During their time at McGill, students were able to draw from the wide-ranging expertise of the faculty of the School and the University. Studies were greatly enhanced by the proximity of McGill’s Blackader-Lauterman Library of Architecture and Art, which includes the Canadian Architecture Collection, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a unique institution that continually attracts internationally recognized scholars and with which the History and Theory option worked in close collaboration. Listed below are the faculty and selected people who impacted the Architectural History and Theory option over the years.
The Architectural History and Theory option profited from the expertise of highly skilled faculty and instructors who created a collaborative, supportive, and intellectually rich scholarly environment.
Key instructors and collaborators included: Annmarie Adams, Martin Bressani, Ricardo Castro, Nik Luka, David Theodore, and Ipek Türeli.
And, visiting faculty included: Torben Berns, Gregory Caicco, Lian Chang, Diana Cheng, Lily H. Chi, Christina Contandriopoulos, Jason Crow, Lisa Landrum, Tim McDonald, Peter Olshavsky, Louise Pelletier, Natalija Subotincic, and William Weima.
Alberto Pérez-Gómez, founder: A Short Biography
Alberto Pérez-Gómez was born in Mexico City in 1949, where he studied architecture and practiced. He did postgraduate work at Cornell University and was awarded an M.Arch. and a Ph.D. by the University of Essex (England). He has taught at universities in Mexico, Houston, Syracuse, Toronto, and at London’s Architectural Association. In 1983 he became Director of Carleton University’s School of Architecture in Ottawa. Since 1987, and until his retirement in 2020, he occupied the Bronfman Chair of Architectural History at McGill University, where he founded the History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture-Post-professional program, and ad hoc started the Ph.D. program in Architecture.
Pérez-Gómez has lectured extensively around the world and is the author of numerous articles published in major periodicals and books. His first book (still in print), Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (MIT Press, 1983), won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for excellence in architectural history scholarship in 1984. Later books include the erotic narrative theory Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited (1992), also the point of departure of numerous projects and exhibitions (polyphilo.com). Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (co-authored with Louise Pelletier, 1997), traces the history and theory of modern European architectural representation. Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics (2006), examines points of convergence between ethics and poetics in architectural history and philosophy. More recently, Attunement, Architectural Meaning after the Crisis of Modern Science (MIT Press, 2016), draws connections between phenomenology and recent enactive cognitive science towards the implementation of attuned atmosphere in architecture and the urban environment. Pérez-Gómez was also the executive editor of a seven-volume book series titled CHORA: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994-2016), which collected essays from scholars in history and theory. A selection of his essays has also been collected in two volumes and published under the title Timely Meditations (2016).
The course of studies was further enriched by the presence of distinguished visitors, which included established and well-known architects, theoreticians, historians, and philosophers such as Juhani Pallasmaa, Dalibor Vesely, George Hersey, Karsten Harries, Marco Frascari, David Leatherbarrow, Paul Emmons, Edward Casey, Janine Debanne, Roger Conover, Gianni Vattimo, David Michael Levin, Richard Kearney, Louis Brillant, R. Murray Schafer, and Mark Z. Danielewsky.
The selected tributes and memorials that follow are contributions by past faculty, visiting lecturers, and students written in the wake of the retirement of both Alberto Pérez-Gómez and the Architectural History and Theory option.
During the past three decades, I have repeatedly given the McGill Ph.D. program in Architecture, directed by Alberto Pérez-Gómez, as an exemplary doctoral program in the field of architecture. The Architectural History and Theory option has had a determined cultural and humanistic orientation in comparison with the often technically and formalistically determined programs.
Professor Pérez-Gómez has been the widely read, visionary, well connected and empathic director of the History and Theory option. As an internationally published scholar and inspiring teacher, he has significantly strengthened the phenomenological, experiential and poetic view of architecture against the current shallowly intellectualized developments in both education and practice.
The high-quality publications of Professor Pérez-Gómez and the program have constituted a significant defence against the prevailing prosaic techno-economic dominance in urban planning and architecture. I hope that Alberto’s numerous students will continue their professor’s path in their future research and teaching tasks. In education and research, inspiring teachers have an especially long influence and imprint.
