 1867 and federal authority after Confederation. Architectural history in Canada often celebrates these colonial roots, framing architecture as reflective of identity, nationhood and Canada’s British and French past, with exploration and settlement as integral to its development. Another architecture also emerges out of this colonial past: that constructed as Canada and its agents forged a troubled relationship with the land’s Indigenous peoples.

This session will explore Canadian architecture in the (post)colonial context, examining, in particular, architecture designed and constructed by government and its representatives in attempts to assimilate, acculturate and “civilize” First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities throughout Canada. The planning and construction of missions, reserves, residential schools, and other buildings, as well as related spatial practices, continue to define the roles of colonizers and colonized subjects. As an architecture integral to Canada’s colonial past, it has serious and long- lasting ramifications into the present day.

This session will therefore examine the role of these buildings in the contact narrative between Indigenous and non- Indigenous peoples, their historical and contemporary impact, their function in the development of the modern Canadian state, and Indigenous agency within them. Our hope is to establish a dialogue around these structures within Canada’s architectural past and in the context of contemporary efforts towards reconciliation.

Session 4 | Company Towns: Building Communities
Chair: Lucie K. Morisset

The history and territory of Canada are sprinkled with company towns: for centuries they have punctuated the conquest of resources and marked, each time, the new frontiers of the country. Built to accommodate and lodge workers for a company, around a mill, a mine or a factory, they were also responsible for making the workforce sedentary, often attracting entire families from far away and, further still, in creating a sense of belonging within the communities that were created.

This issue, which characterizes the construction of the majority of Canadian company towns, has taken diverse forms over the course of time: the built landscape, the architecture of dwellings, the disposition of urbanism and its ability to support a social life have served in different ways in the creation ex nihilo of new communities.

Today, this relationship between belonging in “tight-knit” communities and their environments is confronted with new challenges. The mobility of people and the shift in population, the decline of industrial activity or simply the diversification of the economy and of the social base of company towns reminds us of their stability and and their futures: while the attachment to the built environment was once enough to maintain a population beyond employment in company towns, their heritage is no longer as common or shared as it once was. In this context, new initiatives of the valorization of the environment and of the construction of belonging have emerged in all corners of Canada: they seek, in their own way, to reconstruct the belonging that built forms can no longer transmit on their own.

This two-pronged session seeks to interrogate such mechanisms and forms of the construction of belonging in the company towns of Canada: it is about better knowing and understanding, on one hand, the architecture and urbanism that sought to create communities, and, on the other hand, the initiatives of the development and the mediation of heritage that, in turn, communicate a shared identity and place to the residents of today.

Session 5 | Decolonizing Methodologies in Architectural Studies
Chairs: Tak Pham and Magdalena Milosz and

redress the legacy of residential schools and the country’s long history of other oppressive practices against Indigenous peoples. The twenty-page document outlines actions to be taken by various government departments regarding issues of justice, education, language and culture, health etc., as well as ways to reconcile based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through avenues such as the arts, sports, and immigration policies. The TRC did not, however, comment on design practices, including environmental and architectural design, and yet architecture has undoubtedly played a significant role in the settler- indigenous relationship.

In thinking through the ways that architecture has been used to further colonization, from marking territory to residential school design to contemporary ameliorative design practices, this session will explore what decolonization can mean in the context of architecture, as well as related disciplines of history and theory. How can architecture, as a discipline, become re-indigenized and more equitable? How can non-indigenous architects, designers, and architectural historians contribute to projects of decolonization and social responsibility in productive ways, without appropriating the cultures and effort of Indigenous peoples in these fields? In what ways can architectural history and complex historic sites benefit from the concept of decolonization? We especially encourage Indigenous scholars, architects, historians and designers to contribute to this session.

Session 6 | Do you want to get layered?
Chair: Austin Parsons

A building’s history is a function of the changing landscape of material and social culture. Over the course of time, a culture’s expectations about comfort, efficiency and the relationships between its past and the environment change. Additionally, the technology that is used to make these buildings respond to these changing expectations likewise evolves. For example, in our culture, the introduction of electricity, air conditioning and insulation in mainstream practice has changed how structures are built, maintained, and ultimately, how they perform. These evolving technologies also change the ways in which buildings are understood.

In this context, a building’s material culture includes both the tangible (the form, details and materials) as well as the intangible (the skills, processes and supply-chain aspects needed to build, maintain and ultimately understand how a building works). Changes and evolutions in both the tangible and intangible can result in conflict between the building’s layers, playing havoc with the building’s past and its future vision.

This session seeks to attract papers that investigate how changes in the intangible expectations of building performance are expressed through the tangible layering or de-layering of these buildings over time, and what this says about the society that these buildings serve. Papers in this session could explore a wide range of ideas, as the central question impacts important issues such as authenticity, building performance, quality of life, cultural significance and sustainability, as well as how technology is understood and practiced by the architectural profession and trades.

Session 7 | Ecological Architecture in Canada
Chair: Steven Mannell

“In recent years architects have begun to design energy conserving buildings yet the overall function of buildings in modern societies is ignored. … The Ark is one of the first synthetically framed explorations of a new direction for human habitations. … [I]t begins to redefine how humans might live in Canada. The Ark is in no way an end point, but an early investigation of a viable new direction.” —John Todd et al, An Ark for Prince Edward Island: A report to the Federal Government of Canada from New Alchemy Institute (Souris PE: New Alchemy Institute) 30 December 1976

These remarks from the final report on the PEI Ark offer a rough starting point for the identification of an “ecological architecture” distinct from the energy-conserving buildings of the late 1970s or today’s LEED-certified buildings. The question of the overall function of building in societies (and ecosystems) remains mostly unexplored in what and how we have built. The Ark was among a flowering of such projects in the 1970s; while the Ark is posited above as a starting point, examples of similar exploratory building can be found in the preceding decades (and centuries), as well as in the decades since. This session invites papers exploring the notion of an ecological architecture through documentation and analysis of specific examples – buildings, landscapes, infrastructures, and urban design.

