Design for the Global Majority Exhibition wraps up at McGill University

An exhibition of McGill University's Minimum Cost Housing Group (MCHG) was recently on display.

Photo credit: Zhichen Zhou

An exhibition of McGill University’s Minimum Cost Housing Group (MCHG) was recently on display.

The exhibition, called Design for the Global Majority, traced the MCHG’s output along five thematic axes: Upcycle, Harness, Plan, Leverage and Hack. These themes represented how the group transformed industrial waste into building materials, reduced the environmental impact of construction, developed culturally appropriate design norms, promoted urban agriculture and challeged conventional urban design and its policy.

Photo credit: Zhichen Zhou

The MCHG was established in 1971 at McGill University’s School of Architecture to search for architectural solutions related to housing and infrastructure in the Global South. Both the postgraduate program and independent research unit sought to tackle issues of minimum cost housing through the consideration of alternative, environmentally conscious building materials and technologies.

For over five decades, under the directorship of Alvaro Ortega, Witold Rybczynski and Vikram Bhatt, the MCHG carried out innovative architectural research, hands-on experimentation and common sense building solutions.

Photo credit: Zhichen Zhou

The group tested out ideas using tools and materials readily available and focused on learning through trial and error. They organized field demonstrations, built prototypes of full-scale housing on the McGill campus and established community, institutional and private partners in Quebec and around the world.

Research dissemination and self-publishing made up an integral part of these activities, connecting them to a network of individuals and research groups with similar views.

Selected archival materials, including photographs, drawings, research reports, videos, tools and artifacts showcase the great contributions of the MCHG.

Photo credit: Zhichen Zhou

The MCHG was committed to architectural research in order to address housing issues for a global majority. While rising costs, inequalities and inadequate and insufficient housing continue to affect communities around the world, Design for the Global Majority revisits lessons from the MCHG to inspire today’s architects to help navigate an uncertain future.

The exhibition was part of a unique project that offered a new framing of the archive, and was complemented by a symposium, guided interpretative tours, and workshops with new initiatives. The organizers have also been doing short interviews with alumni of the MCHG program, and are working towards compiling these in a short film.

The exhibition was on display at the Macdonald Harrington Building, Room 114 until October 27, 2023.