A teacher, a thinker, a historian, a philosopher, Alberto has taught an impressive number of graduate students over the past three decades, elevating the very nature of advanced architectural research to a whole new level. Never satisfied with purely technological knowledge or the mere accumulation of information, his hermeneutic approach to education centres the research process on the students’ questions. And as a result, the breadth of research produced under his supervision is simply remarkable. His legacy will live on in the many practitioners, thinkers and academics who owe him a great deal. I will be eternally grateful to him.
Almost forty years ago, I encountered a rare individual who completely altered the trajectory of my life for the better. Alberto Pérez-Gómez and his Architectural History & Theory option provided a platform for 33 years for many students, like me, to explore and examine their place in the world in an inspiring academic environment. In the seminars, each of us was encouraged to look inside ourselves while being guided by Alberto’s loving and brilliant mind to explore what sense we could make of our collective history and individual existence. His gentle hand was always there to encourage and gently focus our explorations, but more importantly, ground us in the firm belief that ideas mattered and that each of us had a meaningful role in reshaping the future of humanity. I believed him and still do. There are many thousands of me; students, architects, and academics from all disciplines who read, were taught by, and if fortunate enough befriended by this exceptional man. Alberto Pérez-Gómez will be remembered as one of the most important architectural thinkers and teachers of our generation and one of the most caring human beings to have walked the planet.
I entered the Architectural History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture Post-professional program at McGill University from extreme left-field as a young artist, a recent graduate of the M.A. Fine Art degree at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art. I was looking for a teacher and a school where I might begin to think about the place of art, to understand, describe and ultimately inhabit its possible architectures. The M.Arch. program at McGill, designed and led by Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez, was a carefully curated suite of classes peopled by an extraordinary cohort of architects, designers, historians, nascent philosophers and craftsmen [women]. It provided both the site and the subject of my work for two years of art practice, scholarly enquiry and fellowship. Required to state the teacher’s and the History and Theory option’s importance some twenty-five years after the event, I return, whenever I tell the tale, to a simple truth. In two years of worrying the edges of texts and artifacts, objects and ideas, I was afforded – perhaps for the first time – permission to think differently.
I consciously chose to return to McGill’s Architectural History and Theory program in 1988, after completing my professional degree and several internship years. I wanted to learn more about the purpose of architecture. The three years (my studies were interrupted by a stint with Rick Mather Architects and the Zen-Montréal project at the Four Seasons Hotel) I spent taking courses and completing a thesis with Alberto provided me with profound knowledge and skills that I have used ever since. I was in the second class of the History and Theory option and made many vital connections. The knowledge I gained helped me launch a 30+ year career in academia and practice. During these past few decades, I have evolved and transformed my thinking about architectural history, theory, and practice. Still, I have not forgotten the many insights I learned from Alberto and the Architectural History and Theory option.
During my residency at McGill’s Architectural History and Theory program, I met my lifelong friends, and they kindly invited me to their splendid worlds. Our conversations usually happened over Alberto’s black extendable table, and, many times, they continued on Milton’s narrow pedestrian walkway and even at the Indian restaurant on Avenue du Mont-Royal. When the cold and moist winter air of Montréal didn’t allow us to go outside, bottles of whiskey from all over the world, including ‘good’ Tequila, magically showed up before us and fueled our stories.
School of Architecture
Seoul, South Korea
I followed Alberto Pérez-Gómez to McGill University from Carleton in 1987 to continue learning from this brilliant teacher. At that time, the History and Theory option he led at McGill was a Post-professional Master of Architecture, and I was the first to graduate from it in 1989. We were a small group of students who spent many glorious hours discussing, debating, and presenting various aspects of the history and theory of architecture. Even then, I knew it was a unique experience and an enormous luxury that I would treasure for the rest of my life. So, what made the History and Theory option special? History, theory and design were never considered separately but instead remained utterly interwoven. Alberto created an environment that supported a curiosity and passion that infused our creative research agendas. The experimental and inventive practices of design were brought to bear on how we explored and discovered historical and theoretical themes. This melding of approaches ultimately allowed us to return to architectural practice and/or academia with unique intellectual tools and a newfound sensibility that fundamentally changed the way we taught and practiced. For the past thirty-three years, Alberto’s teaching and scholarship have tremendously benefited a whole generation of practitioners, teachers, and architecture students. I feel so very lucky to have been a part of Alberto’s undying devotion to keeping the history, theory and design of architecture together, exciting, and alive.
