Reconciling Poetics and Ethics in Architecture

September 13-15, 2007
Canadian Centre for Architecture
McGill School of Architecture


People around tables mingling while drinking wine and eating baguette bread and cheese
Vernissage of the exhibition of the 2007 McGill University Architectural History and Theory Graduate Studio at McGill’s School of Architecture © Lian Chang

Supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, IRHA Montreal, the Embassy of Finland, Ottawa, and a generous, anonymous contribution from a graduate of the program, the “Reconciling Poetics and Ethics in Architecture” conference addressed questions related to the place of architecture in modern societies around the globe.

For this purpose, the conference brought together important scholars, academics, and architects to ponder the question of ethics in architecture framed as the architect’s responsibility toward users and their wellbeing, cities, and environments, and its relationship to poetics conceptualized as the creative architectural act. Within this broad theme, Terri Fuglem, J. Kent Fitzsimons, Alice Guess, Stephen Parcell, Rachel McCann, and Ricardo Castro addressed sub-themes on empathy, biology, bodies, modernity, and phenomenology. Mark West, Royce M. Earnest, Theodore Sandstra, Raymond J. Cole, and Daniel Pearl considered sustainability and architecture issues, embracing an activist, critical stance toward the technological advances of sustainable architectures. Addressing similar issues on a more theoretical plane, Lawrence Bird, Ralph Ghoche, Helmut Klassen, and Graham Livesey talked about utopia narratives in reference to architecture throughout history. Other sessions included intriguing discussions on the ethics of uncertainty and the architect’s responsibilities regarding virtual constructions. Christina Contandriopoulos, Jennifer Carter, and Rita Velloso daringly tackled architecture in social and political movements regarding nationalism and territorial narratives. Robert Kirkbride, Manuela Antoniu, and Indra Kagis McEwan challenged Quattrocento Italian histories and Lian Chang, Lisa Landrum, and Leonidas Koutsoumpos examined ethical stances in classical antiquity. The conference’s sessions reflected the wide-ranging and multifarious questions, historical, theoretical, and related to praxis, that lay at the intersection of the concepts of ethics and poetics, and which have always been at the core of the McGill History and Theory program. Scrutinizing this relationship further, the well-established architect and thinker Juhani Pallasmaa delivered the keynote address that was titled: “On Artistic Expression, Generosity and Humility—reality sense and idealization in Architecture.” A plenary lecture on Alvise Cornaro’s architectural phronesis and sophrosine, was delivered by Marco Frascari, the then director of the Carleton University School of Architecture. The opening address was by Alberto Pérez-Gómez, who was also on the conference’s academic committee alongside Lily Chi, Marco Frascari, David Leatherbarrow, Louise Pelletier, and Alexis Sorkin.


bearded man standing behind podium and painting hanging besides on his right hand side
Juhani Pallasmaa lecturing at the Canadian Centre for Architecture © Lian Chang


In addition to the conference sessions, the event comprised a vernissage for the exhibition of the 2007 McGill University History and Theory of Architecture Graduate Studio; two book launches for Chora 5 and Architecture, Ethics, and the Personhood of Place; a CCA Study Centre and Library Tour, a CCA Public Galleries Tour, and a banquet that took place among the works of the exhibition “70 architectes sur l’éthique et la poétique” at the Centre de Design of the Université du Québec à Montréal. The conference was planned as part of the twentieth anniversary celebration of the History and Theory of Architecture Master’s and PhD options at McGill University and wouldn’t have been possible without the able and enthusiastic assistance of the staff of the McGill University School of Architecture and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. In particular, the efforts of Luciana Adoyo (McGill School of Architecture, Ph.D. Program and History and Theory Program Administrator) were above and beyond the call of duty.


Organizing Committee:
(Architectural History and Theory option of Post-professional Master of Architecture, McGill University)

Alberto Pérez-Gómez (Chair)
Lian Chang (Co-Chair)
Diana Cheng (Co-Chair)
Peter Olshavsky (Co-Chair)
Andre Majaes (Accounting and Data)
Andrea Merrett (Accounting)
Jason Crow (Audio-Visual)


Abe Gomel
Alex McIntosh
Aliki Economides
Andrea Merrett
Andrea Pukteris
Ayesha Qaisar
Bo Liu
Bori Yoon
Candace Wiersema
Claudia Barra De
Currim Suteria
Dana Margalith
Don Toromanoff
Emad Ghattas
Emily Dovbniak
Emma Greer
Hamza Alhbian
Heather Powers
Isabel Potworowski
Jack Dodgson
Jonathan Powers
Jose Jacob
Joyce Raybuck
Junia-Elli Jorgji
Kalandar Kamalkhan





People standing up and others remain seated at some sort of intermission in a large auditorium
Conference Panel Presentations and Lectures at McGill’s School of Architecture © Lian Chang



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