Reconciling Poetics and Ethics in Architecture



Lily Chi
Director of Graduate Studies, Cornell University, Field of Architecture

Saturday, September 15, 2007, 15:30
RM G10, McGill University School of Architecture
Macdonald-Harrington Building, 815 Sherbrooke Street West

On Site in a ‘Global’ World

Questions raised by the prospect of a design studio in Hanoi form the basis for this re-examination of canonical premises about the site of architectural work. While the studio was singular, the dilemmas it confronted are not, as contemporary technology, economics, and politics collude to redraw the boundaries and parameters of architectural practice. I will argue that some common quandaries of 21st-century design — the question of ‘place,’ the problem of cultural ‘identity,’ for example— lie in part in the formulation of the problems themselves.

The presentation will explore the premise of ‘site-specific’ design as a peculiarly modern burden -- one that nonetheless harbors [represses] complex tensions: that with the technological project, the colonial project, and ultimately with the ‘modern’ project itself. The second half of the presentation ruminates on initiatives for a more ethical and creative understanding of site commensurate with the challenges of, and opportunities for, architectural work in the new century. These initiatives include: an argument for ‘negative’ histories, a dream-model for cosmopolitan education, and, drawing inspiration from contemporary Hanoi, a speculation on temporality as site.

Marco Frascari
Director, Carleton University School of Architecture

Saturday, September 15, 2007, 09:00
RM G10, McGill University School of Architecture
Macdonald-Harrington Building, 815 Sherbrooke Street West

Honestamente bella: Alvise Cornaro’s Temperate View of Lady Architecture and Her Maids, Phronesis and Sophrosine

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Well-known for his treatise on the sober life, Alvise Cornaro (1484-1566) is frequently a footnote in many articles devoted to the architecture and the architects of Renaissance Veneto. Being an extremely influential figure, his presence on the architectural stage of the 500 Veneto is not only important for working the connections among key characters of the play, but above all for reviling the hidden but essential ethic relationships set between theory and practice in the govern of architectural cosmospoiesis. This Paduan theatrical patron, working together with the members of his troupe, Ruzante (a play writer and actor) and Falconetto (a painter and architect) professed in his unpublished architectural treatise and his multifaceted benefactions that prudent and temperate architectural factures can lead to a sustainable architecture capable of inducing real human happiness.

David Leatherbarrow
Chair, Graduate Group in Architecture, University of Pennsylvania School of Design

Friday, September 14, 2007, 09:00
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 rue Baile
Paul Desmarais Theatre

Architecture Made Otherwise

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The intention of this study is to demonstrate a single point: that the sort of architectural making that can be called creative requires orientation otherwise. My first premise (assumed and un-argued) is that architectural production in our time is typified by materials and methods that impede creativity. I have in mind pre-made components destined for assembly as well as construction and techniques that assure outcomes because they follow pre-conceived and repeatable procedures. Neither of these “instrumentalities” can be denied, but both mitigate against poiesis. My second premise is that this predicament can be effectively challenged only by acknowledging conditions that are no less “real” than current technology, conditions outside the project, pre-given in its milieu, with which it must be engaged (in order to be built and inhabited), conditions I’ve come to call topography. Part of my task is to characterize topography, but my principal aim is to show that the building’s turn toward realities other than its own, its orientation otherwise, allows it to take up an ethical stance. Ethical life begins and ends with the turn toward the other. This posture opens wonderful possibilities for design and construction: instrumental procedures lose their relevance and are replaced by concrete but unprecedented decisions that involve adjustments, improvisations, and inventions – the sort of work that we should not be ashamed to call poetic.