I entered McGill’s Master of Architecture Post-professional program in Architectural History and Theory in 2002 as a newly licensed architect eager to rethink architectural potential. I emerged a decade later not simply with a Ph.D. but with a radically broadened perspective of architecture’s dramatic agency and vital ties to a cosmos of fellow thinkers, dreamers and makers mutually committed to life-long learning.
With the intellectual, creative and compassionate leadership of Alberto Pérez-Gómez, the Architectural History and Theory program at McGill University has provided a rare space for genuine questioning, vigorous reflection and speculative discourse. Scores of students have been invigorated by this empowering space of shared struggle and understanding.
In a field obsessed with the future, this program asked where persistent disciplinary problems and potentialities came from. In doing so, students were invited to reacquaint themselves with what they thought they knew and rediscover – in dialogue with history – renewed possibilities for a poetics of architecture.
It is with deep-felt gratitude and respect that I thank Alberto Pérez-Gómez for sharing his infectious passion for inquiry, his sincere generosity of mentorship, and his profound humanity in striving – through open and adventurous discourse – for a more ethical, beautiful and amorous world.
McGill’s Architectural History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture Post-professional program, lovingly sculpted over the years by Alberto Pérez-Gómez, shone poignant light on the path that brought architecture (and humanity) to the point of vacuousness and crisis that it finds itself in today. It did so, however, in a way that also exposed us to some of the most illuminating architectural thoughts and moments, filling us with a lightness and a desire for all things architectural (in its many forms). It is a desire that continues to inform my practice today, 16 years later. Thank you, Alberto.
With Alberto Pérez-Gómez at the helm, McGill’s Architectural History and Theory enterprise boldly explored strange worlds, new and old. Its continuing mission sought new primary sources, extending architectural inquiry into civilized spaces and times where no one had gone before. Intimate encounters with alien lives were also reminders of our shared humanity.
As a remote member of the crew, I was fortunate to co-edit (with Alberto Pérez-Gómez) the seven Chora books and work with the 78 different authors on their individual episodes. In turn, their voyages have spun off into the next generation of architectural academics. Meanwhile, worldwide fans of the History and Theory option can continue to replay their favourite dissertations, books, and articles
I arrived as a 23-year-old architecture student from Stockholm to Montreal in August 1993. By a series of serendipitous encounters, I was guided by friends and circumstances towards McGill and Professor Pérez-Gómez’s Architectural History and Theory option. Apart from my architecture studies, I brought some background in art history and philosophy. I had no apprehension back then of just how deeply mesmerized I would become by the volumes in the rare books room and our close readings of primary source material from all times. The conversations we had over the tables in our two seminar rooms, with philosophers, thinkers, architects, and poets, were intense and engaging. Alberto would initiate, listen carefully, and only sometimes intervene. Those moments were when, in his mind, it appeared the discussions had drifted too far away from the material. Close reading and intimate engaged dialogues with the works we studied, whether texts, drawings, images. To always look closely at what there is, engage, and look again as you can well imagine. Stay with the material, step back, write, draw, imagine and return. There is your work. This is the core I think of what I brought back from the program, and which has guided me onwards in my continued practice as an architecture teacher and writer.
This program has had a long-lasting influence on me as a person and on my work.
In fact, the philosophical notions I was guided to research in my architecture master thesis, influenced not only my architectural work as a young architect but are at the forefront of my artistic work today, almost 30 years later. Alberto listened to the personal inquiries of his students, and by tethering our investigations to the arc of history, enabled us to transcend the personal.
It is no wonder that these preoccupations are as relevant today as they were then, and that they are still defining my creative pursuits. I am forever grateful for Alberto’s guidance, for his warmth and support, and for the life-long friends I have found there.
