Held in the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre at the end of May, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia along with Architecture Canada | RAIC hosted the annual Festival of Architecture–a national conference that attempted to rise above mundane concerns of practice by placing greater emphasis on issues relating to innovation and leadership. Over 600 architects were registered for this four-day event full of keynote sessions, continuing education courses, networking opportunities, and the requisite meetings between architects and administrators of architecture. The conference’s theme–Architecture on the Edge–was certainly a suitable title, given its physical location on the Pacific Coast. Whether or not the conference succeeded in promoting architectural issues that were in fact “on the edge” as in being on the cutting edge-this was far less certain.
For a profession that struggles to recognize and promote emerging leadership, Architecture Canada | RAIC deserves much credit in promoting and, in fact, partnering with one particularly significant venture–Canada’s next representative for the prestigious 2012 Venice Biennale in Architecture. Led by Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic of 5468796 Architecture and Jae-Sung Chon of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture, the Winnipeg-based team officially known as Migrating Landscapes Organizer (MLO) kicked off their fundraising and promotional campaign that will eventually see themselves travel to Venice next year. Hurme, Radulovic and Chon grew up in Finland, the former Yugoslavia and South Korea respectively. All three migrated to the geographic centre of Canada in the 1990s, and are currently practicing and teaching architecture in Winnipeg. The importance of their shared migratory experiences is what drove them to initiate the MLO collaborative, and the proposal for Venice will showcase their own work while incorporating many more ideas and stories from other architecture students, practitioners and academics from across multicultural Canada, who will contribute to the exhibition with their own migratory experiences. Whether or not MLO will illustrate quintessential Canadian design philosophy or simply represent an exploration into emerging design philosophies shaping Canadian architecture remains to be seen. Regardless of the eventual outcome of their project, the larger impact of their Venice proposal may not have anything to do with one’s country of origin at all. The significance behind this collaboration is the rare opportunity to showcase at a prestigious international forum how Canadian architecture’s next generation of leaders are forming new relationships, discourse and alliances with each other to shape the context of architecture in this country.
As with many conferences, some of the most interesting moments occurred during breakfast meetings, between sessions, or after official events, where delegates took the opportunity to share recent directions in research and practice with each other in a less structured format. At the end of this year’s Festival of Architecture, this was certainly the case: at a late-night party hosted by the MLO team in a rented penthouse condo at the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, it seemed as though every young Winnipegger and Vancouver-based graduate of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture was in attendance to support the MLO team. The surprise event was a show of force and a pure celebration of the talent and leadership potential that exists amongst emerging architects to positively contribute to the culture of architecture in Canada. More than any other event at the Festival of Architecture, this party summarized not only what “architecture on the edge” can be, but was also an inspired grassroots celebration of the potential of Canadian architecture to come.
Ian Chodikoff