Session 8 | On Current Indigenous Architecture and Planning: Cultural Cues and Placemaking
Chair: Daniel Millette

This session will be the 10th consecutive year whereby a dialogue related to planning and architecture on indigenous lands is facilitated, first initiated at the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada’s Annual Conference in Yellowknife in 2008.

This session seeks paper proposals that make direct connections between traditional design tenets and contemporary planning and architecture. The ways in which traditional design cues are embodied within community plans, architectural projects and specific placemaking initiatives are particularly sought. How traditional design knowledge is transferred and in turn manifested within planning and architecture, how places facilitate the intersection of cultures, and how new initiatives in planning and architecture aim to change design praxis will be central to the session. Paper proposals should include specific examples of clear—regardless of how subtle—expressions of knowledge transfer, from collective memory to built outcome, whether designed by professionals or by nonpedigreed planners or architects. The papers should be less descriptive and more analytical or theoretical. For example, theories on how traditional indigenous knowledge is transferred through planning and architecture could form part of a presentation; similarly, the ways in which designs cues operate as mnemonics could form the basis of a broader discussion using specific examples.

Session 9 | Religious Architecture in Canada
Chair: Malcolm Thurlby

Although the study of architecture in Canada is a relatively young field, it is no exaggeration to say that more attention has been given to religious architecture than any other form of building in the country. That is because as long as people have inhabited the land that is now known as Canada, there have been buildings devoted to their religious beliefs and practices. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples can be found in communities across the country in every style, from vernacular to modern. These buildings are expressive, practical, and reflect Canadian pluralism. This session welcomes papers on religious architecture of all types and styles, from all periods of Canada’s history.

Session 10 | Requalification: documenting a new history of heritage
Chair: Martin Drouin

Recuperation, reuse, recycling, reconversion, requalification: for over half a century, these concepts have been simultaneously associated with the notion of heritage. This period has been, in effect, marked by the transition from a “heritage of contemplation” to a “heritage of use,” to borrow Jean-Claude Marsan’s expression. In fact, buildings and sites are no longer just safeguarded for historic or aesthetic considerations, but for a new usage that is supposed to give them contemporary relevance in return. They must, to a certain extent, find a new useful life beyond the heritage values of which they were said to be bearers. In doing so, a new chapter of the history of buildings and their sites—to take up the theme of the annual conference of the SSAC—superimposes itself on those that have already been written.

This session seeks to examine cases of the reuse of heritage, whether historic or current, in order to better understand, through a theoretical or empirical approach, the consequences of the emergence of such a practice in the sphere of heritage. Papers could present case studies of requalification. They could testify to a practice or to a particular approach. They could likewise analyze or present an inherent questioning of such a practice. The objective is to foster a history of the requalification of heritage in Canada.

Session 11 | The Economies of Architecture
Chair: Dustin Valen

Economy—from the Greek oikois (home) and nemein (manage)—has held diverse meanings throughout history, and at multiple scales; from cities and buildings, to labour and materials. This session invites papers to reflect on the economies of architecture, both at the macro- and microeconomic scales, and throughout the life of buildings, from construction to maintenance, and (re)use. In particular, it asks scholars to explore how economy can be a productive category for architectural research, including and in addition to its financial discourse. For example, papers might address the agency of financial systems by studying the effect of recessionary and boom trends on building culture; financial insolvencies and the afterlife of buildings; the architecture of banks; the use of profit modelling as part of the design process; advertising and the built environment; political economy at the domestic scale; the rise of the architect-developer; or specific building, material, and labour practices. Papers may be historical and contemporary in scope and could address a range of disciplines and media. Scholars from other disciplines whose work engages in questions of production, distribution, exchange, or consumption as they might relate to the built environment in Canada are also encouraged to participate.

Session 12 | Current Research

This session invites papers on any aspects on current research on the built environment in Canada that do not fit into one of the proposed sessions.

Time plays a crucial role in architecture. Typically, sites are designed with a specific function for a particular setting in a particular era. Nevertheless, architecture is not just built for the here and now, but also for the past and for the future; it can be commemorative, harkening back to a bygone era, or it can be visionary, seeking to communicate its message for centuries to come. Far from static, architecture also changes as time goes on, acquiring additions, alterations, new purposes, and new sets of meanings. How do we connect these various temporal aspects?

How do we valorize architecture’s past (s)? In what ways do we contribute our own contemporary knowledge and values to specific sites? In what ways are architecture and architectural knowledge protected for and transmitted to future generations? How are all of these simultaneously considered and what can we make of a multitude of layers and/or palimpsests?

As the venue for the 2017 Conference of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario is the ideal place to explore these ideas. Long inhabited, the site was first indigenous territory, then one of the first settlements established in Upper Canada. As such, it has played many roles over the years: it was Upper Canada’s first capital from 1792 to 1796; the town and its military post, Fort George, played a pivotal role in the War of 1812; it was a stop on the Underground Railroad; it has been host to an internationally renowned theatre festival, the Shaw Festival, since 1962; it is in the heart of Niagara’s rich agricultural and wine country; and in 2003, it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. With all of its different functions, the town and its surroundings are home to an impressive array of architectural gems that simultaneously call upon the full spectrum of architectural and heritage practices.