The first time I ‘met’ Alberto Pérez-Gómez was as a reader of his Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (MIT press 1983). At the time, I was writing my doctoral thesis, and his multidisciplinary approach to history and, in particular, to the history of representation inevitably struck my imagination. From that moment on, I read all of his books and essays, hoping to meet my ‘idol’ in person one day. His books opened up new gnoseological perspectives in me, demonstrating an uncommon critical sensitivity in the international panorama of specialist studies. It was precisely this sensitivity that inspired me when, after becoming a professor at the Iuav University of Venezia (Italy), I inaugurated the Doctorate in Theory and History of Representational Methods, honestly modelled on his History and Theory option, founded at McGill University in 1987. The suggestions coming from his work in that program, thorough and never dull, erudite but never scholastic, were a beacon in the scientific organization of our doctorate. In particular, “Chora” had become a fixed appointment for all Ph.D. students to test new research approaches based on the intersection of updated knowledge and methodologies. At the end of the story, after many letters and e-mails, I met Alberto, inviting him as a visiting professor at my University in Venice (Italy) in the spring of 2013: my memory of his lectures (overall titled like his beautiful book, Architectural representation and the perspective hinge, written with Louise Pelletier) is indelible, as his kindness and courtesy, his affability and disposability. Meeting him confirmed to me that he, too, as Edward Morgan Forster would say, “is an ancient soul.”
As an architecture student who writes stories and as a creative writer who studies architecture, I was having difficulties explaining that novels accurately describe environmental experiences. My arguments always led to justifying novels as another inspirational formal tool for architects. Through the Architectural History and Theory program under the supervision of Prof. Alberto Pérez-Gómez, I learned to build my argument and find philosophical, literary, and architectural resources to develop it. Prof. Pérez-Gómez firmly believes in the importance of literature and poetry for having a just and meaningful architecture. Through the books he wrote and the historical architecture treatises that he studied over the years at the McGill Rare Books Library, Prof. Alberto Pérez-Gómez provided materials to support literature for architecture as a source of ethical imagination. He taught me that the priority is to think poetically, regardless of whether I am writing or building.
In my decades in post-secondary education, I have not met a more inspirational professor than Alberto. Thinking back to when I attended his undergraduate courses at McGill University, or later taking part as a Masters student in these amazing seminars we held in the Rare Books Library room and the MacDonald Harrington building – wonderful days of presentations and discussions – I remember my time with Alberto and fellow students as rare moments that foregrounded collectively thinking around different readings as the most foundational task at hand. We plowed through sixteenth-century treatises or modern texts of philosophy with a sort of pure curiosity that was wonderfully at odds with the typical instrumentalization of what we do and what we learn. And as I keep running in the many “Gomytes” that are now in different practices and schools all over the world, I recognize this communicative passion that continues to animate all of us in our work to this day as but one part of the long-lasting impression that Alberto Pérez-Gómez is having on the architectural landscape.
Professor and O’Donovan Director
University of Waterloo
Coming from Palestine with a background in Architectural Engineering, I joined the Architectural History and Theory option at McGill University in 2012. I came into the school searching for a deeper meaning behind architecture and design. The readings we did in our history and theory seminars were eye-opening, but, moreover, it was the discussions that we had with Prof. Pérez-Gómez’ and the passion he had for what he taught that forever changed my perspective on architecture. My studies ended with a project that revolved around collecting words (which I then pickled in jars) and designing a space through narrative. I can only say that my experience in the History and Theory option has been one filled with fantastical encounters and serious research. I am honoured to have been part of this legacy, and I am thankful to Prof. Pérez-Gómez’ and the rest of my professors for the opportunity to be part of this story.
I studied at McGill’s Architectural History and Theory option under Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez from 1998-2005. My first encounter with Alberto’s scholarship began while reading his coauthored book, Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture, while I still lived in Shanghai. While studying in Cincinnati, I read the Chora series and sent him an inquiry regarding the Ph.D. program. He kindly wrote back with two enticements: the McGill libraries held wonderful architectural collections, and Montreal was a characteristic city for architectural studies. Studying with Alberto was an intense, challenging and enlightening process that always pushed me towards the unknown architectural truth. I have kept my original copies of his syllabi and share them as “the McGill reading list” with my students in Florida. In his courses, we extensively read the primary sources between history and philosophy of Vitruvius, Greek origins, medieval monasticism and art of memory, Renaissance humanism and hermeticism, Baroque fantasy, G.B. Vico’s philosophy of history, phenomenology (especially Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty), hermeneutics (especially Ricoeur and Gadamer), critical meditations (especially Nietzsche, W. Benjamin and H. Arendt), surrealist dreams, modern and postmodern spaces of differences, desires and encounters, etc. His teaching and writings engage in the “intervals in the philosophy of architecture” to reconcile poetics and ethics in humanity. His hermeneutic study of architectural coincidences between history and phenomenology challenges Cartesian dualism on the philosophical issues of language, perception, experience, representation, imagination and poetic emotion. It maintains a great hope for meaningful architecture against the nihilism of instrumentalized modernity. His safeguard of architectural spiritus inspired my dissertation on a forgotten Jesuit garden at the Chinese Qing-dynasty imperial court. I had a wish that my dissertation defence took place in a Chinese garden. The dream came true in the summer of 2019 when Alberto and his former colleagues and students read Chinese gardens in situ for the published Chinese translation of his Built Upon Love, which timely reminded us that “as humans, our greatest gift is love, and we are invariably called to respond to it. Despite our suspicions, architecture has been and must continue to be built upon love.”
