The CCA’s Learning From… lecture series continues with an in-depth look at the evolution of Brussels, Hong Kong and Mexico City

This spring, the CCA’s Learning From… lecture series continues to explore cities’ responses to evolving architectural and urban conditions related to the changing global economy. This season’s lectures focus on Brussels, Hong Kong and Mexico City and the presentations will take place on Thursday evenings at 7:00pm in the CCA’s Paul Desmarais Theatre. Admission is free.

On April 19, 2012, Learning from… Brussels offers lecturers Michael Ghyoot and Maarten Gielen of the Rotor Collective who will discuss the topic of waste and reuse. This presentation will be delivered in French, and examines how unfinished products or those considered of inferior quality can shed light on the factors that determine the success of a material on the local markets. For instance, a slab of natural stone is less desirable due its irregular surface; a series of plastic moulded objects to be sold in supermarkets is shredded due to colour inconsistency.

Hundreds of visits to businesses, work sites and recycling plants form the basis of the Rotor’s inquiry into the processes and practices around material management in Brussels and its suburbs. This concept of waste plays a key role in the research of Rotor, the Belgium-based architecture collective founded in 2005 with an interest in the material flows in industry and construction.

 “What is striking at first glance is the strong influence of aesthetics on these decisions. It points to the existence of a kind of consensual good taste, but also, more importantly, to how this taste is intimately linked to the practices and tools of design, distribution and production. This could bring new meaning to formal debates,” says Maarten Gielen.

In 2005, Maarten Gielen established Rotor where he currently works as designer, manager and researcher. In 2012 he was appointed visiting professor in the HEAD in Geneva. Michael Ghyoot is an architect who graduated from La Cambre School of Architecture (ISACF) in 2009. He has been actively involved in Rotor’s projects since becoming a member in 2008. From 2008 to 2009, he curated a series of conferences on the notion of cracks at Recyclart for the Brussels Institute of Architecture (IBAI).

On May 3, 2012, Learning from… Hong Kong brings Rufina Wu and Stephan Canham who will broach the topic of informal rooftop communities. Cities like Hong Kong are continually pressed for space, resulting in informal settlements on top of regular residential or abandoned buildings. These illegal, self-built slums on the roofs of high-rise buildings have been an integral part of Hong Kong’s urban landscape for over half a century, with the rise in rooftop communities closely linked to the migration history from the Chinese Mainland to Hong Kong. With each of China’s tumultuous political movements in the 20th century, like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, there was a corresponding wave of Mainland Chinese migrating to Hong Kong.

In their presentation at the CCA, Wu and Canham document rooftop communities and offer insight into the everyday life of Hong Kong’s rooftop settlements. Through photography, their project describes the increasing number of rooftop structures, ranging from basic shelters for the disadvantaged to intricate multi-storey constructions equipped with the amenities of modern life. They present the typical roof as being similar to a huge village, often with as many as 30 or 40 households; a maze of corridors, and narrow passageways between huts built of sheet metal, wood, brick and plastics.

Rufina Wu was born in Hong Kong in 1980. She studied at the University of Waterloo in Canada where she completed degrees in Environmental Studies and Architecture. She was a CCSEP Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China from 2005 to 2006. She received AIA Medals for her Bachelor of Architecture thesis (Three Gorges Commune) in 2006 and Master of Architecture thesis (Beijing Underground). From December 2007 to February 2008, she was artist-in-residence at Hong Kong’s Art and Culture Outreach, collaborating with Stefan Canham on Portraits from Above. The project won the 5th International Bauhaus Award (3rd Prize). Stefan Canham has been working freelance on documentary photo and television projects since 1995. His work focuses on the usage of urban space, in particular on marginalized communities and forms of self-housing.

Learning from … Mexico City will take place on May 10, 2012, featuring Arturo Ortiz Struck who will lecture on housing settlements in Mexico City. Housing settlements in Mexico City are defined by many relationships that go beyond the boundaries of the formal and the legal. In his lecture at the CCA, Struck, head of the architectonic and urban research workshop Taller Territorial de México, presents a critical view of the production of space and the role of architecture and design

in Mexico.

Struck assumes two fundamental premises; that spaces reflect our identities, our cultural ways and how we unfold in everyday life; and that cities are an expression of societies in relation to their historical production, but also to their ideological background. The millions of informal settlements constructed in the urban outskirts of Mexico exemplify this premise, as financial and governmental institutions that produce them see the population as another gear of the economy and not as citizens, generating the conditions in which citizens are scarred by the inability of the economic system to include everyone. The result is that these informal settlements, favelas, slums, define more than half the urban production in Latin America, making it clear that even if design does matter, the architects and designers don’t.

Arturo Ortiz Struck (1969) studied architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA), and received a Master’s degree in urban research from the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM). In recent years he participated in different urban plans for the Federal District of Mexico City and in different states within Mexico. In his architectonic practice, he developed projects in Mexico, China and the USA. Struck has participated in different exhibitions of architecture and contemporary art in Mexico, Italy, Germany, the United States and China.

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