Take Note at the Canadian Centre for Architecture

From February 4 until May 30, 2010, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal presents the exhibition Take Note, which traces selected pivotal moments in the ongoing relationship between writing and architecture over the past 50 years. Take Note is the fifth in a series of CCA exhibitions developed in collaboration with universities, and is the result of a research seminar led by Sylvia Lavin in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).


Mirko Zardini, Director and Chief Curator of the CCA comments: “Take Note concludes the first phase in a series of CCA exhibitions developed in collaboration with universities. It reflects the CCA’s mandate as an international research centre that initiates close partnerships with academic and cultural institutions worldwide. This research and exhibition are of crucial importance at a time when we are re-examining the role of architecture within a changing society and environment. Sylvia Lavin and her group have done some incredible work in bringing to our attention the different ways the intellectual dimension of architecture is taking form.”


Presented in the CCA’s Octagonal Gallery and seven Hall Cases, the exhibition explores the intellectual dimension of architecture, specifically the ways in which architects visualize their ideas and transcribe them in their notes, producing writings that contribute to cultural advancement and transform architecture by tying it to developments in various spheres. The exhibition includes nearly 80 objects from the CCA Collection and archives, representing 18 artists and architects, including Gordon Matta-Clark and John Hejduk, and significant contemporary architecture firms such as Gehry Partners, Greg Lynn FORM, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Stan Allen Architect, Bernard Tschumi, and Reiser+ Umemoto RUR Architecture.


In the 1960s, architects pursued ways of establishing a counterculture by opposing dominant habits of the profession – writing instead of building, writing as a form of drawing, and reading as a way of understanding. According to Take Note curator Sylvia Lavin, “a small oppositional element in architecture forged its own counterculture by turning its energies away from building toward writing. In its hands, the page became a site for design and texts became architectural works in their own right. Born of a desire to foreground the intellectual dimension of architecture by associating it with developments in conceptual art, linguistics, and philosophy, this turn toward writing soon engaged architecture with broader questions of pop culture, mass media, advertising, and emerging technologies, setting in motion a fundamental transformation of the discipline whose momentum remains unabated to this day. Take Note offers an album of snapshots of key

episodes in that transformation.”


With outlines echoing the contours of the works on display, the CCA-designed exhibition installation draws an imaginary line symbolizing the logic of the architects and highlighting their theoretical discourse, posted above each object. The central essay, presented in the Octagonal Gallery, is anchored to seven points of reference, representing the seven architects whose related documents (essays, photographs, animated objects, posters and booklets) are cross-referenced in the display cases using footnote numbers. Two multimedia animations introduce the exhibition’s spatial theme and concept, designed by the American production and animation company

Imaginary Forces, well known for frequent collaboration with architects.


The Project

This exhibition is the work of Hi-C, a collaborative group of doctoral and design students from UCLA under the direction of Sylvia Lavin focusing on scholarly research and critical approaches to contemporary design. The origins of Take Note lie in a seminar on the historiography of Formalism that led to an exhibition and a series of ongoing research projects related to the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. Peter Eisenman, founding director of the IAUS, is the author of Notes on Conceptual Architecture, the work that provided the students with the historical and theoretical ground zero for Take Note.


Sylvia Lavin, Professor and Director of Critical Studies and M.A./Ph.D. Programs in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), is known for her scholarship and criticism in contemporary architecture and design. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and elsewhere. Lavin’s next books The Flash in the Pan and Other Forms of Architectural Contemporaneity and Kissing Architecture are forthcoming.


Lavin’s design/research collaborative Hi-C, which is committed to advancing the public consideration of architectural culture through exhibitions, symposia, and publications that establish a forum for wide discussion of experimental work in architecture, recently curated Craig Hodgetts, Playmaker which opened at ACE Galleries, Los Angeles in October 2009.


Related Programs

The CCA hosts a Gallery Talk on Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 7:00pm with curator Sylvia Lavin and two of her students, Whitney Moon and Esra Kahveci. The talk will be presented in English, and admission is free.