College of Design, Construction & Planning
University of Florida
I will forever remember my time with Alberto Pérez-Gómez in the Architectural History and Theory option at McGill University in the early 1990s. Within the pages of Vitruvius’s Ten Books and architectural treatises of the Renaissance and Baroque periods (among others), the parentheses of graduate studies in a person’s lifetime were, under Alberto’s watchful guidance, all the more memorable that their lines of reflection often carried us to forgotten books of a distant past. Yet Alberto had a remarkable way of bridging remote texts, drawings, and events in architectural history with our present moment and revealing their importance and impact, making them vivid and invigorating our engagement with contemporary theory and practice. Alberto has a gift for articulating ideas while mapping them on the backdrop of each author’s world of beliefs, senses of humour, assumptions, and broader contexts. He also knew which concepts to isolate and give our attention – from representation to phenomenological experience, time, and memory -- to build a more conscious approach to contemporary architecture. My cohort in the early nineties was small, and therefore focused and intimate as a result. Today, this chapter of my education resonates as a stolen moment before the busyness of life took over soon afterward. I truly enjoyed returning to the program as a guest for the yearly seminar on Guarino Guarino (my thesis topic) and glimpsing into Alberto’s inspiring world and this iconic scene: students hovered together around wonderful books in the Rare Books Room on the fourth floor of McLennan Library, deep in thought and discourse. It has been a privilege to remain in touch with Alberto through the years. I wish you, Alberto, much joy and fulfillment and continued creative production during your retirement.
Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism
Thank you, Alberto. For your rigour and commitment to following your questions and observations rather than convention; for your generosity of spirit and care for your students; and for passing on to so many of us your conviction that by learning to read, listen, and speak with each other we can leave the world better than we found it.
I feel privileged to have been part of the Architectural History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture Post-professional program at McGill University and having the opportunity to study with and next to outstanding scholars and academics. With tremendous gratitude, I thank Alberto Pérez-Gómez for generously sharing his knowledge and time, and, above all, for creating a safe place for the exchange of diverse ideas and arguments.
It was first Alberto’s writings that triggered my journey from Istanbul to Montreal in 2005. Then, it was in his lectures, always enacted and crafted with rigor and care that these words came to life a second time. When I decided to work on an obscure book for my doctorate, the first thing I remember is Alberto’s encouragement to pursue my passion and openness to support the study of this overlooked subject. The diversity of topics, geographies, concepts, and periods covered in works completed under his supervision are testimonies to his selfless mentorship and boundless efforts for inclusivity in global architectural history and theory. He shared his poetic speech and writing, ethical stance and rigorous scholarship generously while allowing his students to grow and find their voices. And for that I feel most grateful and privileged.
School for Studies in Art and Culture
In a time of rising crises in social, political and environmental contexts; on the cusp of momentous technological breakthroughs that will radically change the realm of human affairs; at a time when capital and political power collude with ever greater efficacy to ‘smooth’ space, it is truly lamentable to lose the distinctive critical forum that is McGill’s graduate option in Architectural History and Theory.
No one can fill the shoes of Alberto Pérez-Gómez, of course--not the erudition certainly, but also not the passionate conviction and indefatigable hope. Hope, on the one hand, that “the effort to think one's own history can liberate thought from what it silently thinks, and so enable it to think differently.” Distinct from the hermeneutics of suspicion, however, this hope extends to the possibility of creating otherwise. Eruptions--wonder-full, resistant, or just plain unruly--against myopia, closure, consolidation...
