70 Architects: On Ethics and Poetics

September 20– October 21, 2007
Design Centre of the Université du Québec Montréal (UQAM)
Curated by Louise Pelletier and Alberto Pérez-Gómez

A collection of architectural objects addressing questions of ethics and poetics was presented at the Design Centre of the Université du Québec Montréal (UQAM). In conjunction with a symposium, the exhibition was organized to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Architectural History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture Post-professional program and Ph.D. program in Architecture at McGill University. The show featured the work of 70 Canadian and international architects, all former graduates of the Architectural History and Theory option.

70 Architects Exhibition © Michel Brunelle

Participants were given a design challenge: to produce an architectural object representing their work which occupied no more than one square foot when measured flat, or one cubic foot if realized in volume, though it was not required that the work be cubical. The opening took place on Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 6:00 pm, and a catalogue was produced.

Even though architecture is normally defined in terms of the permanent presence of built structures, here it was understood in a wider context and in a more speculative form by addressing the process of interpretation between the creation of an architectural idea and its concrete translation within the public realm. The objects presented in the exhibition varied from theoretical projects to records of buildings. They were executed in diverse media and ranged in dimensions from the infra-thin to the nearly infinite.

This kind of speculative work that uses varied modes of artistic representation, such as painting, drawing, sculpture and even video and cinematographic montage, always played an important role for architects at the moment of translating abstract thoughts into concrete projects. The conceptual fragments presented at the exhibition were produced by both practitioners and theoreticians, and in every case, the importance of the creative process was brought to the fore.


70 Architects Exhibition © Michel Brunelle


Conceived by Louise Pelletier, professor at the UQAM School of Design, and Alberto Pérez-Gómez from the School of Architecture at McGill University, the curators’ requirement was meant to question dimensionality itself by inquiring: What are the real architectural dimensions of a cubic foot? What is the poetic and ethical potential of a unit of architectural space? The resulting works operated a kind of alchemy. As Dr. De Selby would say in Flann O’Brien’s The Dalkey Archive: “Gentlemen, he said, in an empty voice, I have mastered time. Time has been called an event, a repository, a continuum, an ingredient of the universe. I can suspend time, negative its apparent course.” In the same way, the projects presented by the 70 architects modified the atmosphere and made it evident that it is time (and not space, as Descartes thought) that is a plenum: immobile, ineluctable, irrevocable, a condition of absolute stasis.


70 Architects Exhibition © Michel Brunelle


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