Viewpoint (February 01, 2003)

In this issue, we feature the recently opened Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST), a purpose-built facility for materials testing and experimentation serving students and faculty at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Architecture. Built with contributions from both the public and private sectors, the CAST building represents the increasingly important role that research is coming to play in architectural education.

With the evolution of graduate programs in Canada’s schools of architecture, research is becoming an important component of educational activity. This is taking a wide variety of forms–from scholarly research in areas such as history and theory, to the study of different models of practice and project delivery, to the impact of digital technology on design and practice, to research related to materials and building science–reflecting the many branches of knowledge that inform the discipline of architecture.

This emerging interest in architectural research is not limited to the schools; it is also becoming a significant component of practice. This is reflected by the fact that in recent years our professional associations have begun to expand their awards programs to recognize the important contribution that research makes to successful practice. Examples include the Architectural Institute of British Columbia’s Innovation Award, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s award for Innovation in Architecture, initiated in 2001, and most recently, the Ontario Association of Architects’ Innovative Practice award, launched in 2002. This kind of institutional recognition can only serve to encourage research activity as a legitimate and increasingly necessary component of architectural practice. The combined research efforts of our schools of architecture and innovative practices will support the profession’s efforts to reclaim and reinforce its status as an authoritative and respected source of expertise.

Also in this issue, Montreal critic David Theodore reviews the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s current major exhibition on the Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. According to Theodore, the exhibition, both provocative and puzzling, raises questions about the sometimes uneasy relationship between art and architecture. This relationship played as much a part in the development of early Modern architecture as did experimentation with materials and construction technology, but today there seems to be a considerable rift between the two. While Theodore’s assessment of the exhibition itself is equivocal, its inclusion in this issue serves as an important reminder of the many forces that, directly or indirectly, underlie the development of architecture.

Research–whether it’s technical, pragmatic or scholarly–affords new opportunities to examine how various forces intersect to create a more fully integrated approach to architecture. Architects and academics are increasingly engaging in this important activity and publishing their findings for the benefit of others. This can only strengthen the profession and better prepare it for the challenges of an ever-evolving culture and marketplace. Marco Polo