It is a testament to the Master of Architecture Post-professional program in its History and Theory option that its three decades of students from all over the world are as distinct in our work and thinking as the diverse places in which we find ourselves today. But Alberto’s ‘activist’ hermeneutics inspires us all in the same way, as we strive to be not only good scholars, creators, professionals, and teachers--but also good protagonists.
I will always remember the day I first read Alberto Pérez-Gómez’s work. It was a serendipitous encounter, and as I delved into Alberto's writing, I discovered a mentor who approached architecture in a way I had never imagined possible. For here was a scholar who, through deep and thoughtful engagement with a broad corpus of historical treatises and contemporary texts, teased out their most profound connections and, in so doing, unveiled a rich and ongoing humanist conversation about architectural thinking, theory and practice as critical sources for grounding understanding, meaning-making and ethical action in the present.
I joined the stimulating community of the Architectural History and Theory option to dwell longer and more fully in this conversation. Advancing from master’s to Ph.D. and throughout the precious years therein, I reveled in the ideas that Alberto brought to life through a stunning intellectual trajectory into which writers and architects entered and comingled, enlightened and enchanted, as they spoke to one another across time and space. For opening the doors to this world, I will forever be grateful to you, Alberto. Thank-you for so generously sharing the profound insights and originality of your thinking through your teaching and writing, and for igniting and nurturing a deep appreciation for techne, poiesis and the wonders of human imagination and creativity amidst an expansive community of architects and scholars all around the world. Know that your vision and commitment have deeply shaped my own teaching praxis, and how clearly, I hear your voice each time I say to my students: What we do and what we say matters. These matter deeply.
Deep in a library some twenty years ago, I came across an early volume of Chora whose brilliant forays into architectural thinking and making were my first window onto the space of profound reflection, creativity and generosity opened by Alberto within the Architectural History and Theory program at McGill. Soon enough, I found myself in Montréal with the most inspiring people I had ever met from across the world, forging together a community of scholars and makers in between the Rare Books Library and the woodshop, the seminar and the studio, in words, images and artifacts. We discovered the vitality of history as a living inquiry, able to ground an architecture of action, imagination and compassion. In turn, we learned how theory could open up to both understanding and feeling, myth and reason, and illuminate the sense of purpose, beauty, and justice in human experience – how the political was poetic, and the aesthetic was ethical. We found our individual paths within a journey that took us from Plato’s Timaeus to Hejduk’s masques, guided throughout by Colonna’s Polyphilo. My own led from Nicholas of Cusa’s game of spheres to Palissy’s grottoes of redeemed earth, and on through the crystalline gate of Ledoux’s Saltworks to the ideal city of Chaux. Yet it was also intertwined deeply with those of my colleagues tracing Suger’s hierurgy of stone, walking and reading St. Petersburg, narrating the justness of the Paris Observatory, dancing the Lancaster-Hanover Masque, and recovering the resistant origins of Korean Modernism. We followed after our seniors, just as others followed us, adding our voices to a symposium that lasted for over thirty years. One by one, our theses written, and our lives changed, we spread out across the world again to begin new projects, and to carry the program forward in our own ways, in new modes and forums. My experience at McGill was profoundly transformative, and I am ever grateful to my colleagues, the faculty and staff for their generosity, insight and encouragement. But above all, I am most grateful to Alberto for so freely sharing his passion, wisdom, and capacity for wonder, not only with regard to architecture, but for all of life.
My time at McGill was some of the most luxurious of my life. Granted, I lived in a tiny apartment with a kitchen that was, literally, a closet. My refrigerator was in my living/dining/everything else room and the entrance was directly into the bedroom. No, it was not my living arrangement that was lavish, it was the intellectual world I inhabited. The rhythm of two seminars a week and the treat of an Alberto lecture allowed for a routine that I have not enjoyed since. I did not know how rare the experience of having seminars in the rare books library, surrounded by rare books, and the ability to access them physically and not digitally, truly was. My first year was spent drunk on texts I rarely understood the first time around. Seminars were often over my head, but there was always the prospect of conversations over a burger at Milton café on Friday afternoons. I spent summers at the CCA, gorging on the books that McGill somehow did not have. It was as close to Arcadia as I have ever been. Thank you, Alberto, for clearing a space and making time to ask questions. Thank you, Martin, Louise, Lily, Marco, Paul, Einar, Julie, David, and all the rest for the conversations that followed.
We learned the importance of care, love, and patience in our Métier. We understand the desire to build a home as a journey where we go through moments of joy and difficulty, always with the goal to achieve something good and beautiful. It is a process and an adventure that makes us grow a little bit more every time.
I entered the Architectural History and Theory Post-professional program at McGill University in 1995 as a young architect searching for greater meaning in our discipline and our profession. I found purpose and passion in those lectures and seminars. Alberto’s mentorship convinced me to pursue a Ph.D. and become a historian, but his biggest influence is on my teaching. I strive to achieve the level of generosity he displays towards his students. His shadow is long, and so many of us have thrived in his shade.
Associate Professor, Architecture
Alberto Pérez-Gómez provided me with a true home within the program that he had long dedicated himself to. He distinguished himself by being a captivating lecturer, an erudite scholar, and a generous mentor. My dissertation owed its creation to his impassioned, encouraging, and profound guidance. Alberto’s students, now working around the world, offer the promise that his work on the poetics of architecture will continue.
Fogarty International Center
Since the first time I sat in a history lecture by Prof. Alberto Pérez-Gómez as an undergraduate student, I felt that I had been offered an exacting glimpse into history of architecture, beyond mere dates and facts, a profound thread that connected the here and now to critical works through time. The History and Theory option’s contribution in informing one’s mode of thinking and practice is still resonant. The range of activities its graduates have undertaken over the years has demonstrated its critical role in informing one’s future actions. Beyond its individual offerings, the program has served as a collective motivator to make the theory and practice of architecture meaningful beyond the limits of time and space.
O, Unspeakable you
Speak the language you know
Speak the shade
Speak the crepuscule
When the stylite’s shadow reaches the horizon
Bridging earth and sky
Speak the crepuscule
And remember noon
The equinoxes’ mid-day
When your shadow is lost for a time
A temporal moment
Where only the wind on your burned skin Calls your body to the clouds
O, Unspeakable you
Speak of morning’s dew
Listen to the well’s stones
Their echo tempered by the mousses
Listen to its underground water
You in the sky
Find back in your memory
The inescapable time when
You stopped breathing
Your eyes raptured by the water cathedral
So light, so mute
So calm, so ready to go And you
Speak, O Unspeakable you
Speak the silence of the prayer
Glare at the sun and find in yourself the echoes of others
All indulging in drunkenness
Ready to forget, to leave, to go again
Speak the vagueness of the shade Speak the memory of water Speak, and let go
Just speak the shade
And remember Amon
His handles regulates Ceres’ harvest
His silence, like Moses’ lameness His look, staring at your stomach
Amon, Asclepius’ guest
Amon, the Fourth
The shade after the tree
O, Unspeakable you Speak the language you know
Speak the Shade…
Architecte, L'étude Louis Brillant
Being an artist and professor before coming to McGill in 2010, I can speak to the transformative impact the Architectural History and Theory option has had on my teaching and research endeavors. Most astounding is how these lessons are continuously rediscovered years later, where the past takes on new significance in relation to present experience and action. In particular, Dr. Pérez-Gómez’ teaching and writing deeply informed my research into the architectural significance of Anselm Kiefer’s art practice, showing the reciprocity between materials and ideas, where the act of making itself gives rise to reflective thoughts about our world and its history. First introduced to Dr. Pérez-Gómez by my professors, who were among the first generation of his students at McGill, it is a real privilege to be part of a collective of teachers and architects, friends and colleagues, who have had such influence on architecture worldwide. Like the ever-changing manifestation of architecture, it is precisely because vestiges of other times, people and their interests were woven into the poetic images we received, that lessons from Alberto’s teaching will always permit a returning to the places we live, the tasks we perform, our tools and language, as sources for the continual renewal of meaningful architecture.
The world is a mystery through which we wander. The ways we see it, draw it, and make the map of that world are entangled in each other. When I came to McGill’s History & Theory option, I was looking for a way to invite into my work an understanding of how the knot of history and culture, contemporary events and calamities, matter to architecture. My professional background, life experience, and studies in design as it relates to social science had offered valuable forms of knowledge, but not this. I found it in the Architectural History and Theory option of the Master of Architecture Post-professional program at McGill University. For this I have to thank the tremendous breadth of knowledge, and the embrace of architectural poetics as a subject of scholarship, of Alberto Pérez-Gómez; the key contributions of Martin Bressani, Ricardo Castro, and Louise Pelletier; and my own classmates, who were a rich source of insight, camaraderie, and pleasure. I learned from each of these. Every year since leaving the program I have continued to discover how that my experience in it prepared me to explore architecture, its image, and their constitution in culture and technics. I have also found myself to be a member of an international community with similar concerns, and I am still in frequent correspondence with graduates of McGill’s Architectural History and Theory option. All of this feeds my work. I am a better architect now, a better writer, a better artist and, I hope, a better explorer than I was before I began my studies.
Department of Architecture
After completing my professional architectural training at McGill University, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to continue studying in the Architectural History and Theory program with Alberto. The rigorous exploration of architectural history led me to see architecture through a new lens and the emphasis on the union of poetics and ethics in architecture had a lasting impact on my vision. I strive to maintain that unified outlook. Whenever I need to take a professional stance, I am reminded of how fortunate I have been to be exposed to this rich history and discourse on architecture through Alberto’s teachings.
Many years ago, while still a student in architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana, in Mexico City, I found a book on sale in a bookstore that would change, not only my vision of architecture, but of my life: Crisis and Overcoming Functionalism in Architecture. I read it carefully without understanding much but intuiting that this book and its author could help me find a purpose for my profession that I had not found before.
From there I followed in the footsteps of its author, Alberto Peréz-Gómez, taking me to study under his tutelage a Master's degree and a Doctorate at McGill University. Just married and with newborn children, those years of study represented, without a doubt, the most beautiful of my life, because of the teachings shared with great colleagues, and because of the freedom that Alberto gave one to ask their own questions and to really make significative proposals.
His teachings have made me understand the architectural phenomenon, more than as an object or an image, as a significant event, and the profession as one worthy of being rescued from the clutches of the instrumental model through hermeneutical elucidation and the sensitive response to culture and phenomenal reality.
For those wonderful years I am deeply grateful to my fellow students, to my partner at the time, Antolina Oriz, to the Mexican government that provided me with the financial means to do so and to life in general. Rarely in life can the conditions to exercise the imagination in freedom be combined.
On this page I can confirm with pleasure that I have not been the only one whose work and teachings have been deeply touched and transformed. I am convinced that Alberto Pérez-Gómez's work will prevail for many years, thus being totally current, and at the same time, untimely.
¡Larga y feliz vida querido Alberto!
Santiago de Orduña
My journey through the bittersweet agonies of Ph.D. work started during a Sunday family lunch in Greece. Inspired and encouraged by a conversation over food and wine, I decisively resolved to start my doctoral research, a thought I had many times flirted with. I had heard stories of a professor across the Atlantic that worked on architecture and literature, the topic I was interested in, and I thought I should get in touch. I was told that he was Mexican, so he could put up with my Greek spontaneity and volatile temperament. He replied to my initial inquiry e-mail in literally an hour, the time that still, to this day, takes Alberto to usually answer. Next thing I knew, I landed in Montreal knowing nobody, clueless of the miracles this unknown part of the world would offer me. McGill's facilities and libraries, the community’s (staff, professors, colleagues) kindness and eagerness to help, and the city’s gentle and smooth atmosphere (even, paradoxically, during the harsh winters) were only few of them. Intellectually I was completely swept away by the extraordinary aura of a professor whose lectures made you converse heatedly with the exceptional peers of the program over long nights in the city’s pubs and happily pull all-nighters over books of philosophy and history. To encounter, on your way, a supervisor who inspires you, moves you and makes you revalue your love for architecture and life is a rare gift in a Ph.D. process. To end up sharing a deep and cherished friendship with him is a reality far greater than I was capable of imagining at the onset. Words can never express my gratitude to Alberto Pérez-Gómez, who with his wife Louise Pelletier, offered me a second family away from home, and still do, despite the kilometers of ocean that may be between us.